A new low

I hit a real low on Thursday.

I’d been having a lot of heart palpitations all week. Much more than usual and enough to really scare me. I should have got my potassium levels checked over the weekend but my husband was working, I had the girls, I convinced myself that I was ok and upped the amount of Sando-K I was taking to about 10 a day.

Thursday I had a blood test in the morning. I was feeling terrible, really tired, ‘spaced out’, I couldn’t really focus on anything at all. The heart palpitations started at 11am and just didn’t stop. I wondered if I’d pushed things too far. I didn’t eat, knowing I’d be sick and that would make things worse. I took 6 Sando-K, hoping that would level things out and stop the palpitations. It didn’t. They got worse. I started having chest pains and felt like I couldn’t breathe. That’s when I text my husband – ‘really don’t feel well. Heart palpitations been constant for 2 hours. I’m scared’. To his credit, he came out of a meeting he was in to come straight home.

When I’ve gone to hospital before I’ve driven myself in. This time I knew I couldn’t. By the time we got to hospital I didn’t even know if I couldn’t walk from the car. They took me into triage, in the past they’ve done this and sat me out in the waiting area again. This time, they took my blood pressure & pulse and I set the alarms off by how fast it was going – straight onto a ward & ecg. My husband sat there looking worried, I was lying on the bed feeling like I was about to pass out. He said ‘I need to help you more’. I said ‘I am trying. I know it seems like I’m not but I really am’, and then broke down. I never cry. I’m not sure why I was but I felt like I’d hit rock bottom and just couldn’t stop.

My bloods showed my potassium was at 2.3, lower than I think it’s ever been. I knew I’d be put on a drip and all I could think about was how much weight I’d gain. Every time I’ve been on the drip I’ve gained weight. I needed it, I knew that, but I did not want the weight gain.

I didn’t like my doctor. As soon as she learnt I had an eating disorder her tone changed completely and I had the standard ‘you are making yourself very ill, you are damaging your heart, you need to stop this’ – I know this. I know it all. I don’t expect her to understand or sympathise or anything of the sort but it felt like she was telling off a child who had misbehaved and I hated that.

Once my heart rate had stabilised (it took about 2 hours of being up in the 160’s for it to finally slow down to about 90bpm) and the drip was in I was moved onto a ward. Told that after the drip had gone through bloods would be retaken and if my potassium was up I could go home.

Bloods finally came back at about 11pm. I’d already decided I was going home. Was dressed, husband was back, I was ready to leave. The nurse came back with another drip saying that potassium was only 3.2 and I’d need another 4 hours on the IV. All I could see in that IV was another 2-3lbs of weight. I argued that it was in the 3’s, which was not that low, that I had Sando-K at home I could take, that my heart rate had been stable for hours and I wanted to sleep in my own bed. They agreed to let me go. The first thing I did at home was to weigh myself. 2.5lbs on. 7 stone exactly. I cried again. For how I’d felt like I was dying, for letting things get so bad, for being such a crap mum all week because of it, for letting my fear of putting on weight prevent further treatment and for gaining 2.5lbs in just a few hours.

I wish I could say this was the shock I needed. I think I was hoping it was. I wish I could say I’ve not been sick since leaving hospital. That I could accept the weight gain. I can’t. I can see it in my thighs and stomach. I can feel it. I hate myself.

My Babies

The one thing I wanted my whole life was to be a mother.

My eldest was unplanned, but the moment I discovered I was pregnant I felt complete. I was terrified, yes, but so excited. I was also quite proud of my body in that moment. I’d put it through years of abuse and yet, despite contraception and without trying, it was growing a life.

I spent my whole pregnancy planning a wonderful life for my baby girl. I had an idea of exactly what sort of mother I wanted to be. I wanted to give her everything.

My eating disorder got in the way.

I managed about 5 days of ‘good’ eating. I didn’t vomit for almost a week. Part of one week out of the 42 I carried her I ate properly.

I’ve spoken a lot about shame. I feel a lot of it, but nothing comes close to the shame I have for how I treated my unborn babies. So many times I came close to seeking help, I hated what I was doing, but I was stopped by the fear that my baby would be taken away from me if anyone found out. So I carried on in silence.

She was born 12 days past my due date. I felt a surge of love like never before. I was a mother, this was my baby, I would do anything to protect her.

Anything, apparently, except give up my eating disorder.

I did manage to keep my weight pretty stable for the first couple of years. I had a dip around the time we got married, although it stayed within a healthy range, but a lot of time was wasted on my eating disorder when it should have been spent raising my daughter.

I wanted her to have a sibling. I actually made a real effort to get better before trying to conceive. I wasn’t ‘well’, but I was doing better than I’d done in a long time. My weight increased and stabilised. We started trying, I became pregnant straight away.

I lost our baby. And then I lost a lot of weight. And then I lost another baby.

Miscarriage is one of those horrible things that unfortunately happens a lot. Pregnancy is as fragile as it is precious. You’re told it’s not your fault, that there’s nothing you could have done to prevent it. A lot of people said that to me. Not one of those people knew I was throwing up everything I ate. I wonder if I’d have lost the pregnancies if I’d been well – after all it was a miracle I’d fallen pregnant in the first place, given the abuse I’d been putting my body through for the past decade.

After coming around from the operation I needed to remove my first lost baby (or, as the hospital called it so clinically ‘products of conception’) the nurse asked me how I was feeling. I replied simply with the word ’empty’. I felt empty.

Then just when I was considering that I should take some time out and focus on recovery, I was pregnant again.

I binged, vomited and starved the whole way through that pregnancy, a downward spiral until she was born at 39 weeks.

The first time I threw up after she’d been born (other than the post-partum sickness I suffered after both labours) was about 6 hours later. I’d had a slice of toast on the ward. I couldn’t bear it. My eating disorder was so consuming that I was bringing up a single piece of toast while my newborn baby was being cuddled on the ward. When my eldest came to visit I let her eat my lunch for me. A great novelty to her (it included a pot of jelly!), and meant I got away without eating.

For days after the birth I had these horrible ‘surge’ feelings in my chest, as well as increased frequency of palpitations. I went to the doctor and asked him to check my potassium. He said it was on the low side but ok and blamed it on the post-partum haemmorhage. I still couldn’t admit what I was doing.

From there on it gets pretty repetitive. I’ve spent a lot of time binging and purging while I should have been interacting with my babies. I’ve put off taking them out because it will involve food with nowhere to purge. On one occasion that I took them out for a picnic my youngest shoved a cheese biscuit in my mouth with great delight that she was ‘feeding mummy’. I spat it out into a tissue when she wasn’t looking.

My oldest is 5 now. I’ve been a mother for half a decade. I believed so much that becoming a mum would end the eating disorder, or at least that I’d be able to manage it.

Recently, she was cuddled into me and said ‘Mummy, I wish I had blue eyes like you. I hate my eyes.’

I wanted to cry. She has the most beautiful, deep, soulful dark eyes. She’s only 5 and she wants to change herself already. How long before the focus shifts to other parts of her body? She’s a perfect little thing, in every way. What sort of example am I setting to her though?! I don’t vocalise my self hatred but despite my attempts to protect them from my eating disorder she knew what scales were for by the age of 2. Unless I change things I fear that I will destroy them as well as myself.

So there it is. When I say I’ve thought about leaving, how they deserve better, how I feel like a terrible mother, I’m not just being down on myself. I’m being honest. How far are these amazing little people going to get with me in their life?

I just hope that, despite everything, they never once doubt how much they’re loved. That is the reason I won’t ever leave them.