Living in harmony?

It’s been suggested recently that I’m not ready to recover, and the result of that being I should ‘take a break’ from therapy. If I don’t make changes in the next few weeks the consequence will be that I’ll be discharged. Discharge from therapy means discharge from SEDCAS and I’ll be on my own all over again.

Only, I won’t be alone. I’ll have my eating disorder for company.

Mixed feelings is an understatement. Do I feel ready? I can’t answer that. I’m probably not wholly ready to leave it all behind. I want to get well. I really, really want to leave it behind and start living. But I do not want to gain weight. I want to stop binging, but I don’t want to start eating. It’s a constant battle. But I also know that I’m not ready to just give up, and leaving treatment would feel that I am.

It was suggested that I could just continue to live with my eating disorder. Keep my BMI above 15 and continue to ‘function’. This made me feel like screaming. I don’t want to just function. I feel like I’ve been ‘functioning’ all my life. I want to stop functioning and start actually living.

I feel like everyone’s giving up on me. I can understand this, it’s been 18 months and I’ve made next to no progress, but it’s an awful feeling. I feel like a failure every single day and this feels like a confirmation. When I think back to the battle I had when I first sought help for my eating disorder, it was pure luck that I met someone who empathised with my condition and really fought my corner for me to get me into ‘the system’. And even then it was so, so difficult to feel listened to. I know that leaving therapy now would mean I’d never go back, and I’m very scared that ‘living in harmony’ with my eating disorder would kill me.

I might not be totally ready, but I’m also not not ready. I have to do this now. There is no other option.

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Dear Eating Disorder – My enemy

I am drained by your unrelenting, destructive presence.

You have robbed me of such a huge part of my life. Milestones and achievements I should have enjoyed have been destroyed by you.

You have been there, all day, every day since I was 16. Making me believe I’m worthless, shameful, disgusting unless I’m thin. But it’s never enough. It’s never good enough. Pounds became stones but I’m still not thin enough, not good enough, and I realise now that I never will be.

You set me up to fail at everything. I can’t win. I fail at recovery, I also fail at anorexia – every single time I eat, every time it turns into a binge, every time the scales creep up – I’m failing, every second of every day. It is exhausting beyond comprehension.

You’ve robbed me of my last years of school, university, graduation, relationships, holidays, my wedding, but worst of all you’ve destroyed my pregnancies and early years of motherhood. Enough now. My babies deserve better than this. I should have embraced pregnancy, cherished how the body that you’ve been so intent on destroying managed, against all odds, to create and nourish my two healthy children. Instead you forced my focus onto staying thin, maintaining my weight, losing weight, fighting against the inevitable gain as my babies developed and my body grew.

I tried so hard to shut you out. Knew that you would put my babies at risk. You forced your way in. Made me lie to everyone. I have never been so ashamed of myself as I was during my pregnancies.

When I lost two babies, you convinced me that it was my fault – I was to blame. My selfishness, my desire to be as thin as possible killed the babies I so desperately longed for. And when I finally did manage to conceive and carry my second daughter, you didn’t let me relax for a single second. I was so damaged by your voice, your presence. I was convinced I’d lose her too. And despite this, how much I hated myself for the potential damage I could do to my precious baby, you had me vomiting in the bathroom of the delivery room with my tiny newborn, the baby I’d come close to losing just hours before, asleep next door.

I’ve missed so much of their childhood. These two perfect, loving little girls. I’ve been there, but never without you, and the way in which you infiltrate my whole life, every thought I have, has caused me to miss out on enjoying my babies, watching them grow.

I’m tired. I’ve had enough. Every time my heart starts to palpitate, every time I feel weak, shakey, faint, I wonder if you’ve pushed me too far, If I’ll go to bed and not wake up.

There are times when you’ve made me resent my choice to become a mother, resent the two little people I love the most in this world, who give me those moments where I actually feel happy, who make my heart swell with pride, because if they weren’t around I wouldn’t have to keep fighting, I could give in and let you win. I hate you for that.

I’m exhausted. You’ve won. You’ve drained me of everything. I feel like I have no fight left in me, and yet I have to keep going because there is no other option.

The worst thing is, I can blame you as much as I like, but your force has become so powerful and so all-consuming that the blame doesn’t lie with you, not really. It’s me, it’s all me, you’ve become who I am. I hate myself. I’ve destroyed everything.

Dear Eating Disorder – my friend

I remember when you first entered my life. You’d been trying to creep your way in for years, but when you finally did it, you arrived with a bang.

I remember the adrenaline rush the first time I ‘succeeded’ in making myself sick. I felt euphoric – like nothing could touch me and nothing could bring me down. I started losing weight very quickly, people started paying me compliments. My parents were proud of me – I’d actually done something right.

For the first few months you gave me hope, let me feel good about myself, allowed me to believe that I was good at something, that I could be beautiful. . . . if only I lost a bit more weight. . . and then a bit more, and a bit more after that. . .

12 years down the line, and I’m still not there yet, but you are. You’re still there, you haven’t given up on me. Every time I slip, you come back stronger than before. You used to nudge me gently, now it’s more like a shove, but you don’t ever give up. You make me believe that as long as you’re in my life I have the strength I didn’t know was there.

At my very lowest moments, you’ve been there to boost me, to give me that surge over and over again, make me feel worth something, if only for a moment. It’s those moments I cling to, keep going back for, the fleeting moments where I believe for just a second that I can do this.

But you have to keep moving the goalposts. It’s exhausting. Every time I think I’m nearly there, I’ve nearly made it, you push that goal a little bit further. I know I’ll never be good enough for you, not really, but you keep encouraging me anyway.

You’re a hypocrite, really, contradicting yourself over and over again. You make me feel worthless, but also like I could be worth something.  You push, push, push until I feel so low I don’t want to go on living, and then when I’m down there, right at the bottom, you pick me up. When the whole world is against me, you’re the only one on my side. The only one who understands the fear of gaining weight, the absolute certainty that recovery is just not possible. You get that. You’re right there with me.

You’ve made me feel safe, protected in this little bubble – us against the world. But that’s part of the problem. You’ve isolated me from everyone. I don’t know who I am without you anymore.

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.