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.

Advertisements

Moving On

My suspicions were confirmed today, SEDCAS will be withdrawn soon. My BMI is too high (again it comes back to BMI), my risk factors too low. Essentially I don’t qualify for the ‘Severe’ part of the Severe Eating Disorders team.

How do I feel about this? Honestly? I say it far too often but I don’t know  – a total mixture of emotions, some I expected, some I didn’t.

It should be a good thing. Not being ‘severely’ ill is not a negative.  If I felt in any way ‘recovered’ I’m sure I’d see it as a positive thing. But I don’t feel ‘better’, I don’t feel like I can continue to get better. I’ve gained weight, yes, but the reality is that I’ve gained weight through binging and drinking. And now that I’ve cut back significantly on both my weight is falling again, and I can’t ignore the fact that I’m pleased it’s going back down. . .

I’m angry with myself. I’ve had well over a year to really use the help on offer to change myself and work towards recovery. I do feel like I’ve tried, but just nowhere near enough. JUST when I feel like I’m making progress and might actually be getting somewhere, it’s too late. I’ve wasted everyone’s time, and a lot of it.

I hate that I feel like this but I feel like I’ve failed in every sense. I’m not recovered, I’ve failed at this attempt to recover when I had all the resources there to really make a go of it. Then on the flip side, I’m not ‘good’ enough at my eating disorder either. My rational mind can see that this statement is ridiculous – an eating disorder is not an achievement and certainly not something I’m proud to have. Maintaining my BMI is a good thing. I’m alive. I’m surviving. But that’s about all I’m doing. I feel like a fraud, again. I should never have been taken on by SEDCAS at all, really.

I’m guessing that being discharged would also mean monitoring would end. No more weigh ins, blood tests, ECGs. . . it would give me a degree of freedom. No more worrying about finding childcare and rushing to and from appointments. No more trying to fit my work shifts around it all. A day off would actually mean a day off. The thought really appeals, but my bloods worry me. I am more aware now of how I feel when my potassium gets low, and manage mostly to keep on top of it that way, but it’s dipped without me realising before (and fairly recently). I suppose the bloods, as unpleasant as they are, act as a sort of safety net.

I’m scared. I don’t want to be, but I am. I don’t know where this leaves me – what happens now? I have two choices; to carry on fighting, or to give up. I want to fight. Giving up now would be pointless and means that anything I’ve gained from this care really would be wasted, but I’m not sure I’ve got it in me to do this alone. I feel totally alone. Maybe I’ve become too reliant on SEDCAS. I think I probably have, but I don’t have anyone else, really. My husband doesn’t understand and doesn’t really appear to want to. I don’t really feel like I could confide properly in any of my friends and even if I could, it wouldn’t be fair to place that burden. My parents just wouldn’t be an option.

Which leaves me, just me.

Holiday

We’ll be going on holiday soon. Our first real holiday as a family of four.

I’ve dreaded holidays ever since the eating disorder really set in. The last family holiday, with my parents, was hell. I was 18 and it was supposed to be a ‘trip of a lifetime’ – 4 weeks in Australia. It should have been amazing, they went through years of planning.

I ruined it for everyone.

It was half way through my first year of university. My weight had dropped considerably and all I really cared about was losing more weight. The whole four weeks consisted of constant arguments about food, getting away from my family at any given opportunity to throw up, wandering around shopping centres looking for scales to weigh myself on, obsessively collecting ‘weight tickets’ from the scales I found and opting out of family outings because a) it was a way of avoiding food related arguments and b) I was too exhausted to enjoy them anyway.

I owe it to my husband and my girls to make memories this holiday that do not revolve around food.

I want to be able to eat out without fear of when and where I’ll be able to purge.

I want to not need to panic over menus.

I want to not have the rest of the day ruined because I feel full/fat/uncomfortable.

I want to not be on constant lookout for scales.

I want weight not to matter.

I want to enjoy living.

It’s one week. Seven days. Such a short amount of time that seems so overwhelming. I could let my eating disorder control the week and ruin it – certainly for me, and probably for everyone – or I could try, just for those seven days, to push it aside and enjoy the precious family time.

I wonder if I could do this. . .

Day Out

The Parents are over this week and took us all on a day out yesterday. 

It should have been perfect. 

We went to a beautiful town and spent the whole day walking around, just taking it slow and enjoying the day. They look the girls for a drink & snack while I did some shopping, then we made our way down to the beach in the glorious sunshine. We ate sushi for lunch and spent the afternoon on the pier, taking the girls on fairground rides and just enjoying the day. I even managed to spend a whole day without getting wound up or snappy with my parents. 

Overall it was great. So good to get away for a little bit.

But I couldn’t keep the ED thoughts out of my head. 

ALL day.

From shopping (I’ll look fat in that, it will make me look awful, I look fat anyway), to passing people in the street who were thinner than me (I wish I looked like them, I’m so fat), to lunch (where are the toilets, can I get away to purge, I shouldn’t eat that, I feel so sick, I feel so fat), to after lunch (I wonder how much I gained, I feel so fat). FAT FAT FAT. 

I am SO fed up of feeling like this ALL the time. Just to have one day, one day of not caring. Why does it really matter if I’m ‘fat’ or ‘thin’. Why does it really matter if I gain a couple of pounds in weight? Why does it matter what I’m like compared to somebody else. Really? 

I’m exhausted from it. The desire to be thin is destroying my life. Living with it is hell, and fighting it is no better. 

Often I wonder if I’ll ever really enjoy anything again. . . 

When progress is not progress

I thought I’d made real progress this week.

The binge/purge episodes have cut down considerably. From 8+ times per day to about 3/4 times over the whole week. It’s not been easy. It feels like I’m spending every waking minute fighting against the urge to eat and then throw up – to such an extent that it makes me want it even more. But I’ve done it (most of the time). It feels like a real achievement.

But is it really?

Because I am so scared of eating turning into a binge my ‘solution’ seems to be just to not eat. Over the week I’ve been eating twice a day, three times absolute maximum. I’d like to say ‘normal’ amounts but I don’t really know what a normal amount is any more. The majority of the time I stop before it feels like a binge, so in reality I’m not eating very much at all. My fear of food seems to have taken on a whole new level.

As a result of this, I’ve lost weight. I’m beginning to feel thin again. With that feeling comes the obsessive thoughts that never really went away but that had been shelved a little. The addictive ‘rush’ of seeing a lower weight on the scales each morning is consuming and exciting and it shouldn’t be – not if I’m supposed to be recovering.

For the first couple of ‘non binge’ days I felt a sense of freedom. I could do this, I could be ‘me’ without my eating disorder. Now the freedom has been replaced with an obsessive compulsive desire to be even thinner.

And then there’s the waiting. I’m waiting for myself to slip up. To start binging again. I don’t trust myself enough to believe that this could be the end of binging and purging. Which adds to the fear of eating ‘going wrong’.

There’s so much to work on that I’m not even really sure where to start.

I thought I’d made real progress this week, but now I’m not so sure. . .

Team Effort?

Been thinking a lot about ‘the chat’ I forced myself to have with my husband the other night.

It makes me sad.

Shame issues aside – I’ve spent a lot of time thinking that because this isn’t his fault, because he didn’t ask for any of this, didn’t expect it and all the rest, that I shouldn’t expect him to get involved now. I’ve really, truly believed this.

Upon psyching myself up for this chat I suppose I had an idealistic image in my mind of how I hoped it might go. I’d confide in him, ask for help, he’d be loving, supportive, give me a hug, ask what he could do, I’d tell him what I needed from him at home and also ask him to attend a session, and the Family & Friends, he’d agree, we’d be a team.

What really happened. . . I thought it made me angry, I’ve spent the weekend snapping, but actually I’m really quite sad. . .

I did confide in him and tell him I wanted to stop binging & vomiting but that I needed help. I told him that I’ve recognised that real trigger foods are bread and chocolate. I wanted him to say something, or even just come and be near me if I started preparing myself those foods when he was around as almost certainly I’d be binging. He agreed (this part went quite well). He then said that he was never actually aware I was binging. Like I say, I’d suspected this but couldn’t quite believe it was true. Where on earth was he to not realise I was binging?! So I bought up attending sessions with me. Whilst he didn’t say an outright no he said it would be ‘difficult’ as it was ‘in the middle of the day’ and meant travelling to work and back. All that way. (All that way being about half an hour total. . . ). So needless to say that the thought of travelling an hour away to attend a course which would give him a better understanding of what we are dealing with did NOT appeal. There was no hug. I do not feel like we’re a team.

Don’t get me wrong, he was lovely about it all, but not quite in the way I needed him to be. I didn’t feel like I was talking to my husband, I felt like I was talking to a friend I haven’t seen in a while and don’t have much in common with any more. And that’s really, really sad.

Since then I suppose he’s tried in his own way. I had to go out to get bread yesterday to make sandwiches for a party. He scoffed and said ‘I thought we were a bread free house now’. It was a bad joke, badly made. He didn’t mean it, I know, but it made me feel unsupported again.

So where from here? I have no idea. I do know that if the roles were reversed I’d want to be as involved as possible. I’d want to try my best to understand. I’d want to do anything I could to try and make him well.

I feel alone in this battle.

Making changes

I’ve been dipping in and out of attempting recovery for so long now. Do I want it enough? I’m still not sure. I DO want change though.

I’m going to allow myself to feel proud of some of the changes I’ve made recently, this week being the most significant. To some they may seem like baby steps, to me they’re huge.

1. To start with, there was ‘A Bad Day’ – putting that into words was a reality check, to say the least. Seeing it in words made the disgust, shame and embarrassment escalate, but it made it seem more real. This is what I was dealing with. This is exactly what I wanted to avoid. I’ve since set myself a small challenge – if I can prevent a Bad Day, I’ve done quite well.

Today could have been a Bad Day. It certainly started that way – breakfast started as a typical binge. I recognised that and stopped myself after 2 pieces of bread. Vomited, but then that was that. I busied myself, made a mental list of distractions and didn’t eat again until gone midday. Lunch started well – a tuna salad. I did then end up eating my daughter’s leftover pasta which triggered a vomit, but again, that was that until an early dinner. That was a binge. A full on binge. But that was the whole day. I feel good about that. I stopped myself on so many occasions. I spent time playing with my girls. We giggled, sang repetitive songs over and over, I was a Mother.

2. I shared ‘A Bad Day’ with someone. It was terrifying, but lifted a weight. I was exposed, it was out there, and now I feel like I can really start dealing with it.

3. I spoke to my husband. Psyching myself up for that took all day. It wasn’t the long, heartfelt chat I’d imagined but I did it all the same. I told him I needed his help, that I wanted to stop binging and vomiting and that I couldn’t do it alone. I needed him to tell me when he was aware I was binging, as that in itself would likely be enough to stop me in my tracks. I needed him to come to appointments with me.

The chat went ok. He claims he’s never aware when I’m binging. I’d suspected this but couldn’t see how he could possibly not notice. As much as I don’t want him to know, I also need him to in order to intervene. He’s not keen on coming to appointments at all. Same excuse ‘it’s in the middle of the day’. Basically, he doesn’t want to drive from work and back. I am annoyed, if I’m honest, but we’ll see. . . He agreed to support me more so that’s something.

4. My next change will be to limit ‘binge food’. The more time I spend deciding what to eat, the more I’m put off the binge. We didn’t have any bread in today, for example, and I purposely didn’t go out to get any. I really think this helped a lot.

5. I think the biggest change is that I’m feeling more positive about recovery than I have done in a long time. I know what I’m like, and my mood can (and often does) change in an instant. Hopefully this blog will act as a good reference to look back on when that happens.

 

Learning to Share

I shared my blog today.

I very nearly didn’t, but figured I had nothing to lose. What was the worst that could happen? I decided that the worst could only be that I was viewed in the same way I view myself – disgusting, shameful, worthless. If that was the worst that could happen then nothing would really change – I’ve spent my life assuming that I’m seen that way anyway.

So, I shared. I was terrified. I was searching for the look of disgust that (I thought) was guaranteed to come with the exposure.

It didn’t come.

The reaction was sadness. I wasn’t expecting that.

So how do I feel now? Honestly? The biggest sense of relief. I wasn’t expecting that either. I don’t regret my decision to share – in fact I’m glad I did.

I got in the car afterwards and just cried. I never cry. I suppose it was the mixture of relief and sadness. But for the first time in a long, long time I feel like a weight has been lifted.

I’ve got home to an empty house and don’t feel the need to binge.

I’m starting to believe that maybe I can do this. . .

 

Diagnosis

I’ve struggled with my diagnoses ever since I was given it. I still don’t agree with it, really.

The diagnoses I’ve been given is ‘Anorexia Nervosa’.

I just don’t think that’s me.

I don’t starve (I try to, but fail miserably). I eat. I don’t just eat, I binge. Several times a day. I vomit after everything I eat. It is VERY rare that I’ll eat without full-on binging.

I’m not trying to pretend I don’t have a problem. I do, I have an eating disorder, I just don’t think that Anorexia is it.

I’ve argued this diagnoses before and am always faced with the same answers. My weight/BMI (yep, it’s come back to BMI again!!) slots me into the ‘Anorexic’ category.

But my BMI hasn’t always been of ‘anorexic’ status. It’s been normal, it’s been borderline high. I’ve still had the same ED behaviours, the eating disorder itself has never let up. At my highest weight I was just as ‘bad’ as I am now, I just happened to weigh more.

I questioned once whether, had I sought help at a higher weight and reported the same behaviours, thoughts, feelings, electrolyte imbalance etc etc, would I still be ‘Anorexic’. The response I got was ‘probably not’.

To me this seems wrong. My weight dictates how I’m treated? I don’t feel anorexic. I certainly don’t look anorexic. Being described anorexic makes me feel, once again, like a fraud. . .