As of this week, I’m approximately halfway through day patient.
I’ve gained over half of my weight target and my body – and mind – have changed immeasurably. I don’t really know how to describe the transformation I’ve gone through over the last ten weeks. This feels like it has been the hardest time of my entire life. I know, I know, that can’t be true. Surely this isn’t harder than my teenage years, when I tried to end my life and had a six month inpatient admission? Surely the months I spent in the depths of anorexia were harder than this? Yes, they were hard, but in a different way. I will always stand by saying that being recovered is infinitely easier than having anorexia, but that having anorexia is easier than recovery.
I am almost at a ‘healthy’ weight, at the bare minimum that some of the textbooks and charts say I should be. But I’m not at MY healthy weight, I’m not at the weight the ED service say I should be, and I’m still quite a few kg off my weight target. I’m not at my pre-anorexia body. I might be nearly ‘healthy’, but I’m still not having periods, I’m still falling asleep at 7pm, my bloods are still wobbly. That, to me, suggests I’m actually not healthy at all, and is exactly why I need to keep going, despite the fact my brain is screaming at me that because I am ‘healthy’ I can stop now.
I can’t stop now, I’ll only have done half a job. I can’t be recovered at a weight that isn’t natural for my body. I know myself, and I know that as long as I balance on the knife edge of being underweight, the temptation to put myself into that camp would be too much. I wouldn’t be able to resist the siren that is anorexia, calling me to dip my toes in until I fall back into its grasp. So I must, I must keep going, regardless of how painful it feels. I’ve not come this far to only come this far.
I’d say now, my ratio of good to bad days is around 2:1. I have more good days than bad. On my good days, I can just about tolerate seeing my reflection. I can laugh, I can enjoy the company of my friends and family. I can concentrate on activities, I can eat meals without drowning in guilt, and I have thoughts about things other than food. On my worst days, I feel self hatred burning my insides like lava. I want to pull my own skin off. Every bite of food feels like poison and my emotions are out of control. I feel angry, I feel scared, I feel completely and utterly bereft.
The changes to my life over the last few weeks have been astounding. Before I started treatment, I was setting alarms on the hour every hour in the night to weigh myself. I was exercising to the point of collapse. I hadn’t used a knife and fork for weeks and I was engaged in several other eating disordered behaviours that ultimately landed me in hospital on a drip. I spent hours in front of the mirror examining my body, taking hundreds of photos of myself from all angles. Every minute of my day was consumed by anorexia.
Some days, I feel like I’ve made no progress. But when I read that back, I realise how far I have come. I can go two or three days without weighing myself now and I’m managing to reduce that even further. I am on a full meal plan, all of my anorexic behaviours have reduced or stopped entirely. I avoid mirrors mostly now, because I can’t stand the sight of myself. I feel like an alien, and that I’ve shape shifted into someone else’s body. The rate of weight gain expected of us in the programme is faster than the rate I lost it, and my brain is struggling to keep up. I wake up in the morning and instinctively grab my hips and my ribs, as I had been doing every day, but they feel different now, covered in a layer of flesh that wasn’t there before. My leggings don’t fall down, my rings fit on my fingers. I’m not always cold and it doesn’t hurt when I have a bath anymore. All of these things are good, yet they are bittersweet. I miss being sick, and feeling my bones, and grabbing at clumps of hair as they fell out. I don’t know why.
My boyfriend, mum and friends have started being more honest with me as I’ve been getting better about how it has been for them the last few months, and honestly it’s heart breaking. I have been irritable and snappy and miserable. I’ve been silently absorbed in recipes and cooking videos and photos of food. My boyfriend hasn’t wanted to hold my hand because it upset him feeling how bony it is. My friends were almost too scared to talk to me for fear I’d snap at them. That’s not me, and it hurts my heart that that’s how I’ve been treating people and how they have felt about me.
I still hate my body, more and more every day. I am still obsessed with food and I think about it 24/7. I am still working on a lot of behaviours but they are getting better. As my weight increases I feel less and less deserving of my place in day patient, but my team reassure me that I am worthy of treatment regardless. I am due to start formal therapy soon which will further help me challenge my thoughts.
This journey has at times felt empowering and at others impossible. I truly mean it when I say that your messages have kept me going some days, and I am endlessly grateful for them.
I hope you’ll all stick by me for part two.