This week I was discharged from the day patient programme, after successfully maintaining at my target weight for four weeks.
I feel a million miles away from when I reached the top of the waiting list, or my first week in day patient. Over the last four weeks my support from them has been decreasing gradually in order to prepare me for moving on from the service. I’m not going to lie, it’s been very difficult. When I have good days, I’ve felt okay about being discharged. But when I have bad days, I feel like I wouldn’t cope without having them to speak to. What will I do now? I’ve been under their care for nearly seven months now, which is a long time and ended up being over a month longer than initially planned because the pandemic significantly slowed my progress.
One of the things that is particularly strange about this discharge is that it feels incredibly anticlimactic considering the blood, sweat and tears that has gone into this process, and I feel very sad that I’m not going to get any proper closure on my treatment or to properly say goodbye to my treatment team, who I have no doubts saved my life. I haven’t seen them for 10 weeks since lockdown was announced – I want to be able to show them my progress and it hurts that I can’t.
But the most important thing here is that I did it! Before I started treatment, I honestly don’t know how I was even walking around. I constantly felt on the verge of collapse, my blood pressure was through the floor, I barely had the energy to walk up the stairs. I was too weak to open squash bottles and a combination of laxatives, diet pills and diuretics meant I frequently had an erratic heart rate that often resulted in panic that I was going to die. Not enough to stop me, mind. Despite all this, I still didn’t think I was anywhere near sick enough for day patient, so I got the shock of my life when my case manager told me in our first meeting that if I lost anymore weight they’d need to consider another inpatient admission. I’m so grateful I had the opportunity to fight this in the community.
There have been many, many tears over pizza and pastry and ice cream. Meltdowns over every kg gained and every new BMI bracket reached. I don’t think I will ever forget the crippling stomach pains caused simultaneously reducing laxatives and increasing my meal plan as my body learned how to work again and digest food. I will never be able to look at a glass of milk the same way, permanently traumatised from having to drink a litre of it a day to try and get some nutrients and calories in without risking refeeding syndrome. I won’t soon forget the first time I stood in my underwear on that scale, cold and bony and vulnerable, knowing that from that moment on the number would be going up and not down as I was used to. This last year has come with so much more distress than I ever imagined. For some reason everything felt worse this time around than it ever has before. Perhaps it’s because as I get older my body is less able to manage the behaviours I put it through, or perhaps every time anorexia takes me it is more vicious, more evil, more intense than the time before.
I am eternally grateful to my entire treatment team for helping me to get to this point and support me through every bite. I owe endless thanks to my dietician, mental health nurse, support worker, occupational therapist, keyworker, programme leader, therapist and case manager, who have been by my side since day one.
However, though my body may now be healthy, my mind still has a way to go. Although day patient has ended, I will continue doing therapy (CBT-E) with my case manager which I am really benefiting from. The good days are getting more frequent and the bad days getting fewer. I have grown immeasurably as a result of this experience and I hope it’s not one I ever have to revisit.
This has probably been one of the hardest years of my life and I am by no means recovered, but I’m well on my way. Anorexia has plagued me for most of my life but this is the most unrestricted my eating has been in years, and the most healthy my body has been. My DEXA scan came back clear, my digestion is working normally and as of this month I have just had my third regular period for the first time in at least four years, perhaps even longer.
I still hate my body. But I hated it when I was thin too. Despite this, I don’t hate my life anymore, and that’s what recovery is all about.