Fall down, get back up.

I haven’t wrote in a while. It’s the usual, what do I actually want to share scenario.

I have good news any way. I have been taken off my section 3 and discharged from the unit. I am back tomorrow for an appointment with their inreach team but after that I will never be back on the ward, just the outpatient clinic.

The time I was on a section 2 was horrendous. I was doing things to myself, and it appeared like I was getting worse, both for me and the staff. I started getting more leave in an attempt to improve things, however things became even worse. I went back one Monday about a month ago expecting discharge, and instead was placed onto a section 3. This marked change. I think I knew that because I had just been placed onto a section 3, and because the consultant was going away, there was no chance of me leaving for at least two weeks, so I sort of admitted defeat.

The day after being moved onto the section 3, I had my first proper chat with a nurse. I hated said nurse with a passion. She turned out to be the person who helped me most, the person I opened up to, and a big part of me being where I am now. I never expected that. The biggest thing I have gained from this admission is the ability to use my words to express myself.

There were a lot of awful times where I was unable to keep myself safe, or look after myself. I do not remember the first week. I did not eat, drink, or leave my bed. I do not remember any staff from this time except for one, despite the fact I was on constant 1:1 meaning I had to be with a staff member at all times who could see me, including if I wanted to shower or use the toilet.

After that week I made a slight improvement in terms of eating and being out of bed, but there continued to be a lot of risky behaviours. It is strange to look back and remember certain things. I remember looking in the mirror having lost weight, with marks all over my body, bloodshot eyes, a bruised head like you have never seen before, burst blood vessels all over my eyelids, cheeks and neck. I hadn’t been washing. I hadn’t had any change of clothes because I had none.

And now? Now I have gained weight. I am dressing, showering, wearing make-up, doing my hair. I look happy. Nurses have told me I have a sparkle in my eye. I smile a lot. I laugh. When I have been back to the ward lately I talk to the other patients, check on them, get them into the garden and have a kick around with them. I’ve spent a lot of time in that garden kicking a ball against a wall. I talk to staff, joke, laugh, smile. Cry with happiness, not anything else.

That is not to say the last few weeks have been problem free. I had my leave taken off me over bank holiday after going on a 30 minute walk and not returning, and needing a lot of support to keep myself safe and return. I lied to staff, to their faces, to get out that day because they were concerned, and I am shocked at the fact I did that. Losing my leave led to the second time I have become extremely distressed in there. I dived out the door when a member of staff was coming through, and had several nurses drag me back onto the ward. But the thing is, in there, each day is a chance to start again.

I got my 8 hours leave back last Tuesday, for each day. Then had overnight leave Saturday and Sunday, and was discharged today. I was given the option of a weeks leave, then discharge, but it felt best to have a clear cut discharge.

The night I was placed onto the section 2, I was distraught at going into hospital. It started with a phone call with my community team, led to an A&E visit escorted by the police from which I managed to escape from, and led to an incident that saw me being arrested on a 136. I’m not going to go into the incident, but when I was arrested the police officer was shaking, he was holding me down on the ground and he kept saying that everything was going to be ok; the worst was over.

I did not believe him. I was thinking that the worst had just begun. He saved my life, quite literally, and I was angry. Yet deep down a part of me wanted to feel his relief, and I think I was able to recognise that was something to hold onto. I can honestly say that very slowly, I am beginning to feel relieved. If the police officer had reacted a few seconds slower it is highly unlikely, if not definitely unlikely, that I would be alive right now. A few seconds where I stopped feeling fear and found myself at a total loss, could have ended my life and destroyed the people who care about me. He stopped me from doing that.

I was angry at being in hospital for probably 70% of my admission, and not happy about the situation for about 95%. But now I look back and I wouldn’t take it back. I am grateful that I was forced to stay in hospital when I wasn’t able to see that it was needed, and I am grateful to have been allowed out now that I am strong enough to support myself.

A lot has, and is, changing in my community support. I was discharged from the service I was under when admitted. I can return in February, but I doubt I will. I am now about to start private therapy with a low fee service and my NHS support is completely different, and has not really begun yet.

I will be seeing a new psychiatrist, who I have met once. She was amazing, I have to admit. I cried like no tomorrow, but it also felt good. I have been referred for the 3rd time to CMHT, and that will take some time. But what is the biggest thing right now is this new service. It is small; it has less than 10 staff members, and has only been open for 2 years. In those 2 years it has seen 120 patients which is nothing in comparison to most teams. It is funded by the police, and is a partnership between them, the NHS and a charity. They provide short-term intensive support, so for now I will be seeing them twice weekly at home. That will decrease pretty quickly, and after 6 to 8 weeks approximately, it will stop, and I will then be under the care of CMHT and the psychiatrist.

I am a bit anxious about it, and about the fact that right now it means all new people again. They attended my discharge ward round today and basically I will be seeing the nurses and the police officers. The police involvement panicked me a bit, but they are specialised in mental health, and will be much more like seeing a nurse, than a police officer. They don’t wear uniform and if you didn’t know they were police, you’d think they were nurses.

I am also moving this month, into a new houseshare. Said houseshare is with the loveliest live-in landlady ever, a beautiful home and a goregous chihuahua called Tilly. I was honestly terrified of post-discharge due to living and money and work, but I honestly feel like things are falling together so perfectly that it is almost unbelievable.

I know that difficult times are likely to come, although right now I can’t imagine it. I know that things won’t always be easy, but I also feel like a brand new person.

I never thought I’d go onto an adult acute ward. I never thought I would be sectioned. I never thought I would have both those things happen, and end up concluding that while I would never want to go through it again, I would not take it back. But I wouldn’t. I feel fresh. I feel new. I feel happy.

I don’t feel afraid of being here tomorrow.

I honestly could not speak higher of the professionals who have worked with me.

I honestly could not be prouder of myself if I tried.

I have a heap of regrets with university, work, and many of the things that have happened over the last 2-3 months. I have a heap of things I would do differently. I could sit here and list them all…if I wanted to. But I don’t. I don’t care. It was all worth it. Things fell apart, and then they came back together, stronger than ever.

That’s all that really counts.

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Positive vibes only please.

I screwed up. But maybe I need to stop saying it like that…I crumbled and everything became too much.

Last Monday I was sectioned. I was arrested under section 136 of the mental health act by the police (for anyone who does not know much, it is not a crime but for safety and a mental health assessment) and taken to a “place of safety”. At said place I was assessed by two psychiatrists and a social worker, put on a section 2 and admitted to an acute ward.

I am not sure I want to disclose what happened. I have not really spoken about it at all to anyone, nor how I feel about it now. I keep telling myself I should be glad that a police officer saved my life, but then I think that sounds ridiculously dramatic and it does; but then it is also true. If the police officer had reacted even just 5 seconds slower than he did, I would be dead right now and I want to be glad. I do. But right now I am just confused. I think wanting to be glad is a good place to start. When the incident happened the police knocked me to the ground; broke my nails, bruised my side and bum, ripped my coat and scratched my face. He was holding me, almost hugging me. He was shaking and he kept saying that we were safe and that it was all going to be ok, that the worst was over. I wanted him to get the hell off me and I tried to get away. But I also remember this little part of me that could see how relieved he was that he had made me safe, and I was jealous. Bad choice of words there, but I wanted to feel his relief. I was crying because I could not feel it. All the officers were relieved and happy, talking about it being a good outcome, and I was laid there on the floor wishing I felt the same – I take that as a sign that something in me wanted to be alive. Well, wanted to want to be alive, and when I remembered feeling this way on Friday, I realised I have to fight.

I only spent a week on the ward. It was a rubbish week. I have only been on an adult acute ward once and I acted fine, and “displayed no signs of mental illness” mostly because I was trying to get myself out, and I did within 3-4 days. This time I was not quite the same. I had to be medicated which I hated, because it feels like every time you get distressed and they cannot handle you, they just want to knock you out…I was restrained which has never happened before, I was attempting to escape, I was on 1:1 a lot, I had all of my stuff taken off me…given back, taken off me again.

But I am home. I came back home yesterday and I am home for a week, and if I keep how I am/improve, then I will be taken off the section next Monday and freeeeeee. And I am pretty proud of myself for picking myself up so quickly rather than ending up having a long admission. I cannot stand hospital and while I know most people can’t, I particularly can’t. I cannot handle feeling trapped or not getting space, or fresh air. I cannot manage to eat in hospital so I went 7 days without food. I get worked up and even my Mum knew that hospital was not the right place for me.

That is not to say it was the wrong place neither. What I did, what I nearly did…there was no other option. I could not go home. And yesterday afternoon I had an absolute meltdown. On my way home from the ward I went to see my mental health worker at uni, and I just lost it. She rang the ward and the consultant suggested going back, but I pushed through and I am still at home. I have cleaned, dealt with some physical health issues, I am eating again THANK THE LORD and I am engaging with home visits even though I tried to refuse them. I know if I refuse them I will be recalled aka back in hospital, but that is not why I am engaging. I am engaging because I want to, and because this is an opportunity for me to learn how to communicate how I feel and get things out, rather than bottling things up and exploding.

Two weeks ago I was struggling, but I would never have predicted this to happen. It has been horrible, and at time, traumatic. I could still be on the ward right now, on 1:1 with none of my belongings, hurting myself, arguing, kicking off, not eating and destroying any chance of returning to outpatient therapy. But I have another two and a half months to show I can regain control and be “stable” (bloody hate that word), so I can do the therapy, and so that is my goal.

There are lots of issues at the moment, and things that contributed to this, and consequences of this last week that I have to deal with. But ultimately I know all things can be dealt with. While I am finding it difficult to say I am glad the police saved my life, I am glad I am still here to have the chance to engage in therapy and perhaps one day be glad.

I am focusing on looking after myself physically, reading some positive books and focusing on positive things. Having positive conversations with friends, generally talking to friends to be distracted, working on putting my feelings into words and just, helping myself. It started with eating; I knew I was not going to be able to pick myself up and do the things that would help me, if I was not eating. So yesterday after my meltdown I had my trusty rice krispies, and since then I have been eating “properly”, and it is just a case of one foot in front of another. I do truly hope I can go to my ward round on Monday, surprise them at how different I am (better!), get discharged and resume life, but for now we shall focus on today.

 

Just keep swimming!

Pretty good quote from Disney there.

When I last posted on here I thought I was coming out of a blip, and then said blip continued. I 100% thought I could positive think myself out of the hole. I don’t really recall what happened but it worked very temporarily, perhaps a day, and then things became worse again. I ended up in hospital a couple of more times, but only overnight…and then slept a lot in the day time. I mean positive thinking is vital and I 100% believe that what we think, we become. That being said mental illness and being low is not exactly the same as being negative, and positive thinking can only do so much. I think when you are at rock bottom, it takes more than positivity to help you, but once you are beginning to feel a little better, positivity can really help.

Things are better now though! I went through a couple of days at the weekend where I was looking after myself better, but I felt incredibly low, which is the usual process after a blip. It’s like you are letting go of the ways you have been coping, so it’s relatively “normal” to feel a bit rubbish and it’s a lot like when you have been physically ill and it takes a few days to get your energy back, but here we are!

I can’t say I am entirely sure how things have turned around. On Friday I was in A&E from about 3am-7am…but I was determined to still go to work, but then I fell asleep. I was so angry with myself when I woke up. I woke up 15 minutes before I was due at the hospital for an appointment that I was planning to go to on my lunch break. I had to practically run to the hospital and I was not exactly wide awake. The clinic was running an hour late, and I basically slept in the waiting room for another hour and then saw them. They asked a lot of questions and were worried about me, so they wanted me assessed by the crisis team but I managed to avoid it. I walked home in a daze and really disappointed in myself. I think sometimes you get to the point where you are drained, tired, and sick of letting yourself down. I spoke to the mental health team I am under for a planned phone call and I attempted to act “fine”…but the plastic surgeons, police and the university mental health team had all contacted them within a day so the “I’m fine” routine didn’t work. When I got home I rested all afternoon/evening, and my pain levels were so high that even with prescription painkillers, I was struggling. It helped me to keep safe because the idea of more pain was, to be honest, intolerable.

I am still on extra meds, plus the pain killers and antibiotics. Apparently it’s harder to get antibiotics these days but I swear I’m given them so often! It can’t be healthy!

I’ve been to work, and the gym for the last 3 days. On Monday I saw my MA supervisor, and I’ve also been super challenging myself with food. At home especially. I had been eating the same things every day for all meals including my evening meal, and then having set rules about lunch at work that I won’t go into, but I’ve had different meals every evening, eaten foods I haven’t eaten in a long time (cheese, avocado, salmon, cous cous, houmous, crisps and more), and also eaten different things at work. Every time I start panicking about it and my head wants to go back to eating the same old things I actually get really angry with the thoughts and I feel like, and excuse the swearing, “f**k you, you don’t get to dictate my life any more” and I love it when I am able to have this attitude.

I actually feel like my recovery from my eating disorder has had two stages; stage one was forced treatment as a child, stage two was actively choosing to “recover” as an adult, and I feel like I am entering a third stage where I am no longer accepting what I previously have. I’ve not been “ill” in terms of my anorexia for a few years, but I have been making a deliberate effort to keep my weight at or just below the target weight range eating disorder services set for me, doing as much cardio as possible, eating at certain times, eating the same foods, avoiding a lot of foods and other similar things…and I feel like I am beginning to challenge that.

If I gain more weight, who cares?! I’d rather be happy. Just because my current weight is what I need to be to be regarded as “healthy”, doesn’t mean it is my bodies healthy weight. I mean BMI isn’t the most reliable of measures, everyone’s weight/BMI varies, and a minimally healthy weight doesn’t have to be the end goal. A BMI of 20 is healthy, but so is a BMI of 21-24. I choose a little extra weight, happiness and being able to eat dessert any day! More than that, I choose being mentally healthy over spending my life restricting what I eat, not eating things I enjoy and having to put so much energy into not gaining weight. There are far better things to be putting so much effort into, and some food is good for your body, some food is good for your soul!! A healthy body is important, but so is a healthy mind.

I am a big believer in lifestyle changes for anyone who has weight related issues, rather than dieting. I am a big believer in body acceptance – body positivity is great, but actually you don’t have to love your body all of the time, but you can accept it and not criticise every aspect of your appearance. I despise the money making diet industry. I despise the guilt that so many women (and men), feel over their bodies and what they eat. I despise body shaming of any description albeit fat shaming, or thin shaming, and I absolutely hate that some people feel they have to adhere to certain standards. I hate that we are bombarded with messages such as ‘fat is bad’, ‘low calorie = healthy’, and ‘no pain, no gain’ – and I want to practice what I preach!

AMEN.

Bad times happen. Good times happen too. We choose which we focus on.

I have had a difficult week. I mean bad days happen regularly, but they are normally just one-off days or hours, not days upon days, and probably not this bad. I don’t even really know where it came from, it just kind of hit me from nowhere and it worries me how this happens. I’m picking myself back up and eventually managed to get some help, but I know things could have become much worse and it scares me. It scares me that I will end up back in hospital long-term, or lose the good things in my life. It was like everything just hit me, like suddenly I hit a wall. I am a very active person, and as soon as I wake up I’m out of bed in 30 seconds. I exercise regularly. I never, ever, spend a whole day indoors. I can’t say when I last did, but it was years and years (except when I was in hospital because I wasn’t allowed out). But there have been a lot of periods of time this week where I haven’t even been able to leave my bedroom, nevermind the house. A couple of times where I couldn’t leave my bed. I just laid there, in the middle of the day, and felt paralysed.

At first I was angry with myself; I thought I was just being lazy and needed to “pull myself together”, but looking back it was nothing of the sort. The thing that made me realise that sounds a bit silly, and embarrassing, but basically I needed the toilet and I was in agony and yet the idea of moving, of walking…I just couldn’t. I was in so much pain and after 2 hours I was still just laid there. I was also crying non-stop and I NEVER cry. I’m always called the unemotional one in the family, which is awfully ironic given that by diagnosis is emotionally unstable personality disorder. I am emotional, but just not in a way that people can see. It’s often not visible. But when I get in a really bad place, that does change. The worst thing I’ve done is set myself up for failure…thinking “I’ll be fine tomorrow and I’ll do X, Y and Z” and then been the furthest thing from fine, and feeling guilty and telling myself I’ll be better tomorrow.

I have also been having horrendous headaches which they think is related to how I’ve been mentally feeling. It’s weird because the headaches started last week, before things got bad. I’ve had two types; one where it’s a dull ache that just will not go away, the other is very sudden and intense. For about 10 minutes max I will be in agony. It starts at the back of my neck and then runs around to my ears and it feels like the worst pain I’ve had in my life. And then as quick as it comes, it goes. I don’t know which is worse. The ones that won’t go away make the whole day even harder, but the short ones are agonising. Knowing it won’t last long helps. It’s really weird, and I feel like I am making them up because who gets a headache for ten minutes?!

I feel really guilty for how I have been this week, and really disappointed in myself. The only thing that is helping that is the fact that my mental health team think that I have been, and am, doing really well overall to manage it as safely as I can. Their number one priority is always safety, and between October and somewhere between January and March that was not something I was successfully doing. It got me taken out of treatment and that is why I am currently not really having any formal therapy, and it landed me on the psych ward. The team I am under were extremely vocal about their concerns and tried to get me into hospital sooner than I was admitted (I convinced the team that assess you for sections that I was ok to be at home more than once), and so I know that they genuinely think I am working hard at things; they would not say it if they did not mean it, and so it eases the guilt a bit. The last thing I want to do is ruin my hopes of returning to treatment.

I have had to spend some time in hospital this week, and the reality is that it might become necessary to have at least some time there over the weekend, but I am trying not to see that as failure neither. I have made some bad moves this week, and I’ll be honest and say that rather than admit to myself that I was disappointed or angry at myself, I took it out on professionals. I mean when I say that I don’t mean I was horrible or anything like that, and it was very brief, but in my head at points, they were the problem not me. I did not want to go into the hospital no matter how brief it would be. I find it embarrassing and I feel ashamed when it happens, and lets face it, nobody wants to be in a hospital.

I’ve had my meds temporarily increased. They’ve given me 9 days worth so I’m assuming it’s just for that long. I hate being overly medicated. Like I accept needing some medication and I take daily long-term medication…but I hate using PRN medication, and I hate that it just wipes me out. I am starting the PRN tonight and I know I am going to struggle to get up in mornings, and I’m going to feel zonked out. It feels like why on earth would I do that to myself? But I know the reasons. If it can prevent ending up in hospital and keep me stable so be it. But of course then I will also worry about coming off them so you can see why I want to avoid them; they wipe me out so being on them is hard, and then coming off them is also hard. But needs must, and this happens VERY infrequently for me so I can kind of accept it as a rare occasion kind of thing. Don’t think I am being critical of using PRN medication because I’m not, but it just isn’t really for me.

In terms of support I can go to the hospital any time. I can also ring my team between 9 and 5 Mon-Thurs, and 9-4 Friday. We have a scheduled 30min call next Fri, but I can ring before then. It’s reassuring just knowing it’s there as an option, and we spoke Monday, yesterday and today, plus I’ve had contact with my GP. Next week my mental health specialist mentor at university is increasing my contact with her to twice weekly (Monday and Thursday), and there’s room to consider having a 2hr session plus a 1hr, rather than two 1hrs. She is a life saver. She makes such a big difference to my life, and not only that but we genuinely get along. She said once I leave university she will keep in contact with me, and it just feels like we click. I feel like we are quite similar in some things and we don’t sit and talk about mental health related stuff all of the time, like we have genuine similar interests and good random conversations. I’m very lucky. (Also she is Irish and I love Irish accents).

My plan is to rest this weekend and take it easy while on these extra tablets. I have moments where I feel A LOT better and while they are brief, they seem to be lasting longer in the last day or so. The not so great moments, I need to start accepting. I make it so much harder for myself by getting frustrated and angry at how I feel…it just makes me even worse. Acceptance seems awfully important. I am also beginning to wonder if covering up what is going on from people is beneficial. I know I blog very openly, but in the rest of my life I’m not open at all so trying to be so is difficult. None of my friends know what is going on right now. But I think maybe not totally masking things helps, and I have shut myself from everyone this week which can’t be a helpful thing, and I think it is tough on the people who care.

I’m just going to take things as they come. The good and the bad. But I am going to push myself. I have to, because if I don’t I would trap myself in my room forever. Sure sometimes it is ok to have a rough week or day and need that, but it feels important to not let it turn into a ‘normal’ thing because otherwise I’d get really bad….so it means forcing myself to do things I don’t want to do. While I accept this week has happened and perhaps I needed it, I’m not going to be easy on myself because I don’t want to spiral downwards so next week I am going to do the things I need to, and usually, do and I am going to use the extra support available, take these meds, and push myself. I know that doing things, doing “normal” things, helps me, and it’s ok to have a down week, and to let myself, but it cannot continue for long. It’s that difficult thing between being compassionate to yourself and understanding bad weeks happen and it’s ok to withdraw from things a bit because as much as it doesn’t feel like it to me, this is an illness…while also taking responsibility and not letting yourself off from things, not giving up. A mental health problem is not a choice, but recovery is, and choices are involved.

My biggest mistake this week was not facing up to things from the start. I took a long time to tell someone how things were, and therefore to seek help, and even longer to actually use the help. But that being said a week is nothing! I used to go months in that state of denial of what was going on and hiding away, avoiding help. I feel like in less than a week I’ve managed to go through a process that used to take often up to a year! And I mean that is what I am focusing on; not just how far I have to go, but how far I have come. It is so easy to forget where you were before, and to focus on the bad, when there is so much to be proud of.

(I don’t mean to make it sound like this totally came out of nowhere, which I probably have made it seem. I think there had been signs this was coming and at least one person around me knew that, and I was just pulling the wool over my eyes with the “I’m fine, it’s fine, everything is fine” thing, but I had been managing to just have bad moments rather than longer periods.)

I have my fingers and toes crossed for a hospital free weekend though! Lots of rest and calmness please! And I look forward to being hyper and silly again, hitting the gym, working and getting on with some uni work! There’s nothing better than feeling like your usual self. I know normal every day life can seem boring for some, and feeling ‘ok’ might not feel like enough, but I think when you are someone who does have very bad times with your mental health and where things such as being in hospital become necessary, there is nothing more you enjoy than the apparently boring, normal every day stuff. Even finally cleaning and doing an essay suddenly feels good when I’ve had a bad week! And don’t get me started on my own bed, a shower or a nice walk. These things sometimes feel like the most amazing thing in the whole world. The relief of coming home and falling asleep in my own bed with fresh sheets sometimes feels like winning the lottery. It’s the little things that often feel like the big things.

This has been an awfully long rant, but I feel like getting things out is an important part of trying to draw a line under a bad week and start fresh, and to acknowledge that you can both be fighting hard and doing better, while also having tough times. One of the most reassuring things for me has been reading the blogs of people who are overall successful and doing well, but seeing that they have bad times too. Seeing people who seem to always have everything together doesn’t actually inspire me or help me any where near as much as the people who are open about their difficult times. It helps me to see the bigger picture in life, and that having a bad time doesn’t mean it is how things always are, or how things always will be, so if you are having a bad evening, day, or week, it’s ok. I know it is hard to believe right now, but this is not permanent. The only thing in life that is guaranteed is change, and our feelings tend to be one of the things that can change the most in a shockingly small amount of time. I hold onto that thought a lot – and the fact that a bad week doesn’t delete all of the good days; they are still just as real.

A Reminder of Why I Gained Weight

Sometimes I still catch myself looking back and wondering why I “let” myself gain 40lbs. Who does that? Who chooses to gain 40lbs? I feel like a failure. I cannot figure out why the hell I ever chose to do that. I regret it. But then I push those thoughts away and focus on the here and now.

Things have been slipping for months though. You see despite weight restoring I have never really “normalised” my eating; I still choose the lowest calorie sandwich in the supermarket, I still check the calories for restaurants and choose accordingly and I do not know the last time I chose something because I WANTED it. I avoid dessert unless I can “make up” for it, and I have a huge heap of food related rules. I do not eat things that my disorder stupidly labelled as “bad”; chocolate, burgers, sweets, white carbs, pasta, high fat foods (except peanut butter haha), crisps, non-diet versions of things you can get diet versions of, potatoes, milk, ice cream, chips…you can probably guess the kind of things. I eat the same breakfast, lunch and tea every day, and the same snacks, and the only variation I have managed to add in is different sandwiches at work so long as they are from the healthy living range, and different protein with my evening meal sometimes..but which is still limited to a few options.

I have been at my target weight of a BMI around 20 for a while now, but the food related rules have been plentiful. Eating out still scares me, Christmas still terrifies me although to a lesser extent…and I still often wish I could eat what the other people I am with are eating. I still avoid social situations involving food, I still long to eat certain things and I still feel like I deprive myself. And I convince myself it is ok because my weight is “fine.”

A year or two ago I started exercising again in the form of the gym. I have stuck to three times maximum mostly, with the occasional increase before reducing it back down. Three times is fine, I convince myself…while ignoring the thoughts I have. The panic at not being able to go because it is bank holiday, the panic that I might not fit in three times if I go home. The desire to go every day and the irritable mood I find myself in on my days off. The increased frequency of going an extra day. The obsessive thoughts about burning fat and building muscle.

It has gradually worsened. And in the last 6 months it has completely deteriorated. I had a few weeks where I was running three times, going to the gym three or four, and I ended up triggering an old injury and I felt suicidal. I know that sounds dramatic, but that is what happened. I have been weighing myself daily again, and when I was arrested and placed in a cell (don’t ask!), I was not bothered about the prospect of a criminal record so much as I was bothered about not being able to go to the gym; when I was released I rang my Mum crying that I could not go to the gym (it was too late) and that I was in so much pain I could barely even walk. (By the way I was not charged and I hadn’t committed a crime..it was mental health related and complicated – I will explain if anyone wants to know, but not on here!) I have been going to the gym extra days per week, doing a lot extra cardio and walking 10-20km every day, even if it means walking in the middle of the night.

I should have seen how bad things were getting but I wanted to ignore it. Or rather, because I am a healthy weight, I felt like I had to just act fine, pretend to be fine, get on with it. It was like I did not deserve to feel like I had a problem, and I know that the one person who really knows how things have been has been irritated with me for trying to pretend there is not a problem when it is blatantly obvious that there is, but the underlying issue has been the weight part. How can I need to cut down my exercise or eat more, or challenge my eating rules, when I am at a healthy weight?

But the thing is, being in that semi-recovered but still pretty damn disordered state leaves you not just miserable, but also very vulnerable to relapse, and while I feel like I only relapsed last weekend, it had been coming for a while. Last weekend I decided to lose weight. I was in bed when I made the decision and I planned to simply cut down a little on what I was eating, but then I got up the next morning and ate less than planned for breakfast, then skipped lunch and snacks, ate less than planned for tea, and skipped supper. I went to work without breakfast and had no lunch, I just ate a fiberone bar. Roll on to yesterday and I had a glass of unsweetened almond milk, some egg whites and veg…burnt 500 calories in the gym and 600 calories walking.

And guys, it worked. In 6 days I lost 6lbs. YAY WELL DONE NATALIE (not). How I feel reminds me of a quote by Marya Hornbacher:

“And when, after fifteen years of bingeing, barfing, starving, needles and tubes and terror and rage, and medical crises and personal failure and loss after loss – when, after all this, you are in your early twenties and staring down a vastly abbreviated life expectancy, and the eating disorder still takes up half your body, half your brain, with its invisible eroding force, when you have spent the majority of your life sick, when you do not yet know what it means to be ‘well,’ or ‘normal,’ when you doubt that those words even have meaning anymore, there are still no answers. You will die young, and you have no way to make sense of that fact.
You have this: You are thin.”

You are thin. And that is all you really have.

You are depressed, anxious, isolated, suicidal and empty. But you are thin. And at times your head convinces you this is what you want, especially at the start…but then one day it hits you. I remember a moment where it hit me in my last major relapse. It was 2011, I think. I was on an acute medical ward for refeeding in a general hospital. I took my first shower in the bathroom there and they had a full length mirror. I had been avoiding mirrors, and the sight of my own body reduced me to tears. I was thin, and that was all I was. I was nothing else. I was empty, and dying, and I cried. Usually I was pleased to lose weight, to be told I looked sick, to be wasting away…but it was like suddenly my eyes opened up to the reality, and I knew that this was not a life I could carry on living.

I remember looking at my body, seeing that I really was just skin and bones, and crying. I remember thinking “what have you done to yourself?” I remember having to crawl to get to bed because I could not walk at home, and as soon as I was in hospital, not being allowed to go anywhere except in a wheelchair. How can you be 19 years old and in this state for the third time?

 

 

So yes, I spent the last week losing weight as quickly as I could, taking diet pills that used to be prescription only on the NHS but were then banned for causing heart failure, and feeling moody as hell. I had a rubbish appointment with my mentor at uni. I have laid in bed making weight loss plans. I have worried about managing my degree and work, and doing pretty much anything. I have cancelled plans, avoided going home for my sisters birthday, and to be honest, been a wreck all while hiding what I was doing from everyone.

And then today I got up and I ate breakfast and I walked to Tesco and bought food, and I ate lunch and tea. I took the day off the gym, and after I had walked so far, I forced myself back home…and it was literally force. And I do not know how I have managed it. My stomach hurts. I have cried. I feel like I am about to gain a stone in the coming days and weeks, and I think I need to make the decision that a BMI over 20 is not the end of the world. That if I want to minimise the risk of relapse and stop living my life by so many damn food and exercise rules, I have to accept my body wants to be at a higher weight than eating disorder services told me to be.

Back to wondering why I ever let myself gain weight:

I did not gain weight because I wanted to gain weight. God if I had waited for that day, I would be in a grave by now. And that is the thing. An eating disorder is not a diet. There is no ‘end’. You just keep on going and I am one of those people who either eats nothing, or eats 3 meals and a snack every single day without failure. I am obsessive, and very rigid and that is how I go. There is no middle ground.

I have remembered why I gained weight.

  1. Social stuff! When I am losing weight and restricting I avoid people. I avoid family and friends and anything that might involve food. This is my biggest reason to eat; I am focusing on wanting energy for work and to help at an event on the 7th of June. I have arranged to see friends on both Monday and Tuesday, and my sister for the day after her birthday. This will be challenging, especially with food, but I know that being able to remind myself that eating = being able to spend time with the people I love will help me manage eating properly again. And I am not going to just try and return to where I was a few weeks ago…I want to start eating what I WANT and not trying to maintain a minimally “healthy” weight. I do not want to spend my life micro-managing my eating and weight.
  2. Because when I starve myself and become severely underweight I am an awful person. At my worst, as a teenager, I attacked my family, smashed windows while cooking, threw plates of food that my Mum was trying to force me to eat at her, and hid food in socks, pockets…anywhere. But beyond that…I was silent, empty, dead. I know if I relapsed I would sit with my mentor every week in silence, or talk and feel as rubbish and as guilty as I did yesterday. I do not want that life back. I do not want the life back where nothing is important except avoiding food and losing weight.
  3. I really, really, want to go back into treatment, and USE it. GET BETTER. If I go back there at the end of this year, two stone underweight, I will not be able to use it to get better. (It is not for eating disorders) I will struggle; I will struggle to talk because I will be a zombie. I will struggle with eating there. I will struggle to manage to physically cope with getting there and being there all day. Managing just to sit there in silence would be an achievement. I need to be better than that; I need to be able to make the most of it.

There a whole heap of other reasons; enjoying food, being warm, not wanting my osteoporosis to get worse, concentration, Christmas, energy…but those three are my main reasons.

It feels strange admitting what the last six months have been like, and what it has accumulated to in the last week. It feels scary to admit that I am not as “recovered” as I would like to think, or as I would like other people to think. It is hard to say that I have a lot of things I need to change, and possibly some weight to gain, when I am not really underweight and nobody can see that there is a problem.

But there is a problem. I do not care if you are under eating, or over exercising, or not; I am telling you that if you are psychologically obsessing over food, or have rules surrounding food and exercise that cause anxiety, make you depressed, and that dictate your life to you, you deserve more.

You deserve so much more. And I deserve so much more, and if I want to get anything from this week of hell, it is to get truly better for the first time ever, and make other people aware that being at a healthy weight does not mean you are “recovered”, or that you cannot gain more weight. And that being “fine” does not have to be the end. You are worthy of more than “fine” and I am here to tell you that just like me, you can fight for more. You can fight for more than just “fine” and for more than managing, and for more than having to follow your life with rules. I am here to tell you that being weight restored does not mean you cannot still be struggling, and does not mean you have to pretend to the rest of the world you are ok when inside you are still fighting a battle.

A move towards targeted mental health awareness?

It’s mental health awareness week so it’s like I should post. I blog on mental health so not posting would be kind of weird…but then isn’t my whole blog raising awareness? It’s not really my goal to raise awareness for one week annually.

I’ve read some thought provoking stuff surrounding the use of mental health awareness events, which I imagine could apply to other awareness days and weeks too. The first was on Twitter; someone talking about being sick of talking about mental illness and not actually doing anything about it. Tonight I’ve seen a great illustration by rubyetc. I’m sure a lot of you have heard of her and I’ve included the illustration for you – you should check out her work if you’ve never seen her stuff before! Any way, this illustration is based on mental health awareness events being tedious. The illustration contains the comment “Yes I am very aware, thank you very much.”

And I get it. Sometimes I don’t want to hear, write, talk or anything to do with mental illness. Sometimes I hate awareness stuff and as a mental health blogger and as a person living with mental illness, you feel like you are not supposed to feel that way.

I guess the point is that some people are not aware, or not enough. I think awareness campaigns for particular areas of mental health are particularly important such as more misunderstood, often neglected disorders or issues such as addiction, personality disorders, and self-harm in adults. As for more common mental health problems like depression, anxiety and increasingly so with schizophrenia, people are more aware of the symptoms and more understanding than ever; but this doesn’t mean awareness isn’t necessary, but that a focus on specific areas – myths, misconceptions and how to help someone – is required.

When you have a mental illness it can definitely be a bit tedious though. Sometimes it feels like people touch on the subject because it’s awareness week, but not because it really means anything to them. But then how can anyone do in-depth work on EVERY SINGLE awareness event?

All of this has definitely led me to do some reflecting – how can I actually do something that makes a real difference? How can I reach the people that really need reaching? What areas of mental health really do need focusing on?

I feel particularly concerned with raising awareness of borderline personality disorder for obvious reasons; it’s something I’m diagnosed with, and you’re always going to care more about something that has impacted upon your life. But there are a number of things that have impacted upon my life, and this one still stands out to me as something to speak up about because it is such a highly misunderstood disorder which carries such awful stigma, and to be honest I’m not convinced that many people could tell me what BPD is if I stopped them and asked them.

My dream would be to educate professionals that come into contact with those with BPD who need better understanding to improve their ability to help. From personal experience this would be A&E staff and the police, but I am sure there are many more people who would benefit.

So I’m left thinking, can little old me do something about that? And what if I came face-to-face with the people who have seen me at my worst that I never thought I would have to face again? The thought of it is a bit sickening!

A weird thing happened a week or so ago. Two police officers that were involved in an incident with me a while ago did a random courtesy (if you like) call to my house. They called it a welfare check – you can imagine my panic when I opened the door and they said my name. I didn’t remember them because I really wasn’t in a state to even notice what they looked like so I was stood there having an internal panic; what have I done? I can’t remember doing anything?!

The first thing they said was “you look better” and it was weird to see them when I was feeling good and “well”. I think it was even stranger for them. It makes you realise the striking difference between how you are when you are managing, and how you are when you’re not. And I think it’s important for professionals to see that who you are when they see you, in that time of desperation and crisis, is not the person you truly are. I think it increases understanding that for the person to be in such a state, is to show that they truly need help because it’s outside of their ‘norm’. I imagine it is quite easy to see someone in a crisis and think that those moments define them, and I get that. I don’t think it is wrong of people to think that; but it doesn’t define them and it’s going to take people showing who they are beyond their label to change this.

A Shocking Fact About Mental Health

We all have it.

I know it doesn’t sound like a mindblowing fact, but apparently this is an issue. I recently saw, through a friend, a housing advertisement that said “we do not accept people with mental health”.

Now ignoring the fact that it sounds a hell of a lot like discrimination to me…I think they got their words confused because we all have mental health. Looks like this landlord doesn’t want a tenant!

Mental health does not mean mental illness. We all have mental health, just like we all have physical health, and it’s on a scale. We all have varying degrees of physical health, and this can worsen and improve at different times in our lives; it’s the same with mental health! You can have some issues with poor mental health without being mentally ill, without being in treatment and without y’know, seeing yourself as having an illness. Nobody is exempt from mental illness, or periods of poor mental health. Stress is a mental health issue, but being stressed isn’t an illness. We are so black and white when it comes to being mentally health and it’s a problem.

It’s recognising that we all have mental health that can lead us to being more understanding. People with mental health problems aren’t the ‘other’. They are me and you, your next door neighbour and your colleague from work. Rich, poor, black, white, lower class, upper class, heterosexual, homosexual, top of a business or right at the bottom…it does not matter. While there are higher risk groups for mental health problems and specifically for mental illnesses, they are just that, HIGHER risk; not the sole people at risk. Sure, if you’re born with stable parents, experience no trauma, have a good education, a great career and lots of supportive friends, yay because you are less likely to become severely mentally ill, but I hate to have to break this to you…mental illness does not discriminate, so it’s not all rainbows and butterflies.

Really I hope that if you don’t have a mental illness, you know that you still have mental health, and how you feel and cope is just as important. And if you do have a mental illness, I hope you know that even the people around you who don’t still have their dark times. I know it can feel like it’s just you, but it really isn’t, and the sooner we can all talk about our difficult times, the more acceptable it will become.

As for that landlord…using the wrong word was an accident, but it raises a significant issue with the way we think and talk.

(We’ll save the thoughts on not wanting a tenant with a mental health problem for another day!)