Gone for now

I feel I need a break from the blogging and go on a short hiatus; I am overwhelmed with university applications and so on and need to take a breather from the online world. Take care everyone.

Binge-purge cycle

This post is one I thought I would leave un-posted, but instead, I feel I need to get this out of my system and stop pretending that life is all beautiful.I am struggling, and I need to address my struggles. Below is what I wrote:

* * *

Things seem crazy and disorganised in my life right now. A week or so ago, I asked for help online and posting the following:

3rd August 2010 entry:

I’m away from home at the minute, staying at someone else’s house where there is A LOT of binge food. In my house most of the cupboards are bare and most of the food is in the freezer. I’ve basically ended up binging almost every single day…and I’m spending so much money on food from vending machines that it’s really hitting my wallet (considering I have no income until September). I’ve also been purging by self-induced vomiting every few days which I rarely did in my AN days. I’ve tried to eat my full mp that I normally eat, but then I end up binging even more.

My old [treatment] team said it would be impossible that I would “never stop eating” but right now my biggest fear has come true — I am literally eating myself to obesity. I don’t know how much I have gained…but I will weight myself on the weekend as I’m at home and my local shop has a scale (despite knowing I shouldn’t) to see how much this has cost me.

I feel disgusted with myself as an anorexic, because this seems like bulimic behaviour and I ought to have the self-control and discipline to starve myself like I used to be able to happily do. I told my mum, broke down for a day, and did not leave bed in my depression and ended up being told she has no idea what to do and that I should contact my T. I can’t contact my [psychologist] between our fortnightly [appointment]…at least she never stated I can and I don’t have her e-mail. I see my [psychologist] on Monday.

I’m back home on the saturday too. I’m wondering whether or not I need a blood test. I think I ought to, just to make sure things are ok, but I feel really awkward asking for one (you know the NHS, uk fishies). I feel embarrassed and not even sure if it’s necessary. I think I should ask my GP for a phone consult, and see what she thinks…but I feel really stupid and I don’t want my mum to overhear me talking to my GP about my issues.

You guys are my only source of help right now. I need to stop binging and have no idea how. Eating my [meal plan] isn’t helping and I have no real new stressors to address so i have no idea what is causing me to binge other than the fact that there is so much food around ….

In the end, I blew all the blood vessels in my eye which remained red for a week, ended up feeling really sick, and purged every other day for about two weeks. It was a major step back after not engaging in obvious eating-disordered behaviour for so long.When I was really ill with anorexia, I only ever self-induced vomiting around 3 times, the last time being in October, 10 months ago from this episode.

But I have moved forward, and looking for answers too.

What lead to the binges?

In retrospect, I think it was my inability to tolerate intense emotions of stress (due to interpersonal arguments, being away from a safe place like my own home). Or, I shouldn’t say inability, but rather a lack of practise at tolerating strong emotions. This is something I have talked to my therapist about in our last session.

My body needed food as the activities I was doing was burning more calories than I had anticipated. I did not (or did not want to, for fear of not trusting myself) listen to my own body which was asking for more food. In future, I feel that I need to pack a bigger lunch, say, another sandwich, if I know I am going to be burning more.

What lead to the purging?

Panic and profound guilt. And fear of gaining weight (I technically do not need to gain weight).

I felt guilty for the types of food I ate, bad foods as my eating disorder (and, to some extent society).I felt this made me a bad person, rotten to the core.

* * *

How are things now?

Today, I look at this post, and although my last purge was on only a few weeks ago, I no longer feel to perpetuate the cycle. Why the difference? I think it is because school is back on my agenda (even if only part time) and my life is more structured and predictable. However, I realise I need to step outside my structured niche at some point in order to move forwards and ensure this does not become a repetitive problem.

Life Beyond…

My internet was down for a little over two weeks, and, aside from that have been incredibly busy so my apologies for the lack of posts!

I have spent most of my time volunteering in animal sanctuaries, veterinary practises, farm and wildlife hospitals and so on. I need this experience in order to apply to university which I shall be doing this year (a year late due to my eating disorder), and it has been a lifelong ambition. I remember when my psychiatrist said to me, bluntly: “Well, I certainly don’t know of any dead vets working.” It was a joke, but a very serious one: my eating disorder stripped me of any meaningful future. So, now, after initially being forced to gain weight to my target, I am choosing to try to stay there.

I remember the summer, two years back. I had just entered outpatient treatment and was not gaining so much as a few grammes (I was in fact shedding it very fast). I was told by psychiatrists to get a car lift to school — a 15 minute walk was too much for my heart — but I decided to go and work with animals on a farm where the physical task was quite demanding, against medical advise. What really amazed me is that I actually ate extra on top of my meal plan, even when the anorexia voice was at its strongest. I managed it, because I was motivated and because I knew I could not realise my dreams of a career in veterinary medicine with the degree of eating disorder that I had. I had lost a lot of things — weight, friends, almost a place to live, everyone’s trust — but I knew that is I lost my future, I would have nothing left to live for.

The future is a scary place for me. It is mysterious, unknown and the path as yet untrodden by myself. A future without an eating disorder, I realise, is not one of only flowers, it is one of real life which comes with a lot of connotations, but all I know is that it has the potential to be fulfilling; it is a life without so many barriers, outside of the prison that the Eating Disorder creates.

Telling friends about my Eating Disorder

Due to my anorexia nervosa I have lost a number of friends. Some directly due to my illness, some perhaps because, as the illness became all too consuming, I spent less time contacting them coupled with the fact that one of my friends moved school and went on to lead a seperate life to me.

I had three friends at school, and one who had just moved. Telling people about my eating disorder has sometimes worked, but sometimes has miserably failed.

One of my friends kept hinting to me that I had anorexia: she talked about famine and kept offering me food or asking why I was failing to eat at lunch or constantly at the doctors. I decided to write to her as I couldn’t tell her straight to her face. In her response, she replied:

The main reason was that whenever I talk to you I always got worried because of all these days you have been having off. And I got the impression that you didn’t want to tell me, which was fine initially but the more appointments you started having the more worried I got and didn’t know what to talk about with you which wasn’t related to your doctor’s appointments. So I’m extremely sorry.

[…]

I’m here for you. Whenever you need help with anything, just ask. I will not mind, infact I’ll be glad to be help in any way.

[…]

Since when do you have this problem?

I didn’t particularly like the questioning: does it really matter how long? Needless to say, despite her positive response, she never really understood and soon decided to leave me. After prolonged absence from school, she avoided meeting with me to go out to the cinema. She was jealous of the exam support I received and the grades I was achieving despite hardly ever being in class. She spread messages about me in the common room, and refused to even work as part of a group with me in Biology (and left me on my own; it was humiliating but luckily some other girls helped me out and let me join their team). She failed to pass on important messages to me when I asked to look at work I had missed. You would think such exclusion and bulling would stop in Sixth Form, with people being 17-18 years old, but things have changed little since I joined that school.

Another friend left me as her mum thought eating disorder are contagious and she might contract it from me. The third friend just…left.
However, yesterday I talked to a very close friend. She used to tell me I need to gain weight, but didn’t ask and respected me that I would tell her if and when I felt was right. She told me today and my ex-friend asked her (“hey, Kushika’s lost a lot of weight.” “I know.” my friend replied. “why?” — basically my ex-friend wanted a bit of gossip instead of asking me directly). My close friend asked why I was extending my studied by a year. So I told her I had anorexia, gave an idea of what symptoms I lived with, and told her I was doing okay now. I explained to her that it was nothing to do with the media, and dispelled a few myths. She understood to a certain extent as her ex-boyfriend has anorexia for a number of years and is underweight to this day.

So, in conclusion, I’ve had mixed responses. I don’t expect people to understand, and don’t need friends to understand the illness, but I expect people not to judge me or cut me off because of my illness. The friends I have lost are not the people who I wanted in my life. When explaining that I was ill, I only do so if I am comfortable, and if I don’t feel its necessary, I see no reason why someone, even a friend, needs to know of my health unless it will be beneficial to me. I always try to dispel myths if I do, and explain in what way I want people to support me seeing as very few people know what they can do to help (it could be as not mentioning diets excessively or commenting on appearance or just being there).

Lasting Memories

I recently came across a post on the BEAT website:

Over the years, many people have asked us if we can help them create a more permanent memorial to their loved one. We are proud to have launched a new memorial page on our website, please see below. We would very much welcome your tributes in memory of someone you have lost to an eating disorder.

Link: http://www.b-eat.co.uk/Aboutbeat/LastingMemories

This page shows the stark reality that eating disorders really do take lives, and that those lives are deeply missed by everyone. It highlights the harsh reality of the illness. And brings a tear to my eye that the sufferers and families have been stripped of a joyous life.

Whenever doctors told me I could die, or had a 10% chance of not making it, or emphasised how serious low potassium levels were, I never really took that to heartI’m grateful I did not die at my lowest, but my heart does reach out to all who have lost their lives to the illness of anorexia, bulimia or other eating disorders. I hope they have found the peace they so rightly deserved.

Dear Long Lost Friend

I know you may never hear these words spoken to you, but I would wish you could listen to me and what I have to say.

I remember the day I met you, and will always remember your bright, auburn (as you liked it described) hair. I moved into your maths class, and sat next to you, because, like me, you had no friends in the class. We shared a lot of similarities.

As the years grew we spend many days in each other’s company. You taught me a few chords on the piano, and the joys of music, as I shared a few interesting facts about other artists from the painting world. We spent many birthday’s together and gleefully went through supporting each other through the years of GCSEs in years 10 and 11.

I listened to you when you rang for a rant, and supported you when you cried and when our other “friends” did nothing but asked me to see you. You always said I’m here for you whenever you need me. You were the only one who knew that something was wrong without asking. But little could I tell you of my struggles with coping healthily with life and of my self destructive side (which involved cutting myself, and later turned into starvation). Why? Because of fear, shame, and a feeling that I was already too much of a burden on the world.

You moved school to start Sixth Form elsewhere, and I deeply missed your absence, but you heard of the rumours of my noticeable weight loss nonetheless. I remember writing to you on Facebook, in March 2009, after I had entered treatment (which was, precisely, on the 13th March 2009, on an emergency basis). I remember explaining to you (and to another friend or so) that I had developed anorexia, and that this was not a vanity issue, but a deep-seated psychological issue. I thought you might understand: you have a great capacity to listen, your mum is a GP and you mentioned your anorexic cousin. What aspects of the illness you did and did not understand I shall never know.

I remember you asking me to come round to yours for dinner. I was eating a normal sized meal on my meal plan by this time, but the prospect of me eating seemed to frightened you. This was also evident when, previously, you questioned whether I’d be okay to enter the local groceries at Sainsbury’s with you (just because I look emaciated did not mean I would absolutely freak out on your in the shop, the worst case scenario is surely that I would simply leave). Or when you asked for permission to eat in front of me. Or when you questioned me, in Spanish, in the waiting room of your mum’s surgery, whether or not I was bulimic too. You did show great concern, and I am sure you were. But in future, take a word of my advise, and ask is what can I do to help? what am I doing that isn’t helping? instead to treating on egg-shells.

After a while our friendship got weaker and weaker. My life began to crumble as my other “friends” refused to visit me in the school library (I was too ill to walk to see them), or when they purposely told me there was no work to copy up before a test which was due, or when they said, point-blanc told me that I cannot work with them in biology. I did not care if they treated me as such, for I shall most likely not cross their path again.

I remember the day I was hospitalised for anorexia. I wanted to tell you how scared I was that I might die, for the very first time, but our ties were too weak and hence my mouth was sealed.

You gave me a card for my 18th birthday, and said you had the present with you. We should meet up. You live 15 minutes away from me, why did you not visit me? Why did you not drop it off on my doorstep if I was out? I would have, and have done so in the past. We never did meet, as much as the hope, painfully dwindling, still remains to this very day.

And then I had the ordeal with my shoulder, a chronic problem for me. The excruciating pain tore through me, only to be numbed by hallucinogenic drugs. I was a bag full of fear. My status on Facebook was updated frequently– did you read it? I wanted you to be there for my during my operation, my first ever surgery. But you couldn’t, for whatever reason. Maybe you had moved on with you life since then. Maybe you had forgotten about me. Maybe you did care but didn’t realise I was having surgery. Maybe things were going on in your life which made it difficult to stay in touch with me. Maybe.

Perhaps I shut the door on our relationship. No, it wasn’t me, it was anorexia. It was the anorexia which took away my time that would have been spent keeping in contact with you. But the thing is, I wish you could have perhaps tried to open the door, for it was, and still remains, unlocked. Or maybe I was just too blind to see your attempts. I shall never know. But I wish you would have tried once more, just one more time.

I was told my chances of living were worse then certain types of cancer. Anorexia is a lucrative illness, shrouded in myths and mysteries, not least because it is the few obvious mental illnesses of the mind which bear such obvious outward signs and is plastered in the media. We live in a society where we fear the sick; few people mention the word “anorexia”, just as some refuse to call cancer by it’s name too (“the big C”). Why do the names of serious illnesses bear so much fear? Is it fear? I have heard of people with terminal cancer, who, once so popular, received few visitors whilst they wait to die in hospital. I was too sick to engage with the world, but the world did not try to talk to me . And worse, some people tried to hurt me and turn against me. Indeed, some parents thought I was a contagion and do not even say “hello” to me to this very day. I wonder if it is the fact that we fear seeing the illness in ourselves. Teachers have told me they did not expect me to become ill. I think, as a whole, we worry that, in seeing the reflection of ourselves in the eyes of someone who is so ill, we are confronted by the fact that we are all so fallible and at mercy of fate; we are just human.

And so, I wish to tell you that I will remember the good times we spent together and cherish the positive memories. But I will also mention that is is time for me to let go and move on to new relationships and onto a new life. I do bear some resentment, in all honestly towards you. I hope you see that from my point of view; when I needed someone, there was no one. I feel all you needed to do was to open the door handle just a tiny bit more. I know you did worry but simply did not know how to voice your concern. At least that is what I would like to believe. I wish I could say this to you in person. I wish I could tell you my journey and share with you what I have learned. It is time for me to let go and stop dreaming of us becoming close friends again. We reached that fork in the road a long time ago and I need to accept that.

I hope someday you will read this, that I will be able to give this to you somehow. I’m not strong enough to do that just yet, and so, this letter shall lie dormant until that time will come, if it ever does.

Best wishes in your journey in life,

D

19th July 2010.

Eating Disordered thinking in others

I sat next to a girl in my chemistry class. She looks a normal weight, not that I would judge her on her weight anyway. I said I went horse riding and asked me how many calories does the burn? I looked at her strangely — surely that’s not the first question I’d ask! Despite having an eating disorder I actually have no idea how many calories that does burn (and don’t care, either, as I was preoccupied with having fun).

Then she started discussing about how she weighs x kg, and would like to be 5kg lighter and that she counts calories but that’s not helping her. She quoted calories on bread and on the treadmill.

I tried to educate her, telling her how inaccurate calories on food items are (citing references). She was shocked to hear that I don’t eat diet products and do very little exercise and that I eat dairy products (but aren’t they high in calories and fat??). I challenged people’s misconceptions on nutrition too and everyone was asking me how I know all this stuff.

I ended it by telling her that she is a normal weight and so does not need to lose it, but if she wants to get healthier some gentle exercise might help her.

She said she liked my body and wanted to look more like me.

My initial concerns, followed by my challenges were:

I feel that validates my calorie counting as something normal that non eating disordered people do, so why shall I not carry on counting?

The truth is, I fully know that calorie counting is not an exact science. Not every biscuit is tested in a calorimeter to find out how much it has. And I remember the days of the Excel spreadsheet, and the countless hours spent…counting. Do I really want to waste hours of my life counting calories?

I feel embarrassed that people are looking at my body. I’m at minimum healthy, and am worried that people will no longer like my appearance if I go closer to my set point

Do I judge my friend’s by their weight or their personality and qualities? No, of course not. So if others judge me by my appearance, they are certainly not worth my worry.

I am worried I did not handle the situation in a different way: should I tell people the facts about nutrition/calories or should I just finish the conversation?

That question, I’m afraid I cannot really answer. There is no right or wrong in this situation. Perhaps I should do what just feels best to do at the time

But, on a final note, I feel quite sad to hear that so many women (and men, too) are dissatisfied with their bodies. We should appreciate our bodies for the fact that they allow us to function to do the things we can do. We should be able to accept that our natural shape may not be the ideal, and quit the comparisons which serve to make us feel rotten. As a society, we need to change our views, and as an individual we need to drive that change.  And, ultimately, we need to be careful what we wish for.

Trusting yourself

The very title of Melissa’s post, Trusting the process, remind me of the words my psychiatrist used to say

I understand that recovery is a leap of faith. Trust us, and more importantly, trust yourself.

What she says makes fundamental sense, and yet seems to be intrinsically difficult for me to achieve to this very day. It is a fear of what might be in the unknown.

Actively Arielle’s helpful videos

Knowledge is power, so the more resources you can get, the better.

Hence, today I would like to introduce you to Arielle’s blog. The woman of this blog is in a very solid stage of recovery and is posting a number of helpful videos in relation to eating disorders, a lot of which have proven to be very informative and helpful in my opinion. She is a lovely person to talk to through e-mail and is open to answer questions from her viewers.

Arielle is also part of a youtube group, WeRFeeEDdomFighters who publish a lot of videos on all eating disorders around the clock.

“The greatest source of ideas among men is their human interactions.”

We are a group of people from around the world who have one thing in common: we are fighting for our lives against Eating Disorders. But we also know what it’s like to win somedays too. We’d love to share and have you share with us

We are NOT professionals nor are we qualified to give out any medical advice. We are just here to spread the word of awareness and recovery is not only possible but beautiful also.

Reaching Out: Support Groups

I am starting a new series in this blog entitled reaching out. Overcoming an eating disorder is hard but it may be impossible to do without any outside support. In fact, it is very important to work on building a support network in order to recovery and to maintain one to prevent relapse.

I found it very difficult to reach out to get support. I felt weak to ask for help and had a misconception of what treatment entailed. I felt I would be a burden if I asked for help, and deeply ashamed for not being able to do this on my own. However, I have learnt that I cannot walk this Earth alone; it is not a sign of weakness to ask for help but an act of courage and self-care.

I’ve only managed to get to three recoverers’ meetings so far, but the support I have found in the self-help groups has proved to be invaluable to me, although I understand that people can have a variety of feelings towards such groups since it depends so much on who attends and how they are ran by the facilitators.

In the UK there are a number of support groups, which can be found using BEAT’s Helpfinder. I found my local support group there.I’ve heard that in the USA there is Eating Disorder’s Anonymous, although I’ve heard that they focus more on a 12-steps approach to recovering from an ED as opposed to just being there for talking about random topics. I know that one blogger, malpaz, is attending the USA EDA support group, so it may be worth directing questions to her, or taking a look to see what she is blogging about as both types of groups seem to have a different ethos.

I attend monthly sessions. I was terrified at first: what if I was the fattest one there? Will I be triggered by other members? What if I’m at a further stage of recovery than the others are? What is no one but me turns up?I had not ever talked openly about my anorexia, and the child services, CAMHS, told me that the competitive nature of EDs prevented group therapy from taking place.

It turned out there were some women who were thinner than me (as they talked of symptoms of being underweight when I was free of those symptoms). There were some who had lived with the illness for much longer than me. Some had been in in-patient for years.But I did not personally feel competitive. I thought to myself: the ‘best’ anorexics are the one’s who die. I thought, she is really suffering and I know what that is like too, so how can I be jealous of someone else’s pure agony and the torment they are living through?

There were the “no number” rules, and other ground rules to keep the conversation on-topic and recovery orientated which was fantastic and meant the environment was very productive and not detrimental to our recovery. There was one occasion where a member broke the rules, and was not rectified immediately, but after e-mailing another facilitator we were reminded of the rules more often and the situation did not reoccur.

At the first, I was not too positive in my attitude. But I met a girl who was living life and working and who was very cheerful and proud of where she had got to. I think her charisma really caught on and taught me that I too can feel proud of where I am and that the world does not need to be covered in black paint.Now, I go to the support groups with an open mind, and try to be positive in what I have achieved.

The second meeting I met another woman, who came again in my third session. It really helped to listen how she copes with some of the stresses of eating. I spoke about the challenges that I am about to face in the next few weeks. She gave me ideas on what I can do to cope and what helps her, and I also had a chance to tell her my plan of action to cope, which cemented in my mind what I can do to help myself. It was really nice to see her come as she was a familiar face — and less awkward to start our conversation too!  It turns out that we have some things and thoughts in common, but also some major differences too (in our lives and families, mostly).

I was also able to talk about my experiences of self-harm, and it was inspiring that there were people out there who were further recovered than I was in that respect.

To be able to talk to someone, and feel understood, feels wonderful. I feel less along, and able to cope and able to ask do you have any ways of coping with xyz?

From those meeting I have a fuller “coping toolbox” and plan to add the following to it:

  • Keeping up with writing a journal of my struggles (I also talked to some of the recoverer’s about how it’s best to keep a journal, and that I am able to take it out where I go too for safety)
  • Trying “distraction” activities after eating a difficult meal (the woman did cross-stitching but I might try drawing in my sketchbook)

I shall look forward to the next meeting. It’s a shame so few people turn up to the meetings, but I’ve yet to be the only one to turn up. I hope to see some familiar faces next time too.

For those of you contemplating going to such support groups, I would encourage your to try finding out more information first, and then to consider giving it a chance. I won’t deny that some have not had good experiences, but you can never tell how things will go if you don’t attend. It might be a great opportunity to reach out and get some extra help. It’s also reassuring to know that, unlike on the support in the NHS, there are no “entry” criteria. It’s not a substitute for professional advise, but anything that can supplement my recovery is worth investing (even if it means travelling out of town by rail and then bus).

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