Tuesday, 4 December 2012

No rest... for the Anorexic.

BMI 16.8
42 kg

This is hard.
I'm growing. More, I've GROWN. 
(Groan.    I do.)

It's getting easier to eat the food on the unit.
I'm not feeling the intensity of the agony I was. I rarely end a meal and feel like hanging myself from the shower rail (which, incidentally, is magnetic for just that reason).

Now it's OFF the unit that the problems occur.

I have weekend home leave fortnightly. 
It would be weekly if I didn't lose weight every time.
I TRY. I really do. But I panic and I walk around a lot and eat fairly 'light' meals and feel triumphant if I manage to keep my head so busy that my body 'forgets' that it has missed a snack.

Exercise remains a HUGE issue for me.

I NEED to get past this.

As I was on one of my walks the other day (I'm allowed three twenty minute walks nowadays) it occurred to me that I can restore my weight to a BMI of 20 - 25 and still be a slave to exercise, a slave to the thoughts which perpetually torment me the minute I have to sit down for a second longer than 'rest' is enforced for. 
I can restore my weight without ever challenging myself to eat pizza or drink wine or eat ice cream or pasta or ciabatta or gnocchi or avocado or any of those things that terrify me.

I could well walk out of this hospital, a picture of health; the epitome of 'normal'; cheeks glowing, hair shiny, eyes sparkling; vitamin B, C and D radiating from every pore... and still be utterly horrified at anything more than a sprinkling of carbs across my week, and COMPLETELY unable to even contemplate something like takeaway.

I HAVE to challenge myself with these foods or I will never overcome the fears I have.

And yet.

I feel helpless when it comes to even sitting in the hairdressers for a couple of hours. 
Today it nearly made me cry that I had to sit down for so long.

If I could kill this illness, I'd want to torture it first.
Torture it like it tortures me and all the girls here.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Distortion - The Extent To Which Anorexia Lies

I sit in the shabby hotel conference room, anxious for the guy whose innocent gesture has landed him a bidding price that is far, far higher than anything he can afford. 
Nobody else is bidding and my fingers are twisting themselves into tight, three dimensional infinity symbols. 
"Any advances on..." 
A grey suited, old man, wearing a felt Trilby, half rose and then collapsed in the middle of the room.

"Time... Time..." 
Time for what? 
A melodic voice in the distance
"... that time again..."

I lurch and my breath is caught and it's sudden: The realisation that I'm here, not there. I'm awake. 

Six am, in the half light of Weigh Day, and the Support Worker stands cooing at my door. 
I know I must leave the bathroom door ajar so she can hear me as I pee.
It's a long time since this felt like an indignity. 

I stumble down the corridor into the glare of the clinic room. Somehow I manage to keep shading my eyes as I peel off my nightwear.
The scales confirm weight gain.
I fight my way through a cloud of sleep - laden mist to calculate just how much.
I do, and I am not devastated. 

Perhaps I'm getting better. 
Perhaps I'm just too tired.

I pretend I'm still asleep as I crawl back into bed.
Miraculously it works. Until 7.45 when the alarm pips me back into reality.

Even as I write the word 'reality' here, I debate whether to use inverted commas, because actually, within minutes, the distortions conjured by this illness can transform your mind from a Ferris wheel, to a drop spindle for your thoughts. 

At six o'clock in the morning, I knew exactly how much weight I'd put on in the three days since my last weigh in. Approximately one and a half hours later, during which time I had done nothing but sleep, I awoke convinced that at least three days worth of weight had suddenly piled on and, were I to stand on the scales again, they would read quite differently. 

Just to make it clear: in this moment, I was utterly convinced that my body had withheld weight until one minute AFTER I stood on the scales, at which point, it suddenly and spontaneously added the pounds / kilograms that it had been hiding. 

These are the lengths that Anorexia will go to in order to keep its victim ensnared.  
And this is only one of the many distortions its capable of.

The fact that the mind can do this in a period of time when there has been no food intake, perhaps you can imagine the outstanding strength of some of the convictions that an Anorexic has after eating, the sheer havoc wrecked by having food in the body.

Although everyone has a different experience, I am often overwhelmed by the physical sensation of fat layering itself onto the backs of my legs and my thighs. At any given point in the day, I will suddenly be aware of this thickening of my body. I swear, I can FEEL it. I've been told this isn't possible, and yet, it's always someone who hasn't HAD the experience that tells me. Perhaps you have to have experienced feeding your skeleton, putting flesh onto bone, to feel it. 
Or perhaps it really is another of the distortion of reality... which is a frightening thought because, how will I ever know what's real and what is, in essence, a figment of the imagination. Like a phantom limb, the fat clumps on my body. I feel it and, I SEE it. 

And yet, as I do my calculations, I briefly think of the previous nights' anxiety; the conviction that I must have put on a least a kilogram (that's two point two pounds). 
I hadn't.

Can I really feel POINT three of a kilogram? 

The ugly truth is that part of my reality is almost certainly distorted.
My truth is not THE truth. 

Monday, 29 October 2012

Every Picture...

... tells a story, right?


Seeing as I am having great difficulty in communicating some of the ways in which my head is dealing with the treatment here in the unit, I figured that perhaps I could use some pictures. 
Cop out?
Perhaps. But at least it's something; and something is better than nothing. 

When I came into this treatment centre, my sister (the anorexic one) sent me this bracelet. If you look closely, you'll see that the simple piece of thread is tied to a charm depicting a little bird. 
I haven't taken it off since I put it on. For me, the bird is representative of hope and freedom.

I think one of the hardest things in recovery is holding on to hope. Right now, despite my weight being up to 40.1 kilograms, I can't ever imagine being about to shake this illness off. 

But I have to hope.
I need it in my spinal fluid. I literally need it to strengthen my backbone. 
I need it to give me the strength to keep going. 
I need it like the world needs a horizon. My world needs a horizon. I think it's a need that every human being has. 
Trouble begins when the horizon isn't visible.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Hope Is A Thing With Feathers

If life is a ragged nail, chipped and broken by the most menial of tasks, poetry is a glass file, reshaping and smoothing... 

American poet, Emily Dickinson is one of the most well known writers of the nineteenth century. 
All too familiar with the alternating pain and numbness of depression, and the paradoxical feelings of safety and loneliness which come from isolation, she poured her thoughts into poem after poem and, famously, a vast number of letters.

In what I consider to be one of her most beautiful verses, she uses a bird as a metaphor for hope. The poem reflects the simple innocence of hope, making the point that whilst it may appear as fragile as filigree, hope can endure extremes, harsh storms and the most bitter winds.

I made this poster for my room here in the unit. 
I look at it morning and night, every time I feel that hope may have perished...

I pray for Dickinson's words to be true for me.

“Hope” is the thing with feathers 

“Hope” is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops - at all -

And sweetest - in the Gale - is heard -
And sore must be the storm -
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm -

I’ve heard it in the chillest land -
And on the strangest Sea -
Yet - never - in Extremity,
It asked a crumb - of me.

Friday, 5 October 2012

I'm Still Here...

... Still in the hospital.
... Still battling.
...Still wanting recovery
Still finding communication very, very difficult.

I am currently weighing in at 38.8kgs and my BMI is now above 15.
Although I am finding weight restoration almost unbearable, I am finding that eating the food itself is less frightening.
I even enjoy it.

I want to begin writing about the recovery process and I want to use my experiences to benefit others in some way and yet, I still have so, so far to go.

Tomorrow I get to go home for one night after twelve long weeks... Or is that thirteen?

I think it will feel like heaven, and yet, I am scared I'm gonna mess it up.

If you're still reading here, 

you are more faithful than I am deserving, and show more loyalty than this blog warrants!

Sunday, 12 August 2012

It's an Inpatient's Life

I began the following post on Day 10 of treatment.
I am completing it on Day... Thirty five..?
What am I still doing here?
I wish I knew.

Day 10

Ten Days after admission and I am just getting past the numbed haze of the first few days as an inpatient in an Eating Disorders Unit. I want to be positive and strong and cheerful but in reality, there are few words to describe the abject misery of the long, closely monitored, periods of 'enforced rest', that characterise the treatment of undernourished patients.
As a newbie, I have been placed on 'Level One Obs', a nursing term meaning a patient must be 'checked on' every fifteen minutes.
Words fail to describe the torture that accompanies the lack of sleep these 'checks' entail.
Prone to insomnia, I think I managed two hours last night. Sleeping medication has been prescribed but I am loathed to use it every night, meaning that I am cultivating an unhealthy dread of long, 'every other night,' shifts. Tossing and turning, I sweat on a rubberised, wipeclean hospital mattress, under a rubberised, wipeclean, hospital duvet, tortured by unspent energy and the cruel whisperings of the relentless Anorexic voice.
I get up and shower in the wet room, cursing the ever growing pool of lather which collects around the plastic drain. I hope to be on time for the discretionary extra glass of water that is allowed in a narrow, fifteen minute window, in the mornings.

Outside the clinic room door, a queue of barely rested, skeletal patients in varying states of undress, forms. A small plastic punnet of pills is pushed across the trolley. I swallow the seven tablets in two gulps. At least this is the chance for a bit more water. (Restricted fluids is part of the treatment and they swear that what we are allocated is 'enough').
Thankfully, this is as close to One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest as this place gets.

Breakfast is at 8.30 and comes with juice, but if you complete your meal within the allocated half hour, you are allowed an 'extra' water, tea or coffee.
Two minutes over and you're fucked.

At the table, I cast my eyes around, looking to smile encouragingly at my comrades who sit, eyes cast down, pushing tiny forkfulls of fattening foods into fear filled mouths.
Cheek bones clench painfully, accentuating the grooves around their mouths as they chew on branflakes and then toast.
I haven't eaten toast for about three years.
As a carbohydrate, it terrifies me.

Day 35

I was thought I'd be here for four weeks.
Come Thursday, it'll be five.
Last thursday I reached a BMI of 14.1 and weighed five stone 8 pounds. It feels like such a lot.

I've had time to get to know the ropes a little, although, it doesn't make them any less painful to climb.

I won't continue with a blow by blow account of the days here... Suffice to say that, when you are assessed and deemed  'cognitively well enough', you are allowed to join certain 'groups' which take place twice a day, both an hour long.
Days are structured around the three meals and three snacks. Each of these is followed by a period of 'enforced rest', during which time we have pulse rates, blood pressure, temperature and sats done.
I can't fault the care here. The team are outstanding, though there are many times when I would gladly escape their attentive listening and their constant presense.

The worst thing about this place (aside from the obvious and the ensuing weight gain) is the complete lack of privacy.
The doors to the bedrooms have little windows and staff patrol the corridor at regular intervals, day and night.
I am currently allowed out for two, 'unaccompanied' 5 minute walks.
You can imagine the pace of these.

Twice a week we are woken at six for weigh in. I'm usually the first because I've been awake for hours, sweating on the rubberised hospital matress, which still makes me boil in my own skin despite the fact I have a blanket and two sheets seperating the rubber and my body.

We're spared little dignity as a member of staff stands outside the slightly opened bathroom door, waiting to listen to us pee so they know that the figure on the scales is a reflection of our 'true' weight.

No room for stagefright.

No room for cheating either, as we strip down to bras and knickers to stand on the scales.

Mondays also entail enduring one of an assortment of unhelpfully similar acronyms; a CPM.
Daunting to even the most seasoned of inmates, this requires that you sit before a selection of senior team members who feedback on your progress, sanction (or not) each of the three requests you are allowed to submit for consideration, and discuss the efficacy of your mealplan.
Mondays are rarely dryeyed days for the majority of patients.

I have all that to look forward to in the morning.

My stomach churns as I type, unable to digest the huge portion of ice cream and rhubarb crumble, unable to face the numerical realisation of my inevitable weight gain, and unable to face the impending bowl of bran flakes that lies in wait for me at nine thirty this evening.

Friday, 6 July 2012

An Announcement

Being as my BMI is now below 13, I have been referred for inpatient treatment.

I go for assessment on Tuesday, admission on Thursday.

Anorexia is a thief like no other.

It steals my holiday. My choices. My words. My mind. My relationships. My chances. My sleep. My health. My bones.

And that's not even the half of it.

I'm numb and very, very tired.

Monday, 4 June 2012


Eyes cast down, twisting a strand. of hair, my fingertips approach the keyboard in small, shuffling steps. 
 Guilty child.

"Ridiculous!", I tut. 
'It's a blog! 
There's no pressure to write!
I have no obligation to it! 
It's just a stupid piece of cyberspace! 
Not using the space does not qualify as 'neglect'!'

... And yet, I feel guilty for not observing the discipline that is attempting to write creatively, or at the very least, honestly.

So I make a very dubious resolution, to surf less and type more. 

No doubt time will show just HOW dubious that is! 

And no doubt, my fingers will continue their shuffling steps! 

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Oh Blogger Where Art Thou?

I've been eaten up by starvation.

Oh! The irony!

Sunday, 13 May 2012


Happy Feet...


UNhappy Feet

Chilled Out Feet

Saturday, 5 May 2012

We Sell Emotions - !

My folks recently came back from a trip to beautiful Tuscany; a celebration of forty years of their marriage.
I was amused to see a bag which used English (as places here use other languages to add to their 'classy' appeal).
It's the stuff of Dahl or Blyton!

As a very young kid I devoured Enid Blyton's 'Faraway Tree'. Something about the concept of selling emotions rushes me back to the bright and magical lands that appeared at the top of the tree... Bustling market stalls run by wizened old men and sprightly gnomes selling swirling magic potions and, perhaps, emotions.
Funny. I detested all fairy stories and as a rule, still avoid the entire Fantasy / Sci fi genre like the plague. 


How much for a couple of pounds of peace, two punnets of hopefulness and a slice of joy?

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Tree trunks and Easter Eggony

What follows is a post I began writing a couple of weeks ago and then couldn't muster the energy to complete it. 
I'm returning because I wanted to finish but again, I find my mind can't produce the words I need...

It's probably not quite accurate to say, 'I'm scared of myself...' 
More that I'm scared of the Anorexia that has taken up residence within me. I'm scared of the power that it has; the unyielding grip on a part of my brain; the power of a tumultuous ocean over a small vessel.

'Where is my anchor?' I ask myself as I type.
Good question.

I rarely refer to my faith in my writing. I'm not sure why, because spirituality is a central part of me. It runs right through my core, which would explain why it is that every time I have tried to walk away from it, all I've really done is walk around it, as if its the trunk of a huge tree which is wide enough to fit twenty of me in it. 
As I walk around it, the trunk appears to be different, hence I don't recognise it as the very same faith that runs through me, strong and woody. 

Easter, the trunk of the Christian faith, is a time of major celebration. For the Anorexic though, it is the equivalent misery of Lent's forty days rolled into one huge,  thick walled, Green and Blacks' finest milk chocolate egg! 
The eggs appear everywhere. 
Seductive to the starved flesh. It's like a tiny torture! 


A few weeks later and I'm calmer. 
I'm still working. Building up to three full days a week. Exhausting. 
My weight isn't moving up but the desire to live is stronger.

Today I choose life.

I just have to actually choose to DO life. Not just conceptualise, theorise, spiritualise... I have to make it physical. 

"Easier said than done", springs to mind. 

Monday, 9 April 2012

Tomorrow, Tomorrow and Tomorrow...

... I'll write something.

Sunday, 11 March 2012


... tears.
And I'm sorry that I can't feel stronger. I choose to be positive and to smile and to keep cheerful, and yet, alone, I dissolve. Head in hands. Desperation trickling through my, apparently, 'skeletal' body.

I was informed yesterday that I'm 1 kilo off being admitted. I can't have that. Not when I've just begun a phased return to work... not when it'll cost me my job... not when I want to do this so, so badly.

So why then, when I just have to put on a few pounds, am I battling the urge to exercise?

It's madness this illness. A bulging, black mass somewhere in the brain. It seeps and creeps and pushes into spaces, forcing itself against walls of reason and clarity.

Thursday, 1 March 2012


... flies.

I have been trying to write here for days now but I have felt wordless. 

I've also been exhausted because I have started back at work.

It's a trial... in every sense as it turns out.

I'm not sure I can cope with the anxiety it is provoking.

And there is no TIME.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Social Comment - Proportion

Horrified mother's of too plump children spat and cursed; weight conscious women frantically defended a woman's right to look however she chooses; Men everywhere kept their heads down... 

Once again, the British media successfully caused an outcry last week when they gleefully sensationalised versions of designer Karl Lagerfeld's remark on Adele's weight. 

The all too emotive word 'FAT' was splashed over front pages right, left and centre and the worst possible angled shots of Adele placed underneath. 

Lagerfeld, demonised by the press as they subtly edited or paraphrased parts of the comment, must have wanted the ground to swallow him up.

Support for Adele had never hit such a high, and thank goodness because, in fairness, it WAS a bit of a stupid and thoughtless thing to say. Stupid and thoughtless however, is about the size of it. 
(Spot the pun)
The guy isn't a demon. He's not a terrible person. He doesn't deserve to be hung, drawn ad quartered.
He didn't just say she was 'too fat', as many of the papers implied. The comment, however crass and insensitive, was taken out of context in order to sensationalise an already highly controversial subject. 

And let's face it, Adele IS a little overweight.
(Okay... Put the shotguns away...)

No big deal.
So what? 
The average person on the high street is a little overweight.
Why should our celebs have to be different?

I'm glad that there was a public cry against the concept of 'the perfect figure'. 
I'm glad there was more recognition of the pressures put upon celebrities to be thin.

But I'm not glad that our press have, once again in a rush of greedy glee, apparently lost the notion of relative importance, and blown things far beyond their proportions. 

Monday, 6 February 2012

News Flash

I hate it that my main reason for blogging right now is that I feel under some kind of pressure to write something. My life seems to be full of 'shoulds' which are generally, profoundly unhelpful in terms of trying to reduce anxiety rather than maintain it.

I'm taking 200mg of Pregabalin right now but apart from a noticeably calmer initial phase, it seems to have made little difference. 
This being said, it is perhaps worth noting that my anxiety might be much worse without it.

"God grant me a peace
beyond Pregabalin" ... I prayed the other morning.

and I wait.

                                 *** Breaking news***

I have convinced my consultant and Dr Death that I would be better if I could return to work! 
And so... ladies and gentlemen
(drum roll)
... after a year...
I am allowed a PART TIME phased return and 
the most incredible thing
is that my bosses
have agreed 
to make my contract part time 
at least until September.

They didn't have to.
They could have got rid of me.
They could have put me under nasty 'capability' conditions
especially as Dr Death's prognosis is incredibly negative, predicting the usual doom and gloom and failure to sustain and manage and recover and, and, and 
all the miserable misery that he just LOVES to pile into his letters.

Can I defy his predictions?

I have reached one major conclusion about recovery from Anorexia.

In order to recover, you have to act like a 'normal' person.

Even now I hear the horrified screams of  '...there's no such thing as 'normal'.
But there bloody well is where eating disorders are concerned.

In order to recover, one must pretend to be normal, which means that a)they must force themselves to cook and eat as if they do not suffer from their condition.
b) They must behave in such a way that, if being observed, nobody would notice anything markedly strange or different about their eating habits.

Totally impossible?
We shall see.

Tonight I ate what I was served.
Every mouthful hurt.
I smiled and chatted and ached and imploded.

Recovery is like being helped into a bed by people who have no idea that the mattress is packed full of upturned needles.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Blue Monday

It's nothing short of incredible.
And I, the biggest cynic regarding all things 'Pseudo Science', am pushed towards AWE by the fact that, until I overheard a conversation in a local supermarket, I had no idea it was 'Blue Monday', or that such a phenomena existed.

It's practically against my religion to expand on such things, such is the level of distrust (and possibly even... disgust) of anything vaguely pseudo scientific. In this case however, I'll make an exception.

I woke early on Monday morning to find Anorexia squatting at my bedside bed, waiting patiently for a clamour of stupefying chants to fully penetrate every square centimetre of my being. 

Flatly refusing to succumb to the temptations offered, I ran through my normal routine and ate my porridge and apple, pleasantly distracted by Chris Evans and a large general knowledge crossword.

By midday however, the Anorexia had stepped up it's game and I, like a swatted-at wasp, zipped from cupboard to fridge to freezer to cupboard to fridge to freezer, unable to make a decision about food, furious at myself for being hungry and confused by the sums and figures coursing through my head.
And so I have nothing.
Or bits of food.
Or nothing.
Or bits.
And I don't know anymore.

I end up kneeling against my bed, hands pressed against my eyes, thinking of nothing at all.
Because that's the only way I can find comfort in a pain that is almost physical.
Ripped apart. Visceral pain.

Later, in a paler shade of darkness,  I forced myself to drive down to the supermarket, where I stumbled round in a malnourished daze.

"They say it's the worst day of the year today", the man said to the woman as he patted her back sympathetically.

Hopeful for something, ANYTHING, to explain the day, I googled it.
To find this.

The date for ‘the most depressing day of the year’ was first identified by Cliff Arnall, formerly of Cardiff University, marking the symbolic time in January when people suffer from a series of combined depressive effects.
His date was devised using the following mathematical formula:
The model was broken down using six immediately identifiable factors; weather (W), debt (d), time since Christmas (T), time since failing our new year’s resolutions (Q), low motivational levels (M) and the feeling of a need to take action (Na).
The formula calculates that Monday 16th January 2012 is the worst day of the year, when the Christmas glow has faded away, New Year’s resolutions have been broken, cold Winter weather has set in and credit card bills will be landing on doormats across the land – whilst the January pay-cheque is still some way away.
The formula started a chain of events which led to the designation of ‘Blue Monday’ – the third monday of January.

Believe it or not... But it was certainly my worst day in a very long time.

Friday, 6 January 2012

Dear Alanis...

... If you think finding a black fly in your Chardonnay is ironic...

... try suffering from Anorexia Nervosa, an illness which is, ultimately, all about having 'control', and waking up to find that the future of your teaching career, your chances of going back to your job, rely solely on the words of two men who barely know you.

Now THAT'S ironic.

(I never got the black fly thing anyway)