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.