I haven’t posted a blog in such a long time that it feels difficult to know where to start, but as 2019 and the decade comes to a close I knew I needed to write. I’ve written a lot about 2010-2018, but this year fell into a void.
For someone that hasn’t blogged in almost two years this is a long one, sorry! But I needed to put this year into words, it’s time.
It’s not time because I’m ready to be honest; It’s time because I’m not.
It’s not time because I’m ready to give my all to recovery; It’s time because I’m not.
It’s not time because I want help; It’s time because I still don’t feel deserving of it.
It’s not time because I want to inspire with a story of hope; It’s time because it’s been a year of hopelessness.
It’s not the right time. But it won’t ever feel like the right time. But it is time. Because I’ve lost enough time this year.
2019 was the year I was diagnosed with anorexia.
I need to start the new decade actively in recovery and that starts with honesty amid an illness that fuels off secrecy.
In the past few years I have been pretty open about my experiences with mental illness after so many years of shame. I’ve had episodes of severe depression, mania, hypomania, PTSD and a lot of anxiety. I’ve self-harmed, struggled with suicidal ideation and attempted suicide. As much as I preach about being open and honest I really struggle to talk about my struggles in the moment. I find it much easier to talk about in the past tense, when things are ‘good again’, when I’m out the other side, when I can talk about it with greater clarity, when I can highlight the reality of just how bad it was but also reassure people that I’m doing just fine now and so not to worry.
But this isn’t that. This isn’t a reflective piece, though in parts it is. This is a right now I’m trying so desperately to recover but also incredibly lost all at the same time. This is a coming out of hiding place. This is an attempt to take back some control. Because this mental illness fuels itself on secrecy. And I’m done with it. I might not fully want or be ready to recover, but I need to recover. For me and for my loved ones. But in order to recover I need to be honest with others, and myself. So this unfortunately isn’t another one of my things are ‘good again’ and I’m ‘out the other side’ piece. It’s a right now piece.
It’s not a happy piece. It’s not a New Year’s Eve positive piece. I tried to spin it, to include all the good moments of the year, but for now I think I just need to write about the thing that largely consumed the year.
To say this year has been rocky would be an understatement. This year has been torture. This year has been destructive. This year has been one of illness. This year has been one of lost friends. This year has been one of seeing those I love cry for me. This year has been one that nearly killed me. This year has been one that my loved ones feared I wouldn’t survive. This year has been one of lost independence. This year has been one of having to take sick leave from work and never returning. This year has been the one that showed me who my true friends are. This year has been one that resulted in my best friend becoming my carer. This year has been one that turned friends into family. This year has been the breaking of me. I need 2020 to be the making of me.
The past year I’ve stayed silent. I’ve kept hidden. I vanished from the world. Surfacing only to post photos of my rare ‘highlights’ where things look as though I was living life to the full. I felt and still feel ashamed, embarrassed and utterly unworthy. I guess I have been waiting to hit rock bottom before I felt deserving of recovery. To feel like a good enough anorexic. To feel like I wasn’t a fraud with a label. To feel ready to be honest. But the problem with constantly waiting to hit rock bottom, is that I just kept finding new sub-basements. Everything I believed would be ‘rock bottom’ was never that when I got there, there was always just a little further I could go, just a few more weeks in the comforting arms of anorexia, just a bit more time before I tried a bit harder, just another week before I agree to hospital... there was always more, it was never and will never be good enough. That’s what’s so terrifying.
Being a perfectionist has throughout my life meant that I am never happy with just reaching the ‘goal’ I’d set out to reach. Once I had achieved the original goal I was immediately thinking how do I improve, how do I develop my skills and myself further. Always striving for better. It never felt good enough.
The issue is when this perfectionism mixed with anorexia it became a very dangerous duo. That’s why rock bottom was never really rock bottom. But I no longer know what rock bottom is, I just need to find a way up. After all what would I deem to be rock bottom? It wasn’t the repeated threats of being sectioned. It wasn’t the crisis team being repeatedly called. It wasn’t the repeated ECGs because my heart rate had dramatically slowed. It wasn’t the dizzy spells because my blood pressure plummeted. It wasn’t pissing myself because malnutrition had weakened my bladder. It wasn’t the agonising pain of bloating after destroying the enzymes in my digestive system, or when I literally shit myself after abusing laxatives. It wasn’t the time I had to spend in an acute day treatment unit. It wasn’t having a hypoglycaemic seizure at my best friend’s house and subsequently scaring the crap out of my her and missing her last day at the place we both worked. It wasn’t the utter destruction of most of the relationships in my life. It wasn’t no longer being able to work. It wasn’t the constant suicidal ideation, or having my dad have to walk out to find me after I’d left the house in a suicidal state into the middle of nowhere. It wasn’t cancelling plans with those I loved because it would change my ‘routine’. It wasn’t walking for hours outside in the cold, wet and dark because anorexia wouldn’t allow me to stay still. It wasn’t repeatedly crying over eating a soup or yelling at those trying to make me eat it. It wasn’t the outbursts at my loved ones who interrupted the ‘anorexic’ routine. It wasn’t being destroyed by obsessions and compulsions that consumed my every moment.
It has been more horrendous than I can put into words, but it never felt like rock bottom. It never felt quite bad enough. Or ‘good enough’ to be deemed sick.
So where do I go from here? Because it seems that rock bottom has a whole city buried underneath that I can keep exploring. I don’t want to be a tourist to anorexia anymore. I want to travel the world outside of this small prison.
Growing up I was definitely ignorant to eating disorders, mental illness and mental health in general. I just didn’t understand it, despite developing mental health problems at an early age. As I got older, through life experience and education I became more aware, understanding and felt like I had all the knowledge, but my knowledge was patchy. I knew the tip of the iceberg. Despite working for a large mental health campaign, reading and listening to so many stories of lived experience - I don’t think I ever truly understood the brutality and destruction that eating disorders bring. I knew the tip of the iceberg, and suddenly I became trapped on board the Titanic.
The tip of the iceberg is food. It’s in the name ‘eating’ disorder. Disordered eating. It’s just about food right? And more to the point not eating it. That’s what I once thought. And actually just admitting my ignorance feels shameful. Like I should have known better. If I had known better would I still be in this position, maybe, maybe not - but what I do know is that it wouldn’t have turned out the way it has. Maybe there would be more in my life than anorexia. It’s so much more than ‘eating vs not eating’.
I am someone that would do absolutely anything for those I love, but this year I have had my best friend desperately begging me to eat, to live, and that she was watching me die. That she not just wanted me to get better that she needed me to get better. I love the woman more than words, but I still couldn’t do it. I have watched those I love suffer with me because the grasp anorexia holds is so tight. Love wasn’t winning against anorexia, but it made me want to live, if not yet for me, for those around me. To live I need my voice to scream louder than anorexia’s.
2019 has been consumed by anorexia. It has become my life. My every waking moment. It has been the one thing I felt in control of. Until I didn’t anymore. Until I realised I had no control at all. Anorexia is running the show. I’m just an unwilling member of the audience in a theatre that seems to have no escape, just locked doors and trap doors.
I cannot keep living like this. I know that. I don’t want to live like this anymore. I want to get better. But I don’t want to put myself through the torture of recovery. I don’t feel strong enough. If I remain in anorexia’s grip then my body will eventually kill me. But fighting to get out causes it to grip harder, to make me feel everything, to make me not want to fight anymore. I don’t know how to recover from something that might lead my body to killing me without my mind killing me in the process. Some days I feel like I can get through this, I have to, there is no other option. But most of the time it feels like this is it. I’m a prisoner to an eating disorder. Every glimmer of a great escape just leaves me with more time behind bars. It feels like I might die in prison, I just don’t know when or if it will be my body or my mind that pulls the plug.
I thought I had done many recovery journeys in the past. But I realise now that I never actually recovered. Recovery is so much more than an absence of symptoms. Recovery involves tackling the root of the problem. I have just stuck plaster on top of plaster. That’s the thing, in the past I could avoid the problem until I was ‘recovered’ from the episode. I became comfortable with anorexia, I became comfortable with the control it gave me. Finally something I had a grip of. But recovery means letting go of that. And I felt out of control. To get better I had to eat. I had to give up control. I had to gain weight. All of which made me feel like shit. I knew what I had to do to get better. But I didn’t want to do it. Maybe at times I did. But most of the time it felt too hard. It has felt like climbing Mount Everest. My right now, if that was climbing Mount Everest then this is climbing Mount Everest, barefoot in the dark.
I don’t want to live like this. I want my old life back. I can’t live like this. I want a future. I have had enough. I want to get better. I am done. I want to live for better days. I am not strong enough for this. I don’t want to miss the exciting adventures ahead, even if that means climbing the mountain. It’s time. There’s no more waiting for rock bottom.
I have spent a lot of time writing, debating, deleting, writing, worrying, deleting, repeating over and over, not knowing how to put this year into words because there’s so much to say. To actually explain what this last year has entailed. But I think for now, this is (more than) enough. But I will write again. I will share my story. I will share my year. The time will come. But the real difficulty here was having the words to justify for those around me that have lived through this with me. There’s so much love I have for those who have kept me alive. For my family for sticking around when I was a total nightmare to be around, and for taking the time to understand what I was going through and forgiving me for my manyyy outbursts of frustration. For Joss who will definitely get a much longer paragraph of all she’s done one day, who has fought for me more than I knew another person would ever be capable of fighting for another, for seeing me at my worst and loving me anyway, for dragging me to appointments and keeping in contact with my medical team, for giving me a safe space to stay for a huge amount of the year, for making me feel like part of your family. For Pete, who alongside Joss have worked their asses off to support me, to care for me and to be the taxi driver after I was deemed medically unfit to drive, for being another brother to keep me safe. For Julia, for taking me under your wing and looking out for me, checking in on me and making me feel at home, and for being a trusty wine buddy at the Akeman or a morning coffee at BW. For James and Nassim for being my boys, for being there even when I was absent, for supporting me, for making me laugh, for keeping me present even when I felt invisible. For James for being someone I could be completely myself with and that has always picked me up when I’m down, or had one too many wines. For Laura, my social worker who after many years of being failed by the services has given me some hope in knowing I have someone fighting my corner who I trust and who understands me more than anyone in the services ever have. For all those around me who stuck by me and continue to stick by me. For those who I haven’t been a good friend to this year, who I haven’t replied to, who I have not seen, but who have continued to root for me. I love you all and I owe you my life.