Category: Eating Disorders / Disordered eating

Losing Lily

TRIGGER WARNING for discussion of suicide, of deaths of people suffering mental health conditions, and of failings in mental health care. If you are in mental distress, caution is advised in reading this post.

A NOTE: This post mentions anonymously the death of a person who had recently left the care of a service I worked in. There was an investigation into the circumstances of the person’s death and the investigation has now concluded. I want to make clear that this post discusses solely my experience from my point of view and my knowledge of the situation, my thoughts and feelings. It does not reflect the position of the service I worked in, or of any other person or team involved in the person’s care.

During the time I worked in a specialist community and inpatient mental health service 7 or 8 years ago, two of our patients died. One lady had moved away to a different part of the country so hadn’t been in our service for a couple of years when she tragically died from an overdose. The other lady had just left our inpatient ward (as far as I know against doctors’ advice but assessed as having capacity to make her own decision in this regard) and gone to live independently, but deteriorated rapidly within weeks and died 4 months later. I’ll call her Lily*.

At any one time we were working with several other patients in my eyes dangerously close to death – because of their drive to harm themselves (by overdose and substance use and so on), because of their suicidal intentions, and/or because their organs were so damaged physically by the effects of their mental health conditions (starvation and other eating disorder or self-neglect symptoms leading to heart failure or diabetic coma, for example).

We were working constantly short staffed, physically and mentally unwell ourselves because of the workload and emotions and conflicts and fear of making mistakes, within constraints of time and policy that often felt out of our hands, trying to provide a service fair and the best for everyone, but knowing we could not give enough.

Lily has never left me. She’s come to my mind every week or so since the winter she died. I was a secretary, not a clinician. I didn’t know Lily as much as I got to know some of our other patients. She was intelligent and wanted to do well and was very driven for her goals. She made close friendships with a couple of people on the ward. Yet, she really needed love which I think she often didn’t find where she may have most expected it. She really did start to get better but something very painful remained impossible to reach. Sometimes I wonder if she was hurting so much she’d had enough. If everything was so locked in and disconnected from the people she needed and wanted to trust, that in her pain it felt like time to go – if she didn’t choose exactly when but she did know she’d quietly slip away.

We didn’t reach her. Even as she got a little better, we couldn’t reach through her pain. We didn’t catch her. We didn’t keep her safe when she was slipping. We lost her.

There was an investigation – many investigations – after Lily’s death. The final investigation ruled that the harm she suffered, and her death, were avoidable. I just now read the start of the report of the last investigation and horror and panic and confusion took over. The room swayed and spun and I couldn’t breathe. I’m still freezing cold.

Her life is on my hands. Not mine alone, and not the service I worked in alone because several other services were involved – but I was there.

Of course we had not wished to reject her or abandon her or disown her or her care. One of the worst things is that a lot of what was judged harmful in the report, were either actions in line with procedures we were taught to follow to give safe and fair and consistent care to every patient in the service, or matters that within the constraints we faced, we could not personally control. But whichever, it wasn’t right or safe for Lily. Consistency and guidelines and constraints are one thing but every individual patient is in very individual circumstances at very individual risk. Procedure under huge constraints imposed from outside, doesn’t make account of that.

What do we do when the steps that were supposed to have been good or safest or standard, or following established guidelines, or the best we could give, or taken in faith in the decisions of those we work for and trust, were actually steps that led to a death?

Personally, what should I have done and what do I do now? My heart is screaming at me, you did not speak up, you did not speak when you had concerns at what you heard, you did not act, you did not follow your gut – you followed instructions instead, and you know this wasn’t the only time.

Good intentions or having tried to follow what was supposed to be good enough, or even best, count for nothing now.

I’m reminded of my mother and her care and deterioration; how we were locked in an agonising cycle of her discharge, the same crises repeating, her deterioration and readmission, worse and worse every time, all of us knowing what would happen but all held powerless by legislation that didn’t allow us to put in place a few simple steps that would have kept her safe. Ultimately an adult judged to have capacity to make a decision is allowed to make a decision that will harm herself, allowed to cut herself off from sources of help, allowed to deceive everyone who wants to help. Even when those decisions and actions are the work of a delusion founded in deep-rooted, severe psychosis. My mother couldn’t be more different from Lily but I see similarities in how the hands of those who wanted to help were rendered powerless.

In my head when Lily stares at me, slowly fading, I don’t know what to say, and everything I should have said back then echoes around me.

(*not her real name. Again please note that the opinions and thoughts and experiences mentioned in this article are mine alone.)

Ginny xxx

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Reforming my food intake – eating disorders v changes for healing

TRIGGER WARNING: this post discusses diet, eating disorders and food restrictions.

I was back at hospital a couple of weeks ago with another bowel pseudo obstruction, with a lot of pain and bleeding. Scary. Thanks be to God this was not as serious as the obstruction I had last year. However over the past year on the whole I have had a marked increase in gastric symptoms which are part of my POTS and Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. It’s painful and disruptive. Possibly it’s also doing the rest of my body no good if I’m having inflammation or not absorbing nutrients properly.

I’ve decided to change how I eat along the lines of what I’ve read can help people with my conditions. It will involve a lot of protein, cutting right back on wheat and sugars (this will be hard for me!) and eliminating junk food. It will be quite bland at first whilst I find out what foods work for me or not. I don’t have celiacs but people with POTS and EDS can have problems with wheat that aren’t celiacs.

I’m conflicted because any strict diet, food restriction or elimination is triggering to my eating disordered thoughts and voices. Moreover I can’t deny that I’m hoping that my change in diet will lead me to get back control of my hunger, cravings and bingeing and that I’ll lose weight. I really want to sort my stomach problems but control and losing weight are hugely strong desires too. I’m overweight and repulsed at myself.

Possibly what I’m doing isn’t what professionals would think is a good idea if you have bulimia, binge eating disorder or a history of anorexia. Usually elimination of foods isn’t advised and you are supposed to listen to your body’s cues. I have no idea how to safely listen to my body’s cues. It seems to constantly scream “hungry!” In a way, am I listening to my body by recognising my gastric issues and the fact that my current eating is doing me no good? But I’m furious with myself for the binges and constantly want to punish myself. The diet that I’m going to be following will cut out a lot of foods I binge on. Will that stop my binges being triggered? I’m hoping so but I just feel I know I’ll lose control.

I’m trying to think of the changes as a long term way of eating, making it work for me throughout my lifetime, not a fad diet; also I’m trying to remember the fact my body needs this to get better.

Ginny xxx

Facing how much I need to lose

Warning: this post contains discussion of weight, weight loss, body image and eating disorders.

I have lost control of my eating and my body size completely. I’m the heaviest I’ve ever been. I’m disgusted at myself, expanding and ballooning. The voices love it – greedy, pig, ugly, foul, repulsive… we’ll always know how bad you really are… images of rotten evil and greed bursting out of my skin… cut it all off, cut it out… 50 kilos. Lose 50 kilos then keep going.

It’s so much and so unattainable I let the despair close round me. It’s cold and numb first, then comes the bingeing. I don’t know if it’s a result of the despair. Often it’s a result of hunger that won’t be satisfied and demands more and more, til I get rid of it by purging til it hurts so much.

I am fat and more than fat.

I want to lose 50kg. I have the idea that then I could look at myself without so much hate and disgust and then the voices might be satisfied for a while, if only I could maintain it. Objectively I know losing 50kg would be too much and would put me in the anorexic weight range. I know losing 40kg would put me at the very bottom of the healthy weight range. I desperately want this then desperately want those 10kg more, to get rid of the fat greedy consuming thing inside me. To get rid of the evil inside me. Then I could look at myself. Then I’d have control back. Then maybe it would stop. Please. Please would it stop.

Why can’t I just do it, like I always did before? Why have I lost control?

I’m trying to be objective. Trying to think about losing 20kg first. Trying to focus on goals, not specific weight targets week by week but on good things that are coming and that will be even better if I lose the weight – going abroad in February for my fiancé’s work, being able to do more of my physiotherapy exercises, our upcoming wedding, and so on. Trying to remember that my fiancé does not think I’m disgusting or greedy or bad or anything else the voices tell me, and that he loves me and does not require me to change. Yet I have his support to lose some weight to take care of my health and that’s a wonderful help.

I’m going to try to identify specific actions I can take to stop bingeing and start losing weight.

Looking objectively, why do I think my weight has gone up out of control?

  1. Greatly reduced mobility because of my degenerative health conditions getting worse. I used to walk loads a few years ago but now I need a wheelchair.
  2. My medications – quetiapine and other daily medications I take increase my appetite and affect metabolism and cause a lot of weight gain.
  3. Binge eating repeatedly on sugary foods and other carbohydrates. Insatiable hunger. Yes I frequently purge or restrict after but it can’t get rid of everything and it’s dangerous in itself.
  4. Relying more on convenience foods because I’m not well enough to cook and at times when I’ve been really short of money.

How can I change this?

  1. I can’t exercise in the usual sense of the word but I can prioritise my physio exercises and then when I’ve lost some weight, going swimming. I’m changing my daily routine to make sure I fit these in.
  2. I can’t change my medications, at least not short term.
  3. I will not keep trigger foods in the house. At first I will greatly restrict the food I have in the house so there is literally nothing to binge on. I can’t leave the house unaided because of my health so won’t be able to go and buy more. My fiancé will help me get small quantities of non triggering foods and occasional treats only. I’m amazingly fortunate to have his help. This isn’t a permanent solution but might help for the first couple of weeks.
  4. Though I still need to rely on convenience foods because of my disabilities, I will stay within a daily calorie limit.
  5. I will research any advice I can find for coping with binge eating disorder.

How can I keep the rational part of me in control rather than whatever drives the insatiable hunger? I really don’t know what drives it. When I was anorexic I had found something that shut off the hunger, but I don’t know what it was. The disgust I felt for myself then and the disgust I feel for myself now are pretty similar. In fact I feel more disgust for myself now. If disgust doesn’t shut the hunger off, what does? I think if I knew that, it would stop me bingeing.

Ginny xxx

Going away for a break

Going away for a break

Wow. This week has been really emotional, with so many really sad tragic things happening – the Grenfell Tower disaster, two terrorist attacks in London, another attempt in Paris, another major attack in Mosul – so much pain. I desperately want to be able to “do something”. Help. Bring some hope. Bring the merciful love of our Heavenly Father into this pain.

My partner and I have taken some action to do this and I’ll post more on that separately.

Meanwhile I’ve been feeling overwhelmed. I’ve had a couple of appointments with the pain clinic which have been very draining and in some ways upsetting. I’m sure I’m going to learn things that really help there and I have to try to keep going, keep trying, keep open to what they’re saying and offering even through the parts of it that hurt.

Today my partner and I are going away for a few days. We are staying in a besutiful hotel. We’re going to meet up with some of his family and my goddaughters’ family too. This is the first time in I don’t know how many years that I’ve been away on holiday. It’s not to a totally unknown area but I’m anxious. It’s a huge thing for me to go away and stay somewhere I don’t know and to stay a few days. I am excited too and know I really need a break. Most importantly I’m looking forward to some time to spend with my partner, talk and pray together, and share home calmly rather than constantly running around at the point of exhaustion and it seeming that time in which we can be there for each other and be thankful for each other sometimes comes last. I’m thankful for these coming days and pray for God’s blessing on our time together.

There’s a pool at the hotel and I have made up my mind that for the first time in about 7 years I’m going to get in the pool. I’m going to try to do some of the exercises my pain physiotherapist gave me and try to swim a little. It should be fun but also a great challenge to overcome as I haven’t been in a pool since I used to swim obsessively to try to lose weight when I was in the grip of bulimia.

So it will be a weekend of firsts and implementing some beautiful changes, please God.

Wishing you all good things this weekend.

Ginny xxx

 

Descent into emergency

Kyrie eleison. Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Help us in our need dear Jesus, please, Lord hear our prayer.

6.45pm

I feel so scared and powerless right now.

My dear friend is in complete crisis. I’m so scared he isn’t going to make it. I don’t want to tell all his business here. That wouldn’t be right. But he’s been through some horrific things and his mind and body is in utter pain. He could die, through what’s happening to him physically and the risk he’s at mentally.

I won’t leave him on his own right now. He’s massively distressed. He’s too scared to go to A&E tonight. I’m trying to insistently but lovingly persuade him to speak to the out of hours services to see if he can get to another place of safety, or to speak with his GP. Please God he is going to see the GP in a short while in an evening clinic they have. Please God we get there. He is letting me stay with him now. He so did not want me to at first but I could see the danger. Please God, please may he still accept my company and please may he get somewhere safe tonight. (There are very concrete reasons I can see he’s at risk but they are not my business to write here.) I’m in his car waiting for him whilst he’s speaking to someone who he felt he had to go see about an issue that came up earlier; I don’t think this is going to help any right now for him but he really felt the need to do it and I didn’t want to force him not to. Please God please may he come back soon.

I’m barely hanging on myself. I’ve been losing the grip the past week especially. Dissociating, losing time, self harming, huge panic attacks and flashbacks including physical sensations.

A neighbour has started being aggressive and verbally abusive. He’s been pressing me for money for months. He’s been doing the same to other vulnerable people on the estate. He’s been citing endless disastrous circumstances but it’s now coming to light that something else is going on. I’ve sensed things wrong for a while but now it’s becoming clear what he’s telling me does not add up and isn’t the whole story to say the least. It’s getting out of control. I believed and wanted to help him to get help, supported him with getting referred for a support worker and foodbanks. Now it seems nothing is true. I’m afraid for a vulnerable person he lives with. I’m going to have to contact the police I think.

8.40pm

We have spoken to the doctor and are waiting to hear if my friend can get into a safe place with support. There is no space at the moment. Even if he does it is only open til 1am. We’ve gone back and forth with the doctor and out of hours services. All doing all they can but of course there are these limits… and in the end I don’t know who can keep him safe when he’s as far down as he is now, hating himself and hurting himself so much and so afraid of everyone. I’m ripping apart inside. I’ve been where he is, or similar. I know perhaps I cannot do enough. I care for him deeply as a friend. I wish I could rescue him but know despite all the love I can give perhaps I cannot.

9.15pm

I didn’t want to leave him. He has gone to the hospital. The doctor was worried for me and said I should not go with him. He insisted I not go with him. He promised not to hurt himself and that he’s going there. I couldn’t do anything else especially since it’s his car and I can’t drive. We are keeping in touch by text. I believe his promise but I know from being there myself that when you are going to end it, that blackness and blank terror and loss and self revulsion and pain overrides everything, no matter how firm and true and faithful your promises. The doctor told me to go home because she was worried for me but I so did not want to leave him. I cannot save him in the end but I can be there.

9.25pm

He is at A&E now. The situation is far worse even than I knew but thanks be to God he is there. Thanks be to God he’s going to be taken care of…dear Lord I pray he’s met with compassion there as well as getting the physical medical treatment he needs. Please Lord, please can they still help him. Please enfold Him in your love, whatever comes now, if it’s the end or not, please show us Your saving help. In the darkness of pain and not knowing, danger, even death, You are our certain hope and Saviour.

Mother Mary, St Joseph, please offer to your Son in the way most pleasing to Him, everything I offer, everything I do, everything I pray….

Ginny xxx

 

 

Ten dishes challenge #6: chicken stew and exploring wheat-free

Since the new year, actually I’ve been much better than usual at cooking meals, though usually I haven’t managed to remember to take a picture to add to this series, hence the lack of updates. A significant reason I’ve done better at cooking is that I was preparing food to share with a couple in my block who were in serious financial difficulty, and also cooking for another friend who is very unwell and struggles to eat at all let alone cook.

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I’m motivated to cook when I feel it’s to help or care for or simply for the enjoyment of someone else. This can help me overcome feeling too exhausted to do it. When I’m cooking for others, there is actually some joy in it even if I’m battling the chronic physical pain. The thoughts and voices that taunt me that I don’t deserve good food, must not eat, fill my head with repulsion at myself and greed and failure, do not come so loud when I’m cooking for others and sharing the meal. When I’m with others, I don’t binge eat and I cannot purge food. Perhaps it isn’t the ideal way out of these eating disorder symptoms – I have to be able to feed myself for myself in the end – but the more times I do cook, do share food, do manage not to binge eat and purge or restrict for long periods, the quieter the voices become even when I’m alone. It’s a very slow process and can still be awful but I think it’s a strength that will slowly grow.

The other major change in the last month is that since I was in hospital with stomach problems, I’m on a wheat-free diet because I was advised to try this. So I’m finding out new recipes or adaptations to recipes. As much as possible, I’m finding foods and ingredients that are naturally wheat free, because a lot of replacement products are very expensive, especially the processed ones. A very small loaf of gluten free bread will be £2.50 rather than 80p for a similar sized normal loaf; a packet of wheat free biscuits may be up to £3.00 rather than 75p or less for regular supermarket biscuits. I can’t have these things regularly on wheat free, at least not when I’m relying on Benefits whilst I’m signed off work. The plus side of this is that it leads me to cook more and eat more fruit, veg, beans, meat and dairy. My food bill will increase a bit nevertheless but I don’t think it will be unmanageable if I’m very careful to go for cost effective recipes. In fact, I’m often enjoying finding a new variety of foods and the altered diet. For example, I’m going to try making my own bread using wheat free flour. I discovered these funky coloured carrots that were tasty roasted:

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It’s not all saintly. Chocolate definitely still features in my diet! 🙂

For the first couple of weeks I was out of hospital, my stomach was very unsettled and I was mainly eating rice, rice crackers, cooked vegetables and fruit, peanut butter then gradually some egg and cheese as well. Most meals were looking something like this:

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Slowly, as my stomach is a bit better, I’ve wided my diet again with meats, yoghurt, various treats or desserts like chocolate, or fruit bars, and I’ve tried some wheat free cereal a couple of times. It’s a gradual process and I’m still feeling unsettling effects from the stomach problems I had.

I’ve also returned to using my Nutribullet, which I find most helpful for upping my vegetable and fruit intake with juices, ensuring I have high fibre intake and consuming things that can be harder to get into my diet. In the winter, I don’t enjoy eating a salad as I might in the summer, but I can make a yummy smoothie with some raw spinach and mixed leaves, avocado, banana, apple and a little lemon juice.

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The result does slightly resemble the bathroom suite my parents had in the 1990s, but I promise it tastes good. (Warning – in my experience, home made juices, whatever the ingredients even if you use brightly coloured fruits, tend to turn out green or brown. This may not look appetising however if you can overcome the colour they usually taste good.)

Yesterday I made a chicken stew with lots of veg and mashed potato, which I was very pleased with as I used not to be so confident cooking meat. I had the day at home so was able to pace the preparation better than usual. There was plenty left over that went in my freezer.

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Thanks be to God for helping me to rediscover some joy in food, some opportunities to share and eat with others and enjoy it, and gradually continue on the path to a more healthful diet and feelings around food and my body.

Ginny xxx

Furthest away from those closest

[Begun writing yesterday 30th December]

I’m really sad, angry, lonely and hurting. I feel excluded, blamed, not believed, not wanted, a disappointment, right when I am trying the hardest, giving the most I can, in the most pain and most need to find some understanding; not necessarily help but simply acknowledgement and belief of what I’m experience and some love nevertheless from those closest to me whom I might hope to trust.

I’m on the journey home now after staying 3 days with my dad and step mum and I am ashamed but I could not have coped with one day more. Again and again in my flashbacks I was back to being the child with my mother and my father and the constant terror and trepidation and dread. I live the same situations over and over. I’m terrified of the next time she’ll think I’ve done, said or thought something wrong and get angry. I am exhausted from any time with my step mother and her utter insistence on her right and my wrong. Even simply talking with her and Dad, it’s as if we’re back where whatever happened I was the problem, I was the one behaving oddly, I was the one causing damage – when actually my mother was the abusive one, she could get away with anything, when I was crying for help nobody heard, nobody helped me and my father appeared to agree with her entirely. Similarly now, he can’t believe my step mother and everything she does is anything but fantastic and wonderful. I know I’ve said before, in a family situation he is utterly loyal but to the exclusion of the point of view of anyone but her, just as he was with my mother. I think that’s at least in part how I went unheard for so long when I was clearly massively distressed and when I needed his help, and when I told him what she’d done.

It was a bad enough time through all this but it has also become very clear how little my step mother believes or understands about my physical health and disabilities, how much she blames me, holds me responsible as though being ill is a choice, how annoyed and disappointed she is I don’t live up to her requirements. I’ve known for a long time how she doesn’t understand but it came home this week. It isn’t only me that it’s directed at. She shows the same attitude to my step sister over her mental health and to one of her friends who has a lot of physical health problems. It is beyond me how anyone can show as little belief or understanding of what someone is going through, as little compassion and as much blame, but then I have been ill or physically disabled most of my life so admittedly that gives me a different starting point.

She is not open to hearing what day to day life is actually like for me or even seeing it when it’s right in front of her . I don’t make a big issue about my health. I try to make sure it affects anyone else as little as possible. But when she is lecturing me about why don’t I do this or that, things are only a problem because I imagine they are, and so on and I have to try to explain eventually why I may not be able to do something, she refuses to hear and insists on her solution and gets angry if I can’t do it. When I’m physically unable to do something when I’m right there with her, for her it’s something I’m doing deliberately, it’s a real problem for other people, I “just have to do it”, I am not making enough effort… it’s like when my mother accused me of pretending not to be able to do things if I didn’t succeed academically as she required, and the resultant rejection and punishment of me is similar too.

I wrote a lot about what my step mother said to me and did which I’ve deleted because listing a load of hurts and speaking badly of someone does no good. When I was leaving, she started up again about “New Year, new you”, how everyone needs it needs to be a healthy year, we don’t want any more of this, I’ve got to be completely different  and I’ve “simply got to” make sure of that, and it’s all about positive thinking, it simply has to be mind over matter, as if it’s a choice not a number of lifelong health conditions. She loves telling me what I’ve simply got to do, always things which I literally physically or mentally cannot, so she exerts a great amount of pressure and certainty that I’m a disappointment when I can’t meet her simply-got-tos that she heaps on me even when they’re medically not possible.

In the face of all this, my father blanks me, ignores what I’m experiencing, denies what has happened or ignores what I say if I express as much as the fact that some of what she says is hurtful, to the point of refusing to answer and acting as though he has not heard or changing the subject. He literally will not hear a single thing against her, or even not 100% agreeing with her. It’s just like how he withdrew and ceased responding and cut off and rejected me and to say the least did nothing whilst my mother continued all kinds of emotional physical and sexual abuse. Then he is able to say he doesn’t know what’s happening.

***

My step mother’s growing obsession with weight and Slimming World is hard for me too. The fridge looks like a diet advert, even though it’s Christmas, brimming with vegetables and low fat yoghurt and very little else. Food is such an issue and has to be done her way. She will not stop telling me how I’ve “simply got to get healthy… simply got to prepare proper meals”. I don’t want anything to do with her diet. She has no concept of eating disorders and how hard a combination of the voices, my physical disabilities making cooking and the resulting cleaning ever so painful, and my eating disorder make it to cook. Yet she can’t see past her own obsession with vegetables, fat free, going to the gym…

***

I’m at the point of ceasing to expect anything but rejection, judgment and accusations from my step mother and from my dad, withdrawal from me and utter support of her views. At best. The glimmers of understanding I thought I had from my dad just seem like a trick now that opened me to trusting, making the inevitable return to rejection and accusations all the more painful. I will not go to stay with them again any time soon.

It would be easier for me to cease all contact with them. My step mother does not often behave as if she likes me. I often think they might well prefer me to have only infrequent contact. After all, I’m seen mainly as a problem. Morally, I don’t feel I can cease contact. I have a duty to them. I want to forgive. I can’t expect total understanding. If I ask forgiveness from God when I’ve judged other people I need to forgive them. I try not to act angrily but the hurt is much harder to control. If I did not have a dependence or need for their understanding, it would not matter to me so much. Though my father’s withdrawal and denial of my experience hurts as much as what my step mother does.

It hurts so much in my head right now.

Ginny xxx

Exercise without returning to extremes

WARNING – this post discusses weight loss and eating disorders

I saw the nurse today as I had to have an ECG. I’ve had a lot of chest pain lately which is thought to be costocondritis but the GP wanted to check my ECG again. I’ve also been potentially diagnosed with another condition but that’s a story for another time.

Whilst I was there, the nurse took my weight and height and we decided I’m going to try the exercise referral scheme again (to a different gym this time), to have support to try very gentle swimming or at least exercises in the water.

It is time for me to do something about the fact that I am really upset at how much weight I have gained in the last 2 years, through poor diet and through my medications and being very sedentary as I often can’t walk more than a very little way unaided. The weight is increasing my hate of myself and my body. Not succeeding in losing it by my familiar means over the last few months has increased this hate even more. I know this isn’t a healthy thought pattern and I know many of my “familiar means” are eating disorder behaviors. At the same time, I am now slightly overweight according to BMI recommendations, so I need to lose weight for my physical health; also I need to care for my body’s needs by eating healthful meals rather than oscillating between starving and junk food, as has become my habit through lack of money and depression. I need to try to do some kind of exercise to improve my physical strength to manage the pain from my chronic conditions better.

So I have to figure out how can I manage my situation now and the changes I need to make without plunging deeper into eating disorder thoughts? How do I start an exercise programme without using it to punish my body? How can I keep track of my weight and control my diet without returning to my totally addicted state and the ever-present revulsion at my body tipping back over into self-harm and purging?

Does anyone have any thoughts about how to lose weight and change your eating to get back to a healthy weight range, when you have a history of binge-eating and bulimia? Are there any particular resources on this topic? I know that somehow I need to address the pervasive disgust I feel towards my body and ideally I’d do that first, but it has been present most of my life and I can’t allow my weight to grow to an even more unhealthy level. Most of my life since age 3 when my abuser started to use weighing me and controlling my food as one way of punishing and shaming me, I’ve been overweight, severely underweight or plummeting or ballooning between the two. I have lost all concept of normal food intake and normal appetite.

Ginny xxx

One massive punch

WARNING: contains a very brief mention of eating disorders and abuse in childhood

Well. It’s kind of ironic given my post yesterday about uncertainty in relationships. At least the uncertainty in the particular relationship I had in mind at the end of the post has been cleared up. Cleared up with one massive blow. I’ve rarely felt more hurt and betrayed and rejected though I’m not sure quite why the impact has been so consuming.

I have tried to talk with my friend about what has happened in our relationship over the past months / couple of years and some of how I’ve been feeling.

After a line of further rejections from her, her not hearing when I tried to be honest and explain some most painful things, her not believing as far as I can see, what I experience and what has happened to me in the past – today she told me I have no reason to feel upset or hurt or angry, that I have no right to feel as I do, that because I have a feeling does not mean it is right, that I am to come before God and see if I have any moral right to feel as I do because I don’t, I am to push it down and rise above it.

I was filled with a massive surge of anger and raw hurt. It has not stemmed any in the hours since.

Coupled with her rejection of me and her disbelief or at least dismissal and ignoring of severely traumatic things that have happened to me in my childhood and right now, it was an immensely hurtful judgement of me. And how strange she thinks that she has the power to decide what feelings I am morally allowed to experience and what is real and what is not.

The terrors associated with feelings I thought were sinful, feelings I was not allowed, feelings that were so dangerous, that I had to atone for and punish myself for, were together with my terror of my ultimate evil, the way that I got to life threatening anorexia and then bulimia, daily self harm, overdosing and attempting to end my life. These feelings kept me submissive and within my abuser’s control. The feelings my friend’s judgement of my experience, my feelings, their and my morality, where I stand with God, the truth and validity of what has happened to me, brought in me straight back there again. Straight away my impulse was to cut and make myself vomit. But something had happened to my legs and I was shaking too much to do anything and perhaps that was blessed protection. I just cried.

It hurts worse because this came from one of the very few people I trusted. Someone I shared things with. Someone who brought me to the church and whose child is my godson. Thank the dear Lord I did not share with her the very worst of the abuse I suffered. If I had I don’t think I’d cope in any way now. I already feel violated again. Tricked, ripped apart, judged, rejected, punished, blamed.

As well as the hurt that’s making me go to pieces, I wanted to scream – feelings are not a sin. I have many reasons to feel very hurt, angry, scared… Feelings are not moral or immoral. Who is she to judge what I have a moral right to feel? I have a massive amount of pain and hurt and yes sometimes anger about the abuse. That is normal. Yes, when I’m not believed, dismissed and rejected and abandoned when I’m most desperate, that cuts a little deeper every time and yes emotionally I end up right back where I was in the terror of the abuse. This is not a sin or something I have to crush. I am not a sugar plaster “saint” too “holy” to have any feeling but happiness and superficial love, floating on some supernatural plane disconnected from every real feeling. That’s what she wants. I am not that figure. I am bleeding.

She was the last person left, outside this blog and community and apart from my therapist, with whom I had the depth of trust I thought I did. Perhaps it’s as well it’s gone. I will be very very careful indeed in the future (even more than I already am) about what closeness I allow to develop.

But the hurt is consuming. I am falling into pieces. Shattering. I haven’t gone home yet as I was scared what I’d do and of being alone. But I’m exhausted now and I have to go home. I’ll stay safe somehow. If I can’t I’ll have to go to A&E. I tried to get to the safe place I’ve been to before but they are full tonight.

Ginny xxx

A closing drawbridge and a silent cry: when it’s less safe

A closing drawbridge and a silent cry

Eating disorders and personality disorder

When it’s less safe, but I am no longer my abuser’s child

WARNING: this post contains mention of childhood abuse, discussion of my experience of anorexia and disordered eating and the purpose it served for me in my eating disordered thought processes.

When I started drafting this post, I didn’t actually intend it to form part of this series on eating disorders and personality disorder. I didn’t realise that it would be so much about my eating disorders, but it turns out that it is. I started writing tonight in preparation for my therapy group tomorrow. Last week, we were talking about feeling safe. In the discussion, I said that at some points during therapy (around the past 14 months so far), I’ve actually been less safe than when I was not in therapy. In hindsight, perhaps I should say, felt less safe. It has felt less safe. Despite this, I still feel therapy is a process I need and want to go through. Someone asked me a question about that, to which I struggled to verbalise the answer. I’ve thought on her question during the week. I’m not going to write what she said because I don’t want to break her confidentiality, but I wanted to share the reflection she has led me to about becoming more or less safe during therapy.

As soon as I tried to explain, the familiar eating disorder thought came into my mind – when I was anorexic it was safe. I know how sick and dangerous that thought is and how illogical, the physical destruction of my body having been so clear. Yet, there was a point not very long ago in therapy where I so desperately wanted my anorexia back, because it would have been safe, and not so much too much. With anorexia, I wasn’t too much and nothing was too much. (Except food, of course!) I was encased in a safe, protected place, and I felt nothing but its power, voice and drive. My emotions and my body made no more demands.

With anorexia I could be certain in the knowledge I was starving, punishing, weakening, enough to atone for what my abuser told me I was, enough to avoid the damnation I thought I otherwise deserved, enough to ensure I was not a threat. Enough to satisfy my abuser.  And even years after I had got away from her, I thought perhaps anorexia could take me back to that one time where it had seemed she wanted me, seemed through a child’s eyes that perhaps she loved me, the one time I wasn’t bad, where I was so weakened she took total control. That would be totally safe.

I was never cared for by her. Total control stood in for care instead. The closest thing to care and safety for me was my total self-destruction, total physical weakness, allowing her to take total control of me. My BMI was about 13. I was in unbearable pain in my back and legs. I could just barely walk with crutches and had to spend a lot of time in bed. She took control literally of my movements, my food, my use of the bathroom and toilet, my washing, my dressing and undressing, my weighing (any action that could have and should have been private, she invaded) my contact with other people (even the doctors who wanted to help me, whom she prevented me seeing most of the time). Telling me what I was thinking, telling me what I was doing to the family, telling me what to say, total control – but this total control was the only time that the terrible powers and terrible intentions she told me I had, seemed to cease. My body and my mind ceased to make demands and I succumbed to her totally. This was the only safe place. The rest of the time I lived in fear of what I would do to her or the family and of her terrible threats coming true.

Paradoxically, at other times my anorexia gave me something that was nevertheless mine. It was my anorexia and my body. I think I’ve written before how when she had me strip in front of the mirror, a fierce voice in my head said, this is my body and you will never touch me again, and I resolved to lose as much more weight as I could.

That determination and angry strength was unusual. It was more about cutting off. Later, I stayed as numbed and weakened as I could. Long after I was out of the anorexic weight range, physically safe, I continued to punish myself. Starving. Vomiting. Cutting. Overdose. On the outside, I could do what was required and expected. I achieved. I was together, doing what they required in terms of education and work. Again, that was safe, because I was doing what was required, my dangerous emotions were numbed, my atonement continued. Until I imploded. Everything went to pieces.

As everything fragmented, numb was no longer sure and safe. I desired the end and wanted to end my life. At the same time, my child voice that I had suppressed so successfully for so long, was screaming and desperately needed to be cared for. This was explosively dangerous. My abuser’s threats about what I was would come true; they’d be proved to be true for all to see. The evil in me would explode out of control, if I could no longer punish and weaken myself. I would cause unlimited hurt to others without even seeing it myself, but everyone else knowing the evil I was. I would never be cared for (ie in someone’s total control).

Straight away, the rejections began. (Again. Just as I’d been rejected when I had needs and sought help as a child – terrified what my abuser’s reaction would be; my father not knowing what was going on, so not protecting me.) I was not under my abuser’s control any more, but there was no care for me, no one to protect me, and the few people I trusted were not there for me. The pressures – I don’t know if consciously or not – piled on me made it very clear I am a disappointment, not good enough, not what they need me to be, that they will only accept me as long as I am moving in the direction they think I should be at the pace they have dictated.

I cannot silence the needs any more. Anger boiled out of control, hurt screamed. Going through therapy, the feelings intensified. There was no way back to the protection my eating disorder had given me. Now, when I write about how it worked and why I wanted my eating disorder back, I am horrified. I am horrified at the power my abuser had over me and how I allowed her to have it and how that made me feel safe.

I will never receive now the care I did not receive when I was a child being abused. I will never receive again the closest thing I knew to care, the total submission to another person and control by them. Terrible as that was, I feel as though I will never be sure, as I could for a brief time be then when I was totally dependent on her, that I am not the bad, evil thing I had been taught that I am.

With the loss of all my coping mechanisms, including stopping self-harming and stopping overdosing, as I have somehow by the grace of God managed not to do in the past few weeks, it does feel more dangerous. I don’t know how to find any reassurance, internal or external. My feelings, my emotions, experiences, feel so out of control and dangerous. I am no longer my abuser’s child. I am no longer what my family requires. I will never have the care and security I did not have as a child, nor will I have the safety unconditional acceptance would give, because I do not have that now that I’m no longer what they require. I don’t yet know how to exist without these things.

Part of me grieves for the loss of the eating disorder and mechanisms that kept me safe, because stupid and twisted as it sounds, they did at least protect me; despite the harm they caused, they protected me from ending my life, and though it was fairly illusory, they gave me the closest thing I had experienced to being cared for.

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I should say that I think that another important part of the safety issue in therapy is coping between sessions with the emotions that have come up in sessions. Also, the impact that this disorder and the recovery process has across your life. Until very recently having the help of my support worker, I struggled badly with the social isolation that followed the loss of many important relationships, and the “domino effect” of all the material stability in my life falling away because of the financial problems caused by losing job after job and my erratic spending when I was out of control. Struggling with this at the same time as my emotions were going out of control anyway, my desperation for help increasing but being unheard by everyone I tried to get help from and had been led to believe I could trust, brought me very much too close to the edge. My support worker has greatly contributed to my safety now.

Ginny xxx