Tag Archives: eating disorder

Bulimic; A day in the life

We’ve seen Anorexia talked about. Its on dramas, on the news, in magazines and newsletters. Eating disorder recovery stories focus on weight restoration and being able to eat ‘normally’ again.  But where are the stories about bulimia? Where do we see people talking about their experiences? Where is the awareness raising for bulimia?

I’ve spoken quite openly about my experiences with anorexia. There is still a stigma attached to mental health problems, but in my experience, the greatest stigma surrounds bulimia. Bulimia attracts a lot of hate- people are labelled as greedy, lazy and disgusting. It’s so far from the truth but so hard to argue against.

I’ve had bulimia since I was 14. This is a day in my life when bulimia took over.

I wake up,  everything hurts. My head aches- bulimic hangovers are real, I feel dirty and itchy and just uncomfortable in my body. My throat is sore every time I swallow and my hand is bruised. I tell myself, today I stop binging, today I’ll stop eating again.

Later, I think I’m staying strong. I haven’t eaten yet and the familiar hunger pangs hit in- uncomfortable but also welcome. My head is killing me. As soon as I can I go into town. Once I would have been clothes shopping, now I go into the food shops, wandering round and round. Picking unhealthy foods up, reading the label and putting them down again.

And then, I slip. I have a biscuit or a latte or something I hadn’t planned for in my day. I lose control, desperately going from shop to shop. I don’t even really know what I’m buying, mostly crap but even things like fruit or cereal could trigger a binge. I feel like I’m watching myself as I move between stores, screaming at Becca, me, to stop. Put it back and leave. But that doesn’t happen. I remember once, when my anorexia was first swinging back into bulimia, getting a phonecall from my bank, mid binge, saying that there had been unusual activity on my card. It was humiliating.

I lock myself in my room and then I eat. I’m not hungry, I don’t want to eat, I already feel sick. But for some reason and I never know really why, I end up still binging. Binging is horrible, it’s out of control painful stomach fear can’t stop someone help me please. Then I become aware of all the wrappers and crap around me. And my stomach is painfully full. I can’t keep this in me. So I purge. Which, by the way, along with restriction, is the best way there is to ensure you keep binging. It’s a never ending cycle. And it is degrading and horrible. You will spend hours cleaning after and making excuses to your flatmates.

And then the day rolls around to night, another binge, another purge. When will this end?

I’m lucky, I am so much better now. I still struggle, I still go to bed most nights wondering whether I could stop eating again, I still spend hours wandering round food shops without buying, I still sometimes struggle with purging. But before, I was spending all day binge purging, I simply couldn’t stop.

And that’s it, a day in the life of my bulimia.

An update

I realised I haven’t really updated you on where I’ve been when I disappeared for a while.

A few months ago things were starting to look brighter and I felt like the old me was there, just slightly out of reach. I remember going to my CPA armed with the fact I was the happiest I’d been in years. I had persuaded myself that I might get home overnight leave, that my section would be lifted. I remember being so angry when it became clear neither of those dreams would be happening. I couldn’t understand why they couldn’t see how happy I was.

A few weeks later I found myself spiralling again. I was spending hours looking for anything I could self harm with. I remember one leave where I spent the whole time secretly searching the ground for sharps. I catalogued every sharp I saw, planning to get them on my way back. I soon discovered I was never going to be able to pick them up. My eating slipped again and very quickly I found myself fully in the throws of my eating disorder. It took several hospital visits for me to relent and stop refusing my ensures. I still haven’t got up the courage to eat instead of using ensures and fruit. I hate ensures, but at the same time I couldn’t move onto solid food, they became my safety net. As my weight dropped so did my mood and I lost control of my hallucinations. It stayed like that for a long time. As I wasn’t eating and I was fainting around the ward I lost my leave, I lost my unsupervised shower. I felt like everyone was the enemy, that they couldn’t understand.

Then slowly again things began to pick up. There was a lot of tinkering with my medication but slowly it seemed to be helping, finally. I came into hospital taking only two psychiatric medications. Now I take a lot more. Haloperidol worked but gave me painful side effects. Respiradol might as well have been a sugar pill. But now I’m taking a different anti-psychotic and suddenly I found myself again. I started reading again, I started DBT which really helped, I was able to smile and talk to staff, I wasn’t afraid of laughing with other patients. The side effects kicked in, I’m so shaky I cant hold a cup or walk down stairs. I get verbal ticks when I’m talking. But it’s given me myself back and I’m not willing to lose that. My leave was reinstated. I got home leave and I got to see my house for the first time in over a year. I get time out with my boyfriend too and we go to the cinema. I love being surrounded by people who had no idea I am sectioned.And as the weather improved found the courage to wear t shirts that didn’t cover my scars, and no-one even blinked. Things are good. Yes I’m still very stuck in my eating disorder but otherwise I’m content. I’m starting to see a future. I have my books and time to see my family and my boyfriend outside of a visitors room. Yes I get lows but I’m getting there and that feels wonderful.

 

Acute services with an eating disorder

Inpatient wards are never nice places to be; they can be frightening, frustrating, dictative  wards. Anything other than specialist eating disorder units where the service is designed to support and treat the eating disorder service users are suffering with can make acute or other specialised support all the more difficult.

My first inpatient experience was to an eating disorder unit. I remember sitting in costa after being told I was going to have to start inpatient treatment for anorexia nervosa the next day and phoning to mum to break the news and then having to tell my university that I would have to defer absolutely terrifying. I had only been involved with the eating disorder outpatient service 4 weeks and still hadn’t accepted my diagnosis, it all felt rushed and I was resistant to being classed as an anorexia sufferer. I can’t remember my first month or so but slowly came around to being in treatment and it was refreshing to find others like me who had the same thoughts and experiences with anorexia. The groups were all designed directly to focus on anorexia and drive the sufferer forward in their recovery. There was the medical side of it which never stopped being utterly traumatic in my ten months there and I resisted the weight gain side of treatment and at discharge I barely made any head weigh with the weight side of things but I also left with a whole set of skills and a group of friends who truly got it.

Maybe my experience having first been such a safety net and so understanding has made me biased but I’ve never been able to recreate the experience in acute wards. All my admissions since the EDU have been to acute wards and suddenly I was thrown into the world of adult mental health. Each time I have been hospitalised I’ve relapsed to anorexia, maybe not in weight although in some cases lost a significant amount of weight but in behaviours. Every time it’s reached the level where I stop eating and drinking completely. It’s hard on an acute ward to cater to account for all service users difficulties where the funding is low and the supply so demanding. It means though that eating disorder patients can easily slip through the net and only picked up upon when crisis level has been reached. I’ve found that as I’ve moved through services my ability to sustain a low weight and lack of nutrition has deteriorated and in this admission found myself in general hospital for IV fluids. It’s come to the point now that everyone accepts I won’t eat meals and instead have ensure drinks. It can be quite isolating not finding myself able to eat meals in the dining room and I find myself wondering how have I found myself in this position, again.

Acute wards are all about survival and crisis management but this is often to the detriment where specialist services are called in. The level of support and guidance an eating disorder patient is simply not available and in an ideal world that wouldn’t be the case. But for now it’s not and that needs to change.

What’s it like to feel suicidal?

First off a bit of an update. I disappeared over a couple of weeks due to slipping backwards with my eating and drinking and then my mood followed. I was admitted to hospital rehydrated. But I’m not fainting everywhere so I’m allowed off the ward to blog.

Now onto the topic I wanted to address this week.

People don’t talk about, it’s shoved in the corner and not allowed out. But it happens. Suicide is one of the biggest killers of males under the age of 25.But for some people feeling suicidal and not able to shove it in a corner is a harsh reality of their life. I’ve felt suicidal many times and over long periods and it’s been one the hardest parts o my illness for them.

So what’s it like to feel suicidal. For me it’s like smoke, it fills your eyes and nose and mouth so you can’t breathe or scream for help. Talking is an effort, breathing is an effort. The black smoke weighs you down so you can only shuffle. It convinces me not to talk to staff as they’re too busy or you don’t deserve anyway. You search endlessly for a sharp object is you’re a self harmer. I’ve literally gone through everything in my room searching for something to harm with. Usually it’s futile.

That’s my experience of suicidal feelings. I’ve not spoken about other people’s experiences because I’m not in their heads and have no idea what it’s like for them. But male, female, race, sexual orientation and all of them, we need to speak more about suicide, take away the shame by taking it out the corner.

 

Slipping back into my eating disorder

Anorexia. We’ve all heard about it. Bulimia less so but very much in the public domain. But what about EDNOS?

I’m currently diagnosed with EDNOS although I have a history of severe anorexia and bulimia. Recently the anorexia has slipped back in to my head and things are harder again. But I have the support of staff, others are not so lucky. Suffering in silence.

There is a lure to anorexia, especially to past sufferers. When I look back I remember a clean homely ward. I remember sipping diet coke in cafe nero with my ward friends. I remember going out on leave to get illicit piercings.

But this is rose tinted glasses. There was nothing homely to quieing up at 6 am to be weighed and have your vitals done. There was nothing fun about orange juice at midnight because you blood sugars are too low.There was nothing glamorous about crying over an extra potato whilst others complained about their broccoli portion or juice level.

What I’m saying is there’s nothing glamorous or safe for anorexia.

And neither is it the same for the other two. I knew I was out of control with my bulimia when the bank rang to check I’d made those purchases.

We need more awareness around eating disorders and not the glamorous image displayed in newspapers and magazines. ALL eating disorders are deadly. Anorexia has the highest mortality of any mental illness.We need to step back when the lure of anorexia or bulimia or EDNOS creeps in and not let us fall down the rabbit hole again.

A letter (Trigger: rape)

Dear X,

I don’t really know where to start this letter. I think you probably know what it’s going to be about though. Or maybe not? Do you even remember that night? Or has it faded into the background of your life like any other normal day to you?

Maybe I’ll start by telling you what I was like before that night. I was bubbly; not just cheerful but joyous. I loved to laugh and spend time with everyone. Every morning at 10am I’d go to the library cafe with the biology girls intending to work and every morning work would fall by the wayside in favour of lattes, cake and funny YouTube videos. I would laugh until my sides hurt. Yes I had bulimia and self harmed but I felt like a young woman whose life was just opening up for her. I loved to wear nice clothes and dressed to flatter my body. I dressed up for nights out, wore heels I couldn’t walk in, got drunk and danced with my friends until I could barely stand! I was young and relatively carefree. My whole future was ahead of me. I wanted to study graduate entry medicine and specialise in tropical disease. I enjoyed time with my family and days out pretending to be tourists. I loved to sing and play violin, I was part of the the choir and ICSE, I loved concerts and the sheer joy of making music in beautiful venues.

Now let me tell you who I became after. I withdrew, nights out became fraught with fear. I felt tainted and dirty and any male attention sent me into a panic. I drank to numb rather than enjoy. My eating changed, suddenly my stomach was too full of poison for food and I began to obsessively restrict and lose weight. As my body became smaller, more angular, more protected by anorexia the safer I felt. And then there were the binge purges where I desperately filled and emptied trying to squash the poison down. By the middle of third year, the week of Christmas, I was admitted to an eating disorders unit with a BMI in the critical range. I spent ten months there, I had to defer uni, I lost the trust of friends and family. My mood crashed and the badness I’d always felt was inside of me intensified and the only way I could get it out was by cutting, deeper and deeper. Landing myself in A&E more times than I can count, arms covered in scars. In January 2014 my anorexia morphed suddenly and violently back into bulimia. I remember walking the streets at all hours- day and night- to the supermarkets multiple times a day, stuffing it all in and making myself sick up to 20 times a day. The sheer desperation I felt. I remember multiple overdoses, rarely seeking help, hoping this time it’d work. I remember losing my music, I still can’t play the violin or sing without feeling panic. Then there were the admissions, 2 to a general psychiatric unit in 2014, one under section, day hospital after that and another day hospital admission earlier this year. And then this admission, sectioned, on my 5th month in hospital, into my fourth month on 1:1, feeling hopeless I’ll ever get my life back. Too scared to move forward in case I fall even further. I should be starting an MSc, I have a place, but here I am, not even able to shower or piss in private.

I have flashbacks to that night you know. I can feel you on top of and inside me and how much it hurt. I don’t remember most of what happened but I have flashes and they are too traumatic to verbalise here. I remember the sickly, dirty, unclean fear the next morning and the way it’s stayed with me ever since. I haven’t felt clean since, no matter how hard I try to wash you away.  I should hate you, but I feel tremendous guilt for letting you do that to me. I feel it’s all my fault. And yet at the same time you ruined my life. You took everything that was good about me, everything I valued and everything I wanted from my life and ruined it, spoiled it, made it twisted and negative. You’ve turned me from someone who had hope to someone who feels the only way out is suicide. I hate that I let you win. You took my virginity, my dignity and my future and made a joke out of my life. And there you are; making a living, building a life for yourself, laughing, happy and ultimately victorious. I don’t know what you wanted to achieve that night but I feel you killed off the Becca I used to be. I’m not dead but I might as well be because I can feel your poison running through my veins and it’s destroying me. I can’t even enjoy the time I have with my partner because every time he touches me I feel you doing the same and the clutch of panic and disgust inside me is so real and overpowering.

Youve put a millstone of guilt around my neck and it’s dragging me down. To quote Stevie Smith ‘I’m not waving but drowning.’ I’m drowning in guilt and fear and disgust. I feel completely detached from my body, I punish it by cutting, burning and my ED. I tried to starve and overdose and ligature it away but none of it’s worked and I’m stuck in a body which let me down so badly, which you invaded. It’s an object which you used and I now need to punish.

Youve got a life and I’m not going to take it away from you, but know that on January 18th 2011 you took my life and made a failure and laughing stock out of it and I can never get the Becca I was before back. And I hate you for that.

Becca

ECT 

Tomorrow is my third session of ECT. I’m not going to lie and say it’s a treatment I feel particularly positive about or one I’m 100% dedicated to. But I’m doing it and that counts for something. I wanted to write a post about what it’s really like. 

When I was told ECT was my next line of treatment I was terrified. In my head I had images and descriptions of the type found in The Bell Jar. Descriptions of a barbaric process which is painful and undertaken fully conscious. 

The reality couldn’t be further from the truth. I do not like ECT and I am terrified before every treatment. But it is now a clinical and controlled process only used where clinically indicated. 

On ECT days I do not take any medications in the morning and am nil by mouth. A nurse or HCA takes me over to the ECT suite about 9-10amish with my thick ECT folder. We wait together in a pleasant sitting area watching TV until I am called through by one of the ECT nurses to the prep room. There I am settled into a trolley and all my observations taken. As always my pulse is high. My nurse/ HCA is with me throughout as memory tests are checked and then I am wheeled through to the ECT room. There a cannula is inserted and jelly and monitors stuck to my temples and forehead. An oxygen bag valve mask is placed over my mouth as the anaesthetic and muscle relaxant are injected. I quickly lose consciousness. The next thing I know I am waking up in recovery with a cracking headache feeling woozy. Because I am not drinking or eating I always awake to a bag of saline being pushed through. I am slowly re orientated and then taken through to the recovery sitting room where I have the option of a cuppa and something to eat. Whilst in the sitting room my obs are repeated multiple times before I’m taken back to the ward by my HCA / nurse to sleep and have my obs continued. And then that’s all repeated a few days later. 

If I’m honest, I hate ECT. I do not trust that it will work and I hate being unconscious. Then there’s the side effects- memory loss, headaches, muscle pain, disorientation and fear. But neither is it the draconian torture method so frequently projected.