Hi, I’m Hannah
I’ve written this today for anyone currently hospitalised, anyone fighting with an eating disorder and even for outsiders to get an insight into this illness.
I’ve sat in that chair you’re sitting in right now. That chair in a psychiatric hospital in an eating disorder ward similar to this one. I remember sitting here waiting for yet another recovered speaker to come and speak to us eating disorder patients. And I dreaded it. Maybe I had a few bad experiences in my eyes and my mind. I felt misunderstood and like that no-one or this person sitting in front of me had a true idea of what I or we were going through. But I got tired of hearing; “I was really unwell and struggled, then I hit a turning point and now life is good”. And then them listing all the good things in their life.
And I think I now have a clearer idea why I found the talks so unhelpful. So I’m not going to do that today, tell you that story. I’m going to tell you about the MIDDLE PARTS
I don’t claim I am ‘recovered’ by any means. I fight every day for the things that are important to me and fight for the life I want to live outside of a life consumed with and by my eating disorder.
I know right now, that that probably feels like for some or maybe all of you that ‘oh that’ll never happen’ ‘I can’t see a future’ or ‘I have lost hope’.
That you can’t see a life outside of your battle with your eating disorder right now.
You feel and question the ‘why’ and ‘what’s the point?’
That the prospect of recovery feels impossible.
I know for me for a really long time I couldn’t see myself or any life for myself outside of hospital walls. I truly believed that this place, places like these would be the reality of my life for the inedible future.
I had lost hope,
I had lost my fight.
But one day I decided to try something different. And with support of treating professionals and my family, I tried to start recovery from home. Opposed to the hospital setting like this one I had been in and out of for a long time. I was then in an unknown territory myself, but also a world of uncertainty for my family. To be honest none of us had any idea what we were doing, we just constantly did our very best and road the rollercoaster journey every single day. Day in day out and night in and night out.
I worked closely with my professional treating team, which consisted of a psychiatrist, dietitian, a gp and a psychologist.
I had to start from the basics with food, learning to eat again. As the weeks went by I could make changes and set the next goal as directed by my dietician. I can’t stress enough how important it was to have this guidance and support by my dietician to support you through this journey.
I had been obsessed about calories and numbers. I also had to hand over the reins of cooking for myself, as my eating disorder ruled it with rules and the obsession with the calories and food groups. It basically become impossible for me to make a meal anymore. So for a period of time, I was no longer cooking for myself. I ate what everyone in my family ate whether I wanted it or not. And reality was, I did not. Before meals, I’d be crying. I’d experienced panic attack. And for a while this had become a recurring event as I was terrified to come and sit at the table with a plate of food in front of me.
My step-mum, would sit with me every meal and snack day in and day out. And I am so thankful for all the support she gave me during these dark days and her love and support she still gives me today.
After dinner, I’d be back up in my room under my blanket. Sobbing my eyes out and sometimes having another panic attack. The voices inside my head, felt like I was sitting on one side of the door and my mind on the other side of it trying to bash the door down. I’d just wanted it all to stop, for it to all go away.
I know none of that sounds like something anyone would say ‘sign me up for that’ but see not having a single idea I’d go through any of that was actually one of the most terrifying parts. And if you’re still with me right now I thank you and encourage you to stick around for the end of the piece.
Because, as I laid up in my bed, I’d cry hysterically and hyperventilate. Once I’d calm down, I’d say to my step mum “when is it going to get better?” “why is this happening to me?” This very part I am going through right now? I’m tired of hearing about the rock bottom or the ‘I’m recovered’ because recovered feels like not even a possibility right now or ever. “why does no one talk about this part? The part I am going through right now!
And today that is why I have shared this middle part, so if you are going through it right now. I know you feel alone, lost, tired and afraid. I’ve been in this shitty place.
I felt hopeless for a really long time. Alongside with feeling like a burden constantly. And even though I was surrounded by my loving family, my amazing step-mum and a treating team with me for this journey. I still felt so alone, lonely and isolated.
I had to take every day, day by day. Often it would be getting through hour by hour at a time. It hasn’t been easy, and I know some of you don’t have support system of your family. I also know how hard that is, because not that long ago I faced going and living through the torment of this illness all on my own too. Where I literally had no one.
Fast forward to now, I am still actively in recovery. I could revert back to restriction or obsessive exercise, especially when life gets stressful or maybe I’m not coping so well. But I have a choice, and recovery is a choice I make every single day. Some days I fall, some days or even more than a day at a time; I just want to give up and throw the towel in. I can feel tired and over it at times. But for me that’s just a part of the journey. I think that these challenges are going to be there, especially when you’ve had your eating disorder as your security blanket and as a coping mechanism for however long or short it’s affected you. Working in recovery can feel like a full-time job, but it’s a job that is worth working for. Even if right now it doesn’t feel like that.
Those months right in the thick of the storm were some of my hardest, but I am such a stronger, more resilient, wiser, happier than what I was, and although the challenges in my head don’t seem to get much easier, other people around me see a very big difference in the person I was to the person I am today.
You don’t choose to have any illness, nor an eating disorder. And even though life isn’t perfect, smooth sailing or exactly how we’d envisioned it.
Right now, you’re suffering so deeply. And I want to give you hope that you can get better, that life can get better. I am proof of that.
Contributed by Hannah