Since I’ve been undergoing the recovery process I faced a lot of challenges and hard work. I work with a team of 3; a psychologist, dietician and a support worker.
Our first aims were to stabilise my blood sugars so that I could drive again and that meant eating more regularly. Before this I wouldn’t eat during the day. I’d have breakfast and then nothing in between until teatime. But that came to wreck my metabolism, which Is why (on top of being on anti-depressants) my low-calorie diet wasn’t making me lose any more weight. Which frustrated me greatly.
When I first started to try and eat during the day I didn’t increase my daily intake, I just shifted things around. I started with a few grapes on the hour, and a yoghurt the next hour and some jelly the next.
Our next aim was to increase my vitamin D levels, which would help repair my metabolism and help me get the right nutrients from the food I was eating. I originally did this with one half of a small Petit Filous yogurt.
I took each of these steps very slowly, I’d been going to the clinic for 3 months before I even attempted to make any increases to my diet; I actually ended up losing weight and getting back down to a lower BMI than when I started – a sign my metabolism had started working.
Over Christmas I made a small promise to myself to change things, so I bought a tin of mini cheddars and a box of Christmas chocolates. Having extra food like this, specifically for Christmas, reminds me of when I was younger and around Christmas we’d have LOADS of nice food around to pick at. To begin with I didn’t open either of them. Then one day, I did it. I tried my hardest to not count the mini cheddars in with my daily intake. I managed it. Over Christmas I was able to increase my calories by around 200 without counting them and I think this really helped me make progress in my recovery. I hadn’t started restoring weight at this point, though and the aim of my team was to get me to a healthy BMI, somewhere above 18.5 but ideally 20.
Each week I increase my calories by 70 and have a day where I eat around 200-300 calories more overall. With every increase I’m faced with stomach pain and discomfort. My stomach isn’t used to having such a constant amount of food.
I see my psychologist every week to discuss my feelings toward food and restoring weight. It’s never a positive feeling on my part. Recently, as I have now begun to restore weight, when I weighed myself at home the number had gone up – as I’d expected, but it was too much for me. Even though I was underweight, I felt too heavy, too out of control and too overwhelmed. I began crying hysterically and went into my dressing room, I grabbed all of the pills in my pill box and poured them all out in front of me. This was it. I was sick to death of my life. If I couldn’t keep a low weight, I couldn’t keep anything in my life. I didn’t want my life. I was ready to overdose.
My attempt was cut short.
My boyfriend found me and threw all the tablets down the toilet. I’d gone to a newer place of self-harm or suicidal thoughts; this place was a lot more real. Whilst throughout this recovery process I have self-harmed a lot – I cut my arms frequently, smash my head of the walls and doors and scratch my face and pull my hair out, this was the first proper attempt at ending my life. I didn’t succeed. Whilst I’m going through this recovery there are more times than not where I wish my boyfriend hadn’t found me and that I’d gone through with it.
My psychologist is actually referring me to additional help for those behaviours and thoughts and that just reinforces the amount of help on offer to me.
One of the other things I have to challenge in my recovery is my relationship with exercise. When I first started going to the clinic I was trying to burn 1200 calories a day and was spending 3-4 hours inside my house, stepping on the spot to ensure I’d hit 34k + steps a day. My psychologist has described my relationship with exercise as a form of OCD; it’s so imperative to my daily routine and it keeps my head safe. Along with the steps I was also jogging for 1 hour and a half a day, if not more.
I’ve taken months to get to where I am now but I only jog for 73 minutes (yes, nice and odd number) and I don’t go over 30k steps. My exercise is more purposeful now, too, as I walk to and from work instead of walking on the spot at home.
Anorexia recovery is by far the hardest thing I’ve endured in my life. My feelings about restoring weight are constantly conflicting; I need to restore to be healthy and able to live a longer, fuller life. But Anorexia tells me to stay light and in control and that food isn’t necessary for a good life.
Exercising and challenging OCD is bloody, bloody hard. I can’t begin to describe how imperative my routine is to my life. It would probably be better to ask my boyfriend or my mam about it and what happens if anything gets in the way of my routine. It can bring about self-harm, crying or lashing out. It can ruin a whole day.
I’ve learned that I need to be selfish. I need to eat every 2-3 hours, and if that means saying ‘stop. I need to eat’ then so be it.
In the last week alone, I feel like my diet has improved dramatically – for me anyway. I had a sandwich for lunch yesterday; proper bread, egg mayo, no calorie cuts and it was hard for me to do. I always have a fear of ‘I’d enjoy something else more’ or if it makes me feel too full. I hate that feeling of fullness because of how my IBS makes my tummy sometimes.
I now have pasta with my tea too, whereas this time 6 months ago my tea was a plate of veg. That was it. Now it has carbs, protein and fats on it and looks almost like a normal tea. It hasn’t been so balanced in years.
I get extra and uncounted calories from my mini cheddars and cereal – something I’ve never really done before in my life. I used to be so strict that I wouldn’t even accept 1g more of cereal or something else that I’d weighed out – because I weigh out most of my food.
Even more odd for me is that I drink milk now, albeit soya milk light, but still I’m drinking milk. Never before would I ever dream of drinking something that has proper calories in it, but the protein content and vitamins level in Soya Milk are quite beneficial for me.
Also, I now eat a FULL bagel thin as a ‘snack’ and part of my daily intake; originally, I’d never have gone near bread during the day, or at all, so I started slowly with half a bagel a day and now I’ve managed to get it to a full bagel. It was difficult. It really was, I didn’t want to start eating more carbs or fuelling my body, I wanted to starve and stay as I was. Challenging the change is an awful difficulty that can only get easier with each day, but I don’t believe that challenge or difficulty will ever go away. Food will always be the angel on one shoulder and devil on the other.
I’m nowhere near finished my recovery, my weight is slowly restoring, and my energy levels are slightly better, but I’m still very fatigued and I still have awful stomach cramps. All the while my head just feels very conflicted over it all. There’s certain things I won’t allow myself to do still – like go out for a meal or eat with others in a new environment and don’t even think about giving me something without nutritional information on it. I’m working on it though. I still weigh out my morning porridge, the filling of my newest addition to my diet – a sandwich, and anything else that I can weigh. It might fall into a scope of OCD, but I know it does and I know it’s a way of making things less stressful for me but it’s still a form of restriction. I hope one day I can eat a bowl of pasta or porridge and not weigh it out, but for now that one is firmly stuck and cemented in my head.