“The end goal of your eating disorder is death”.– T
Thursday, the eleventh of June, two thousand and twenty:
I’ll never forget the feeling that shot through my body as I stared at the piece of paper in my hand. My eyes frantically trying to follow the words on that shaking page, my body and hands were still trembling from the events of the day before. The piece of paper was my first ITO (Involuntary Inpatient Treatment Order) and in the centre it read my official diagnosis. After well over a year and after eight months since seeing T for the first time, there it was.. on paper.. in black and white. For the first time my diagnosis was real. I’d heard its name a hundred times, I’d researched it and sat through many conversations surrounding it. But not once had I ever seen it printed on a piece of paper, identified under my name.. surely this isn’t me?
“Severe Anorexia Nervosa, requiring refeeding together with deliberate self harm and suicidal ideations”.
Before we get ahead of ourselves, lets take things back to Tuesday, the ninth of June, two thousand and twenty:
I’d contemplated taking this back to the third of June where admission was addressed in every second sentence, where I cried for T to give me just seven days, just one week. Or even further back to the twenty seventh of February which was one day after my second admission and also the day everything began to plummet. I could go back further and further but for the purpose of this post I will begin on last Tuesday morning.
The sun had just risen when my phone went off, I wasn’t surprised to see T’s name light up because she’d contacted me daily over the prior five days. However when I opened her message I knew what was to come; she was attempting to reschedule our session from four in the afternoon, to nine in the morning and knowing her there is only one reason for why she’d do that. Admission. We exchanged emails for two hours, dancing around what was so blatantly obvious but it wasn’t until my mom and I were having a coffee by the sea, that T bluntly said “please just come to me with a packed bag in your car at nine am, we will talk to mom later”. In all the months I’ve known her, she’s never given a straight up answer around admission until that moment. I remember my hands began shaking and my mom could see I was tense but I said nothing. I suppressed my emotions, pushed admission to the back of my mind and as the day went on, I slowly worked my way through my to do list; washing.. bathroom deep clean.. pack suitcase.. pack away embroidery things.. prepare for my brothers 16th.. etc. By four in the afternoon the self destruction came knocking. I decided to take a final trip to my bench, the same bench I’ve sat on through this season of my life. Upon arriving at the beach I was ready to breathe and reflect whilst sitting on my bench overlooking the sea. Moments later I was crying, sobbing in fact.. the one time I needed my bench the most, it was not there. It was gone as if it had never existed. My bench was gone and so was my defence against the self destruction which then took hold of the reigns. I began to run as fast as I could until I fell. I continued to throw myself down the gravel stairs that were held up by old wooden planks. I fell forward into wooden fixtures and into the branches of bushes. I needed to feel a pain that outweighed the emotional uproar inside of me. I picked up a sand covered rock and scraped it against the side of my cheek over and over until there was no more skin, proceeding to then throw it as hard as I could against my skin. It wasn’t enough, I still needed to feel. Picking up a piece of wood I’d found, broken from the stairs, I hit it against my skin until my hand was cramping from the tight grip I held it with. I then returned to my car where I sat and cried heavily before driving to an abandoned building that I sometimes visit. There I paced up and down with my hands shaking, my heart pounding and my lungs working overtime. I needed to calm down, I needed to feel more physical pain to numb my insides. I opened the boot of my car, took out an empty gin bottle and a cigarette. I proceeded to smash the glass bottle as I screamed, only to moments later cry whilst picking up the pieces. Sitting in the corner of the room with my back against the broken graffiti covered wall, I lit a cigarette and inhaled as deeply as I could, as if the smoke itself would take with it all my emotions upon my exhale. Distraught I burned my wrist over the already raw burns from before, I could feel. Driving home I practiced a smile and once I was in the bath I cut myself again and again and again. I knew this would be the last time for a while, I knew the devastation I would cause tomorrow and I needed to be punished. I was a wreck and I’ve never been more ashamed to recount my actions.
Wednesday, the tenth of June, two thousand and twenty:
My family and I woke at dawn to celebrate my brothers sixteenth birthday, the two of us took a photo together and I wished him good luck on his test. We all parted ways at quarter to eight and I embraced a final goodbye with my familiar surroundings. Hopping into my car I had an hour before I needed to meet T. I turned the sad music up as loud as I could and I drove to the beach. If I was going to spend my final quiet time anywhere, it would be over looking the sea. As the months have passed, my quiet time has become a traditional event that takes place an hour or so before any appointment with T; its my time to breathe and prepare for the standard hour or two long, emotional sessions. By the time I was parked overlooking the sea, the tears were already well and truely flowing. My body was riddled with anxiety that felt like someone holding their hands over my mouth and nose, preventing me from breathing. I was filled with sadness, shame, fear, guilt, apprehensiveness, denial, anger and so much more. I couldn’t do it anymore, I couldn’t bare to feel. I knew what laid ahead of me and I could only imagine the pain I was once again going to cause for my family. I couldn’t do it, I couldn’t feel all the emotions. I thought maybe if I was numb then nothing wouldn’t matter anymore. It wouldn’t matter how my mom reacted when she found out I’d been deceiving her all this time. It wouldn’t matter how my brother would feel when he came home excited to tell me he passed his learners test and drove to school for the first time, only to find I wasn’t there. It wouldn’t matter how anyone felt and they would cry, they would feel, but at least I wouldn’t feel anything. At that moment I began to swallow all the pills that I’d accumulated over the recent months. Handful, after handful, after handful. I knew it wouldn’t kill me but I stupidly hoped that it would at least numb me.
Over the drive from the beach to T’s office, a blanket of guilt came over me. I had only ever made two promises to T. The first promise was made on the seventeenth of march, two days before I planned to commit suicide; T had found out and that day I gave her my word that I wouldn’t do it. That is one promise I’ve lived to regret. The second promise was made only recently because you see, on that seventeenth of march I also gave to T a collection of pills that I’d planned to use and a week or two ago she returned that collection to me but asked me to make a second promise; I promised I wouldn’t overdose. All these months keeping my word to T has been the only thing stopping me from ending my own life, yet there I was driving to meet her after breaking one of those promises. I suddenly wished it would kill me and my crying intensified. As it neared half past eight I was pulling into a parking behind the building. I went to reception, checked in and took a seat in my usual spot to wait out the last half an hour. I soon began feeling sick and went to the bathroom but I couldn’t throw up so I left and took a seat again. Five minutes later I found myself awkwardly walking as fast as I could to the bathroom where I began throwing up. My body began sweating and I felt so hazy. I reached behind me to grab my phone and braced myself with one hand over the sink, my back against the wall and my legs squatted beneath me. I immediately phoned T, it was quarter to nine. There was a pause between when she answered and first spoke, I could tell she was hesitant. She would later tell me that the moment she saw my name light up, her heart began to pound and she knew something was wrong. My shortness of breath must have given it away, she said my name a few times before I found the words to ask if she had arrived yet. Thankfully she was parking her car as we spoke so I managed to ask her to meet me by the bathroom. She soon after found me lying on the floor in a horrible state. She helped me to my feet and walked me to her office where she sat me down to discuss what happened. I was crying and could barely speak but explained what I’d done. She asked if I could lie on her bed but I said I needed to throw up so she gave me a bag and pointed to her sink. I couldn’t imagine myself throwing up in front of her so I fought it, but not two minutes later I was hunched over her sink while she read the letter I’d written for her. I collapsed in a heap under the sink and cried. Sobbing, my body shook while I rocked myself in a fetal position. I felt so much shame. With my voice breaking I kept asking T why she wouldn’t just let me die, I told her it wasn’t fair and begged for her to absolve me of my promise to her. T quietly left the room, closing the door behind her. As she did my mom sent me a photo of my brother who had just passed his test and received his learners, I cried even more. I would later find out about how heartbroken and angry he was when he arrived home from school to find I wasn’t there. I cried for a while longer before T returned. Upon her arrival I expected anger or frustration or anything to justify what I’d done and the things I’d said to her. The response I received was nothing in comparison; love, unconditional love, a love far beyond measure. Placing two warm cups of tea on the carpet before me, T knelt down beside me, extended her arms and softly whispered; “Come here my dear”. She set aside everything; ignoring covid, looking past the fact that I’d been throwing up and not holding against me the fact that I’d broken my promise to her by overdosing. Her love and compassion surpassed my flaws. T wrapped her arms around me and tightly held me close, with my head resting on her chest I could hear her heart beat. I was safe. I was safe. I was a mess but I was safe. I ugly cried snot and tears but T didn’t flinch once, she simply held me. As I so heavily cried in her arms, she whispered to me; “it’s going to be okay, I know you’re scared”. My breaking voice told her I was so sorry, only for her to gently tell me to stop apologising because I’m sick and have nothing to be sorry for. There was a long pause while I continued to cry and she continued to hold me close, I then quietly asked her why she stays.. “because you’re special”. Her words were soft and tender, a sense of compassion and a side of her I’d never seen, but in conversation between her and my mother it would later be revealed that she was “mom number two”. Her heart broke for me. We stayed in that position a while longer and as I cried she showed me love, forgiveness and grace. She then sat herself down next to me. The two of us drank tea and I cried while I listened to her tell me what came next. Admission.
The next fifteen minutes were a blur between being in T’s office and arriving at the hospital. At first T had phoned for an ambulance but as she was finalising the arrangements I began throwing up, sweating and hyperventilating. My body started to tremble and she said she needed to get me to hospital that minute. T then cancelled the ambulance and decided she’d drive me instead. She said it would be faster and would allow for her to stay by my side. I was grateful that I wouldn’t be alone, I was so scared. I don’t remember a lot but T led me through the back of the practice and out to her car. She helped me in and drove me to the hospital. Arriving at the hospital I felt less nauseous but overrun by fear and anxiety. I knew this time would be different. The two of us made our way from T’s car to the ED. The wait at the ED was twenty minutes and I expected that T would leave as soon as I was allowed through, but she didn’t. T came through with me and as she walked by my side I heard her say, “Oo this feels like dejavu”.. I looked up to see that the nurse before us was leading us to the exact room they led the two of us to last December. Upon arrival I was given a blue gown and asked to change out of my clothes. Everyone left the room and I took my clothes off, leaving only my bra and undies on. I was still crying and couldn’t for the life of me figure out how to tie the back of the gown so I whispered for T and asked if she’d mind helping me. She came inside to help me. She saw my body. She’s never seen my body before, I’ve always worn oversized clothing to cover how gross and big I am. But there I was, standing and shaking before her, exposed. I remembered back to last week when she told me she’s noticed that my shoulder blades were sticking out more and if she could notice that under all my clothes, I could only imagine what she thought of me now. Nothing was said and as I hopped into bed, T pulled a chair up on my right hand side (Isaiah 41.13). At this point in time its nearing ten and over the next twenty minutes I had nurses rushing around me. I was hooked up to a series of cords and machines, every part of me was monitored. The head nurse asked me many questions and when I was crying too hard, T spoke for me. The nurse asked to see the areas in which I’d hurt myself. Over the last eight months T had only seen my wrist and other visible places. She had never seen my thighs, they’re the grossest part of my body and the part of my body where the men would pull me downward. I hate my thighs. T asked if she should stand outside for the examination but I asked that she stayed. As the nurse opened my thigh on the righthand side I was exposed to T, again. That day T had seen more of me than ever before; metaphorically, emotionally and physically. In tears I looked up at T, feeling so ashamed and she softly shook her head and mouthed the words; “its okay my dear, it’s okay”. The nurse left and I thought T would too. It was then quarter past ten and I was certain she had other patients to see, after all Wednesday mornings were when she was due to visit the old age homes. She stayed seated and I told her she didn’t have to stay, that she could go if she wanted to. There was a pause before she looked at me and said she knows she could go but she wanted to stay. T then took out her phone and cancelled the rest of her morning. I cried, I was so grateful that I wasn’t alone. The two of us spoke about anything, from good gin to books and everything between.
My mom arrived a while later and T had encouraged me to be honest with her. This was one of my biggest fears; mom’s heart breaking once again because of me. As mom sat down beside me, I held the tears back and told her the truth about how I’d been lying and throwing up again for months. She was fighting back the tears and there was a pause. I knew what came next. I looked up at Tania as my eyes swelled with tears. Mom asked what else I needed to say and T told me to just spit it out. The tears began flowing and I felt both of T’s hands wrap around mine. I was safe. I would be okay. I could do this. I turned to mom, told her I loved her and then told her I’d overdosed. The tears mom held back began to flow and she told me she loves me. T reassured mom that I would be okay and the three of us stayed in that little room until ten past eleven, when I was wheeled to the HDU. I was sure T would leave then but surely enough she followed along. The nurses continuously mistook T as my mom so she joked to mine that they were in a same sex marriage, we all laughed. Over the next few days I would receive many comments from nurses and strangers that highlight the abnormal relationship between T and I, comments of surprise to find out she’s my GP; one because the admission letter she wrote for me was apparently filled with love and painted a picture that only someone who knew my ins and outs could paint, another because she stayed by my side, another because they noticed how much she cares. The list goes on. HDU was more quiet than the ED and upon arriving there, T and my mom were asked to wait outside while some tests were run on me. While I was there the nurse said something I wouldn’t soon forget; “Fight as hard as you can, I’ve been where you are and life beyond recovery is so worth it”. Half an hour later they allowed T to come and say goodbye to me, it was nearing twelve and she had a patient to see. I would later find out that she was late to work because she spent forty-five minutes arranging a bed for me and making sure I would be okay and looked after. When T said goodbye, she was sorry she had to go but would be praying for me. She knew my biggest fear was losing her so she reassured me that she isn’t going anywhere and that she’d come to visit me as frequently as she could. With a hug she left and I cried. It was a while before I saw my mom again, she was waiting outside for my dad and they came in together. My dad didn’t say a word and my mom mostly cried. They stayed for a short while and then left.
I was alone in HDU up until being moved to my final room. In that time my OT and Psychiatrist had both come to see me and inform me that I would be kept under a MHA. I would later receive an ITO, alerting me that I would be unable to leave until a team of psychiatrists clear me to go. It was a lot to take in and I felt so hazy, I had no strength to argue so I simply cried. At four in the afternoon I was lead to my room. Expecting to be on the medical or surgical ward as I have been in the past, you can imagine the shock when they led me to the APW. The Acute Psychiatric Ward. Kids in primary school would have called it the loony bin. As the door to reception opened, I was greeted by my head Psychiatrist. A nurse then led me through the next set of heavy duty doors and at once I began to cry. My anxiety was intense and I was so overwhelmed. There were strange people, walking everywhere. Some sitting at a table, others playing loud music from their phones and a few watching the blaring television. I couldn’t do it. This place is a home for some people, this is what you see in the movies. This couldn’t possibly become my reality. My suitcase was sorted through before being given to me and everything with cords was removed (hair appliances and chargers), any objects that could cause harm was also removed (perfume). My room was the first on the right which would later prove helpful in convincing the head psych that my visitors (my parents and T) would be able to visit me in the privacy of my room, when usually visitors aren’t allowed past the corridor entrance. The entire ward was heavy duty and laid out like a prison. There were first the communal rooms; a quiet room, a dining room and a lounge room, a conference room, an examination room, a laundry room and a charging room. Behind all of that was a long corridor with rooms on either side. The rooms were sterile, or ‘clinical’ as T would soon describe it. My room was the total opposite to the rooms I’d been given on other wards. All the furniture was bolted down; a desk, a standing cupboard, a normal bed and a bedside table. There was no hand sanitiser on account of patients in the past drinking it. There was no clock on my wall as patients in the past had thrown it. The shower held no curtin and the bathroom, no railings. The taps had no extension and I needed help to figure out how everything worked. I was told that in the past there had been patients who ripped the railings or taps out and used it to harm themselves and others. These things shocked me, as will many things over the days to come. I felt so overwhelmed that I passed out before six.
Thursday, the eleventh of June, two thousand and twenty:
I’ll never forget the feeling that shot through my body as I stared at the piece of paper in my hand. My eyes frantically trying to follow the words on that shaking page, my body and hands were still trembling from the events of the day before. The piece of paper was my first ITO and in the centre it read my official diagnosis. After well over a year and after eight months since seeing T for the first time, there it was.. on paper.. in black and white. For the first time my diagnosis was real. I’d heard its name a hundred times, I’d researched it and sat through many conversations surrounding it. But not once had I ever seen it printed on a piece of paper, identified under my name.. surely this isn’t me?
“Severe Anorexia Nervosa, requiring refeeding together with deliberate self harm and suicidal ideations”.
Reading those words felt surreal and from then until now everything’s been a roller coaster. I’ve sat through many meetings with different health professionals and it was recently established that for now my stay is a minimum of six to eight weeks. I have shed many tears and felt many emotions. I have witnessed fights and been scared out of my skin. I have had to adjust to life on the APW and to say the least, it’s been difficult. My visitors are restricted to parents only, with T as the one exception. She came to see me for little over an hour on Friday, once I’d settled in. Oh how I wished she’d take me away from here but we all know that this is where I need to be, for now. I’ve spent my days crying, reading and doing a lot of writing. I have two-hourly BSL’s, four-hourly BP’s, daily ECG’s, medication five times a day and the list goes on. I have not left my room or spoken to other people here, aside from speaking to nursing staff and leaving my room once to go to the examination room. I am on bed rest and wheelchair bound.
It’s now Saturday evening, the fourteenth of June, two thousand and twenty:
I can finally stand without my knees buckling and the shaking is almost gone. I will continue to blog and update parts as I can.
– c x