Last July after a 3 week admission, I discharged myself from a hospital where I had been receiving treatment for my eating disorder. I believed this to be my last admission. I walked out determinedly – desiring, more than anything, to keep myself on track and get on top of the eating behaviours and overexercise I had been struggling with for the last few years. I left there with a solid plan in place, follow up appointments with my doctor and dietitian and a willingness to do what was necessary for me in order to get my life back.
And I did.
For the next 4 months, I stayed well. I continued to follow my meal plan 100%. I stuck to my exercise guidelines. This was the longest I had managed to stay well without relying on an inpatient program, or a day program. I was doing it. And I was doing it better than I’d ever done it before.
But then I slowly started to see things slip. The exercise increased by half an hour, an hour, two. I continued to follow my meal plan, but chose the “safest”, lowest calorie options. I went from using full cream milk to lite milk, and then skim. I cut serving sizes in half. My dietitian suggested I go back into hospital to stop the spiral. I ignored her suggestion. I didn’t want to. I wanted to keep losing weight.
And so I stopped seeing her and I stopped seeing my psychiatrist, and every week I would see my GP and be weighed and have blood tests and every week I would become more unwell. I laughed at my GP when she told me I was going to end up back in hospital. Going back into treatment certainly wasn’t something I intended on doing at any stage. I was going to go back to college, and I was going to continue to spend a third of my day exercising. I was going to continue undereating because the thought of increasing my intake was incredibly distressing, let alone the act of it.
On Christmas Eve, an old school friend messaged me about a girl who was in our group at school. She suffered from epilepsy, and that day she had had a particularly bad seizure. She died. I collapsed into my housemates arms when I found out and didn’t stop shaking for a few hours.
The next day I increased my exercise by an hour.
We went to her funeral a few weeks later, this beautiful, treasured girl who I hadn’t seen in over a year but whom I loved dearly. Her funeral was big, a reflection of the many lives she had impacted in her 24 years. I saw some school friends who I had kept in contact with but hadn’t seen for a long time. I was unwell. They knew I was unwell. My old school teachers knew I was unwell. After the funeral we all stood outside together as some doves were released into the sky and my teeth was chattering and my legs were shaking and I was the saddest I’ve ever been. One of the teachers approached me before I left, hugged me and asked that the next funeral she attend not be mine.
People messaged me, concerned. My dad told me he was scared for my life. My GP told me that she wasn’t going to let me die. And I laughed at them all. How wrong they all were! How silly they were all being! And how much they were all overreacting. Could they not see that I was OK? That I HAD to do what I was? That living in any other way wasn’t a possibility?
I started compiling a list on my phone about what I wanted my funeral to be like, about what songs and bible readings I wanted. Who was to preach, who was to sing. I wrote down all the people who may be forgotten about when it happened. I wrote down what I wanted the sermon to be on – hope and grace. I wrote down that I wanted there to be donuts available at morning tea time. And I wrote down that I wanted there to be sunflowers and yellow gerberas there, too.
I didn’t want to die. But I was beginning to accept the inevitable. I have never felt so physically sore and run down and exhausted in my life. I may not have seen that I was unwell, but I felt I was dying. I knew I was.
Every day was the same: breakfast at some crazy hour, exercise before the sunrise, measuring out my grapes for morning tea. Filling in time with housework, appointments, eating and not eating. Exercise. Coffee. Exercise. Vegetables. Exercise. Sleep. The exact same routine day in, day out. My GP was becoming more and more desperate for me to go into hospital, and I was becoming increasingly determined to stay out. Eventually, my weight dropped into a range it had never been in and my GP did what I had believed to be an empty threat: she scheduled me. She scheduled me and I ran away. I stayed with my parents for the weekend, and the schedule was dropped. I promised to go back into hospital. I DID go back into hospital. Not for me and not for my life and not for my future and not because I was scared of where things were headed – I went in because people who I love and who I care about a lot wanted me to. That’s what I did.
Here I am, 8 months on. I just came out of hospital after a 5 week admission, a little booster to keep me on track. I’m not where I want to be long-term, but I’m a hell of a lot better than I was a year ago. I’ve just submitted two essays for a subject at college, meaning I’ve officially completed the first subject I’ve done in 4 years. I had full cream milk in my coffee this afternoon. I attended appointments today with my outpatient team instead of avoiding them as I used to. I started day program at the eating disorders clinic this week because DAMNIT I want to be well, and I will be. It might take months or years, but I will be. I will get there in the end. And you will too. Recovery is the hardest thing you will ever do in your life, but it will be the most worthwhile thing too. Please trust me on that. It gets better than this.