Community Support & Outpatient Therapy · Living with anorexia

Listening through the rain

“So, do you want me to arrange an admission?”

I stare blankly out of the window behind the psychiatrist.   I am aware of his eyes watching me closely. Rain patters gently against the glass. My gaze traces the route of a particularly large rain drop, slowly slinking it’s way downwards, back home to the ground. Non-descript thoughts swirl around my mind and I huddle inside my over-sized hoody, sleeves drawn over my hands.

This is the second time this hour he has asked me that question.  I still don’t know what to say.  I don’t know what I want.

Past the meandering rain drops, I watch a steady stream of people arrive, braced against the February wind, heads down, arms folded.  I wonder why they are here.  Are they trying to make big decisions too?  They give nothing away, those faceless people emerging from the morning mist, seeking shelter from the biting cold.

***

Earlier that morning we had driven from the town where I live, to the historic city nearby. On a clear day the main road that connects the two offers a stunning view, across the countryside, down to the city sprawled out below.  Today the cathedral spires were shrouded in grey mist, clouds hung low, drizzle saturated the air.  The whole city nothing but a dark blur.

We were quiet on the journey, only breaking the silence as we turned off the main road, and into a narrow side street.  The houses here are expensive, old, with cold stone steps leading up to smart black doors.  Neatly pruned flowers arranged in pots offer only a flickering suggestion of life beyond the grey-brick walls.  The houses are tall, three or four storeys reaching up into the mist, and oddly foreboding, as though the high rooftops look down on you, watching, waiting, but never speaking.

“Have you thought about what you’re going to say to him?” my mum asked, momentarily glancing at me, before returning her concentration to the road.

I shook my head.

That’s not true.  I have thought about it.  I just don’t know what the answer is.  From time to time over the last three weeks, since I last saw the psychiatrist, I have wondered whether I should go into hospital.  In the long dark nights, when I lie awake and my chest hurts, my heart thuds and my body shakes, I long for the safety of a hospital, for the security of a nurse expertly observing me.

“I’m just going to see what he suggests,” I finally said, as we pulled into the car park and my mum killed the engine, leaving us with nothing but the sound of rain for company.

***

I like my psychiatrist.  He is a reassuring presence.  In a sea of people crashing around me, shouting, demanding, telling me what to do, he is a solitary calm oasis.  He is quietly spoken, and although I can barely hear his voice over the  sound of rain against the window, he speaks with great authority.  Over the past hour he has patiently explained the options, offered his opinions and listened to mine.  He has answered my questions and gently encouraged and empowered me.  He has sympathised with my struggles, made suggestions, consoled me and rallied me.  His quiet reassurance has given me confidence.  I can keep fighting.  Anorexia will not have a hold over my life forever.

I try to gather my thoughts into some form of coherent sentence and open my mouth.  No sound.  I try again.  Still nothing.  I sigh and bring my gaze back into the room and then finally make eye contact.

“No.”  I hear myself say.  “I want to try at home a little bit longer.”

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5 thoughts on “Listening through the rain

  1. Oh wow, Chicken. Apart from the fact this is a gorgeous piece of writing it’s also a piece I could have written myself about my own situation right now (admittedly though I doubt my ability to have so concisely and perfectly summed up the difficulty in coming to a decision).

    “Non-descript thoughts swirl around my mind”

    Yes! Yes they do. I’ve a feeling that if I could pluck these swirling thoughts one by one from my mind and examine them I would find that each would contradict the next. I don’t seem able to do that and so am instead left feeling overwhelmingly conflicted on the whole outpatient v. inpatient question (as well as pretty much every other aspect of life!).

    I started reading your blog last night and this is where I’m up to – very much a credit to your writing as my attention span is mostly that of a confused goldfish! Much of what you write deeply resonates with me and my own experiences of living with anorexia (23 years and counting..At 37 years old I’m very sceptical of the view that one purely “grows out” of it – but still am ashamed that I haven’t..lots of shame).

    I won’t take up lots of space here but I did want to thank you for so candidly sharing your story. Your honesty is refreshing. How I wish that insight = recovery, for both of us. I swear I intellectualise until the cows come home but to no avail! It really is in the ‘doing’; the slow, stop-start slog; the battle of the everyday/every hour/every minute; the one step forward-two steps back dance of whatever recovery looks like for you.

    Take care Chicken…Keep dancing (as Bruce would say…or sit down and don’t waste energy – as I’m sure our therapists would say 😀 ) xXx

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    1. Aww thank you Rufty 🙂 It is such a frustrating illness isn’t it. I feel constantly conflicted about getting better – do I want to? Is it my fault I’m not getting better? Am I just not fighting hard enough? Or is it because the illness is too strong? I can’t think of many other illnesses that cause such constant mental conflict. Have you done inpatient treatment before? I never have but I am wondering whether it has got to the point where it is the best option for me. You keep dancing too! x

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      1. Morning Chicken 🙂

        Yup, frustration seems to be a hallmark of eating disorders. Along with anxiety and avoidance or, more precisely, the avoidance of anxiety. I see this clear as day in myself.
        And this is where I am re. inpatient treatment. Putting off (avoiding) the anxiety that I know it will cause me. Treatment of any kind really isn’t ‘working’ if it isn’t causing anxiety. Unfortunately I (like most folk with an eating disorder and more generally) am wholly anxiety-averse.

        Firstly – NO, it is not your fault you’re not getting better. This is fecking hard. Harder than hard. You ARE fighting hard. It’s written all over your blog!
        You’re fighting as hard as you can with the support that you have.
        You’re fighting as hard as you can with a brain that is sick which second guesses your every thought and trips you up when you try to outrun it.
        Fact is you can’t outrun it, you have to turn round and face it down.
        See how good I am at intellectualising (also known as pontificating!)? Whoever said “knowledge is power” had never encountered anorexia.

        I’ve been an inpatient more times than I can count (I’d need more fingers-and toes). I’d hazard a guess that the sum of time I’ve spent in units is 4ish years. Accumulated since my first stay in 2003. A year of this was under section.
        On the face of it this may sound slightly preposterous. Particularly given that I’m physically worse than I was when I was sectioned! But, of course, the bigger picture is far more complex than these details can encompass and I’ve no doubt that my life has been saved countless times -despite at the time my wishing it hadn’t been.
        On the plus side (BIG plus) I have met many folk for whom an inpatient stay has been the catalyst for lasting change i.e. ‘recovery’.
        Frankly, reading your blog and getting to ‘know’ you I would bundle you up and cart you off to an inpatient unit right now. I hate to ’see’ you struggling so much.
        Maybe you could investigate your options and have the discussion with your therapist/GP/dietician. Having a discussion and finding out what your local (and out of area) options are does NOT mean you have to commit to any particular course of action. It does though arm you with the necessary information to make an informed choice. I don’t know if you could discuss it with your Mum? I know my Mum is a great sounding board and also how relieved she is when I admit that things have spiralled out of control to a point that I’m willing to accept a higher level of care. She sees the effects of adequate and reliable nutrition on my cognitive and physical state during an inpatient admission. For some it’s this change in cognitive state that seems crucial in that it allows the brainpower required to fully engage with therapy (cbt/dbt etc)…that’s the theory anyway.

        You know, I could bang on about inpatient treatment for forever and a day (the good, the bad and the ugly) but I’m conscious this has already turned into a bit of an essay (need to work on brevity!). I’ll message you my details instead.
        Chicken, please know I’m more than happy to chat/answer any questions /whatever..(with the caveat that any answers will be based on my entirely biased opinion based on my wholly personal experience!).

        Keep on dancing m’ dear (Get. Out. Of. My. Head. Bruce)
        😀
        xXx

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