This week is Eating Disorders Awareness Week. The focus this year is on the importance of early intervention and diagnosis. When I first became unwell, I was fortunate enough to have a GP who immediately referred me to the eating disorder service, and I was able to access treatment very quickly. To highlight the importance of this I am going to blog each day this week, to show the high intensity support that I am currently recieving from the NHS.
Tuesday – Dietitian phonecall
Right on time my phone buzzes into life, violently interrupting my silence. It vibrates angrily for a moment, until the first few notes of the annoyingly upbeat ringtone cut in. I don’t need to check the flashing screen, I already know who is calling. My dietitian. Time for the twice-weekly upping of my meal plan.
Sometimes we meet in person, but the majority of my appointments with the dietitian are over the phone.
“Are you somewhere where you can talk?” she asks, as always. I am at home, standing alone in the late afternoon gloominess. At this time a few weeks ago it would have already been dark, but but the afternoons are gradually lengthening now, as the tentative signs of spring begin to show.
We last spoke before the weekend, when I admitted that I was slipping back, missing snacks, losing my fight. She agreed not to increase my calorie intake, instead giving me the weekend to get back on track.
And I used the weekend well.
“On Saturday I ate a different meal,” I tell her, with genuine joy at my achievement. “And…” I pause, determined to give this anecdote the full drama it deserves, “I ate with my parents! For the first time this year, I did not eat sitting alone in my bedroom.”
“Oh well done! I’m so pleased for you.” For a brief moment I bask in the praise. And then she asks a curious question. “Did you enjoy it?”
I’m stumped. I don’t know how to answer. Did I enjoy the meal? I certainly don’t recall any feeling of enjoyment as I sat in front of the TV with my parents, eating slowly, painfully conscious of being observed. At my suggestion we watched a film whilst we ate, a helpful distraction from the anxiety of a new meal. I have no idea what happened in the first half hour of that film, so focussed was I on eating. And yet now, just days later, I wonder what I was thinking as I ate. I don’t seem to have any emotions associated with eating it. Certainly no enjoyment. But nothing terrible either. It was just ok. It was just a meal.
The crippling anxiety that stops me from eating new food was definitely there beforehand. I remember panicking in the kitchen. I was so close to changing my mind, to reverting back to my safe meal. But I didn’t. With my mum’s reassurance and gentle pushing I followed through on my plan to challenge myself. And as I reflect on it, a few days later, standing in my gradually darkening bedroom, the phone pressed to my ear, I realise that the worst of the anxiety had dissipated by the time I actually came to eat.
As the phone call continues I slowly begin to understand that nothing bad happened because I ate a different meal. I recovered from the anxiety, my weight stayed stable, none of the terrible outcomes I envisage from eating different foods came to fruition. Everything was just fine.
I am learning. I’m feeling positive. The conversation is going well. But I know what is next.
The inevitable discussion about how I am going to increase my intake over the next few days.
But it doesn’t come.
Instead the dietitian tells me I am doing well, and arranges to call me again next week. A whole week away. And no calorie increase. I can barely believe it.
The call ends, and I look down at my phone. The screen returns to black. The intrusion is gone. Silence again. I am back safely in the cocoon of anorexia. But maybe it is just a little weaker. I have challenged myself once this week and succeeded. Maybe I can do it again.
I have an appointment every day this week and will be blogging about each one. Stay up to date and get notification of my latest posts by following this blog, signing up using your email address or following ChickenRisotto on Twitter (or go wild, do all three!)