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.
Thursday – Therapy appointment
A man stops me as I cross the road.
“You look very calm,” he says.
“Erm… thanks?” I’m not sure how to respond.
“Can I ask what do you do to stay so calm?” he asks. I notice the stack of books under his arm. I look around and am suddenly aware that he is one of several people milling around on the high street, all holding a collection of books. He’s probably selling me religion.
“Sorry,” I say, “I’ve got to go.”
As I walk away the encounter makes me laugh to myself. I wonder if I really do look calm. I feel anything but calm. I have just left my therapy appointment, and am beginning the long walk home. I know it’s further than I should be walking, but I need the time to clear my head. It had been a strange appointment.
It began well.
I recounted the story of my achievement on Saturday night and my therapist looked through my completed food diary, and pointed out a few occassions where I had successfully challenged myself. My food diaries were a little more honest this week than they have been before. She questioned me about the missing snacks, and too-small meals. We talked about my fear of being weighed.
“Shall we get it out the way then?” she asked, indicating the scales, sitting unobtrusively in the corner of the room.
There was a long silence after we sat back down.
The little digital screen had betrayed my secret. Revealed the extent of my weight loss over the last seven days. It’s wasn’t exactly a surprise to me, but my therapist seemed a little unsure of what to do next.
My frustration must have been palpable, because she tried to reassure me.
“You are doing well,” she said.
“I feel like I’m pushing myself as much as I can, I work so hard all week, challenge myself, force myself through all that anxiety but it doesn’t make any difference. The changes I make are just so small. I don’t know how long I can keep going like this for.” The frustration spills out of me.
“You are doing so well. They may only be baby steps, but they will accumulate, and your weight will begin to show it. And think of your other achievements. You have stepped out of your comfort zone several times this week, each time you do that, you are increasing your tolerance for anxiety. It will get easier each time you push those boundaries, and you will start to see improvements.”
I reflect on those words as I trudge home. I know she is right. I am just struggling so much to motivate myself to get better. I wish I wanted to get better. But if I’m honest, I don’t. I know that I am missing out on life. No 24-year-old wants to sit in her parent’s house all day, watching everyone else lead their lives, with no life of her own. But the allure of the eating disorder is too strong.
I have little moments of clarity, a fragile flame of light dancing in the eternal darkness of anorexia, when I wonder why I am doing all this. Why don’t I just eat a bar of chocolate when I want one? Or eat a meal with my family? But those moments don’t last. With a quiet hiss anorexia extinguishes the flame. And I return to wanting to restrict, to exercise, to lose weight.
Much of the rest of the appointment centred around how we can challenge this ambivalence towards recovery, and I leave frustrated at myself. I want to want to get better. I don’t want to be stuck like this for the rest of my life.
We parted on the agreement that I would give some thought to the goals that I want to achieve over the upcoming months.
I want to visit friends, I want to enjoy a meal at a restaurant, I want to get a job… the list of possibilities are endless.
Somehow, from deep within myself, I need to muster up the strength to keep fighting.
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!)