patient support group: embarrassment

first time i’ve ever journaled my experience of my hospital patient support group, but i really think it’s worth it. For context, it’s a two hour session for any current or former patients at my ED service regardless of circumstance to come together and talk about their struggles. It’s organized by two paid facilitators, both with lived experience of EDs and now fully recovered. One of them I believe was actually a patient on the ward.

everyone there feels like.. i feel like i will remember these people and that room many years from now.

We talked a lot about feeling embarrassed. Blue hair woman who has been very quiet for the last few weeks – to the extent that I’ve been worried and almost frustrated with with her for holding back – finally spoke up. She brought up feeling different and inferior, because she felt like most people in the room struggle with restriction, whereas she has ‘the opposite’ problem of bingeing and purging. Several of us were quick to reassure her this is not the case, and then the room opened up about a range of things we felt made us different and less than, and scared of judgement. It felt so strange to me to think that there could be any way in the world she would feel inferior. After all, she is so much smaller than me. The weight-restored woman was very down this week, particularly about looking healthier and people not expressing as much urgency over her meal plan as they may have done in the past. I tried to tell her that I believe her, that nothing about her would ever make me question her struggle. I also told the room that I feel isolated, and how some of my own cowardice in recovery is feeling like gaining weight will deprive me of the only space to which I feel like I tenuously belong. We also talked about using our loved ones as sort of life rafts or anchors in recovery, to the extent that can end up quite controlling. I was almost shocked to hear blue haired woman describe eating with her brother as a sort of musical piece that needs to happen in total synchronicity, or else she feels the need to reject the meal and reject any semblance of caring about it. I made a few parallels with my own relationship with R and particularly the very nascent stages of recovery where I would get upset about him eating faster or slower than me, and also being very disturbed if he needed to sleep when I needed to eat, or conflicted if he missed a meal for any reason. It made me think of how angry I got last time he brought some of my favourite foods over without my explicit blessing – not because I was expected to eat everything but because there are things about sharing food and eating with other people quite apart from the food itself that I do like, that I do crave/miss and are so hard to fit in and around my disorder. I made the room laugh on several occasions and this week more than any other week people addressed me directly or cited something I said before launching their own thought process. I felt very happy. Suddenly all the lethargy and desperation and fear was gone, and I felt completely present in the room and able to listen and contribute and learn something. When the two hours were up I felt a pang of sadness, but then coming home and writing this makes it all feel less effervescent, atomised and weird. I will never forget that little room. Maybe the first room in my recovery.

Body in a bottle

It’s been a long time since i’ve updated this.

I went through a kind of dark patch and I don’t really remember it. Everything kind of lost meaning.. I got stuck in a limbo between illness and recovery, stubbornly hovering around the same weight that I was first diagnosed at as a child. I think that number is important to me because I associate it with a kind of purity. Being the good anorexic: low-restriction, orthorexia, 2-4-6-8 (mostly without the 8). No animal products of any kind, no processed food, no cooking except steaming, no seconds of the 1 cup non dairy milk, no milk in the oat meal, no sugar, no salt, no sweets, no booze, no energy drinks, no drugs, no smoking, no gum, no nothing.

Everything was ‘cheating’ and everything was toxic and evil and evidence of my laziness and weak will. I was impulsive and secretive and volatile and dissociated. Now, I am all these things but I have developed new traits: I am controlling, highly-strung, obsessed with order, symmetry and hygiene. I am mean and sarcastic and hyper-critical. Nothing is ever good enough, everything is not worth the effort. I wish I was someone else, I wish I could abandon this shell. I want to ditch this body, and with it the anorexic cage that holds my mind hostage. I want to crawl out and into someone else’s shell, make home in their softer body and warmer personality. Someone who sees the world for what it is, not the caricature of their anxieties, perceived failures and fears. I wish I could package my soul into a brown envelope and give it to a bird to take far, far away from here, into a different country, a different life. I wish I could survive like a message in a bottle slipping from the dying hands of a castaway. I want somebody to find me, to rescue me, to tell me I don’t have to fight it all alone because we are going somewhere with clean water, with fresh sheets, with ale and people and bread and work to do and a place to fit in, to contribute, to be.

***

But nobody can save me and I keep clutching onto those that are trying to help with the frenzied force of a drowning man fighting for life and pulling you down with me. Down, down into the breathless gut of the earth. Life crushed into slabs of stone with tectonic indifference.

***

SOCRATES: And if they can get hold of this person who takes it in hand to free them from their chains and to lead them up, and if they could kill him, will they not actually kill him?

GLAUCON: They certainly will.