Everyday we tell stories. Some may be small and nothing more than a retelling of an event already passed, other days they can be epic ones that span whole lifetimes. We change our stories depending on our audience and we omit the things that we do not what to make real by verbalising them. If you rewrite your story enough then perhaps, eventually, it will become the truth. Yet whatever story we choose to tell, or whoever we choose to tell it to, they are all just as important. Each one creating this backdrop for who we are as people. In the end I think our stories are the only things that matter because they are what drives us to keep going each day or to not, they are our hopes and failures and dreams and nightmares. They are all that we have when we lose everything else.
I feel like treatment is for the most part all about storytelling. We look back years ago and try to explain the events that had gotten us to this point or the reasons why we are finding it so hard to move forward. With every step through treatment, you reveal pieces of yourself slowly, trying to make it make sense to you and your team. “Why is it a challenge?” “What happened?” “Tell me about this”. With each question there is a search for an answer and the only way to answer is with a story. I am now at a point where this is now more evident than ever. I am beginning to get leave. Leave is a big deal, it is the thing that makes you despair when you don’t meet your targets and there is a risk of it being denied. It is the carrot that keeps people moving towards a healthy weight when all they want is to crawl back into a hole of restriction. At times, the thought of being able to get out of the hospital for a few hours or a couple of days is the only thing that can keep you going throughout the week. I’ve worked hard to get to this point.
Last night was my first overnight leave. I left yesterday afternoon after lunch and arrived back this evening before dinner. As always when anyone gets back, everyone wants to know about it. They want to know how it went, what you did, did you manage, did you fall apart…and this is where the stories begin to change. So far when I’ve been asked, mainly by other patients, I have said it went well. I saw The Kite Runner at the theatre on Saturday which was stunning beyond words, I stayed at my parents house that night which was just nice compared to being on the ward and then I hung out with my little brother at the cinemas today (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – I recommend it). I smile and tell them it was ok and I wonder if they will see through all the things that I don’t say or if anyone ever will. I sincerely hope not but here is what they would hear if they did…
This weekend was good but it wasn’t good either. The play was amazing but my anxiety was so bad that the only thing that could calm me down and convince me that I wasn’t going to have a heart attack was feeling my pulse throughout the 3 hour long performance. I wanted to let go and focus all of my attention on the sheer genius that was happening in front of me but I couldn’t. Afterwards I didn’t know what to say to my friends and instead ran to my Dads waiting car, seeking a place that was going to let me control my thoughts that were spinning too fast. In the car on the way back to my Parents house, my Dad told me all the things that I was doing wrong from the milk in my meal plan to how my target weight is wrong and I should be 15lbs more than what was agreed. We stopped at the shop so I could buy things for dinner and I panicked after quite some time and just put whatever into my basket that I could see which were mostly pre-treatment things. When we got back the hours between lunch and dinner had stretched for more hours than my body could deal with and as my blood sugars began to fall, I felt sick and shaky and missed my eating disorder more than ever because before recovery I could go for hours without eating and it was fine. During dinner I picked off foods that I felt brave enough to challenge whilst making it but couldn’t quite bring myself to eat in the moment. I missed out the sub pudding. The evening was nice though. I laid out on the couch with no alarms ringing or 18 other women constantly wondering in and out of the lounge. I put on my pyjamas and hooked myself up to the wi-fi connection and told myself that I was normal for now. This felt ok. I was ok. I slept well too and didn’t wake up till 7 this morning. Breakfast was difficult and I walked down to the shop to choose a cereal and then couldn’t decide so once again choose a pre-treatment breakfast. I missed part of the second part of it. Convinced myself that what I had all added up to the same and it was all adequate. I’m still not sure if it was. For weeks I had been looking forward to a bath and I managed to get one this morning which was wonderful and felt amazing but I was not prepared to have to see my body. It felt like I was being stabbed in the chest and I thought about the possibility of how successful drowning myself would be. On the way to my place, my brother had nothing but attitude but luckily once we were alone he went back to his usual way with me. He’s a good kid when it’s just us. There was a plan for us to go to a café for lunch but when we got there and sat down, it suddenly seemed beyond me. More panic, more wondering what the hell I was doing. In the end it was back to the supermarket for a mostly pre-treatment lunch…minus the dessert. I ate quickly in the car because by this point we were running late for the film and then through out the film all I could think was that something terrible was going to happen. When it was over I got back in the car and drove home, my little brothers attitude kicked back in, I smoked out my bedroom when turning on the heating and by the time my parents arrived to take me back to the hospital I was shaking mainly but trying to act as though it was all fine. I was not fine. Coming back was worse though. Sitting down to dinner, engaging with others, smiling, performing, getting changed out of my dress into a t-shirt and hating myself beyond words was definitely worse.
So I am back on the ward and I want to leave again. I want to avoid food in general and minimise my body and not recover. Yet I also want a healthy body which I don’t question and will allow me to live. I am wondering when the guilt I feel for trying to recover or the hate that burns me from the inside will disappear. I don’t know what that answer is.
There are two stories there and both are true. Yet the only people who will ever really hear the second one is you. It seems safer that way, less shameful, less like I’ve let someone down. I know I need to take this to my primary nursing team so that I can deal with it and plan better for next time but I don’t trust them to hear me…not right now at least.
I hope your day has been kind to you.