Team Recovery is ALL about sharing RECOVERY stories, we all know suffering, we all know the pain an eating disorder brings, we don’t always need reminding of this, but we do need to remind ourselves, we can break out of the most complicated entrapment.
This is Kate’s recovery journey…
“Have you eaten anything today” There was no need to respond, no answer was required, the consultant already knew the answer.
I hadn’t eaten that day. I hadn’t eaten that week. I hadn’t eaten much of anything for years. I was 17 years old. And I was dying.
Orchard Ward, Cheadle Royal Hospital, Manchester. The ward designated for ‘children’ – being under 18 meant this was to be my ‘home’ whilst I worked towards being let lose in the real world once more. I’d say work towards recovery, but in all honesty, I didn’t want that – there was nothing wrong with me, I had no reason to be in hospital at all. Orchard was full of a wide range of characters; a 16 year old male suffering intense withdrawal symptoms from heroin, a plethora of girls using severe self harm as an outlet for their pain and a couple battling eating disorders. I was adamant to eat and get out as quickly as possible, especially as they seemed to think I needed a wheelchair to go about my daily life. A completely inflated reaction to somebody convinced there was nothing wrong with them. Days, weeks and months went by; enduring test after test, sleepless nights as the ward suffered disaster followed by disaster and witnessing things I’ll never forget – self harm, suicide attempts and defiance to follow hospital rules.
However, eventually, many months later, I was free to go. Free to go back to my old ways, back to how my life was before I’d been sent to hospital for no apparent reason. This way of life seemed sustainable, as I cut myself off from the doctors, the scheduled weight check ups, therapists and all the team in place to support me. I completed my A Levels, catching up on the work I’d missed whilst in hospital, achieving top grades allowing me to go to university – proving I didn’t need food. Bangor was the place for me, all the while eating the bare minimum to keep me just about alive.
I loved Bangor life, the friends, the studying, the place and the freedom. However, I hated me. A hatred which came to a head after a trying few months of heartbreak, loss and despair.
Once again I was sat in that chair, “have you eaten today” – again no answer was required. I didn’t eat, I didn’t know what a normal diet was, I didn’t deserve food. My destructive patterns of years gone by hadn’t stopped, yet this time I knew this was wrong and something had to give.
My flirtation with anorexia that I had cultivated for the majority of my childhood had almost instantaneously turned into a full on love affair. My eating disorder became everything. It was my best friend, my confidant, my harshest critic, yet my most loyal companion. I ruined actual human relationships in favour of anorexia. I pushed people away. I lied. My eating disorder was an abusive, controlling liar. And I loved her.
Now I found myself sat on a blue chair (Oh how I would grow to hate those chairs!) having my bloods taken as my second eating disorder hospital admission got under way.
Why, after all the years, did I volunteer to go to the one place I had gone to such extreme lengths to avoid? Because if there is one universal truth about eating disorders (and there aren’t many) it is that they are exhausting. And I was tired. I was tired of starving. I was tired of being cold all the time. I was tired of putting on a happy face. I was tired of life.
Hospital felt like a better option that dying. I was slowly killing myself, quite literally starving myself to death. Picking up that cutlery for the first meal time was almost an out of body experience – I painted on my smile as I studied the fork. I couldn’t believe where I was, what I was doing and struggled to envisage the next few months. After the meal I sat dejected on the comfy chairs in the lounge – ‘speculating’, no fidgeting, no moving for one hour after every meal. The girl next to me, a frail looking blonde, accidentally nudged my arm. I couldn’t believe I was here, and other people were too.
The 6 months I spent as an inpatient were the best, and worst, of my life. Getting blood taken at 4am every day wasn’t fun. Standing in line in a paper dress to get weighed at 6am wasn’t fun. Being watched by a nurse whilst you ate your meals wasn’t fun. The mental torture of feeling like a prisoner both in your own body, and in those hospital ward walls, was draining. But I did laugh, and I did make friends. I did learn what it was to live a life where food isn’t the dictator. I did start finding me.
I’m now in day care and each time I see the calendar stating October, I find it hard to believe I’ve spent the whole of 2012 at Cheadle Royal Hospital, to varying degrees. Be it Aspen Ward or day care, I’ve seen those grounds every single week. However, those 6 months on inpatient changed everything.
I didn’t walk out of those doors, for the last time, completely cured. I am more aware of my difficulties, conscious of my struggles, stronger in my faith and more than ever, grateful for my friends and family, who I owe so much to in my continuing battle. I am learning to be me, finding my feet in a world that feels brand new.
It has been 4 years since my first hospital admission. I am still in touch with some of the girls from both stays in hospital. Some have struggled and gone back, some haven’t. Some are training to be nurses. Some are married. And sadly, some are dead.
Anorexia nearly took me out of this world too. And I hate it for that. I used to have so much respect for anorexia, now I couldn’t hate it more. It may not be easy and I am left with scars to last a life time. But I’m alive, and will be for a good while longer. I have a job, amazing friends, I’m going to get a degree, and I’m generally a happier person than I once was – both inside and out.
My mission is to raise awareness for eating disorders, to stop the stigma, end the misplaced assumption that they are a diet gone wrong and to show eating disorders can, and will, be beaten.
The soul always knows what to do to heal itself. The challenge is to silence the mind.
We love this piece of creative writing by Bridget Posluszny-Levenstein, shared via the Team Recovery Facebook group. Bridget wrote this 10 months in to her recovery, after suffering with anorexia for 26 years, proof that recovery REALLY is possible, even after two decades of suffering.
We hope you can relate and be inspired too. Thank you for sharing Bridget.
Our Recovery Garden
Each one of us has a garden within us.
After battling a severe eating disorder for 26 years I now realize that the garden of healing has always been there-i just chose to not enter the gates. Many times I was tempted for I’d put my arms through the gates and feel the warmth that flourished within. I spent years searching for a key that would fit so I could go in that garden and heal my struggling child within. The child within dreamed of toys and books and faires and motherly angels to hold me.
A few times I got the key in the gate but it never opened completely to allow my fraile body to enter. Then about ten months after my son was born, and 26 long years of struggling I found the key that fully opened the door to my healing garden.
As I entered my garden I found abundant sunshine and warmth. Peaceful flowing fountains and streams were surrounded by large flat rocks waiting for my creativity to paint on them or step over them in a pattern only I could remember. The sun shone brightly always yet there were amazing bright stars shining in the shade of the healthy trees with warm green leaves. There was warm sand to burry my feet or build a sand castle where I could imagine I was the princess I knew I was inside. Beautiful music played endlessly with happy tunes. There were bountiful books to read to my giggling son who I held in my arms. Wed bask in the sunshine laughing and singing. No one could enter the garden but us as my son was the key-only I could hold. I’d see people surround my healing garden but none were able to enter for they had not the special key to open the gate.
Ten months have passed and each and every day I know that my garden is always there with sunshine, warmth, music, water and love. I just close my eyes-it’s always been there it really has, I’ve just finally found the key that allowed me to fully enter and enjoy the healing available to me inside!