“Sometimes the right path is not always the easiest one!”- My experience Inpatient…

I am sat here at Huntercombe Hospital writing hopefully my last blog post as an inpatient. So, I thought to myself what a perfect time to write about my experience of being admitted.

My time since being at Huntercombe Hospital Cotswold Spa has certainly been the toughest journey of my life but with the company of other patients and staff to wind up there have been many funny moments shared too.

I am so thankful for what all the staff have done for me and also how the other patients have been so supportive. But I also cannot wait to be discharged and finally live my life… without the strict hospital rules

  • No bathroom privacy (toilet and shower) until no longer at risk of collapse
  • Post meal obs till earned back privilege
  • Constant check (5, 10 or 20mins)
  • No walks or when weights stabilizing maximum of  20min walks
  • Set time limits to eat
  • People watching you to check your breathing whilst you sleep
  • No internet access or iPhone
  • Meal support
  • Having to empty pockets if staff suspected hidden food
  • Room searches
  • And constant note documenting of everything you have said and done

Yes, in a way, without this I would never have even begun recovery and be where I am today, but when you reach a certain point, going on longer home leave and at a healthier weight it gets extremely frustrating not being able to do everyday things like making a drink or going out in the garden for fresh air on your own…

The things that I once took for granted, I now appreciate so much more. Yes, it sounds cliché, but “you actually don’t know how much you love something until it is taken away from you”. I never thought I took things for granted because I have always been a thankful person but this experience has really opened my eyes to what I have and how lucky I am to be alive.

Anyway enough with my inspirational speeches….

I will explain to you an average Tuesday in hospital, what I now consider worse than a Monday – (WEIGH DAY – aka: RISKY TUESDAY!)…

  • Wake up 6:30 get in the lift for weigh in
  • Blood Pressure taken sitting and standing and temperature recorded
  • Strip down, get body mapped (record any bumps, scratches, bruises etc..)and step on scales to see the dreaded number
  • Leave the room crying with regret
  • Go upstairs and helplessly try to gain a few extra minutes sleep before getting showered and ready for breakfast
  • BREAKFAST 8:30
  • Collect what I needed for education
  • Crawl into education after a lot of encouragement from staff and a stern word from the teacher
  • Stare at the same magnolia walls for hours trying to figure out an excuse to leave the room.
  • SNACK! 11:00  No not the break from education I was looking for.
  • 11:15 back to education
  • “Oh no i need the toilet” (gets escorted by staff and watched closely through a gap in the door)
  • Walk back to education finding any distraction possible to avoid returning (the fish tank, chatting to the lovely receptionist or hiding till found)
  • Get told off for having my legs crossed under the table (apparently its bad for your health?)
  • LUNCH 12:30 yes another half an hour of shoveling food and listening to the same old songs on the radio
  • 1:00 Arts with the therapist… the best part of the day! (Making dream catchers, painting etc..)
  • Return to education arrgghh!or if you’re lucky PILATES!
  • Care planning – where the doctors decide if you can have leave, walks, trips out and also discuss issues (basically a room full of people integrating you)
  • SNACK – and finally the end of education, thank goodness!
  • 1 hour of post meal obs (not allowed out of the sight of staff)
  • Cause mischief with the other patients or scrapbook
  • Walkies! Time out in the boring village of Broadway
  • DINNER 5:30 – wow this food reminds me of how much I miss my mum’s cooking
  • 1 hour post meal obs
  • Chill and watch tv
  • SUPPER! Same old meal plan…..day in day out!
  • Go upstairs for meds
  • Watch the staff as they try to calm everyone down and get us to behave
  • Watch TV – usually some crime programme about Luton – (near my town)
  • Refuse to go to bed
  • Eventually go to bed
  • Repeat the same routine on Wednesday

In short EAT, SLEEP, MEDS, REPEAT! Or boring long days, revolving around food with no escape of focusing on Anorexia. It wasn’t fun but it helped me. It made me discover more about the reasons behind developing an eating disorder and find new techniques to cope with situations. I have learnt a lot about myself through this experience and although I am nowhere near recovered I am a lot better than I was.

A strange thing about being an inpatient and one of the questions a lot of people would ask is if it is really a good idea to put a group of people suffering from anorexia together? With the risk of competition being a trait in the illness I understand why people ask this. However, In my opinion it was really helpful…

  • I realised I was not the only one struggling with what others see as simply just eating
  • I could talk openly  (something I never did before) about how I felt with people who understood me
  • I managed to rebuild my social skills with my worst nightmare pre admission being living away from home with a house full of people
  • I have rebuilt my relationships with family and friends
  • I have realised how much is a normal amount to eat (something I didn’t know before)
  • My trips out to cafes made me realise it was normal to eat in front of people and treat yourself occasionally
  • We had group therapy (which although usually consisted of therapist telling us to “externalise the eating disorder and draw it” whilst we drew a frog and named it Jeffrey we did help each other through our different struggles)
  • And lastly the fact that all the control was taken away from me so anorexia had no influence in decisions really helped me move away from it.

Knowing that a few months ago I had no choice but to go inpatient and now I am at a stage were I am going to be discharged in two weeks just makes me reflect on the experience as a whole. Yes, inpatient was the last resort but it has benefitted me more than anything. I’ve gone from a girl with no motivation to recover to a girl out enjoying life and eating ice-cream. I think this just shows you “No matter how low you hit there is always a way up!”

Love Kirsty xoxo

“Faith is taking the first step even when you cannot see the whole staircase”

Recently I have returned back to school after spending many months in Anorexia treatment. The prospect of returning was daunting and left me with a huge amount of anxiety. I know for definite I am not the only person this affects whether they have, like me, been off sick, away for a while or just the daily return. So I thought it would be a good idea to write a guide of how to survive going back to school and coping in a different environment….

I had delayed going back to school for a while before I eventually plucked up the courage to agree, with my school teacher at the hospital, to give it a go. I cannot pinpoint one specific thing that scared me about returning, but would put it down to multiple things.

  • Having gained 3 stone
  • Feeling uncomfortable with my body
  • Going back to a place I was last in when very ill
  • People knowing where I had been
  • The fear of unhelpful comments “you’ve gained weight”…etc
  • Places reminding me of old routines
  • The amount of people who could ask questions about my absence
  • And lastly the inability to hide if things were to become overwhelming

I’ll be honest, the longer I left going back the more anxiety provoking it became and I knew that one day I would have to eventually face it. So instead of running from what I was scared of I dived straight in.

The morning of my first day was incredibly difficult, body checking, changing clothes, thoughts of wanting to hide away in bed and skip my breakfast so my parents wouldn’t send me. But I thought through this and managed to prepare myself and begin my journey to school.

The walk was difficult, to say the least. With having walked a specific longer route which would take anywhere from 2-3 hours previous to admission. Excessive, yes, but it was especially bad as it contributed to me missing lessons – something I would never have previously wanted to do.

But I was stronger than that now and although I still had the compulsive thoughts although I ignored them and instead turned up at school on time. The walk up to the gates left me with a horrible feeling in my stomach and I began to over think. I carried on to my block, quietly absorbing the familiar surroundings with heightened emotions. When I hit the corridors the sudden rush of pupils became too much and I started to feel like everyone was looking at me and noticing my weight gain. I felt disgusted of what I had become and wanted to hide too.

My sister and best friend noticed something was up and took me to my school’s safeguarding teacher’s office to calm down. It really helped and my teacher helped me put things into perspective, I felt reassured and able to carry on. It was the little boost I needed to gain my strength back, and use my resilience to focus and remain positive.

It was not easy and for most of the day, internally, I felt anxious but externally I remained happy and got on with what I needed to. I stayed for 2 hours and was then got picked up by my Nan and Grandad.

I had survived!!!

Looking back a couple of weeks, on having spent my first full day at school this week I Can already see how far I have come. I no longer feel anxious about people asking me questions and instead of hiding my recent experience I am able to openly talking about it.

I shouldn’t have to hide behind a cover story – it just isn’t necessary. I am proud of how far and who I have become and will not hesitate in sharing my story. After all hiding it is just giving into the stigma.

Yes, things aren’t perfect and haven’t gone as smoothly as I would have hoped but my resilience to keep moving forwards is still there. I have done things that, not so long ago, I would have never dreamed of doing;…helping out with sports day, in science lessons, eating at school (first time in years!), speaking in a meeting to someone external who helps run our school and lastly telling people when I am beginning to struggle so it doesn’t get out of hand.

I can’t say I don’t find it difficult, even now, but the things I used to perceive as huge challenges are becoming smaller goal. I hope to continue this building up of my confidence next year when I return for Sixth Form.

I want to get things right this time and prove to everyone I can and will get over Anorexia however long it takes….

But please don’t forget, whatever your struggles are however big you see your problem is, until you face it won’t disappear. I promise it will get easier, maybe not straight away but eventually. Just take things one minute at a time, because yes some days have started badly for me but that didn’t mean the rest of the day was awful…

Remember… “Faith is taking the first step even when you cannot see the whole staircase”

LOVE Kirsty xoxo

“The thing I thought I was in control of had control of me!”

One of the hardest things I have found whilst struggling with mental illness, is to tell the people closest too me what’s really going on. This is not because I have never trusted them but because I was afraid to admit I was failing. I didn’t want to fail my family, being the daughter that causes unnecessary stress and worry. I didn’t want them to have to look after me, especially with being the eldest child. And I didn’t want to appear weak.

But this is where I went so desperately wrong!

With having suffered from an eating disorder for many years, in different forms. Last year I had started to “recover?”, well kinda? I was eating slightly more (not enough) and exercising less. I managed to use the motivation of getting through my GCSE’s to pull me through and even though I was still unwell, I was in a lot better place than previous months.

However towards the end of the summer holidays things became increasingly difficult. I started restricting and exercising more. At this point it was the ideal time to have mentioned that something wasn’t quite right but instead I brushed it off and pretended everything was ‘fine’.

“FINE”, my most frequently used word…

But all was not ‘fine’ and things started to slip, I would walk for hours on end, would eat very little, exercise excessively and get rid of my food in any way possible. Looking back now, by this point, just a month on from when I started to realise I was struggling ,I was completely consumed by Anorexia. I wore baggy clothes and scarfs, got in my pyjamas when I got home from school and used ankle weights round my waist when being weighed. I could no longer reach out for help because simply I didn’t want too.

I believed losing weight was the only way to happiness, to feel comfortable and gain control over certain aspects of my life.

I was wrong!

The more weight I lost the more I felt isolated and alone. It was horrible. I had reached that certain point when you are no longer in control – just a slave to Anorexia. I was trapped in a living nightmare but if only if I had reached out and told someone at the start, they could have helped save me…

It was too late, I was digging my own grave.

Fortunately, I was admitted to hospital – although at the time it felt like the complete opposite. Looking back it was truly the only thing that managed to detach me from Anorexia and set me on the road to discover who I am again.  

That being said, some people aren’t always as lucky as me with 10% of those suffering from an eating disorder in the UK dying. Yes, I myself never believed I would even end up in hospital but it happened. Also having spoken to other people with Anorexia or similar illnesses they also never thought it would happen to them either. As though it something you hear about but would never happen to you. But I think this just shows that if you or someone else doesn’t recieve help it can happen to anyone..

So please, my best advice is to reach out for help before it is too late. Dont suffer in silence however small or big you think your problem is. After all you wouldn’t hide a broken leg, so why should mental illness be any different?

Anorexia is not an Illness of the body; but an illness of the mind!

Last week I was driving back to Huntercombe Hospital with my Mum and Dad. About half way the car started making a terrible noise and lights where flashing on the dashboard where they weren’t meant to. After about an hour and a half of chugging along we finally convinced my Dad to pull over (Stubborn I know!). The car then refused to start-up again…

We where about 10 minutes from the hospital on top of a steep hill and it was beginning to get dark so we decided to ring up the hospital. When eventually finding signal they said they would send a taxi…

I was nervous about getting in the taxi on my own but had no other way of getting there. But when I got in it was an old lady who had come especially out to get me and she was still in her pyjamas, this made me feel more relaxed. She started to speak to me just general chit-chat which was nice….but then she asked me a question.

“Your not a patient are you? You don’t look anorexic, I mean you’re not fat fat but…”

Bam…. she had awaken the demon anorexia and invited her back into my life. She crippled me in them few seconds, making me feel unworthy of help and a fake. I felt not good enough and started to feel sick. I was fat she convinced me and I had to do something about it.

I carried on the conversation with her politely replying “I am but I’m at the end of treatment so now weight restored”. I felt as if I was sinking and when I got to the hospital I began to cry. I then gained the courage to go inside, after sitting outside the door for a while.

I hid my emotions well and told one of the nurses what she had said. He broke it down for me and allowed me to think rationally. He told me that she did not mean I was fat but I just did not look like a new admission and said she should not have said anything to me about it anyway. I tried to see this but anorexia had suddenly become so strong it was hard to think straight.

I struggled for the next few days in hospital till I eventually fought it away and saw it was not worth dwelling on as there ar far more important things in life.

I thought this shows that just because I am now no longer 3 stone underweight I still struggle with the same thoughts and the only difference is I am fighting not to act on them.
I need to work on finding and avoiding triggers and I might explore this in a future post – noting down things that people say that can be unhelpful during recover….. But one thing I have learnt from this experience is that anorexia is  certainly a mental Illness that doesn’t disappear when a person is eating and at a healthy weight.

My Recovery Bucket List…

So I thought this would be the perfect time to share my recovery bucket list, especially as discharge is now on the horizon. This consists of both challenges and goals to complete to help beat Anorexia….

I would advise anyone in recovery or just in general to create one of these because I’ve found it really helps with motivation! You could create one to help you get out and about more, overcome an illness or just for things you’d like to complete!

I have divided my list into both short-term, long-term and life goals. The short-term goals are of things I would like to complete this year in recovery and the long-term are of those I want to aim for.

Some of my bucket list might seem like everyday things to others but for someone suffering with Anorexia it can be hard to carry out these. For example if someone asked a person without an eating disorder if they wanted to go out for coffee or dinner, the only concern would be if they had time or what to wear. However ask this question to someone with an eating disorder it has a whole different effect consisting of overlapping intrusive thoughts…

“Too many calories”

“Your losing control”

“What will you eat?”

“It will make you feel worse”

“Fat”

“Restrict”

“Everyone will think your greedy”

“Fat!”

Yes, it sounds ridiculous written down but when this is stopping you from thinking straight and creating a hazy fog over your day, it can be quite distressing. But that’s why beating this illness is so important to help silence it.

So this how I am going to do it….

Short term goals

  • To get physically healthy from anorexia
  • Costa coffee
  • Eat on my own
  • Relax for a whole day without exercising
  • Attend school for a full day
  • Eat out with friends
  • Make dinner and actually follow the ingredients list
  • Spontaneously eat something without a pre plan
  • Maintain my weight after discharge
  • Order what I ACTUALLY want at a restaurant
  • Have a picnic
  • Give advice to others
  • Take away
  • milkshake out
  • Popcorn at cinema
  • Pick and Mix (one of my biggest fears)
  • 99 flake from ice cream van
  • Nandos (never been)
  • Go camping (never been) and toast marshmallows
  • Pass my driving test (missed my test in hospital)
  • Swim (because who cares what you look like in a swimming costume!)
  • Raise awareness
  • Try a new food
  • Waffle house
  • Survive a full week at school
  • Follow my meal plan for a month without skipping or restricting
  • Help/ give advice someone else struggling
  • Go to the gym without over doing it
  • Stop unnecessary walking for a month
  • Survive my Holiday to Zante
  • Stop comparing myself to others
  • Discharge from Huntercombe Hospital
  • Run on my own without over doing it

 

Long term goals

  • Finish my A-levels (had to retake the year because of hospital)
  • Run in a charity race
  • Intuitive eating
  • Complete the colour run (I missed it in hospital this year)
  • Skydive or bungee raising money for BEAT
  • Run a 10k
  • Ride in a hot air balloon
  • Go to America Disney next year (I missed it also)
  • Accept my body and myself
  • Watch the new year countdown in London
  • Take part in eating disorder awareness week

 

Life goals

  • Fully recover from Anorexia and be finally at peace with myself
  • Go to university
  • Run a marathon
  • Get married
  • Start a family
  • Become a doctor
  • Help others

 

My goals  might change and some short-term might have to move to longer term. But at the end of it I still want  accomplish the same thing

“To have lived life to its fullest and not just EXISTED in the shadow of Anorexia…”