Trigger – numbers in the first paragraph. None after that though.
These last three months have proved to me exactly why gaining to a BMI of 20 is such a good idea for people in recovery from anorexia. If I’d stopped at 18.5 I’d be in a much worse situation by now. As it is, because I am well-practised in the art of capitalising on the times when I am not feeling sick or stressed beyond belief, I have actually still not gone under a BMI of 19. I was dead on 19 this morning, in fact, when I finally bit the bullet and jumped onto Jonathan’s scales. At 5’5 that means I’m exactly 6lbs off of a BMI of 20, 8lbs less than my highest weight of this year and 11lbs under my more recent self-imposed target. This is not a disaster. We can rebuild, etc.
I’m getting much better at catching myself before things get out of hand. I spent most of last week fighting off much more intense ED/SI related thoughts than usual, but still forcing myself to eat whenever possible (including getting through several gluten free chocolate muffins, my usual calorie-intake-enhancing product of choice). I was feeling really vulnerable and panicky on Saturday night, but writing about it and spending time with Jonathan yesterday calmed me down a bit. I am trying to keep things in perspective. I struggled last week because I am under a lot of stress, and over the last month or so my anxiety levels have skyrocketed and my mood has sunk lower and lower. In the past, every time I’ve relapsed into my eating disorder, it’s always been precipitated by a few months of quite severe depression and/or anxiety. Each time I made a big effort to hang on for as long as possible, but eventually slipped back into the eating disorder because I genuinely felt like I was losing my mind, and restricting made me feel so much more stable and calm.
Last week in particular I have been becoming more and more alarmed by my mood. I keep bursting into tears for no reason (which is a relatively new thing – up until about this time last year I rarely ever cried), and I have been having trouble with an old problem of becoming so anxious that it almost tips into paranoia before I go to sleep. I have been using relaxation techniques and sorting out my thoughts as rationally as possible, but it does get extremely tiring having to police my brain like this. And I’ll be honest – I’m terrified of becoming very depressed again. What’s going on now is moderate compared to how severe the depression has become in the past. If there is one thing that scares me more than dying, it is becoming so unwell that I lose touch with reality and lose control over my mind. I always believed that I would rather starve to death than go crazy, and that is essentially what caused every last one of my previous relapses. I was trying, misguidedly, to protect myself.
Yesterday I felt really awful. On top of the behavioural urges I was having flashbacks as well, which isn’t a very common occurrence these days. I know what caused it and I’m not avoiding the trigger, because it’s something I don’t want to ‘lose’ to the PTSD. It’s already stolen too much from me. But it wasn’t making things easier. I’m worrying about next month already as well – I’m due to move out on November 20th, which is three days before the-day-which-we-do-not-refer-to-as-an-anniversary. Although the remnants of my PTSD don’t usually give me much trouble throughout the rest of the year, so far I have yet to get through late November without the nightmares and flashbacks starting up again. It’s not that I consciously dwell on it, it’s just all the associated triggers for memories around this time of year. I’ll be stressed out enough by moving out, I’m not sure how the PTSD will respond to that added vulnerability.
So here’s my plan. I have several problems, some of which can be dealt with, some of which must be accepted and worked around. I have to move out. That’s fine, I am seeing someone from the citizen’s advice bureau about that tomorrow, and I’m confident that the practicalities are managable. I have to sort out my financial situation. I have people helping me with that too – thank God for the CAB, I’d be lost without them. My mood is low and my anxiety is high. I have an appointment with my GP tomorrow so I can ask for extra help, and I’ve been in contact with a low-cost therapy service in the city to see if I can possibly work it into my already tight budget. I am finding it hard to cope with all of this by myself. Hopefully – although I absolutely will not rely on anyone too much, because that is not healthy – Jonathan will be around a bit more this week, and I do have friends I can talk to. I’m mostly crippled by my pride, in that I am very reluctant to ask for help, in case people look down on me. I am getting quite good at prioritising safety over pride though.
My weight is not endangering my health at this point, but I do want to gain weight. I need a bit of a creative approach to this, because I have developed an absolute terror of going into the kitchen at home. I don’t want to run into either of my housemates. I don’t want to spend any more time than necessary around them because I can’t deal with any more confrontation or stress at the moment. I often work around this by cooking when they are out at work, but one of them works shift patterns and I can’t always predict when she’ll be out. I can’t rely on ready to eat food to decrease the time I need to spend in the kitchen, both because it is expensive and because my allergies make it difficult to find things that don’t make me ill. I eat okay when I’m with Jonathan, but at home I am a panic stricken crazy lady. It’s only five weeks until I can move, but those five weeks could do a lot of damage to my health if I didn’t stay on top of this. Any ideas would be appreciated. This is a situation in which I wish I could afford and was not allergic to many of the ingredients in common supplement drinks, but I can’t and I am, so I’ll have to think of something else.
Oh God, I can’t wait until I have my own flat/house. I can’t do this house sharing thing. Maybe with a friend or with Jonathan one day, but not with strangers. It ALWAYS ends like this – with me terrified to leave my bedroom. Sigh.
Finally, I woke up on Sunday morning to lots of lovely messages of support, and one facebook status in my honour, by someone freaking out and insisting that recovery wasn’t possible (definitely not a coincidence, believe me). I was not happy. I very much hope that no one out there is using me as a negative influence. I am not proof that relapse is inevitable. For a start, I’m struggling but I’m not giving into it, and at any other point in my life this amount of stress would have broken my resolve completely. After three months of frequent viruses, severe IBS, having to move house twice, fucked up finances and very little support it is not much short of a miracle that I have managed to keep my weight in the healthy range. Secondly, I am not every recovering anorexic in the world. I am not some sort of representative for recovery. There are hundreds of people out there who overcome this illness. Fortunately for them, they go on to live their lives, rather than spending all their time online or in treatment centres, so of course we don’t come across them as often as we come across people who are struggling. One day I will be one of them, but if I was as sorted out and stable as I wanted to be, I wouldn’t still have this blog. So please, lets not have any more references to my situation on facebook, even if you don’t name me I am going to notice and be hurt. It’s not very tactful or factually correct to use me as proof that recovery is impossible. That’s utter bollocks and I will prove you wrong. You might want to give me a bit longer than the 18 months I’ve been trying so far though. It takes time to rebuild your life from scratch.