I was hospitalised for Anorexia Nervosa Part 1; The lead up

I never thought that it would happen, but here I am having just been released from an eating disorder ward. The last three months have been a blur that I would rather forget, but I am sharing my story in the hopes that it may help someone.

My eating disorder has been a part of my life for all my teenage years and now has made its way into my adult life. The two main risk factors for developing an eating disorder, though we know they definitely aren’t necessary, are being a girl and in the early teens. Combine this with being a perfectionist and having a chaotic home life, I never really stood a chance.

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My weight fluctuated greatly throughout my teens and I crossed the line between OSFED, anorexia and bulimia nervosa many times. Most of the time I was still able to ‘manage’ it on my own, or at least I thought I could. It wasn’t until I finished high school and turned 18 that things got drastically worse.

I struggled through my first year of university and in the beginning of my second year my weight dropped drastically, to the point where I was physically and mentally at risk. Looking back, I should have been hospitalised at this point, but I stubbornly pushed myself through the semester with twice weekly physical checks and weekly bloods. I was falling down, unable to concentrate, my hair was falling out and I looked awful but I couldn’t acknowledge it. Eventually, as a result of my depression, my eating took on different extremes and I gained a lot of weight back as a result of a severe and lengthy binge and purge cycle.

A year later, in about March of this year things took a turn for the worse again and while in a psychiatric ward; I stopped eating and drinking altogether. Being in this particular ward was traumatic for me for many reasons and I believe was the reason for the severity of this relapse. I still have nightmares about it to this day. My weight once again reached the low it had been the year before and soon the dehydration lead to ECG and blood abnormalities. This is when I was made involuntary, had an NG tube inserted and was transferred to a medical ward.

The week I spent in a medical ward was awful. I was bedridden, had a special nurse watching me at all times, 24/7 nasogastric feeds, daily ECGs, constant bags of fluids and electrolytes and supervision that included toilet visits and showers. The ward was a locked medical ward that meant I could not leave and I was kept awake by the machines beeping and the 5 other patients (many who had dementia) in the same room as me.

During this time I gained a fair bit of weight back and at a rate that was traumatic. My body was changing too quickly and yet I still wasn’t eating. At the same time, my outpatient team were hurriedly trying to get me a public eating disorder bed, a hard feat in Australia as there are scarce few available.

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In the meantime, I spent two weeks in a youth psychiatric unit where the non-eating-disorder trained nurses tried to manage my declining mental health and eating. I was given meal support, but usually for only one meal a day (lunch) and by the occupational therapist who had experience in eating disorders. She was my saviour during this time. After two weeks I was discharged and put on a community treatment order so that when an ed bed came up I would have to take it. This was necessary at the time because I was still refusing help.

Barely a week later, and a month after I had the tube in, I gained access to an eating disorder bed in a public hospital which is where I’ve spent the last 7 weeks of my life.


Part 2: Inpatient life

Suicide warning signs from a survivor

Disclaimer

Before I get into this I want to put a disclaimer here; this post is solely based on my own experience and may or may not relate to others. It is far from a complete list and it’s important to acknowledge that many people who attempt or commit suicide do not show any signs and also that displaying any of these does not mean someone is thinking of hurting themselves or suffering from any sort of mental illness. But I’m writing this anyway because I think it can be helpful to be aware of what to look for as an outsider and also within yourself.

Regardless of everything else, any talk or behaviour of suicide or self harm should be taken seriously.

The background behind this post

Once during a really bad spell I decided to record what was going on for me using the beyondnow app (available here). At the time it felt pointless because surely I’d be able to remember and notice when things were going downhill? Well it turns out sometimes it’s hard to have emotional permanence and your cognition when you are suicidal is often significantly impaired which means you aren’t thinking straight. This list is helpful because I’ve been able to look back at it when I think I’m doing okay and realise that maybe things aren’t great. Maybe they are slipping. Maybe it’s time for me to reach out.

The list

Disturbed sleep. One of the first things that I notice is that I can’t seem to sleep during the night. I toss and I turn but I can’t get my mind to switch off and this can easily escalate to the point where I can’t cope anymore. Dispersed amongst these periods are for me days at a time where I do nothing but sleep. Insomnia or hypersomnia are common symptoms for many people.

Decline in self care. I’ll go from showering every day to a week passing before I’ve even touched my hair. Leaving me feeling disgusting and horrible but without the energy to do anything about it. Which is hard when I know showering is exactly what I need to feel slightly better. It’s disgusting but sometimes I can go days without remembering to change clothes or brush my teeth.

Increase in negative coping skills. I find myself engaging in behaviours such as self harm or binging and purging in search of any sort of relief. Some people turn to alcohol, drugs or just general reckless behaviour.

Agitation. This doesn’t always happen and sometimes I experience the complete opposite but it is common for me. I get this restless anxiety within me both physically and mentally. I feel the need to be constantly moving or playing with my hands. My thoughts become loud and racing. This is usually the point where I need help from someone whether it be medication or increased support.

Feelings of guilt and worthlessness. I mean nothing and my presence is merely hurting people. My head tells me that everyone would be better off without me.

I feel like I’m being weighed down. Like there is something pressing on my shoulder and stopping me from achieving anything.

Cleaning. I have at times been known to go through all of my possessions throwing things away so that I don’t leave too much mess behind for other’s to sort through. My thought process is that I want to make things as easy as possible for them. This has also sometimes meant printing out photos into albums so that my family will only have good memories of me.

….and yet

Despite all of the above, sometimes there are no signs. Sometimes I have a clear plan in my head with a date and method, sometimes just a method and at other times everything is impulsive and decided in the moment. There is no certainty when predicting suicide, it is not an exact science. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth trying.

For those of you that have been suicidal or depressed or had thoughts of hurting yourself it’s worth working out what some of your signs are. If you can work them out then consider letting someone know and asking what they notice as well because sometimes other people are better at noticing these things.

And for those that know someone who may be struggling or who are worried about someone, look for if they are doing or saying anything out of the ordinary. And most importantly; ask. Ask if they’re okay. Ask if they want to talk. Ask how you can help. And if they don’t want to talk just remind them that you’re there and then keep reminding them because sometimes if there’s a small chance that it can help then it’s worth it.

I’m falling backwards

If I’m honest, 2017 isn’t shaping up to the year I had hoped it would be. The last few weeks have been rough and unfortunately I’ve found myself deep in depressions grasp again. I’m not really sure what happened or how things got this bad this quickly but I haven’t been very well and I feel like I’ve lost any sense of direction.

In late January I was hospitalised  in a medical ward for a few days following an overdose and was then transferred to a youth psychiatric hospital where I stayed for about 4-5 days. I’m currently home and have been for a few days but am still finding things extremely difficult. I’m not sure if I want to accept the help being offered to me or where I want to go from here. Putting it bluntly, I’m not sure if I want to be alive.

So much has happened in the last year but I feel just as stuck as ever and I don’t know if I can see things ever getting any better.

This is a short post because I’m obviously still struggling and I don’t think negativity is a helpful thing to put out there but I don’t want to pretend things are all sunshine and rainbows when they’re not. Things are bad but I’m trying and taking things day by day.

I have just had my birthday and turned twenty which is a pretty big achievement. I didn’t expect to still be here and I think that’s part of why things aren’t great right now. Getting older is hard because it means I’m still alive and still breathing but I am proud of myself for making it this far and it needn’t be scary.

I was meant to go back to university early but being in hospital has meant that I’ve had to postpone that and will now go back at the end of February for the start of semester 1 with everyone else. I’m hoping that returning will help motivate me and give me something to work towards, I just hope that by then I am well enough to study.

I hope you’re all doing well and I will post more when things improve but right now I need space and I hope you can understand.

Keep hanging in there everyone, better days are coming.

-S

2016; The year that was

,The year. The worst year. The year that was the worst year so far.

January-

My weight has declined rapidly. I am in the depths of my ed but I cannot see it. I feel amazing. Depression is nowhere to be found.

February-

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I started falling all the time

I am forced to have twice weekly physical check ups, weekly therapy and blood tests in order to stay out of hospital. I see a dietician for the first time but don’t stick to the meal plan because ‘I’m not sick’. I struggle with turning 19. I am miserable.

March-

I return to uni against everyone’s advice and do well for a while but it’s difficult and I can’t concentrate. I am isolated from my peers by my illness. Inevitably I  gain most of the weight back, leaving me full of self hatred. I stop my meds. Stop talking to people. Stop going to appointments. Start skipping classes.

April-

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Depression roars it’s ugly head. I throw everything into study.

May-

I start on medication #2 (escitalopram) and sleeping pills again because my head is too loud. I recommit to therapy. Almost exam time and I become incredibly suicidal. I don’t study because I don’t plan on sitting them. I’m failing my classes. My exams are deferred.

June-

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Admitted to an adult psych ward. First time in hospital and I’m terrified. Everyone is so much older and I feel like I’m making everything up. I am kept physically safe but there is no treatment. Out after a week but nothing feels better.
July-

 

I get to vote in an election for the first time. Struggle through exam time. I’m not getting better. A culmination of things lead me to taking a large OD and ending up in hospital. I have a bad reaction to a medication they give me, and hallucinate but then I wake up the next day and I’m fine. Covered in bruises from being restrained, but fine. I’m glad I don’t remember this. Have to have my heart monitored in hospital for a few days. I am angry at being alive. Have to defer uni. The pressure eases.

August-September

I spend these months holed up in my room miserable and wishing I was dead.

October-
I am stopped from making another attempt and am transported to a youth ward. The nurses are lovely and the patients are kind but being locked up without my normal coping mechanisms causes me to stop eating.  I trick everyone into thinking I am fine. But when I’m allowed out after a week I really do feel good. Strong. Maybe I can do this.

November-
I’m starting to feel better and positive about the future. My meds are working and I’m seeing my friends again. Things are great.

December-

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Coasting along. Starting to make plans for next year. Didn’t think I’d still be here. I’ve stopped taking my meds again but I feel happy and stable. For the first time in a long time, I am hopeful that things might get better.

Storm clouds break

Suddenly the world seems a little darker, a little sadder.  Nights stretch into weeks and weeks become years. The flowers that once grew their roots in my lungs have been painted with the salt in my tears. My heart keeps skipping beats, I think it’s preparing for it’s last. Let this end. Let me end. Let this end me.

Songs that play like sobbing sound better, coffee as my sole meal of the day tastes better and what’s the point of getting out of bed when I’ll just be back in there tonight?- Lora Mathis

People get so frustrated with depression, as if we should be able to overcome the chemical imbalances that we have no control over. They secretly wish we’d just ‘get over it’. But what people don’t get is that depression doesn’t care.


The above is an excerpt from my journal from a few months ago. It’s an insight into what was my state of mind.

The past 6 months have seen me experience the worst moments of my life. I reached rock bottom and then fell even deeper into a hole that I couldn’t crawl out of on my own. I didn’t want to live anymore and I did the only thing I could do which was try and make it all stop. I couldn’t see things getting any better. But I was found and treated by some amazing paramedics and medical staff and I am still here. Not long after, I ended up being hospitalised again, this time in a psych ward, and it was there that I met some of the most lovely nurses and patients who showed me more kindness than I knew to be possible.

I’m still not illness free and I’m not sure that I ever will be but I’m doing significantly better and I’m starting to move on with my life. I will not let this period of darkness define me. Medication makes my depression manageable and I’m no longer ashamed to say that I rely on pills to keep me alive. I’m now thinking about volunteering and going back to studying and I’m planning my future.

I plan to have a future.