Yes, I’m back to counting. I used to keep track, but the last time I did that was over a year ago now. At one time, I managed 80 days. But I always eventually failed. And then I got to failing each week, failing every few days, and then failing every day. Again. It’s not new to me.
Once I was back to daily drinking, I quickly stopped being concerned about sobriety. I was content to let it become unmanageable once more. All the destructive coping behaviours piled in, and over a few months I was back to drinking, cutting, over-using medications, and starving myself.
The anorexia was new though. I’d gone through spells of not eating in the past; at times of stress or deep depression. But those only ever lasted a month or so. My current problems with food started about a year ago now. Anorexia has, just like the other addictions, become unmanageable.
Yesterday I had to go for an assessment at the Eating Disorders Unit. My GP made a referral about six weeks ago, when he realised (after some pushing from my therapist) that my BMI was unhealthily low and things weren’t improving. I went along with it, because I’m under pressure from people who care about me.
I know I shouldn’t be starving myself. I know I shouldn’t be losing more weight. But it’s pretty much the only thing that gives me any real satisfaction lately. I feel a sense of achievement when I manage not to eat for a whole day, or when I step on the scales and I’ve lost a bit more. Conversely, I get very distressed about gaining weight. I had a panic attack a few days ago because I thought my jeans were a little tighter than last time I wore them.
I am aware that all of the above is the illness talking and I know this kind of thinking is dangerous. But I’m hooked. I’m addicted and I don’t want to give it up. Since being in hospital recently, I’ve made a big effort to stay clean, sober and avoid cutting. I’ve coped without those familiar and soothing strategies for 20 days now.
But I can’t give it all up. I can’t get myself to fully commit. I love the self-destruction too much.
I don’t feel that there are other ways to handle my feelings that would work as effectively as harming myself. I feel better about myself if I don’t eat. I feel I’m doing what’s needed. Plus, I get a bit buzzy from not eating enough and that’s an addictive feeling. It definitely beats being full of anxiety all day long.
Despite these feelings, I did attend the assessment and I was open and honest with them. I gave as much information as I could. The women assessing me were both psychologists, and they seemed knowledgeable but also compassionate. I was dreading having to go into my history, explain my family situation and dredge up the abuse.
But after I mentioned trauma, they actually asked whether I’d feel OK telling them what happened. No clinician (other than my therapist) has ever asked that. They usually just dive straight in and it feels brutal. The fact that they asked made me feel less afraid of sharing my story with them. And afterwards, they gave five minutes or so to tell me how awful it is that I had to experience that and let me know they could imagine how hard it was for me. They also thanked me for telling them about it and said they could appreciate how difficult it must be. That was another first.
So I left that assessment feeling drained (90 minutes of answering personal and sometimes pretty embarrassing questions) but also thinking that if I had to get treatment, I’d feel alright about working with them. I have no idea what they might offer, and they haven’t given a diagnosis. They’re planning to discuss my case with some colleagues and I should hear from them on Monday.