5 years ago: December 2006.
My struggle with anorexia (that's binge/purge subtype by the way) was about to elicit a response from services that I hadn't quite counted on.
Over ten years into this disordered journey and, finally, the pro's were about to play their trump card:
Section 3 under the Mental Health Act.
At the time I was residing in a flat within a housing association's complex for homeless young people. I had lovingly furnished my living space over 2 or so years. It was my home. My security.
I had access to a keyworker who worked in the little office just across the courtyard.
I had considered myself so very lucky when, on discharge from my last inpatient stay at the local eating disorder facility I had been offered the flat.
In truth, on discharge I was far from being in any way recovered. That much was clear to see. Physically I was little better: still a rag-bag of bones and skin. Psychologically I was just desperate to get out of the unit and rid myself of months worth of anxiety I had been storing up. So yes, pretty much two years of desperate bingeing and purging followed. My weight fluctuated between stupidly low and dangerously low. I kept diaries throughout this time and reading them now takes me back to some very dark and terrifying moments in my life. But still, I would have swore blind that it was better this way. Better to be living away from family; to not burden them with my problems. That my parents had to witness me wither before their eyes in the knowledge that, lawfully, there was little they could do to prevent my deterioration, well, yes, I struggled with this. But in my struggle with such guilt and self-hatred I turned further towards the eating disorder for comfort! I withdrew from life; not wanting to be seen by my loved ones. Eventually not wanting to be seen at all.
Alas, by the end of 2006 I was beyond the top end of the "young" criteria (being then 27 and the residential complex being for 16 -25 year olds). The wheels had been put in motion for me to move on. I was waiting for an offer of a flat in the "real world".
As I was trying to come to terms with the fact that I was going to have to give up my little flat; my place of safety; my hidey-hole, I was in the throes of some fierce daily eating disordered onslaughts. The stark reality is that I was dying.
I remember my consultant trying to cajole me; to reason with me. I remember a meeting with my parents at which it was said, bluntly, that if I continued this way I would be dead. I'd had multiple admissions to the general hospital for ridiculously low potassium, dehydration and all the heart problems that go hand-in-hand with these imbalances. I'd had seizures (leading to a diagnosis of epilepsy), acute kidney failure. I was truly knocking at death's door, and no doubt he was going to be opening that door very soon.
Did I listen? Well, yes, I did. Then I got anxious and terrified...and turned to the one thing that I knew would block out all the terror: bingeing and purging! For crying out loud!! I could not get myself out of this...I felt horrified that I was doing this to my parents. The guilt, the guilt..oh good God. And yet, still..bingeing and purging and trying and trying to ease this emotional maelstrom! I was possessed. In my head I knew what I had to do..but in the moment I needed to do it, oh God, I was blinded by this torrential emotional onslaught. I could not see...
Which brings me to December of that year. I was a wreck. My electrolytes were, again, wildly off kilter.
I was admitted to the general hospital yet again and placed on IV fluids to correct the abnormalities. Yet again I was discharged back to my flat.
I stumbled in through the front door, feeling bloated from the drips (a dehydrated body will sup up fluid like there's no tomorrow, because, frankly, if it didn't there would be "no tomorrow"). It was not uncommon for me to stack on a gain of 7+lbs during a three day stay at the hospital. All fluid.
Having not eaten at the hospital I was famished. I remember it was late as I peered into the fridge, desperate for food. A pack of "fresh" chicken. A couple of days past it's "use by" date, but..meh. I gave it a good roasting and it was added to the epic binge that I had been dying for (ironically..and there's more of that to come: irony) whilst captive in hospital.
I ate and purged into the early hours of the next morning. Until I could barely see what I was stuffing into my mouth, let alone move to gather and prepare more food (if indeed there was any food left anyway).
I retreated to my bed, depleted of all energy.
After an hour or so (I cannot be exact) I stirred from my deathly slumber. And so started another assault on my ragged body. Food poisoning. Wave upon wave of dry retching until I thought I might end up looking at my internal organs spilling into the toilet bowl. And then...from the other end too..Oh yes, it was a fucking mess.
Hours passed and I sat slumped beside the toilet, occasionally jerked into movement by my innards violently reacting to the abuse they had endured. How I managed to get arse-over-loo each time that it was required...and didn't shit my pants I'll never know.
Amazed at still being alive and with an easing of the spasms that had had me glued to the loo over the last few hours, I crawled, like a wounded animal to my bed. This would be the last time I would be in my own bed for a very long time....
*Sigh* You know, it's tough going trawling through the depth of these experiences. I need a cup of tea..and a cigarette (I know, I know..my bad). I'm finding it difficult to keep myself from adding some incredibly dark humour to this. But, for me, I want this to be an acknowledgement of how bad it can be; a reality check. I don't want to laugh at this. I can only get so close to death before it snaps it's jaws around me. I don't want to be dislocated from the facts by humour, a tool I use all too readily..