(Any feedback would be great!)
It's time to share. I am not asking you to do anything, just read and reflect. Take from this what you will.
If you were given three wishes what would they be?
- To be skinny.
- To not feel hungry.
- To be happy.
This was the question asked by a professional in 2012. That was the start of the consultation. Introductions were done and then boom, I was posed this question. From that moment on the consultation spiralled a little. I suppose they were a little taken aback.
That's a reasonable answer isn't it? Back in 2012 I thought it was an entirely logical answer, after all... That's all I wanted. I didn't need anything else, who needs family? Who needs friends? Who needs health? I didn't. I was invincible, I had no issues, I was superwoman, I could work ridiculously long hours, I could put on my front and no one would know the torment inside of me. No one could see a wiggling monster that was part of me. I would reach my goal, I would be skinny, I would not feel hungry and then I would be happy.
I expressed this all the time, everyone knew that I needed to be skinny and not feel hunger and I truly believed that this was an entirely normal thing to want. Selfish. That's what I was called, how could I not care about anyone else? Actually you're wrong, I was not selfish in the slightest... I was ill.
I went along living this life.... Get up, work, sleep, get up, work sleep. I could maintain it... It was me. I was invincible.
I was invincible until the moment I wasn't. I was superwoman until the moment I wasn't. That day came on 20 January 2014. I was no longer invisible; don't get me wrong I still thought I was invincible for months to come. The reality was quite clear though: I had a mental health issue and I needed help.
Up to this time I had been in and out of psychiatric units with anxiety and just general rubbishness.... At one point I thought I may have had an issue with my eating but then I got told my BMI didn't meet the criteria. That squashed that idea and I came to the conclusion that, actually, I was a healthy human being who just needed to be skinny, happy and not hungry.
In January 2014 I started my nursing degree, I thought it was easy... I thought it was easy because I was living in my own world paying attention to nothing around me. One morning I got up for uni and bang. I end up lying on the stairs having collapsed again. Collapsing was a reality of life. A week or so before I had been at an event in London and collapsed in a black cab with a friend and London hospital manager. Yes, it was an embarrassment but I saw no issue. On this morning though, my parents decided enough was enough and dragged me to the GP where I got rushed into hospital.
For the month I was in the district general hospital, I was told that I was bed blocking yet when I tried to leave the ward I was told that I may have to be 'assessed.' There's nothing wrong with me! Why am I wasting a bed yet being kept here? These people are stupid. One specific time I was told that I was wasting a doctors time when I was unresponsive from a hypo. In fact she said 'I've got patients that are actually ill yet you're using up all of my time.' I told them I was a waste of time! The confusion just mounted more and more.
After a month I was transferred to an Eating Disorder Unit where I spent the next ten months. This was a private unit that the NHS commissioned a bed for. It turns out that my local NHS unit still wouldn't accept me because I didn't fit their criteria. I told them I was a waste of time! I told them that I wasn't ill! Over those ten months I worked through a lot and came to realise that there was a problem. I realised I did need people, I did need my health and I didn't need an Eating disorder. That was the hardest year of my life. I was terrified, I started to feel emotions again, I was confused and I was angry. At the same time my mum was going through her cancer treatment and I couldn't be there for her, I was emotionally but physically it didn't happen.
In that time I learnt a lot about myself, I was lucky to have an amazing therapist and I made the most amazing friend ever and I cannot thank her enough for being my rock. She showed me how to use art as an outlet and she stood by me and believed in me when no one else did.
Where am I now? I still have problems, I'm certainly not cured and everyday I still debate what to eat. I still eat my vegetables first, I sometimes cry over dinner and sometimes I think everyone is against me. Despite all this... I have moved out of home, I have a social life, I enjoy myself, I am a student nurse, I like life. Yes, it's scary but I love it.
Now, back to those wishes:
- To be skinny: this was so people liked me but who will like someone who doesn't like themselves?
- To not feel hungry: I felt hungry, hungry for something... this wasn't for food. I needed fulfilment in my life I didn't want to constantly crave something to fill my void of emptiness.
- To be happy: no matter how much I portrayed that I was happy, I was emotionless, I lived in a void. Well now I am: happy, sad, scared, angry, optimistic,loving. I can feel and I am happy, not all the time but if we didn't have sadness then how would we know that happiness is so amazing?
That's a brief outline of my story. There is no blame, there is certainly no attention seeking, in fact, I'm terrified of this but actually this is the truth. This was me and these is me now. It's time to speak out about mental health and let people know... It's okay.