I figured writing a blog about my recovery and progress, what better way to start than with a snap shot of how life is NOW, at the very beginning. Having been so private about things previously I think some of daily life may come as a shock to some of my friends reading this. I want to be as open as possible, not only to put my reality and that of many others suffering with depression and anorexia out into the known but so I can read back and think “wow, I’ve come a long way” (gotta think positive right?!). This might be a long one but stick with me…
So, what does an ‘average’ day look and feel like right now?
Its kinda hard to pin point specifics as the days can be so variable. Some days are much better than others and I feel like I could rule the world, at other times getting out of bed is my biggest achievement! Housework would be like climbing to the summit of Everest). It’s very unpredictable – the British weather is easier to predict than how i’ll feel the next day or week etc. which as you can imagine can be quite frustrating and make it very tough to plan things. I often find myself letting friends down at the drop of a hat, having to cancel and change plans and justify another day for Harvey spent on the iPad and colouring at home. As my closest pals will know I have a low heart rate and blood pressure, which leaves me feeling dizzy and faint, which gives me a bit of a disadvantage to start with. There’s many a day where depression becomes debilitating. Have you ever done an all nighter, with no food after something really horrible has happened? I haven’t done an all nighter (quite) and nothing horrible has happened (life could definitely be much worse) but that is all I can liken it to! Being trapped inside this bubble of negativity and not knowing how or having the tools to pop it and be free! Couple that with malnutrition and the irritability, emotional-ness, fuzzy headedness and utter exhaustion that comes along with it and we have quite the toxic concoction. As you can imagine it’s not a very nice place to be. There’s days I just want to shut myself away from the world. I don’t want to see anyone and I don’t want to speak to anyone – I just want to pretend the outside world doesn’t exist. Yet I can feel so isolated and misunderstood but no drive to do anything about it (go figure). On the flip side, I do have days where I feel slightly more on top of my game and motivated to get stuff done and get myself better (few and far between at the mo but it’s better than nothing I guess!).
Physically my body is pretty screwed up! But fortunately most of it can be rectified along the path of recovering (Amen to that!!!). I have no hunger-satiety regulation. I no longer feel hunger until i’m absolutely starving and I don’t really know when I’m full. Seems strange, huh? I’m still trying to get my head around that one too! I get a lot of aches and pains (especially in my legs) as a result of food restriction and nutritional deficiencies, which makes walking a real challenge at times and my school run journey time has progressively increased! I suffer with heart burn, reflux and a painful throat due to the self induced vomiting as part of the vicious binge purge cycle. You may think, “well just don’t do it then!” but trust me I have tried. You almost fall into a trance and there’s no option to not! I often feel about 6 months pregnant (and feel like I look it too) after something as simple as a cereal bar or bowl of porridge. My tummy has given up on me and bloating is a pain in the backside (well tummy actually – but its so frustrating), then there’s the puffy cheeks (I look scarily similar to our pet hamster at times) from swollen salivary glands. Last but not least there’s my ‘furry coat’. In response to weight loss and starvation my body has very unkindly decided to coat its self in very fine hair (called Lanugo) in an attempt it insulate me – can’t say I’m feeling the benefits of the extra layer though (currently sat in my dressing gown with a blanket wrapped around me) but either way it’s there. My body is utter pants at fighting off infections and in the past couple of weeks I ended up on antibiotics for a measly finger infection that would not shift itself! I’ve never been great at concentrating or focusing (I have gifted harvey with this talent too) but this takes it to the next level. You can be talking to me and I’m not hearing a word you’re saying – and no, i’m not just being ignorant – Promise!!!!
Exhaustion, fatigue and ironically insomnia are also a common feature in day to day life. My days often consist of a lot of coffee or caffeine in an attempt to stay awake all day so I can sleep the next night. I usually make it to about 1pm before no amount of caffeine in the world could keep me going. I am exhausted mentally and physically! I can’t remember the last time I made it through a day with out needing to rest. Yet, at the same time I struggle to sleep at night! Recently there have been nights where I will be awake from 2/3 am unable to sleep, add that to the tiredness that accompanies ‘running on empty’ and I’m a walking (or waddling – depending on my leg function) zombie! My Dr. explained the sleepless nights as my body’s survival instinct (although i’d beg to differ at that time in the morning). He told me to think about being a wild animal – who’s body is starving and in need of energy – would it just sleep peacefully regardless or would it be on high alert for food and out foraging? Well the latter makes the most logical sense if said wild animal wants to survive and my body apparently does similar – much to my disapproval. If I do however manage to get back to sleep you can guarantee it will be half an hour before my not so little bundle of joy graces me with his chirpy presence.
With being a dietitian and enduring 4 years of nutrition and health based university studying, you’d think I would be clued up on the do’s and don’ts. I am, reassuringly for my university, well aware of the science behind malnutrition and starvation, the health implications and risk, deficiencies and how to treat them, but it’s not quite that easy. Everyday I wake up and I go to war against myself – rational, smart, clued up Caitlin vs. irrational, imperfect, ED Caitlin (baffling isn’t it). My mind is full of intrusive thoughts and I’m usually always thinking about what I have eaten last and justifying the calories to myself or thinking ahead to the rest of the day, making sure I keep to my ridiculous calorie restriction and figuring out what else I would need to eat or avoid. In practice 9 times out of 10 this is impossible and results in guilt from ‘over eating’ (in reality it’s highly unlikely I’ve over eaten but you’d be surprised how much difference 10kCals makes in my irrational mind)! Constant food thoughts are often why I sometimes look a bit glazed over or ‘not quite there’!
Mealtimes are hit and miss – usually miss! I’ll snack on fruit and yogurt with the odd bowl of porridge and if my body is REEEAAAALLLYY lucky it may get and keep down some of a meal. Anyone that knows me will know how much I LOVE being in the kitchen cooking and baking. It really is (or at least was) the heart of our home. Anything to do with preparing or even being around food has become increasingly difficult and anxiety provoking as of late. Obviously I have to feed Harvey (otherwise he’d chose to live off biscuits and ice cream) which is a challenge sometimes (given the 389746839 snacks he has of a day). When it comes to myself evenings are a time of day I struggle with the most. I’m often feeling absolutely ravenous, but scared to put anything to my mouth. Anxiety peaks and my stomach is often hurting due to hunger or bloating if I have, in fact kept anything in earlier in the day. Some days I will have made it this far on nothing more than a bit of fruit and s*** loads of coffee! I don’t really have dinner. It’s very rare at the minute for me to sit and eat a meal with Harvey in the evening. If I do have something to eat, due to the hunger, there’s often no ‘off switch’ and /or the guilt of eating, so before I know it I’ve fallen down the trap which is the binge-purge cycle (ie. eating a large amount and then getting rid of it).
There’s so much more to write and things run so much deeper than I would ever want you to endure but this is a brief snap shot of the here and now. Plus I have my cheeky monkey demanding attention, so I best do as I’m told!
From here… Onwards and Upwards!!!!!