17 January 2016

One Wake Up Call at a Time...

Thursday 16th July 2015. As written on the first page of my diary, ‘The Beginning of the Rest of my Life.’ This was the day that I was voluntarily admitted into Rharian Fields in Grimsby. I walked in believing that I was going to be walking back out after 2 weeks. Little did I know that this was going to be the hardest, rewarding and life changing 4 months of my life. Unpacking my bags and watching mum make my bed whilst I wait to have my first blood test, I glanced around the room. No lock on the door, emergency call buttons on the wall, and a wheelchair that waited at the entrance of my room to be used as a means of mobility around the unit for the next two weeks. Even then, I couldn’t quite comprehend the situation that I had found myself in. The treatment began; I was placed onto a re-feeding meal plan, having daily one-to-ones and attending educational groups. These were things that I should have been able to access in the community, however they are not available in the East Riding, so hospital was my only option.

Here is an account of what I had to endure throughout my time in hospital:
·   Medical assessments- blood pressure, temperature and pulse monitoring twice daily for two weeks.
·   Blood tests taken daily and at 2:00am on the first night, for 10 days.
·   Blood sugar levels tested 4-6 times daily for several days, possibly up to 2 weeks. I was nearly admitted to A&E on the first night because my sugar levels where critically low but I was not displaying any symptoms at all which the nurses where concerned about.
·   I was on 4 types of medication to improve the health of my brain and strengthen my bones. I also had to ingest glucose tablets, sometimes 4 a day to stabilise my blood sugars.
·   I was in a wheelchair for 2 weeks because my BMI was so low and my body couldn’t cope, even though mentally I was still being driven to walk around.
·   Regular eating of large meals at extremely regimented times, including snacks and puddings.
·   Living with 4 other people that were also suffering with eating disorders and engaging in damaging behaviours.
·   Had to ask to get a drink, because everything had to be monitored and observed.
·   Weekly reviews to ask if you could have time out of hospital or even if you could start portioning your own meals, including if you could make a hot drink.
·   Could start having snacks out and going home after 7 weeks.

As you can imagine, this was incredibly difficult to cope with, and being faced with ‘fear foods’ at every single meal and trying to stomach the amount that you are being given to eat was excruciating; for both mind and body. I cried at practically every meal because the anorexic voice was screaming at everything that I was doing. After a while you start to accept that it isn’t you that is putting yourself through this, it is everybody else forcing you. This slightly relieves the anorexic thoughts because you eliminate all responsibility for what you are eating and the lack of activity that you are doing. So just when you feel like you are improving, you begin to portion your own meals and pick your own snacks which places all the responsibility back on you, and the nightmare strikes up again. It is a huge rollercoaster and something I would never wish upon anybody. The battle is still there and some days you can feel as though you are absolutely fine. However, anorexia likes to cling onto your life and even when I was improving in terms of restoring weight and gaining a healthier relationship with food, I was constantly reminded of the fact that the illness isn’t going to go away over night, similarly to how it doesn’t develop that quickly. Nevertheless, I did find different ways of coping with difficult experiences in hospital, such as relaxation techniques, having Reiki sessions with one of the wonderful nursing assistants and doing crafts. I picked up quite a reputation for completing jigsaws in record time, and as soon as I finished one, sure enough I would receive another in the post from family members. I found that doing the jigsaws was a fantastic way to quieten the negative thoughts that were racing through my mind.

There was very little that would encourage you to get through a day in hospital, other than the determination to get better and get out of there! However, as soon as 7pm arrived and visitors could walk through the door, that was enough motivation for you to consume that last mouthful. Just the sight of a familiar face and a realisation that you were going to be able to find out something that was happening out in the real world was incredibly uplifting. I find that the best way to describe hospital is like a bubble; you can see and hear everything that is happening on the outside, but you have no way of getting out to experience it for yourself. All I can say is that having visitors makes you remember that there is a life outside of hospital, and that is so motivating for recovery. When I look back, I do feel guilty about how I utilised some of these visits. It is awful when you are having a bad day and you know you have somebody coming to see you, but you are just in such a foul mood and can’t break yourself out of it. Sometimes I would just sit and cry, or try to do everything to avoid conversation. As wonderful as it is to hear about things going on in the ‘outside world’, the fact you are stuck in hospital makes you become so frustrated because you cannot change the situation you are in.

On the other hand, one of the many things that I did learn at hospital was that I wasn’t alone. I wasn’t the only person having to deal with this illness. I made some incredibly close friendships in hospital, and these are something that I will value for the rest of my life. Unless you have been in this situation, you will not understand how having somebody that is willing to listen and converse with you about your problems, can have such an incredible impact on your emotions. Whether this person is another patient or one of the nurses/nursing assistants. I don’t really like calling the clinical staff as their job roles because they are so much more than that. They become your guardian angels, your support network, and whilst remaining professional, one of your best friends. They provide you with a shoulder to cry on, remain calm and rationalise situations when you are screaming in their face about the way a meal is prepared or portioned up. They are saintly, and if the world didn’t have people like that in it, then I would have no hope for anybody. They truly turned my life around, and I will be forever grateful for that.

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