*-*-*This post will discuss eating disorders, self harm and suicidal thoughts. Please look after yourself and be aware of your own triggers. *-*-*
Thank you to everyone who supported me last night and today, I am so thankful for supportive friends, both in real life and through various technologies. I’m sorry to anyone I scared. I’m also sorry for this post; I really try to make my writing flowing and interesting, but sometimes I just need to purge onto paper, and this is one of those times.
I started therapy for my eating disorder last Monday. I should be having two sessions a week to begin with, so I was due another on Friday, but M (my therapist) had an emergency and so could not see me. The first week was unexplainably hard. I cannot put words to the shame and feelings of disgust that are running through my veins, they are so toxic and damaging but all the same, they’re hard to remove. But I had been working really hard, writing all my eating down on the food sheets, so when he cancelled, I was very upset and so he arranged for me to see J, who did my assessment.
I am very attached to J, I really want her to like me and I feel very vulnerable without her. It was fantastic to see her and we had a session filled with reassurance and comfort, which was totally what I needed. She wrote this in my journal;
…which carried me through the weekend and gave me a renewed vigour for my session with M on Monday.
That was yesterday. I haven’t clicked with M, but I have been ignoring that uncertain feeling because I was very unimpressed with my feelings for T when we first met and she turned out to be the best person I could hope for. However, I have been quite worried because I feel triggered by him; it’s brought up a horrid set of emotions that I really need to discuss in some detail with T, seemingly purely because he is a man. I was hoping to use our session tomorrow to discuss this, but this issue has rather overcome that need!
Sorry, back on track – so I turned up for our session yesterday. Felt uncomfortable, but sat down with my journal and felt prepared to work hard! M asked me how my week has been, and I told him that it was hard but I felt relatively positive. Then we started talking about my food diary sheets, and that’s when it all fell apart.
The first problem was that apparently, I’ve done them wrong. Now, I cope REALLY badly with being told I’ve done wrong, so my back was up instantly but I remember thinking in my head “this is a process, you’re doing fine” which is actually an unusually supportive thought for me… And then he told me why they were wrong. My sheets are perfectly neat, stuck into my A5 diary. Apparently, they cannot be stuck in (as he needs copies), and they cannot be A4 (because……..?). I pretty much just stared at him, because I didn’t understand why it was such a big deal. He kept repeating that they need to be A4 sized, because that way I won’t have too much to cover in one session, but equally I won’t overrun the page. Now, my A5 pages have been completely fine all week, and seemingly, he was happy with their content, but very difficult about the size. Insistent, in fact. Even I can feel how pathetic I am being about not wanting to change the sheet size, but it is my journal and it is extremely important to me that my journal is neat and ordered and not too bulky. I was so upset by this point, in tears, and he wasn’t backing down which felt incredibly triggering and he didn’t really pick up on it. Eventually he said that it was something we could work through and feel our way into the best option, but then instantly ended that (quite supportive) suggestion with the statement that there is no compromise in this programme of treatment and eventually I would need to change them.
The second problem was the issue around him having copies. Now, it didn’t help that it was a complete shock to me – nobody told me they took copies. I hate the idea of someone having a copy of what I have eaten in a week; it plays on all my insecurities around being judged, being in trouble, people thinking I’m disgusting etc. However, even as I was talking, I could hear the EDNOS troll’s need to control in my head, so I said that I understood the need and we could copy them. I wanted to ensure that they would be completely confidential, as due to my history and also my future career etc. I don’t want that sort of information about me floating around. I began to ask questions (through my tears) about how they would be kept. I was expecting the usual tape recording that T gives me when I quiz her, about only shared with supervisor or if there was a serious emergency, and always shared with my details kept to the barest minimum. What I got was really quite different. He told me that he would share in supervision (fine), but also that, as a department (10s of people) they regularly share about their clients (NOT fine). He was completely blasé about this, despite the fact that I was practically scaling the walls in fear at this complete lack of respect for my privacy. At one point I asked him if he would only use my first name – he said he couldn’t promise not to use my surname, as he might ‘forget’ and do it by accident so he didn’t want to promise.
By this point I was wildly triggered by his insistence about something that I didn’t understand (and he wouldn’t explain), plus his body language and choice of words felt so aggressive and dominating to Little, I was angry because he was either unaware or just didn’t care about how important my privacy is to me, and completely panicked that this man who J seems to believe is going to be super helpful, had actually upset me to the point of hysteria. I was so upset I could feel myself slipping into all the protective mechanisms I have; giggling, agreeing with everything said, flirting or feeling provocative (see ‘thing I need to talk to T about’ from ^^), protecting myself with my legs and arms… I haven’t felt that upset and vulnerable in the longest time. It was horrendous.
He asked if I felt ok to carry on, which of course I said yes to, because Little was convinced that any ‘no’ would end in abuse. We actually did some relatively useful diagram, looking at the cycle my ED follows, but I was too upset to actually take in what he was saying, so all I have is the picture of it. Then he gave me this week’s homework (to eat 5 things a day, and read another chapter), weighed me (put on 0.4kg…) and let me go.
The aftermath has been horrid. I ran back to my car and sat in the car park and screamed, bent double into my steering wheel as all those feelings of vulnerability and fear flooded over me in wave after wave after wave of the most intense anguish. My legs were weak and my hands shaky. I typed out an email to T, panicky and full of pain, but I just needed to tell her, to have that connection to someone who can make Little feel safe. I rang the Samaritans and allowed the man to comfort me whilst I vomited into a plastic bag, allowed them to calm me enough to feel like Little wasn’t screaming quite so loudly.
Luckily, or unluckily, I had a few days away planned with my parents, which I had promised I would leave for straight after therapy. The four hour drive was unbelievably scary. At times I felt almost overcome by the part inside me who wants my life to be over. I texted T to ask if we could talk, because I felt so unsafe, but I knew she was busy working and we didn’t catch each other. I have no signal where I am, but she left me a voicemail which I picked up this morning on a walk. Hearing her voice made me cry and I had to blame it on the salt air and the wind. She also sent me an email response to my email – including the words “keep going, keep feeling”. How beautiful is that phrase? I could not be more thankful for her in my life. She saves me, and she helps me learn to save myself.
The break has done me good. I am in a really beautiful part of the world, with the sea and cliffs and torrential rain and wind that lifts you out your boots. Being with my mum has also been comforting, which I wasn’t expecting… but I’ve really enjoyed being with her. This afternoon I went for a walk by myself, and sat with my legs over the edge of a cliff, watching the waves crash into the cliffs and caves below, over and over again, their rhythm completely unwavering no matter what. I sat on the cliff thinking, I could jump from here, but knowing I won’t, so long as I’m in control. I’m more aware that thoughts of suicide happen almost like I’ve been possessed; all the rational processing leaves me and an evil feeling force tries to take the reins. Thankfully, I’m too bloody minded to let him (him..?) take control and so I feel like I’m safe. The thoughts are just extremely unpleasant. However, T is right… I’m actually feeling now, I’m aware of my emotions and that is such incredible improvement from where I was. It feels possible to see this as a blip and not a disaster, or my failure that has led to an ending.
There is something so wonderfully grounding about the rhythm of the sea, the lift of the waves, the bruising force of torrential rain… power all around me that I cannot control, that goes on despite any emotion or worry or disaster. Looking down from my cliff edge spot at all the houses like little trainset accessories, the dogs on the beach so small they’re just a blur of colour, and knowing that all of their lives feel so immense down there, but only a little higher up, you’re so aware of how irrelevant it all is. Life goes on, the world moves on. Maybe that sort of thinking is why people have existential crises, but for me knowing that the decisions I make or the pain I’m feeling is in reality, in comparison, manageable and controllable, is amazing. Even with its immense power, it moves on. I can move on.
I am unsure what to do about M. My first step is to drive home tomorrow, straight to my appointment with T, and allow Little to feel comforted and reassured by our safe person. In reality, we fell out about a sheet of paper and some pedantic rules – it is SO unimportant, but the way it was handled has made Little feel completely traumatised. So, that is step one. Step two is to compartmentalise my thoughts and feelings into those that are mine, those that are Little’s, and those that belong to the EDNOS troll in my head. When I can see that more clearly, step three is to make a plan of action to act on the valid and important feelings. I’ll worry about the rest of the steps after that, but they’ll feel more manageable with her viewpoint and support.
Until then, I will lie in bed in this unfamiliar part of the world, listening to the sea crash against the wall below the house and the rain rattle the roof tiles, and remember that this too shall pass.