I thought I’d do another question and answer post as my first one was so popular and people still hold many misconceptions about the illness and treatment. Through this post I hope to shed some light onto the reality of anorexia and being an inpatient and also help others to feel less alone in their experiences. Again, I will put a trigger warning here so if you feel you are sensitive to the topic, please don’t read it! I’d hate to negatively affect anyone’s recovery/mentality in any way.
I received heaps of questions so let’s get to it!
Q1. If you’re veggie / vegan as you go in as an inpatient, do they respect your dietary choices?
There’s always a veggie option for each meal but you can’t be vegan. They just wouldn’t let you. You’re also not allowed to become a veggie/vegan during your admission as they view that as disordered. 🧐
Q2. How are you finding inpatient treatment at the moment? What’s it like on the ward?
The ward is almost full which means it’s never quiet. In terms of the atmosphere, the dining room is tense but in terms of social areas things are pretty chilled and everyone seems to get on alright. At the moment though I’m really struggling with not being allowed any leave, which I would be getting if it weren’t for the virus. It’s hard because theres absolutely no sort of time scale available and I think everyone here is trying to take it day by day but it feels like we’re all on our last tethers slightly.
Q3. What are you most excited to do when you are fully recovered?
OMG, SO MANY THINGS! I think I’m going to do a whole post on this because I even made a scrap-book type thing full of stuff I want to do when I’m better. All will be revealed. Stay tuned for this post!
Q4. Do you have photos from your lowest weight? Do you find looking at old pictures of yourself upsetting?
Yes I do have photos and videos from my lowest weight. I took them because people were telling me I looked awful but I couldn’t see it at the time. I don’t find it particularly upsetting, just pretty shocking that I really, genuinely didn’t think I was even thin, let alone being so unwell.
Q5. What’s the hardest part about being an inpatient?
Being away from home 100%. I miss my family and pets so much and all my little home comforts like my bed, hot chocolate and sweet potato. I’m definitely a home gal.
Q6. Did you have any ED traits from a young age?
I don’t think so, no. In fact, I’d say growing up I had one of the healthiest relationships with food out of most people I knew, I never restricted, ate what I wanted (but loved loved loved fruit and veg and still do) and when I wanted. Mum and Dad are great cooks too so I was lucky enough to have loads of different home-cooked dishes and always revelled in different cuisines whenever we went on holiday. I hope to get back to that as soon as I can!
Q7. What made you start writing about your experiences?
I guess the main reason was that I was frustrated with how little people knew about eating disorders and I wanted to challenge some pre- and misconceptions around anorexia. I knew my family and friends were aware of what I was going through on the surface, but I wanted to share what it’s really like.
Q8. What made you restrict so much?
I went into this a bit in my previous Q and A and talked about my depression and anxiety during my time in Australia but I think what really maintained my eating disorder was the fact that I thought I needed to be a certain weight in order to eat normally again. As we all know though, this weight is never low enough and once you reach it (I did many times and ended up being 16kg lower than my original “goal” weight) it will just get lower and lower in your mind. Your eating disorder won’t be satisfied until you’re dead.
Q9, Who are your fave models on instagram because I feel like some can show a false narrative!
So I was never really triggered by any models on instagram or anything but I do have many people who inspire me body-image wise. They are: @yasminwakefield, @ambardriscoll, @sophiegray and (probably my favourite of them all) @matildadjerf. All of them have suffered with eating disorders but have proven there’s light in the darkness. Plus, they are all so lovely and absolutely stunning! Healthy really does equal beautiful and these girls prove that. In terms of false narratives though, there are definitely lots and lots out there. I think it’s important more than anything to just be aware they exist and if something affects you negatively UNFOLLOW THEM!
Q10. Do you have any permanent health problems due to your ED?
I think the only long-term issue I have is osteopena which I was diagnosed with last year. This is due to malnutrition and lack of vitamins and minerals so my bones have become weaker than they should be. I take medication for it and hopefully it will go away.
Q11. How do you feel about your body now?
I still have bad body image days. It’s been hard gaining weight, changing clothes size and adapting to living in a completely different body. I am however grateful for my body and slowly learning to accept it.
Q12. In your opinion, what are the hardest parts of recovery?
Of course, mentally, recovery is HARD. Eating is obviously still hard but I’ve found the physical side of recovery harder to deal with given that nowadays I have so much motivation to fully recover. I can use my thoughts of a better life to get me through each bite and each meal but when it comes to the longer-term evidence of recovery (i.e. the physical weight gain, growing out of clothes and night sweats) it’s hard to get my head round. In one sense I’m glad to see I’m improving but the other half of me is screaming and panicking. One of the all-time hardest things I’ve experienced physically during recovery was during my previous admission over Christmas, where I had really bad swelling in my feet and legs. It made me so self-conscious and I hated myself for it. Now though, I think I’m more resilient and would be able to deal with that from a more rational point of view, but thankfully it hasn’t happened this time round.
Q13. Did you lose your period due to your anorexia?
Yes I did, long before my actual diagnosis too. And I still don’t have it. Restriction is the devil! Imagine that – it can actually stop you being able to have children. Hopefully once I reach a healthy weight it will come back.
Q14. Did you struggle with exercise addiction?
I didn’t compulsively exercise but I did have an obsession with steps and walking. I felt I “wasn’t allowed” to sit still for a certain amount of time which was genuinely one of the worst things about my anorexia. Pouring with rain? Got to go for a walk. Got an exam this afternoon and need to revise? Nope. Got to go for a walk. Was going to meet up with a friend? Cancel. Got to go for a walk. Bus isn’t arriving for a while? Got to go for a walk. Missed the next bus? Got to go for a walk. This is how my life seemed to be for a very long time. I would walk lots and often spent the whole day pacing around Oxford High Street. (That is probably why I saw so many people I knew around this time, sorry if I didn’t wave, I was probably too self-absorbed in my steps). I missed so many homeworks and meet-ups with friends due to walking. Stupid, I know. Another reason why this was so stupid was that I felt so unproductive doing it (it was, literally, just a waste of time) but in order to overcome this I would listen to audiobooks on topics I hoped would make me smarter and listened to podcasts I thought were worthwhile. (If you need any recommendations, I’m ya gal – I’ve got HOURS AND HOURS of experience). I was never addicted to running or exercise because I simply didn’t have the energy to do so. Walking seemed like a reasonable compromise for an anorexic who “couldn’t even be anorexic” (I felt like every anorexic had to stay up all night in their bedroom doing sit-ups until they fainted). So yes, on reflection, I guess I was addicted to exercise.
Q15. Are you still gaining weight or has it plateaued? How does that work in terms of meal plan?
I’m still gaining weight, I’ve got around 5 kilos to go until I reach a healthy weight. At that point I’ll probably move onto a maintenance meal plan whilst in hospital. However, when I get home I’ll almost certainly put on more weight as I’ll be able to honour my extreme hunger and eat as much as I like. This isn’t something that really bothers me that much anymore.
Q16. What are some of the triggering behaviours shown at the table by other patients?
There are loads. But the main ones include hiding food, tearing food, spilling food, spitting food out, throwing up, throwing food and refusing food. It’s pretty hard and all are horrible.
That’s all for now. Thank you so much if you read until the end, it means a lot that people are interested in my writing! I hope you are all enjoying the sun and having a lovely day.
Lots of love,