I really, really don’t want this to be an “oh wow look how much I’ve achieved this year I’m saying all this to make people feel bad about themselves because nobody else in the world has done anything ever” post. 2020 was bad for everyone. We’re all glad its over. It was pretty horrendous. But it was also the year I faced my fears.
2020 was the year I chose recovery. I started it with less than 24 hours of leave from hospital for NYE which consisted of me panicking over my dinner and crying on the way back to the ward.
Early January I had another 24 hours leave where I went to Cambridge to do my interview, which had been posponed for a month because I couldn’t brush my teeth without fainting, or form a comprehensive sentence without being out of breath. Needless to say, I got rejected but at least I got a night away from the ward 🙂
About a week after the interview I discharged myself from hospital. I told the staff it was because I desperately needed to go back to college as I had mock exams (which turned out to be very lucky) but really it was because I was scared of recovery and didn’t want to gain any more weight. Less than convinced but nevertheless, they let me go and I was back in lessons a few days later.
I did my mock A-level exams mid-January after many a mental breakdown and a quick cry to my best friend Rebecca in a Paul cafe one night who told me: “don’t worry about revising for mocks, they don’t count for anything anyway”. Turned out I did try (perfectionism sometimes has it’s quirks) and they did count, but admittedly I probably tried a bit too hard as by this point I was eating cauliflower rice, crying over strawberries and my clothes were from Zara Kids.
A few weeks passed and sitting became so painful and stairs were too much. After a FaceTime with my psychiatrist I was taken to A and E again, despite being in complete denial about how bad things had become. This was March 22nd. Mum left me in the waiting room and I didn’t realise at the time but it would be a good few weeks until I could hug her again. I was a bit out of it at the time and wasn’t fully aware of the extent of COVID. Mum, on the other hand, was well aware and knew she wouldn’t be able to stay with me in hospital or even visit, but had the heart not to tell me. If I had known, I’m not sure I would have got in the car that afternoon.
I had well and truly hit rock bottom. I was alone in hospital besides my 1 to 1 mental health nurse who had to watch me shower, I was struggling with my meal-plan, I was lying to dieticians and just making everyone’s lives difficult. I had an extremely traumatic psychotic episode a few weeks in and the next morning I woke up to 2 university offers and some very confused psychiatrists.
After being discharged from the gastro ward in April, I started this blog! It was, and still is, just an outlet for my thoughts. No expectations, just thoughts. I write, post, forget. Overthinking is the killer of joy. Since starting, I’ve had around 80,000 visits from 60 countries. Scary, mad, amazing.
A week later, I was back at the eating disorder unit for my 3rd admission there. I made friends, had my 19th birthday, did karaoke and Taekwondo (not simultaneously), learnt to headstand in my room, cried (a lot) and sneaked out to Gray’s to buy Diet Coke (which was found and led to a 2-hour raid of my room).
I was discharged and only then, after an argument with a social-worker on the phone and on meeting my incredible new therapist (over FaceTime, obvs) I fully committed to recovery. I started eating what I wanted, when I wanted. I educated my self on thin-privilege, fat-fobia and learnt from those who had recovered. I watched videos, read blogs and listened to podcasts. I woke up at 3am and had 4 bowls of cereal and a chocolate bar just to show myself I could. I discovered things like Set Point Theory and Overshoot and Extreme Hunger. I wanted, truly, to get better.
The summer came and I went to Paris, Edinburgh and Brighton. I had an amazing few months, with incredible people and ate yummy foods. Had an especially special day when Phoebe and Rebecca met my friend Catherine which was a complete mind-blow as two of my worlds collided and them being them, got on amazingly and acted like they too, were life-long besties. We did hamma beads outside and ended up sunburnt and full from millionaires shortbread. Those three are pretty cool: they’ve stuck by me dying, crying and whining when they really definitely didn’t need to. (thanks ❤️)
July 4th and I threw up in a Celebrations tub the day the pubs opened again, having not drunk since I was 16. Over the summer I had McDonald’s, multiple Frostinos (as I’m sure you are aware), cocktails, pretzels, chocolate. I challenged my eating disorder every single day, ate and enjoyed foods I was terrified of 4 months earlier.
September was here and I was off to my dream university. I was scared, terrified really, but excited. If I’m completely honest, I knew I wasn’t 100% ready. I wanted it so, so badly though, I had to at least try. 3 weeks later and I had dropped out.
Coming home was the hardest thing I have ever done. I sat in the car and sobbed whilst Mum cleared out my room. It had confirmed everything. I was a failure. My brain was broken. I could never live normally. I had done this to myself. My life was meaningless. There was no hope. I was an embarassment. I had wasted the last 3 years of my life getting A-levels for nothing. Everyone who told me I couldn’t do it was right. I wanted to die. Recovery was pointless.
By now, I had over doubled my body weight since my admission and I felt like shit. I compiled a playlist of songs to play at my funeral which would inevitably take place over Zoom.
Weeks passed feeling like this. There were a few nights spent procrastinating and distracting on TikTok until I was too tired to go through with my plans.
A flash of hope sparked when a friend of Mum’s offered me a job in her independent book shop, a walk away from home. If you know me, you know I love books. This year I’ve read 36 books, which considering for the first 5 months I couldn’t concentrate on my feet walking underneath me, I’m pretty proud of. Anyway, the shop gave me structure and the routine I needed. I was surrounded by books, giving people recommendations and having purpose. I may not be the best on the phones, or on the till, but it gave me something to get out of bed for.
December. I received sad news of the loss of a friend from when I was in general hospital last year. It affected me a lot more than expected. She was young, vibrant and used to do her hair and makeup everyday and wear her favourite perfume despite being bed-bound. Her husband would sleep in the car overnight so he could be with her as much as possible as they lived far away. I would get annoyed when they got take-away fish and chips on Fridays as they’d use so much vinegar and stink the whole bay up. To be honest, I think it was mostly jealousy that they could eat whatever they wanted, care-free. She was an incredible woman.
My therapist meanwhile, changed my whole perspective on life. She taught me more in the last 6 months than all the health-care professionals I’ve ever encountered combined. She’s amazing and I will be forever grateful to have had my life cross path with hers. She continues to inspire, encourage and support both me everyday.
It was mid-December when my dear friend Jade begged me to get back on the blog. She lives in Melbourne and we met in 2015. We got back in contact earlier this year and now FaceTime most days when we’re not working. She is my biggest fan to say the least. She knows the exact date of each and every Inpatient Diary I wrote and encourages me to post when I’m second-guessing myself. Throughout the year we watched countless episodes of Spanish dramas, which turned out to be quite raunchy at time, played perfectly in-synch over FaceTime. We melted over each other’s dogs, we told each other about our native snacks, and complained about the UK government together. We have decided to isolate on a remote island with the cast of said raunchy Spanish TV show.
Christmas time was nearing and both Immy and Dad had their flights booked. I hadn’t seen Immy since early October in Scotland and Dad since the beginning of January. Last time I saw him, I had my Cambridge interview. It had been 347 days. I was very, very aware of how different I looked but tried not to think about it. They both arrived the day before the new restrictions, which was insanely lucky as neither would have made it home. Dad would have been stuck in Hong Kong if his flight was just a few hours later.
I had my first hospital-free Christmas in 3 years. I didn’t count my Brussels sprouts, or dream about the extra Yorkshire pudding I wanted. There was no count-down ticking as to when I would have to return to the ward. I just ate and enjoyed the day.
I’d say the main thing I’ve learnt this year is that I am more than my broken brain. I have people who love me, things that I like and I can do more than I think. There’s been times where I’ve googled “random yes/no generator” that have saved me from my plans of suicide, times where I’ve ran away, times when I thought this year would definitely be my last, times where I’ve thrown things, smashed things, screamed. Doctors told me I was lucky to be alive and I was annoyed I still was. But there’s also been good times and happy times and times where I’ve been glad I didn’t die. And for now, that’s enough.
Happy New Year,