Saturday, 17 September 2011

Twenty: And then some

At the age of 22 it feels like I'm finally coming to terms with what it might be like to be an adult.

Being dependable.  Having people of my very own to look after, albeit only my boyfriend and our cat.  Visiting Ikea to buy wardrobes for his room.  Having to plan meals in advance and cook. Cleaning and doing laundry not because someone tells you to but because actually, if you don't, it starts to get to you.  Keeping in touch with family.  Learning to express your needs in moderation, and to give a fair hearing to those of others.  Leaving difficult situations in time to keep yourself safe when you feel overwhelmed.

Only four months ago things were very different.  Loneliness combined with perverse "coping mechanisms" I've had a lifetime to learn and perfect imposed a Jekyll and Hyde like structure onto my existence.  The days would be spent pushing down tempests of anxiety -  an almost compulsive fear that worsened if any sort of attention was paid to it. I felt, almost always, on the edge of calamity.  Danger lay in every unoccupied moment, and no matter how carefully I planned my day, there would always be more than one. My classes done, at night (or, on bad days, late afternoon), I dived into chaos.  I was exhausted and I just couldn't contain myself anymore.  The GP on campus had told me that if I continued to starve myself I would not be able to remain at university, and for once I had listened.   During the day I would eat enough to satisfy my appetite and give me the energy to work - but I managed this partly (and problematically) only by shutting my eyes to it. 

I knew the nutritional content of what I was eating.  I knew what constituted a healthy, balanced diet, and I aimed towards it.  My body, however, was aiming for more.  It was aiming for curves, periods, and everything else a healthy woman should have - but for me these things also possess unpalatable and still mostly unexplainable psychological implications.  As soon as it got dark I let go.  I would spend £10 to £20 on food and spend the next two hours eating and vomiting  - gorging also on the kind of trashy tv my day-time schedule would never allow for.  When I was done, and I was reassured that my stomach was entirely empty, I would eat a small meal and go to bed.  Ultimately I knew I couldn't afford to lose weight. 

But it was draining.  Sustaining any sense of self in the midst of a raging war between bits of you that you still don't really understand and  that insist on their fulfillment with ceaseless cruelty is difficult.  It's even harder when you're trying to work towards a first-class degree.  Luckily I was able to get through the term.  Two arterial bleeds and two visits to A&E in ambulance, days when I just couldn't muster the energy to get out of bed and clear up the mess (blood, food and vomit) of the night before and recommendations to take leave of absence from university -  regardless,  I got through.  But my God - it feels a world away from now.  I have enjoyed four of the most healthy months I have had since I was sixteen,  and I'm terrified - terrified - to let them go.

Term begins on October the 10th.  I may have more support  in York than previously, since the psychiatrist I saw on Thursday who works for the psychotherapy service thinks I do need psychiatric reviews and a support worker and is writing to the CMHT in support of both.  Briefly, I would say that this was the single positive of  a difficult and frustrating meeting.  More will follow later.

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