Hi there everyone, sorry for my absence over the last 2 weeks, I usually try to post once a week, but I was busy finishing my exams, and packing to move (eeeeeek). I am now sitting in the sun, sipping an iced tea, in the Gold Coast, Australia.
This week I thought I would do something a little different, and share some of the writing I have done about my eating disorder. * Please only read this post if you feel that eating disorder content is not going to trigger you. Some of my writing is very personal, and I do not want to sugar coat any of my experiences.
Some time in July, 2009
I wake to the sound of the blaring heart monitor; my heart rate must have dropped too low again, triggering the alarm. The night nurse enters, silencing the alarm with the push of a button, and gives me a quick once over. “Do you have any pain Kudra?” she asks, as she turns up the dial on the heater, then strides over to the window, the one I secretly persuaded my little sister to open during visiting hours. “No.” I lie, “I’m fine.”
I give her my best impersonation of a smile, before I huddle my face back under the scratchy hospital blankets. They really need to buy some softer ones, ones that don’t make their patients so itchy, and sticky with sweat. She nods once, then picks up her oversized yellow torch, retreating back into the hallway, and leaving me alone again in the darkness.
I pull the blanket down, just below my eyes, and glance up at the clock mounted on the wall. Its only 4.32am, another 2 and a half hours until breakfast. I might as well just go back to sleep. Maybe I will finally get lucky, and the next alarm, won’t be a false one.
I roll back onto my left, carefully so I don’t pull any of the wires lose from their patches. Various coloured wires connect the touch screen box of the monitor, to adhesive patches placed above my heart. This tell the machine that my current heart rate, is 42 beats per minute. It’s better than last night, when the nurses shook me awake, panicked, because their readings said I had dropped below 30.
The other wires, stuck randomly across my chest, and abdomen, I assume, are recording my breathing rate, which right now, is 10 breaths per minute. I wish I knew what a normal heart, and breathing pattern looked like, I assume that the wave recordings on the screen, are somehow abnormal. Everything about me is abnormal these days. Not healthy, they say, otherwise I wouldn’t still be stuck in here.
I tuck myself back into my cacoon of scratchy blue warmth. Just me in my little world of cheap, sanitiser scented, blankets. At least until 6.45, when the morning staff start shift their shift. I hope Debbie is on today, I hate it when Shirley supervises me. Her tutting and sighing, doesn’t make it any easier. I’d like to see her eat all that muck, with someone leering at her the whole time.
It turns out, it is Debbie on shift this morning, thank goodness. She enters the room carrying a plastic, heat warped, food tray. She sets it down gently on the table, then slides the table top over my lap. I even have to stay in bed when I’m eating. I notice that she avoids making eye contact, as she lifts the lid off the main.
It’s quiche, it always is on Tuesdays. Not the worst day of the week, Fridays are pancakes, but this definitely not one of the easier breakfasts. “No chance of cornflakes?” I mumble, already feeling defeated. One egg has at least 10 grams of fat, and approximately 80 Calories. “Sorry love, you eat what’s on the meal plan. I can’t make any changes for you again.”
I stare at the tiny bruises scattered across the red apple, which is carefully balancing on the edge of the tray. It looks a bit like I have over the last few weeks. Id tried to avoid admitting it to myself, but mum had made that all but impossible. ‘Do you see what you look like? Do you think that is healthy —-? Do you think that is pretty?” I’d reminded her how I’d always been clumsy, and she reminded me that I never used to bruise so easily, even if I had always been a klutz.
My hands are starting to shake, clasped tightly in my lap, the ends of my long fingers growing white, as I squeeze my palms against each other firmly. “You can do it” Debbie croons at me. She is a kind woman, with a big toothy smile, and an even bigger midriff, but she doesn’t understand, no one does. I can’t do it, not when she is going to watch me all day, preventing me from burning any of it off. I don’t even want to do it; it can only make me feel worse.
After breakfast Debbie takes my observations, checking for any new concerns. I lie as still as possible, while the blood pressure band squeezes all feeling out of my left arm. At first it hurts, but it only lasts a few seconds, then the numbness sets in. She jots down the figures into her pocket notebook, then sits back down in the nurses designated arm chair.
We sit in silence for a long time, and eventually I forget about her careful eyes, tracing every one of my miniscule movements. Debbie will sit with me for an hour after each meal today, to ensure that I don’t rid any of it into my bin.
I let a few tears escape down my cheek. 520 calories for breakfast, more than my usual daily allowance, all gone in one meal. My chest aches, my heart pounding against my ribcage, and a sour taste is beginning to rise up into my mouth. I am a failure, a disgusting, fat, failure. Why do I do what they tell me? Do they really think that they can fix me, just by making me big again?
Showers are the only time that I am truly alone in this place. The nurses stride past my open door every few minutes, accept for when I am showering. There is a 15-minute time limit, but still, I get to escape their watch, even if it is for a pathetic amount of time.
Debbie slides the bathroom door to a gentle close behind her, but only after completing the mandatory check of my belongings. The same as every morning, all I have with me is my gown, underwear, fluffy socks, and a small bar of pink soap. No razors or tweezers, there is no shaving for me, just in case I also happen to also be a cutter. “These things go hand in hand” the doctor had told mum. I suppose no one in here gives two cents if I look like a fuzzy orangutan.
I get to work immediately, I only have 15 minutes, to do all of my sit ups, as well some cardio. I splash myself with the Luke warm shower water. Cold water burns more calories, but the nurses had caught onto that, when I emerged from the bathroom too many mornings, with Goosebumps, and blue tinged lips.
I drench my bed matted lion’s mane, just in case someone comes to check on me before the time is up. Then I lay down, next to where the water hits the floor, before it swirls down the drain, and pull the heavy curtain across the room.
A misty spray of water splashes onto my right side, as I begin to pull my top half up and down, up and down… I count my sit ups, getting lost in the rhythmic movement of the exercise, until I have done the equivalent of 400 full crunches. My back aches from being pressed against the concrete floor, and I can feel some new grazes, stinging across shoulder blades and down on my tail bone. I pull myself up using the metal hand rail, that runs around the middle of the walls, in case of accidents, they tell me.
I step back under the water, and begin on the spot jogging. The shower stream pours down my front, blinding my eyes, as the backsplash rebounds of my now flat chest. I estimate that I have at least 4 minutes left, until Debbie returns to collect me. 4 minutes to burn as much of breakfast off as I can.
When Debbie slides back in from the hall, I have assumed my hair washing position, and reply to her call, with a façade of calm. “Times up love.” she whips across the curtain, exposing me to the rest of the small concrete room. “Okay, I’m done. I was just rinsing my hair out”. I say slowly, using all my strength, not to puff or wheeze, from the previous exertion.
She hands me two neatly folded white towels, they too, like the blankets, smell strongly of cheap sanitiser, and heavy duty bleach. I wrap one towel around my body, covering myself, before she can start any examining.
She holds the other towel open for me, as I flip my hair over my head, letting it fall down covering my face. I lean over to let her wrap it, and she bunches it up in the towel, squeezing out the excess moisture. It almost touches my knees now, when I lean forward like this. Stray wavy ringlets float around my now upside down face, they almost resemble fire, or a flowing stream of red blood, when my hair is wet.
“Your very cold”. Debbie observes, as she towels away at my box died auburn locks, her free hand gently clasps my arm, just below my shoulder. Her thick fingers fit all the way around the circumference of my upper arm. She’s like a giant, tall, robust, and Amazonian looking.
I’ve never asked her where she’s from, but her dark complexion, and oversized nose, suggest to me that’s she is some form of European. No distinguishable accent though, so perhaps she is a second generation child, born here in New Zealand.
Once she is satisfied that I am completely dry, “Being damp cools you down you know”, she helps me into a fresh gown, and oversized pink pyjama bottoms. Today’s gown pattern, is an array of small flowers, blue, pink, and little white daisy’s.
“Right, onto the chair, love”. She wheels me slowly back down the narrow ward, the entire measly 5 metres that it takes to get back to my room. On the way, I look up, to see her smiling at a frazzled mother, who is standing outside the coffee room. I feel for guilty being here, there are really sick children all around me, who actually need, and deserve help.