Chapter 2 – part 1

I was discharged from ICU a few days later which was also the same day the doctor diagnosed me with Anorexia Nervosa and depression. I was no longer myself, but instead labelled a ‘depressed anorexic’. I wasn’t told the reasons for his diagnosis, but I knew that something was wrong with me. I weighed 65.2kg at the beginning of 1998 when my obsessive behaviour started, and on the day of my discharge I weighed 57kg. Within four months I lost 8.2kg, controlled what I ate and how much I ate and started to have an unnatural relationship with food. Surely this isn’t normal?

The April school holiday was well into its first week, and with two more weeks left before school starts there was no rush for me to get back on my feet. Once I was home my mom told me that one of my friends called while I was in hospital as she was concerned that I didn’t attend our last day of term. To be honest I can’t remember what my mom told her happened, but the realization that she or anyone else at my school might hear of my suicide attempt left me with a sense of embarrassment and fear. At the time I didn’t know that this realization became a pinnacle moment, as that was when anorexia’s voice resurfaced and a decision was made that this will be kept a secret. She will be kept a secret.

Most of my friends went away on holiday so the first few days was lonely. I was in bed most of the time as I felt weak and had several dizzy spells throughout the day, and had difficulty eating. My dad decided to send my mom and I away for a long weekend so that I could get out and that we can ‘bond’, because apparently that’s what I needed.

We booked into a resort in the Free State called Thaba Nchu Sun. It is very warm there and being inland the surrounding area is flat with not much greenery. There is plenty of wildlife and often the local monkeys and ducks will help themselves to our food.

I found this to be a very awkward time between my mum and I. I didn’t know what to talk about, and was not interested in answering her many questions about the incident. As much as I didn’t want to be alone, I didn’t want to be there with her. Meal times were the worse. I ate what I found to be manageable, but that usually started arguments between us as we both had our own opinions of what is a suitable portion of food. I believe this is when she consulted my dad and the idea of a dietician and a visit to a phycologist is needed. I didn’t have any say in this, and was not too thrilled with the thought that I have to talk to a stranger about my secret, about anorexia. Was I really that sick that I needed help? Surely I can do this on my own.

To be continued

 

 

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Chapter 1 – Part 4

I was empty. Mentally. Physically. Spiritually.

I spend 3 days in the Intensive Care Unit where the nurses were monitoring me 24/7. I was send to ICU because I lost consciousness once the nurses administered the medication to force me to vomit and clear my stomach of the pills. I can’t remember much between the time I was administered and taken to the ward. My body’s convulsions woke me constantly but I was in a drugged state of mind, not knowing what is happening and why it is happening.

The more I vomited, I more aware I became of my surroundings. And finally 12 hours of my head slummed over a bucket came to an end. I slept most the time and had tubes running to and from my body.

During this time no one really spoke with me, they all spoke about me and to each other but not really to me. The doctor will ask “How are you feeling today?” and I will respond “Better”. My parents will ask “Why did this happen?” and I will reply “Don’t know”. My pastor will pray and say a blessing to which I humbly said “Thank you”. In all honesty I needed a someone; not my parents, the nurses, doctors or pastor. A someone who either understood, or just wanted to be there for me, not because I was sick or needed help but because they wanted to. I didn’t want to admit to any problems or discuss functional outcomes, I just wanted to be near someone, be still in their presence and if needed, talk about stuff. Preferably a stranger who wouldn’t need to report to my parents or teachers, and who couldn’t be bothered with the social politics at my school.

But instead I found myself alone with my thoughts. I know, I know, I could probably have spoken to those around me but I didn’t want to think of excuses and explanations. I needed comfort, not judgement. I needed a someone.

To be continued

Chapter 1 – Part 3

A new year dawned, new years resolutions were made but nothing seemed to have improved.

I had been binge eating/starving myself for approximately 6 months. Our final exams were long over, and my friend had since stopped fasting. Before I knew it I was caught in a vicious binge eating cycle, and was trapped in a down spiralling, out of control eating disorder. I was in denial that anything was wrong at the time, because I only knew of 3 types of eating disorders: anorexia, bulimia and obesity (and I had none of these, so therefor I am okay). My friend often asked me whether I was still fasting, to which I lied and said no…honestly lying had become far too easy of a thing to do. I felt bad for not telling her the truth, but by then my ED had convinced me that if anyone finds out, they will try to stop me.

By the end of our first semester I felt extremely alone, even though I was surrounded by school friends every day. I felt sad even though this was meant to be the best year of my school career as we had our school ball to look forward to and the ever rebellious 40 days. I became more socially distant and easily distracted during lessons. My thoughts were often interrupted by images of death, my death. Self-loathing soon filled empty gaps. Why are you allowing this to happen? Why are you eating uncontrollably? You are fat! You are ugly!

I developed a fear for food, yet I couldn’t stop myself consuming every last little morsel whenever I ate. That fear grew into a panic, a panic so severe that I felt as if someone is trying their utmost to stop my heart from beating, forcing its last beat upon my breath. I was in a dark pit of loneliness and entrapment, and the only way out was to not be anymore.

*my blog entry Blank Space is a follow up event to the above, but I will use an edited version to highlight what took place. Please read with caution and an open mind as the wording depicts the impact depression and the onset of an eating disorder can have on ones behaviour*

The school semester has come to an end and it was not mandatory for the senior students to attend the last day. Mom left for work but reminded me that she will stop by early afternoon. I pretended to eat a small and healthy breakfast but I binned it as soon as she left. I made myself comfortable on the couch and did a bit of channel surfing. Not long after I remembered dad’s whisky collection in the kitchen cupboard and thought now is the perfect time to try it as there are no adults around, and I am not out in the public eye. I have had sneaky sips before but didn’t know anything about single or double shots and myself a generous helping. I drank with ease and on an empty stomach I felt lightheaded with a hint of courage. I used this new found enlightenment to make myself a sandwich filled with the goodness of peanut butter and crisps. I also helped myself to all the leftovers from the night before.

I had another drink, a stronger mix, a second sandwich and a plate of chicken. By lunch time I had consumed a fair share of alcohol and had eaten more than I could stomach. I had a sense of utter disappointment, and that all familiar voice repeated telling me you are worthless. You can’t control what you eat. You need me. You can’t life without me. Just look at you, you are ugly, fate and don’t deserve to eat. In that moment I had what I can only describe as a blank, a feeling of nothingness and I didn’t want to feel anymore. I didn’t want to wake up the following morning knowing that I can’t change how I feel and what I think. I wanted out.

The next hour in this state of nothingness seemed unreal. I went to my parents’ bathroom were I found my dad’s blood pressure and mom’s kidney medication. I also found a box of pain killers. I leaned in a crouching position against the cold wall tiles and consumed as many of the pills as I could. The motion was automated, no thinking was involved. A daze of uncertainty dawned on me and I felt sudden panic. I crawled to my dad’s bedside table and found a pen. I felt a sharp pain on my wrist and realised that I was trying to scratch the words HELP and GOD into my lower arm. My pain was silent yet visible. Shivering and feeling cold and numb, I lost consciousness.

Darkness, emptiness and a sense of freedom engulfed me.

to be continued

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 1 – Part 2

My school days were filled with a sense of success for maintaining my commitment to fasting and of improved marks as I was dedicating my ‘eating’ time to school work and study. On a weekend however I turned into a monster.

For 48 hours per week my life turned upside down and inside out. Why? Because of binge-eating. My dad worked and my mum often kept herself busy doing mum-things. My sister was a university student at the time and was never home. You would think that not thinking about food would have become second nature to me after several weeks of weekday fasting, but on the contrary that was ALL I could think about. I don’t know whether it was because of boredom, or my body instinctively protecting itself knowing that it will starve for the next 5 days, but the need to eat was frightening. And once my parents left the house I had free range.

At first it wasn’t a conscious decision, no, it was more like having a meal, enjoying the meal and reasoning with myself that another helping is acceptable. Once I became at ease with a second helping I soon found myself having a third. I don’t recall my parents ever calling me out on why the food was slowly disappearing from the fridge and cupboards as I tried my best to hide any evidence. The secrecy of my disorder was prominent from the beginning. The times when my parents were around, for example at dinner time, I behaved. I would have a single helping of food, thank my mother for the meal and retreat to my bedroom. Once they went to bed and the house was covered in darkness and silence my scavenging began and it didn’t stop until my stomach ached so much I had no other option but to lie down and sleep. It soon became apparent that once I started eating I couldn’t stop. It is difficult to explain the loss of control – I was merely a pawn being controlled by an external player.

And then Monday rolls along and the fasting turns into punishment for my weekend binge-eating.

                                                                                                                                                                To be continued

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 1 – Part 1

The category Me, myself and ED is the chronological narration of how Tulip came about, my battle and survival with EDNOS, AN (Anorexia Nervosa) and BN (Bulimia Nervosa). I will attempt to write it as factual and as honest as I can, keeping in mind I have not written nor spoken about it in the past 12 (or so) years.

EDNOS – Eating Disorders Not Otherwise Specified

I learnt something recently while reading an online article regarding the danger in not recognising the signs of a specific disorder, EDNOS. The start of my struggle with eating disorders actually had a name! And they say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

I want to take you back to the beginning of my nightmarish journey, back to the year 1997:

I had an amazing year in sport. I achieved my highest ranking within my grade for WAG (woman’s artistic gymnastics) and represented my province at Nationals for a third consecutive year. I excelled in my track events during the athletics season and achieved personal bests in 400m and 100m relay. I was also more involved in school activities and enjoyed spending quality time with my horse – we discovered cross country and what a trill that was! I had a few boyfriends during this year, mostly casual friends with unsuccessful attempts at forming romantic bonds.

It was not until mid to year end that I started to notice my body had taken a course of its own. I use to monitor my eating habits as there were sudden changes in my dietary requirements due the different sports I participated in. For example (and I am no expert at this, but was told by a dietician): different muscle groups are used for different sporting events, and it can’t be more so for gymnastics and athletics. Track sprinting requires short bursts of strength and stamina with a lot of focus placed on leg and lung development. Gymnastics on the other hand require ‘longer’ muscles due to the flexibility aspect of the sport and strength training consists of full body and core. My diet reflected these differences: to help sustain muscle development for athletics I included a lot of protein and raw egg/milk drinks. And when gymnastics season started, I switched to a less high protein and more balanced diet, which included salads, fish and pastas. I was used to a 4kg fluctuation during the year.

A sudden change in my body (excessive weight gain) brought me to a catatonic stand still. I saw a photo of myself taken one early morning when I was out with my horse, a photo in which I didn’t recognise myself. I felt disgusted and utterly disappointed with myself. Both gymnastics and athletics had finished and clearly the lack of constant exercise and increase in food intake had taken my body on a selfish joyride. One day during class my best friend and I were discussing a topic raised during a church sermon I attended that previous Sunday, fasting. I knew about the ritual but didn’t really understand the reasoning behind it. My friend wasn’t a church goer, but she was willing to meet me half way and instead of placing the focus of fasting on God and meditation, we will spend more time preparing for our final exams. The fasting period will be between 6am – 6pm, Monday – Friday with only liquids allowed during the fast. We will hold each other accountable by presenting our exam preparations to one another on a daily basis. We also agreed that the fasting will only be for the duration of the term, and until our exams start.

The first few weeks was somewhat torture as my body (and mind) was trying its best to adjust to this new regime, one it didn’t like. I felt miserable and hungry, VERY hungry. But I soon found that water makes for a great placebo, and if you drink several glasses of water at the time you would have had a meal, it deceives your body into thinking that it’s full. Illusory became an every day game.

On weekends I was allowed to eat, and this is when my binge-eating disorder reared its nasty head.

To be continued