Let me tell you, recovery is about three things: it’s about realizing you have a problem (and in turn, admitting to it), getting the help that you need to begin your journey and then using all that you’ve learned to better your life and reduce the risk of relapse.
Your trouble could be anything out there – drugs, alcohol, an eating disorder, a mental disorder. Mine was all four of those.
It started with a tumultuous upbringing and growing into an addictive personality (thanks mom and dad) and a sexual assault would pave the way for me to self-medicate with drugs. Depression and anxiety had run rampant through my life from an early age (12 or so) and I was being fed drug after drug by my doctor so in my mind, it only made sense to self-medicate with drugs. It didn’t matter that they weren’t legal; I just took what I could to make myself feel better. Whether that was random pills at the bottom of someone’s purse (mystery pills we called them), weed or my long-standing addiction to dimenhydrinate (Gravol in Canada, Dramamine in the US – illegal in the UK, go figure) – first to self-medicate what later turned out to be sickness from an ulcer, then to sedate myself for years. No one knew, or they didn’t think it was a problem and didn’t care.
The eating disorder was one that was kept quiet for a long, long time. I started restricting in 2005 when I saw my mother’s weight go from 98lbs (she was always tiny) upwards to some 200lbs in a single month – all from an untreated thyroid disorder and then from her thyroid medication. It scared me and I didn’t want to be like that. Shortly after a friend came clean about her eating disorder but she was posting “progress photos” of herself and sharing insights on how she restricted and all of that, which led to me mimicking her behaviors in order to lose weight myself. Before you know it, I’m restricting my calorie intake from 1200 to 1000, then to 900, then 800, then 500. Sometimes I fast. Nothing but 0 calorie liquids: tea, water, Coke Zero. Other times I would drug up with all the sedatives I had and then sleep for a day or two, and voila, sleep = not eating = no calorie intake = weight loss. It was awful because I would wake up starving and then go through a massive binge and throw what I considered to be “progress” out the window.
Now I see all of where I was wrong, but it’s sad it took me nearly dying twice just to get here. The first time was when I was at my best friend’s birthday (isn’t the big near-death-experience always like that?) and I made a fool out of myself because they were too busy to make the meal I wanted properly (no cheese, I’m lactose intolerant) so everything was basically batch-cooked. I had to settle for something else and so I wound up with a 3000 calorie teriyaki thing and what a big mistake that was. No more than a half hour later I was feeling exhausted, weak, tired and my head hurt. I started to get facial numbness and it felt like I had heart palpitations. I thought it was anxiety so I took my anxiety medication but it still didn’t cease. For three days I was like that until I finally went to the hospital where an EKG was done and I found out my heart rate was through the roof and my blood pressure was a few numbers off from being dead.
The second near-death experience was when I was taking a fasting blood test. I hadn’t had the blood work yet but had been fasting since midnight. The blood test was supposed to be during the day but I never made it, had so much to do (waiting on my ISP to show up to fix my internet and something else came up – I forget what) and somehow I’d gone 18 hours on a fast without even a single liquid. I was dehydrated and my blood sugar dropped so dangerously that I wound up feeling drunk, sick, and drugged and passed out on my kitchen floor. A friend kept trying to text me, getting me to eat and everything but I felt so sick and nauseated that eventually I just stopped eating, took Gravol and my anxiety pills and went to sleep for five hours.
Woke up and my best friend brought over a tea and muffin. It still didn’t help so I finally went to the hospital. My blood sugar was low enough to be classified as a moderate-severe hypoglycemic episode. I was given a shot, had to test my glucose levels every half hour and was fed. It took eight hours to repair what I had done by mistake and when I was talking to the doctor after, I admitted the blood work was for the obscenely high heart rate and low blood pressure combination I had.
I also admitted then that I was anorexic. That led to me being sent to the GIMREC clinic at McMaster Hospital (General Internal Medicine Rapid Assessment Clinic) and given follow-up treatment that was supposed to lead into help for my mental disorder and everything. It helped in the sense that I did get to see someone for a re-assessment but that led to nowhere. I was basically treated like shit and I hope to never see the intake coordinator or nurse that assessed me again.
I was in the hospital seven or eight times since that last one in December 2011, and I don’t need to get into them. Just know it was because of my eating disorder and all of the strain I was putting on my heart and other vital organs was catching up to me. I had a 12 week cold that led to hospital-acquired pneumonia from which I was given antibiotics. Those antibiotics wreaked havoc on my body and caused me massive distension (my stomach was bloated out 6”) and some horrible trouble with my stomach ulcer. Now, things have calmed down but January and February were horrible for me.
I admitted to my Christmas Eve 2011 suicide attempt and was sent to the emergency psychiatric ward at St Joseph’s hospital in February, spent the night, and then was referred to the program that has saved my life. It is called the Bridge to Recovery Program and is at a Day Hospital. It provides DBT/CBT in group format as well as a clinician and psychiatrist for one-on-one psychiatry once a week and medication changes should I need that. They also offer classes after the group therapy sessions as well as on weekends: ceramics, bead-making, yoga, etc. I cannot participate in some of the workout ones (yoga, etc) because of my eating disorder but that’s fine for me. I’m not so into yoga anyway.
As for being anorexic, I’m not sure what’s happening. My clinician is trying hard to get in contact with Credit Valley Hospital in Mississauga so that I can try and get into their inpatient eating disorders program as my BMI is too low for outpatient and the lack of structure in outpatient would make it extremely difficult for me. In short, if I’m capable of running off and coming home I will. So putting me somewhere that would make it complicated to get home on my own means I’m more likely to go, “Well, I’m stuck here…might as well make the best of it”.
This blog was started with the intention to focus solely on my eating disorder but for now, it’s going to chronicle my getting better from both anorexia, my mental illnesses and addiction. To yet again quote Nikki Sixx: