The way I describe the last couple of weeks is that things ‘took a turn for the hectic.’
On a Monday evening, I saw a doctor about the pain I was getting with my kidneys. Of course I knew already that this would be related to anorexia. I gave a sample and the GP came down on me pretty hard. He said that my kidneys were about to give up and they could not flush out the toxins in my body, like lithium, for example. My sample was full of ketones and he told me I was ‘peeing out my muscle mass.’ He also said that he could tell I had no sugar whatsoever in my body and my kidneys need it to work. Having been in this situation a hundred times, I took all of this quite lightly. But he then went onto say that I will soon have kidney failure if I continue this way; that my body didn’t have time to recover from the last bout of prolonged starvation and it is reacting more severely and much quicker than in the past. When I told him that hearing these things was nowhere near enough to make me start eating, he threatened me with a section. He warned that- this time- I would not be going to a unit where I had the choice to leave, like last October, but they would put me somewhere where I would be forfeiting my human rights. All I thought to myself in this moment was that I would not be going back to him or any doctor and that I would no longer be honest about my actions, if honesty meant being locked up against my will.
That night I went to bed empty.
The following morning, around 10am, I began to stir in my bed, thinking I had heard something about my dad falling over in the shower. I realised I should go downstairs and investigate how bad the situation was, but I’d had a late night and I struggled to physically move myself. I continued to drift in and out of sleep for a while, before I was fully awoken by my mum calling me from the bottom of the stairs. There was a desperate tone to her voice and so I finally went out to the landing. I was greeted by the sight of her hobbling up the stairs with a stick. When she made it up the stairs I sat on the bed with her and she told me an ambulance was on its way because the doctors on 111 believed she had had a stroke.
I was in complete shock and- for a while- denial. My mum normally walks over ten miles every day, and has done since as far back as I can remember. She has always eaten well, never gets sick, is slim and looks great for her age. Although she could not walk straight or without a stick and she was slurring her words a little, and said she could not feel the left side of her body, her mental capacity appeared completely normal and I almost doubted that it wasn’t just bad cramp.
But when the paramedics arrived they said her blood pressure was through the roof and took her away with flashing lights. Still I figured that they would keep her in A+E for a few hours, run some tests and let her come home and everything would go back to normal. But she ended up staying on the stroke ward for five days; they took a brain scan and found a bleed, confirming it was a full stroke and could not reduce her blood pressure, despite therapy and medications (which she is still taking now and her blood pressure remains high even after a fortnight).
Those five days my mum spent in the hospital felt like a decade to me. Although I have some deep-rooted and serious issues with my parents and our relationship, I had followed the cliché of underappreciating all the little things my mum has always done around the house, and suddenly it was my full-time job to hold the fort down. I was going mad with worry, and on top of that we didn’t just have our usual two dogs in the house, but four, as we were looking after a friend’s dogs. So not only was I having to keep everything together, I was having to do 3-4 dog walks a day, while my own health suffered terribly and I was running on zero fuel to get all of these things done.
When mum escaped the hospital, they didn’t really want to let her go, she had insisted, and so the worry was even worse when she came home. They had said she was (and remains) still at high risk of having a repeat stroke. She was elated to be home, but I worried about how we would cope if it happened again without any doctors around.
Things for me have quietened down a little the past few days as mum has been told she’s allowed to complete small tasks, like a bit of washing up or loading the washing machine. The other two dogs have not gone back home and three times a week some friends are taking my dogs for a proper long walk, as I cannot manage too far in my current physical state.
But one week ago, disaster struck once again.
I have had some strange things going on with my body lately, but of course I tend to ignore them for the most part and put everything down to having an eating disorder. Anorexia can affect any area of your body, in some cases fatally, but in most cases there is nothing that can be done about it unless you start eating or- like the last time- get yourself admitted to hospital where they fix you for about 48 hours before you go home and screw yourself up again.
But one evening when my friend was here, I went to the bathroom and saw that I’d been bleeding a little. This was way outside of my menstrual cycle and I was very confused. I was mostly confused because starvation, malnutrition and being underweight has a habit of stopping you having periods, not making you bleed irregularly. However it was very little that night, so I decided to ignore it for the time being and told myself my body was just very confused by what I was putting it through all over again.
However over the next couple of days it got heavier and heavier until I reached a point of feeling physically drained from blood loss. It was then I started putting my symptoms together and I did not like the conclusion I reached.
I had not turned up for my smear one year ago, and I knew I had been carrying HPV for years without knowing the damage that can cause. I had also thrown my appointment in the bin for my BRACA gene test which they do routinely if you carry a certain type of cancer for many generations in your family. I’ve always had multiple health issues to deal with, so I guess I had to prioritize which then resulted in me missing important appointments over the past couple of years. I also had a ‘scare’ last year when doctors told me I had bowel cancer and I was bedridden for seven months, only to then be told they got it wrong and they never even found out why I got so ill back then.
In the end I went to see a doctor last week, and he referred me to have a test a couple of days later. But now it feels like life is really dragging this one out for me, and maybe I am just not meant to know yet. When I saw the nurse, she went through some questions with me relating to my collection of symptoms, the fact that I already carry HPV, the fact that I am a heavy smoker and so on and so forth. Then she told me she could not print off my form as I was not registered as a permanent resident there, even though I had done everything I was asked to do. So she told me- as this needs to be done urgently- to go to the hospital. Which I did, and I was there one hour later. The doctor there told me they could not carry out the test either, as I was bleeding too much and this would give a false result. So he gave me some tablets to take over the weekend to stop the bleeding and told me to go back Monday morning. With my exhaustion being as it is, and as I am so awful at getting up in the mornings and the buses take a lifetime, I spent £25 on travel to get to the clinic, only to then be told again that they could not access my paperwork and therefore they couldn’t do the test.
As it stands now, I have an appointment on Friday and I will have to call them in advance to make sure they will be able to print my form. Now I am just fed up and angry with the person who took my information who could not press a single button to activate my resident status.
Although I wasn’t told that I could, I am still taking the tablets so that it will be possible to carry out this test. I have also been informed that- no matter how urgent this test may be- I will be waiting for up to two weeks for the result.
So, on the one hand- yes, I do have every single symptom and the irregular bleeding deeply worries me- but on the other hand, I have been through this before and it turned out to be completely fine. Also, two more weeks is nothing in comparison to the six months I waited last year, and back then I was too ill to even walk down the stairs.
Even when I do not eat for weeks at a time, I not only have the strange adrenaline that you get when you starve yourself for long periods; I also have bipolar which- even in the worst physically restricting circumstances- means you maintain your hyperactivity and unpredictable, energetic changes in mood. In one sense this is great, as right now I have to walk the dogs twice a day and complete tasks I wouldn’t normally have to. In another sense it is a total curse because, even when you would like a bit of sympathy, everyone around you thinks there’s nothing wrong with you. Most people who did not eat for 17 days would be permanently collapsed and look like a walking corpse. I, on the other hand, look like my normal self (apparently) and continue on as normal with my life like nothing is any different.
It’s pretty unfair in my family, my mum has been very lucky in the sense that everyone has been running around after her and showing her plenty of support, and my dad will do absolutely anything for her. But when I have more than one illness going on- one that is potentially very serious- nobody gives a flying f**k. I am not well at all at present and yet no one ever asks me how I am feeling throughout the day, and every appointment I go to, even if I have to go to the hospital, I go alone and I have to spend a fortune on a taxi even though we have a car. While my mum was in hospital I spent almost £100 on gifts for her, and every time my dad went to the hospital- even if I couldn’t go- I had to pay for the petrol.
It is like I don’t exist to them, and in fact yesterday I had a horrendous row with my father where I told him- quite brutally- that they were the ones who screwed me up and they are the main reason I do not eat.
Some might say it is time for me to ‘grow up’ and let go of my childhood. This is something I am able to do perfectly well when I am living away from my parents, but when I am living under the same roof and I am vulnerable, my neglect at a young age comes flooding back to me.
I always think to myself that I will over shelter or even love my child or children too much, as I want to give him or her what I lacked: Love and attention (and often gas and electricity in the home). I do not care if my child grows up ‘spoiled’, I only care that they do not suffer in later life as I have, or grow up to be terribly insecure and self-destructive.
… And then I feel devastated by the idea of what may happen now, if the doctors are right, and they may want to rob me of my womanhood and ability to have a child. For some reason I have been dying to have a baby recently, which is just so ironic because I am actually single for once.
I feel I have had the worst possible luck for the last 20 months. At the start I finished my degree, moved away from the place I loved and felt most comfortable, lost my cat, got dumped by the love of my life. Then I fell off a cliff and landed myself on crutches for six weeks. I met another man, moved in with him, got told I had bowel cancer and became bedridden. Then my grandma died. Then my anorexia came back, followed by two hospital admissions, failing internal organs, admission to an eating disorders unit. I ran away, moved back here… Went all ‘bipolar’ and totally lost my mind, Christmas was miserable and then another relationship ended, I had terrible emotional problems with an ex, trips were cancelled, I was totally and helplessly depressed, my anorexia returned and my kidneys started giving up and then of course my mum had a stroke, followed by being told I probably have cancer (again) AND then yesterday I received a terrible letter saying I owe the government £7,000 on top of the council tax people chasing my ass for a debt I was not aware of…
But in the middle of all of that, a couple of weeks ago I received a phone call saying that some people wanted to pay cash from my grandma’s house. On February 22nd it will be the one year anniversary of her death (my grandma and I were very close), so it seems strange that, after all of this time of it sitting on the market, unwanted, it should sell so close to the anniversary of her death. And no, I am not being superstitious; I do not believe in the afterlife or anything of the sort (come on, I took a degree in philosophy). I do not yet know if the contracts have been signed, but things in this area are promising. Of course my original plan was to move into my own flat, alone, in Bristol as soon as I got my share of the money from the house, but more than one thing has now stopped me in my tracks which is no less than infuriating.
Due to my never ending string of bad luck, I find it hard to believe that I may see this money in the next few weeks and I can start a new life for myself; I keep expecting the deal to fall through as I have lost faith in life recently.
But I can cling onto this nonetheless, as one very, very good thing amongst all the total and utter shit.
In the meantime I find myself enjoying not only the music of David Bowie, moved by his recent passing, but also old movies he played in. I feel awful that it took the news of his death for me to develop such an interest in his genius, but music and film will always go on and on; they are timeless, even if we are doomed by our own mortality.