In April 2010 I was admitted into Wesley Hospital in Ashfield, diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa. I was very ill, and I had no idea. I had lost my mind having eaten barely a tomato and a carrot in the month or so leading up to the admission. When I went in for an assessment I was told I would be in a wheelchair and I was stunned. I felt scared, angry and chaotic. I couldn’t believe that I was sick enough to warrant that statement. And I was scared that maybe he was telling the truth.
My mum took me home and made me lie on the couch. The doctor had told her I wasn’t allowed to go out alone, and that I should be on bed rest. He told her that she would have to watch me in the bathroom in case I fell and she was to take me to the emergency ward if I became unstable. He warned my mum that it was likely to be a month before a bed became available
The people in charge want potential patients to prove their motivation; they don’t want to give a bed to someone who doesn’t want to recover. It seems odd to me as the will and hope for life is often lost when you reach the state of starvation that requires a hospital bed in the first place. I was told to call the hospital every day to check on bed availability and when I rang, in a moment of clarity, I was told that the next bed was coming up in three or four weeks. It hit me that I might die.
Anorexia is a complicated illness, there were moments where I was terrified of death, and as I put a weetbix in a bowl and ran some water over it I berated myself for thinking I needed to eat and it went in the bin. I would pass out and when I opened my eyes I was confused and yet I was proud that I had been so strong and eaten so little.
It wasn’t about looking good, I don’t think Anorexia is ever about looking good. It’s easy enough to use that as a reason because it makes sense, it’s a diet gone wrong, people can understand that and then blame the person for being vain and self-involved. But I think you have to have a deep level of self hatred to starve yourself for a prolonged period of time. When I started my “diet” I wanted to look good at my dad’s wedding. Within a month I was afraid to eat anything other than salad. I would eat with my flatmate and I would drink long blacks and smoke copious amounts of cigarettes throughout the day.
In hospital it was painful and horrific to sit at the dining table, being presented with my plate covered in cling film. The staff grew frustrated as I dissociated, it hurt to hear their voice, bringing me back to reality. Some meals I ate, some I didn’t, some I couldn’t. And faced with a calorie supplement I shook and clutched my neck scratching at my skin in panic and fear.