My friend *Liz was an easy going soul with the world at her feet. She lived a life to be envied, one filled with love, laughter and promise.
That was until about a year ago when she succumbed to an eating disorder that almost robbed her of her family, happiness and sanity. This is her story.
I remember the day so clearly. It was the first day of winter and thundering down with rain. I couldn’t have scripted a darker scenario if I tried and the timing seemed almost poetic in nature.
For months I had refused to listen, refused to hear anyone but the voices in my head. The people who loved me screamed, begged and pleaded for me to open my ears and listen to them instead of the devil sitting on my shoulder. But I wouldn’t, actually let’s rephrase that… I couldn’t listen. I couldn’t hear because the voice inside my head at the time had become my best friend, my ally, the one thing that made me smile and feel excitement each day and the only thing I needed.
Forget my husband, my family, my children. Nothing meant as much to me as my new best friend who at times I deplored and was repulsed by, and at times I couldn’t breathe without. It has become a part of me, as much a part of me as the skin that covered my bones or the air that I breathed.
On that cold winter’s day as I shovelled another spoonful of ice cream into my mouth, I finally reached what you might call ‘breaking point’. The point where I could see no light at the end of the tunnel, not even a spark. For months I had been able to find a new way to do things, a new approach to work with, the motivation to just try again, but on this day it all came to a crushing end. And as I reached for the phone, my hands covered in ice cream and my face covered in tears, I made the call I had avoided making for months.
I begged and pleaded with the voice on the other end of the phone to ‘take me in’, ‘take me in now’ because I knew that if they didn’t, I would wake up tomorrow and the voice in my head would have inspired me to try a new technique, give it another go, be understanding and accommodate my best friend’s crazy antics for a bit longer.
Call it kismet or fate but at that moment the planets aligned and the voice on the other end of the phone told me that I was next on the list and that there would be a place available for me in the morning. Hearing that sent panic through my body, I knew I needed to go in to treatment but all of my fears were about to be brought to the forefront in one thunderous blow. Once I made the decision, I told my husband and then my family. I could almost hear them simultaneously breathe a sigh of relief as the one thing they all wished for was finally coming to fruition.
I was entering a clinic that might finally end the year of torture I had put them all through, and most importantly help me kill the monster inhabiting my head. When you make a decision like that it is terrifying, as you know the safe and secure world you created, despite it being a dark and horrible place, might just disappear. And that everything you had hidden from and developed the disorder to escape from would be brought to the surface in titanic proportions.
I read up on similar facilities and how they treated patients, and also about the meal plans, expectations and positive and negative outcomes of entering treatment. But nothing, and I mean NOTHING, could prepare me for the world I was about to enter. As I kissed my partner goodbye I could barely see straight as my eyes were so swollen from crying and my throat so dry from fear. What was I doing I asked myself, am I crazy, surely I can fix this myself. The voice in my head tried to break through. But I knew that as much as I loved my best friend, it was time to say goodbye because if I didn’t, we would end up disappearing into the abyss together.