Losing My Religion

I have recently been officially diagnosed with bipolar ii, which means my mood fluctuates and in the extreme, I experience psychosis. One of my more serious episodes happened two years ago in hospital.

Athough I had been confined to a psychiatric ward for two months, my mood was continuing to deteriorate. I had been taking my anti-depressants, but they seemed to be doing little to improve my state of mind.

With ample spare time on the ward, I was able to curb the boredom through reading, something I usually don’t have a lot of time to do. One book that I was particularly absorbed by, was ‘Shrine’ by James Herbert. For those of you who have not read this, the book involves a little girl who becomes possessed by an evil spirit.

As I sat in my little hospital room, consumed with depression and plagued by intrusive thoughts, I began to become increasingly agitated and I couldn’t help thinking about that little girl in the book.

I felt like something was crawling under my skin, like my body wasn’t my own. I stopped sleeping and spent most of my time studying the book and pacing through the ward. After a few days, my behaviour roused the attention of the staff, which lead one nurse to eventually approach me in my room and ask what was wrong.

“I want to see a priest.” was my nervous reply.

I think this took her by surprise, but she humoured me.

“The occupational therapist will be here tomorrow, maybe she can take you to the chapel?”

This response seemed to settle me and I curled up under a blanket as the concerned nurse left my room.

In the morning, I waited outside the office for the OT to arrive, but she never did. She was sick and there was no one available to take me to the hospital chapel. The absence of the OT only fuelled my paranoid psychosis. I was now convinced that I was possessed by some evil entity that had made this innocent member of staff unwell, making it impossible for me to seek help from a priest.

I lay on my bed, wrought with fear. My thoughts were spiralling out of control and I needed help. I called my Mum, a devout christian, who I knew would be able to comfort me. Although my story seemed to confuse her (as it was well known that I did not believe in God or anything spiritual) she actually sounded relived that I had confided in her.

What my Mum didn’t understand was that I was unwell, not merely seeking absolution. She told me to pray and seek forgiveness, which further encouraged my irrationality. I demanded to be let out of the ward so I could see a priest and pray with my Mum. My demands were not met and by the end of the afternoon, I was placed on a section.

I felt as though my life was over, I ran to the nearest bathroom and unscrewed a light fitting. I smashed the interior lightbulb and hid a piece of glass in my slipper. Later that evening, I took the glass shard and pierced my arm, severing an artery.

This desperate act saw the beginning of my high level observation and a cocktail of anti-psychotic medication. Facing your demons never felt so literal.

The Incredible Journey

I sat on my bed in my parents house. Although I had lived there for 23 years, the room felt alien to me. I had been discharged from hospital two days ago, after a painful and testing six month stay. Just before I was admitted, I didn’t believe I was going to be returning home.

My mum called me from downstairs, it was time to leave and go to a new therapy group I had been enrolled into. It was a 12 week programme for young people with mental health problems and so soon after coming home, I was terrified.

I was wearing my favourite dress with my white long sleeve cardigan that covered the scars on my arms. I had washed my hair and put an extra layer of make up on to try and disguise my pale hospital skin. Mum and I stayed fairly quiet in the car, filling the silences with talk of passing farm animals and interesting foliage.

As we arrived at the community centre, I took a deep breath, said bye to Mum and jumped out the car. I was trying my hardest not to show my anxiety to people passing in the car park, hoping I would spontaneously combust before I reached the entrance. I walked into reception where an old security guard guided me towards a room where ten other anxious looking faces looked up at me from their seats.

At this point, I realised everyone was wearing outdoor clothing. Waterproofs, boots, wellies, the lot. I looked down at my pink floaty dress and thought “shit”.

A young, chirpy blonde youth worker appeared in front of me and cheerfully said;

“Did you know we’re going mountain biking today?”

I stared at her with complete contempt and replied;

“Um no, no I did not know that.”

Inside, my brain was repeating various expletives but the cheery youth worker maintained her annoying positivity.

“Well you’ll be the most glamorous mountain biker we’ve had!”

Part of me wanted to kill her but I abstained from violence as she introduced me to the rest of the group and the one other male youth worker. They all seemed quite nice actually.

I sat next to a girl on the minibus who looked about excited as I was. We didn’t say anything to each other but I could tell we shared a mutual feeling of general unhappiness about the situation. We eventually arrived at what seemed like a lumber yard. The youth workers assigned us each a bike and helmet and we started our journey across the Welsh countryside.

After cycling across rivers, over hills and through vast woodland, we arrived at a park where we all sat and had sandwiches. By now, I had forgotten all about my ill-chosen clothing and initial anxiety. We didn’t want to admit it, but after chatting and laughing about how muddy we were, it seemed our outdoor activity had proved a valuable and uplifting adventure.

Food

I hate food. I hate eating food, talking about food and even watching food. So after noting the title of this post, you can understand this is going to be difficult for me to write.

Here we go.

I was 14 years old, at the beginning of my summer holidays, just before the start of year 10. I was starting to find myself and become more aware of how important body image was amongst my peers. I wasn’t huge by any means, but I was ‘chunky’ and the boys in school certainly made me aware of this, through nasty remarks and cruel jokes.

I made a decision at the start of that summer, that I was going on a diet to reinvent myself. My parents were all for it, they always thought I needed to lose weight and be more healthy. I don’t think they realised how destructive and painful this weight loss would turn out to be.

I started by using a points based diet, which worked really well. I was shedding the pounds, still eating healthily and I began to think that I could lose more weight if I skipped the odd meal or cut some more calories. I was right. The weight dropped off me and by the end of the six week holiday, I had lost two stone.

I received so many compliments and my parents just turned a blind eye to my injurious methods. I felt great when I went back to school. I had new popular friends and boys were actually interested in me. I became obsessed with becoming thinner.

It wasn’t long before the elation turned to misery. I kept cutting out meals and hiding food. The first time I made myself sick was awful. I drank salt water and cried for an hour afterwards. I just lay on the kitchen floor and sobbed;

“Why am I so fat and disgusting?”

The longest I went without food was a week. Not one morsel passed my lips, just water. I felt weak, like I would faint any second and I had constant headaches. My friends started to notice I wasn’t eating and asked me to stop. I kept thinking;

“How dare you tell me to stop this, you are only friends with me because I lost the weight in the first place!”

I had lost nearly four stone and my friend’s Mum became concerned. She made an appointment for me to see a doctor. The only reason I agreed to go, was so I could ask for diet pills. When I arrived in the doctor’s office, I asked for the pills but was suprised when he asked me to get on the weighing scales.

I stared at the scales, frozen with terror. I weighed myself three to four times a day but never in front of anyone. Eventually I got on and started to cry. The doctor said he wanted to refer me to a psychiatrist and he would give me a letter to give to my parents.

I was a mess. I didn’t want help, but I was exhausted and tired of being controlled by food. I decided I would leave the letter on my Mum’s bed and head out for the night. I should have just told my parents face to face but I was young and scared of what they would say.

I returned home the next day and lay on the sofa. My Mum came rushing in.

“WHAT THE HELL IS THIS?!”

she was holding the letter in her hand and shaking it wildly at me.

“THIS IS TYPICAL! YOU’RE ALWAYS AFTER SOME DRAMA, A BIT OF 999!!”

All hope drained away from me. I looked up at Mum with immense sadness. This was the one person who was meant to throw her arms around me and tell me everything was going to be OK.

I kept quiet and we never spoke of it again. I can’t eat with my parents now and I have put on a lot of weight after constant secret eating. Food, to me, will always feel like an affliction.