by Jen Groombridge
Extracts from an ex-resident who has since relapsed but is seeking help and now has insight in a way she has never known before. The greatest fear of the sufferer is that once they start eating they will never stop.
Unfortunately it is 20 years since I first was diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa.
The psychiatrist seems to have little interest in E.D. I felt I was begging for help.
I asked him. "If I had chemo for cancer and went into remission, does that mean I should not get ill again? If the cancer did come back would I no longer be in need of chemo?" He had no understanding or interest.
We need an expert to give us confidence in our eating. Someone who can reassure and support. Explain our physical and mental needs for adequate nutrition. To explain our body's reaction to extra food and help us still feel safe and in control.
I need to help myself. Believe me, I wish I could.
That was the beauty of Pondtail House. We could see food preparation and sometimes help. Together we ate with 'normal' people so we could observe their behaviour around food. Support in serving ourselves an adequate portion allowed us to feel in control and built confidence. Conversation took the focus off the task but an encouraging word was always available.
The focus was on normalising habits around food and eating. We were not just there to gain weight. Unlike other places I have been to the food was fresh, hot and tasty. Like home cooking, varied and not made to contain as many calories as possible to build us up.
At PH we were learning for life. Seeing food as a thing to be enjoyed, not food. Variety was available and encouraged. We began to learn that cakes were OK to eat but there are other alternatives such as nuts and seeds. A mixture was encouraged.
We were not just eating to gain weight but to give our bodies the goodness in a variety of foods. The benefits of all food were explained and so became less scary. We were not being indulgent, we were looking after our bodies. The opportunity to cook and eat our own grown food made it more accessible. Helped us build a better relationship with it.
We were treated as equal, intelligent people. Work was done to help us accept ourselves for who we were. To value ourselves. Search our souls for what gave us joy. We were encouraged to express ourselves through mediums other than food such as art and writing and movement such as yoga.
Staff were always around for chat, games and support. Like a friend, companion, not just someone employed. Real relationships were formed.
At PH I learnt to like myself more. Accept myself for who I was, the good and bad. Learn it was OK to be me, I was deserving and worthwhile. This was continually reinforced. I began to consider which things "gave me joy".
My thoughts and behaviour were beginning to change. I was more accepting of my body. I spent time with myself and my feelings. Yoga and dancing were fun, rewarding activities. An incentive to recover and so join in more fully. I truly realised what anorexia robbed me of. I began to focus on my goals, my dreams and believe a bit more that they were within reach.
Weight gain was slow, steady and safe. I have never eaten such a variety of healthy food believing that it was OK. That I deserved it.
I began to accept my emotions and express them, good and bad. Starvation was no longer an answer to suppressing unwanted thoughts and feelings.
Pondtail helped me move on and develop as a person. I felt like an individual not just an anorexic. I believe PH is part of the reason I have not deteriorated further with this relapse. I have maintained a sense of self and better cognition.
Although my weight is low I still retain the sense of self I developed and see food more as something vital to my existence not a thing that I don't deserve. My body image has also slightly improved.
© Empatico 2009—2012