The day after my 24th birthday I found myself trapped in an Eating Disorders Unit with no possessions other than a train ticket to Exeter.
I suppose I should have been grateful to have anything at all, but when asked to choose one item to take to a desert island (which is pretty much what a psychiatric unit feels like, only with less sand), a “train ticket to Exeter” is not a very popular choice.
How I found myself in such a situation actually started the previous day; my 24th birthday.
That morning, I woke up (a good start on one’s birthday), got in my car, and headed off to my weekly appointment at the hospital for People With Eating Disorders.
I knew things were not going well at home in terms of my anorexic mindset and behaviours, but while knowing things to be horrendous, I also thought that somehow everything was fine.
There is definitely a considerable difference between knowing something to be true and actually believing it, or anticipating the consequences.
As always, my appointment started with me stepping onto the scales, a silly machine that measures nothing other than my relationship with gravity, yet one that still strikes utter terror into my very soul.
Placing my feet on the little outlined footpads always feels like stepping before a judge and waiting to hear how guilty I am, and what the punishment will be.
I thought that being weighed on my birthday would maybe be a little more cheerful than past experiences of this kind, (perhaps I would receive a balloon afterwards or a party hat), but alas my reward after the number had been documented was to be told that I needed to be admitted for my fifth stint in a psychiatric hospital and that a bed was ready for me in two days’ time.
It all sounded ridiculous. I think I actually laughed. I couldn't go into hospital! For one thing I wasn’t really that ill, and anyway, it was my birthday.
I had presents and cards to open. There was no time for hospital admissions!
In retrospect it seems pretty silly that my first thought was worrying about how much time I'd have to look at some presents I'd been given, rather than potentially having to face all of my eating disorder fears in one go; but those fears were too big to get my head round at the time and too scary to contemplate – so it felt safer to bury my head in the sand and wrapping paper instead.
My first instinct was to refuse to go into hospital. So that’s exactly what I did.
My psychiatrist didn't seem particularly happy with that decision, and sent me away with 24 hours to reconsider.
24 hours on my first day of being 24 to contemplate whether or not I could handle an admission to hospital, to tackle a mental illness that has been controlling me for as long as I can remember.
All I could do was go home and pretend as if that appointment hadn't happened.
It was only the next day that I realised how impossible that was going to be…