Christine is one of our regular writers – she focuses on topics related to eating disorders, in particular, what it’s like to be in a ward dedicated to that purpose.
5am. A nurse, I’m not sure which one, bursts into my room. ‘Weighing time.’ They shrill. I shift in my bed slightly, and lift myself out of it. Squinting I plod (with the kind of grace that only a 70lb weakling can plod with) down the corridor to the bathroom, to pee out anything that might not count as true physical weight. Of course, I’m only allowed to drink 700ml a day at the moment, so the bladder does not really need emptying right now.
When it’s my turn I enter the weighing room. Pulling of my top and stepping out of my trousers I feel the cool sterility of the room hit me and make the hair on my arms tremor and my nipples stiffen. It wasn’t embarrassment anymore; I was used to being a medical experiment and observed by nurses. Boxes of tablets and bottles of medicines fill the white cabinets that lined the room. I wish I could just take a pill to be rid of this horrible illness. What was it that I had been told – it’s a spiritual, physical, and mental illness. The NHS might be able to try to fix the latter, but spiritual – that was beyond the best of them. It is such a difficult illness to navigate. A bit like walking on a frozen river – most of the time I felt safe enough, but there was always the danger that my strength might crack and I will plunge through.
The nurse’s voice brings me out of my hazey state.
‘It’s ready for you.’
I step on to the scales, looking down at my lilac toenails against the black surface. Beep. Notifying me that the weight had been registered. Whatever the results, my heart sinks. There were reasons I was here, and the reasons I wanted to get out – but that did not always translate to what I wanted to see on the scales. The shifting sound of a pencil on card told me that the results had been marked on my charts, and the morning ritual was over.
Leaving the room, I keep my head down and try to avoid the eyes of the queue of girls lined up outside, wrapped in dressing gowns and wrapped up in their own fears. Padding back to my room, I briefly pull apart the curtains and peer through the crack I have created. The bottom half of the window pane is clouded with condensation. It is still dark outside, but there is a fiery haze enveloping the red brick buildings, a suggestion of a vast cosmos beyond the deserted hospital site.
I sigh, trying to roll my shoulders back and stand tall and strong, but really just wanting to curl up into a tiny ball. When the bell rang for breakfast, I find myself in the foetal position on top of a pile of sheets and covers. It seemed that I had been doing exactly that.