I've had a really bad stomach this week, and it's been kind of nice actually. I know that doesn't seem to make a lot of sense, but I mean I've been physically ill and it's not been at all self inflicted. I always prefer being physically ill to mentally ill because, I don't know, despite me believing wholeheartedly that mental health problems aren't a choice, I still always feel really guilty when my mental health is particularly bad. And none of my current symptoms were deliberately brought about. So it really is lovely. I mean, it doesn't seem too lovely as my innards evacuate my body through my arse or when I can barely sit down, but, y'know.
The thing about having a stomach bug that makes it so lovely is, for several years, I was addicted to laxatives. I know this is an uncomfortable and kind of gross topic, but that's exactly what eating disorders are. They're not perfectly made-up skinny girls living some sort of Hollywood lifestyle. My eating disorder was nights crying as blood came out of both ends of me, because the laxatives were literally ripping my insides apart. My eating disorder was neglecting the people I loved and the things I needed to do, because my compulsions were louder than their pleas. My eating disorder was being banned from buying laxatives in 4 different chemists, so stealing them from the supermarket. My eating disorder was being told I was going to die of complications from the abuse my body endured, and being more than ok with that.
In the beginning, when I was 15, I didn't know of anybody else who abused them and I didn't let anyone else know I was. It was lonely, but it also made me feel hard. Like I'd discovered something brand new. At that point, I enjoyed it, truth be told, although I was shocked every time by the level of the pain from laxative cramps. As my addiction got more intense, I was dying, quite literally, for something that made me feel alive. I didn't stop regularly smuggling them into all kinds of hospital units until I was 23- it was only when I was physically- manually- stopped that I stopped taking them.
When I stopped, my anorexia was at a high and I literally did not shit for over 2 months. In the end it took 3 really grim suppositories, an hour in a toilet and a stench like something had died, all whilst I had to be in arms reach of two members of staff. I can't even imagine how grim that night was for them.
The last time I took laxatives was on my 24th birthday in 2014, a few months after that grim night. I was still in hospital and there was a horrible atmosphere on the ward. It was just horrible, full stop, and I felt like nobody gave a shit that it was my birthday, despite having been on that ward for almost 2 years. So I took some time off the ward and went straight out and bought some laxatives. They were the first thing I thought of that would make my day better. They were the first thing I thought of that would give me myself back.
It all ended with me back on a general ward, being treated for low potassium and dehydration. As I laid there hooked up to drips, I realised what a bullshit (no pun, I swear) clutch that laxatives are. They gave me nothing and stripped me of everything.
It's been nearly 2 years now and here I am, with a stomach bug and not hating it. Not because I feel good and not because I'm benefiting in the sort of way I thought I did from laxatives, but because I can sit here and marvel at how different my life is now. Being ill is miserable, but it's also sort of enlightening. My head is spinning and my stomach kills, but I know tomorrow I'll be ok. And that's something I didn't believe, let alone know, a few years ago. And that's something I'm more than ok with.