I said, “As I just said, I was hoping you’d refer me back to the Eating Disorders clinic”. (And, to give her her due, this is what she did.)
Next, the Access and Assessment service called me. Because I’ve been through the process before, I had some understanding of the answers that would trigger a concern: the carelessness for my own health and welfare, the strain on my marriage and family relationships; the fact that I don’t want to get better, all played out right in front of the children who are at particularly vulnerable, impressionable ages.
The first time I went through this process, I had no goal or clear sense of what was going on or where it would, ultimately, lead. I was just a bewildered little pudding who had been made to realise that something was wrong with him and had promised to do something about it. I had no real sense of what these people asking me the same questions (was I suicidal? Did I self-harm) would actually do with this information, or how they might help me.
Now, however, I had a definite sense of how I wanted to be treated: I wanted them to hospitalise me and force me to eat. The relief from my kitchen duties would be immense. I could relinquish control of my eating, and of my food hoarding, shopping, listing and cooking. I could eat horrid food until my weight was high enough to be discharged, and have the energy to work with Phil effectively, and to write well. In my fantasy, this would all happen immediately, so that the children and Jo would be on holiday in Portugal and Ireland while I was in hospital. I’d avoid the challenges of weaving my way around meals in Portugal and of my parents in Ireland, while also not having to worry about Jo, Meggie and Daniel trashing the kitchen and my food stores.
So I tried to press the right buttons to trigger a hospital admission, telling the truth but not playing it down, as you naturally want to. I said things like, “I’m not suicidal, but I really don’t care if I’m risking a heart-attack; my survival seems a source of indifference to me…” Then I hopefully brought up the idea of a stay in hospital. The duty manager I spoke to was lovely, and very sympathetic, but, having established that my BMI was 16.6, she said “We wouldn’t recommend hospitalisation unless you were at risk of death, which you aren’t.” I said “I guess you’re not going to tell me what my BMI needs to be for me to be a death-risk, are you?” “No”, she replied with sweet tones of sympathy and regret.
This was disappointing, but worse was to come. An hour later she called me back, sounding triumphant: she’d arranged an early appointment for me to see the Eating disorders team. The appointment would be at 1.30, in North Road House, in the next town over from mine, with Abi! In other words, exactly the same time, place and the same specialist I used to see!