Why can't I be perfect?

I have issues. I have lots of them. How will I survive?
This is the story of Bryony James. A 16 year old girl who is struggling with anorexia and depression.
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19. Outside

Living outside is so different to living inside. It has taken a while for me to acclimatise, but with the help of Mum and all my friends I seem to have managed it. It's been two weeks since I was admitted as an outpatient and everything still seems fairly positive.

 On my first week out Mum took me into our nearest city centre where she bought me some new clothes which properly fitted me, even if they were from the children’s section of the shop. The jeans sat around me loosely; Mum said that was good as I was still too skinny to wear tight fitting clothes out of the house. She did get me some burgundy, plum and black leggings for comfortable house wearing though. I wanted blue ones too but Mum was adamant to only get three pairs considering the fact that I would be growing out of them soon. Personally, I was hoping to stabilise at my current weight, it was definitely fat enough for me. Inside I was still suffering with anorexia and, when I lay in bed at night, I wondered if I should begin my complete exercise regime again and restrict my diet. I felt too open and vulnerable to the world without the sense of order and control that my eating disorder had provided me with.

 While we were out shopping Mum tried to take me into a small, secluded cafe for a snack. This was my first real problem since I had been let out of the hospital. I checked over the menu and decided I would order a black coffee which contained very few calories which I couldn't burn off whilst walking round. Instead of this Mum ordered two hot chocolates and two chocolate chip cookies.

 "Bryony, we are alone here." Mum looked around the cafe to ensure she was right. "Therefore, you can try eating out. It's something you'll have to do regularly when you go to university or have to eat at college. Now is a great opportunity to attempt this."

 "Mum," I hissed, "if you were just getting me coffee and you had asked me if you could get me a biscuit then it might be okay. But you didn't! You can't force me into something I don't want to do."

 "Bryony." Mum began in a warning tone. It was too late to say anything else as our drinks and cookies arrived and an old woman walked through the door into the cafe.

 We drank in silence and Mum ate her cookie before wrapping mine up in a serviette to take home. Good food couldn't be wasted. But if she did have to buy such things when they were clearly unwanted what did she expect would happen? Seriously!

 The same afternoon Mum treated me to go to the cinema to see a new film. I chose to go and see The Book Thief. It was closely based on the book which improved it for me as did the brilliant castings. It was more of a treat for me than shopping and visiting a cafe, those activities didn't fill me with as much joy and a sense of peace and relaxation. Only reading and writing could really do that.

 I had to go for an appointment at the hospital on the Tuesday and Friday of my first week of freedom from the ward. Mum drove me in and waited in a small cafe in the centre of the town until I was done. Walking up the stairs and entering the long, squeaky clean corridor filled me with memories of my initial visit; these were memories I didn't want to recall, memories I had buried in the depths of darkness and dust in my brain. As I made my way along Trixie came out of a door further along and turned in my direction. On seeing me she gasped and walked quickly towards me.

 "Bryony! How are you? I've missed you here but I'm glad you've been able to move on." Trixie hugged me tightly and I returned the high as best as I could. I still felt awkward in letting other people touch me and in myself touching them but I was getting better.

 'Trixie, I missed you too. You were amazing. Next time I'm in I'll bring you something to show how much your care has meant to me."

 "Really Bryony, you don't have to. I understand already." Her smile danced about her face, it crossed my mind that Trixie was exactly the person for her job. A constant, joyous, smile type of person. The opposite of me.

 We parted our separate ways and I continued to Dr. Wakes's office. Fear began to build up inside me at the prospect of meeting with a doctor but I breathed deeply, trying to remind myself that it was normal and was a good thing, not a bad thing, to visit the doctor.

 I knocked on the office door, very gently and barely audible as the unnecessary fear of my visit mounted.

 "Come in." the familiar voice of Dr. Wakes called.

 I walked in and found Dr. Wakes waiting for me with his notepad and file containing my details in front of him.

 "Hello Bryony. I hope you're doing well and haven't found life in the real world too taxing for your fragile state."

 I grimaced slightly at his use of the word 'fragile' but restrained myself from answering back. Trixie had once told me that it was sometimes best just to let a doctor talk.

 "I'd like to measure your height and weight please, to check being an outpatient is beneficial for you."

 He directed me to an electronic gadget which he informed me was brand new. I had to stand beneath it and a metal plate with rounded sides was slid down to where my head rested. A digital recording was then made of my height. The same machine did my weight by me just standing on a small raised platform at the bottom of the stand. Both readings were sent directly to his computer.

 "Well, it looks as if things aren't brilliant but they aren't awful either. You've barely put on weight and you haven't grown but you aren't deteriorating." Dr. Wakes paused and stroked his chin.

 I sat in my chair, inside I was delighted that I was staying the same, it had been my aim, but I knew Dr. Wakes wouldn't appreciate me telling him this when so much work had been done to cure me of my eating disorder. I looked at the floor, waiting for Dr. Wakes to say something else. I had no idea what the right thing to say was.

 "Bryony, are you happy at home? Is there anything that can be done to help you recover physically?"

 I hadn't expected this. It took me completely by surprise.

 "I'm happy with my Mum. I think I just need a little longer to adjust to being in an everyday environment and then maybe I'll start to gain weight."

 I crossed my fingers behind my back. Hopefully I wouldn't gain more weight. I couldn't face the thought of being, of feeling, fat again.

 "Yes. That sounds like a plan. When I see next time we can discuss your mental health and we'll see how to progress with our other meetings. I think you'd still benefit from a private counselling session with Camilla or Benjamin and perhaps a joint one with either Becca or Daniella. You seem very vulnerable to fluctuate in your level of anorexia."

 I nodded, I agreed and I smiled. I made myself look like the model patient as Dr. Wakes continued to talk with me. As soon as I was able to leave I raced to a field behind the hospital and screamed. I screamed and shouted and raged for five minutes until I felt better. Then I texted Mum and said I was on my way. I felt my heart rate slow as I headed towards the town centre and my breathing returned to normal. Hospitals got me overly stressed as did any discussion of my imperfections and counselling with Camilla. I still didn't see how she had passed any of her psychology qualifications.

 A few minutes later and I was heading towards the car with Mum at my side. She didn't let me walk anywhere. She told me I had to use all my strength to gain weight and to gain strength for working towards my AS level exams in nine month’s time.

 I had done my GCSES in the summer, despite being very ill, because work and revision made me calmer and the hospital were struggling to prevent me revising and learning everything for the exams. I don't think it's normally allowed but I was a new arrival and Brookhill College agreed to let me go back for exams although, if I fail, they will let me retake the year on mental health grounds. I get the results in three weeks. I'm hoping I have been successful otherwise everything I put myself through and the attempts I made to get better quickly will all have been in vain. I know Dr. Wakes would say I shouldn't think or say such things but I can do what I want. He can't control everything I do.

 The following week I have to go to a counselling session with Benjamin in the morning followed by a meeting with Dr. Wakes and then a counselling session with a new therapist, Jem, and Becca. I also get to have lunch with all the people on the ward so I can chat to my friends and see whose left, moved in or come. I know that Elise has left as she was going at the same time as me and, lucky thing, she didn't have to come back for counselling, just once a month reviews!

 My counselling session with Benjamin was extremely different to the ones when I was an inpatient. We sat next to each other and he asked about my school friends and my Mum. He also asked if I had been writing any more stories or poetry. He knew I did such things as I had once shown him a poem I had written. We discussed books too. At the end of our session he asked me to write a poem. I obliged him by agreeing. I titled the poem

 'A Season Out Of Time':


Pretty flowers everywhere,

 Little children running free,

 Playing without a care

 Whilst I'm climbing this never ending tree


Which for some takes a lifetime,

 Unrelenting till it's done

 But for me is just a season out of time

 Until the battles won.


Not wavering till the very top,

 Not lingering till I look back,

 When I shudder and stop

 Wondering if there's another path I should track.


But it's purely a season,

 It can't go on forever.

 Someday I'll find a reason

 For why I've seen such weather.


 Later, when I went to see Dr. Wakes before lunch, he told me Benjamin had been helping me to feel positive within myself and that the poem I had written could be used to explain how I may be feeling and how my brain was functioning. Apparently, it was a new form of therapy that was being developed and it seemed to have helped Benjamin talk to me, in my case. Dr. Wakes was very pleased with the progress I had made in that two hour slot alone. His joy at my suddenly positive recovery made me happier too, it looked like I was closer to achieving perfection in his books! He let me out in good time to go to the ward where Becca and Daniella were waiting in the common room area for me.

 "Becca! Daniella!" I cried as the three of us embraced in an awkward hug.

 "Bryony! We've missed you a lot." Daniella informed me.

 "But, thank heaven, I'll be out of here in two week’s time. And then I'll come to see you, or we can meet up, every single day." Becca exclaimed excitedly.

 "Really?" I gasped. "Well done Becca. I'm so glad you're going to get out. It's so much better having freedom. Daniella, when are they letting you out as an outpatient? It must be soon."

 "I hope so. I know I'm gaining weight and it feels awful, I hate it but I know that's my only chance of escaping here and being able to continue my life. I might relapse but, to be honest, I wasn't having any problems with the way I chose to live my life. These professionals may call it an eating disorder but it improved my feelings and my health. I can't change my mindset."

 "Daniella, you won't get out if they hear you saying that. That's why I'm back for extra counselling." I said sounding slightly forlorn.

 "I agree with Bryony. Anyway, let's go for lunch. The bell must be going soon. It's never more than five minutes late ringing. And for once, I'm actually looking forward to this." Becca announced.

 We trooped to the special dining area. I had requested what we had as I was the guest. We all sat down and carefully chose what to put on our plates. Looking round the table I saw a new girl who was slowly picking up a low fat cheese scone, clearly trying to calculate how many calories it held. The level of lettuce and celery on her plate also told me she was being restrictive. She was very very slim, even to my distorted eyes and I thought that she had to be anorexic. Becca noticed me staring discreetly at the girl occasionally and casually said,

 "I don't believe you've met Elena before have you. Elle, introduce yourself to Bryony."

 The girl, Elena, glanced up at me and took a sip of water before speaking.

 "Hi. I’m Elena, Elena-May for full. I came here on Monday. Everyone seems to think there is something wrong with me."

 I smiled at her, "Yeah, apparently we all have something wrong but if you just do what they say you'll be out soon enough. Give the doctors a bit of trust and you'll be fine."

 "You mean like you?" Elena asked. "I'm sorry but you look quite fat. I don't want to trust anyone who'll force me to put in weight."

 The rest of the table glared at Elena, a few people even made a sharp intake of breath.

 "Elena," Amy hissed, "GET OUT OF HERE NOW!"

 Elena turned bright red like an overripe tomato and scurried away muttering to herself that she didn’t see what she had done wrong and why couldn’t she tell someone what she really thought about them.

 "Oh Bryony." Margaux said, "I didn't expect that. You aren't fat, you're still so slim but looking healthier. She told Uriah he was fat but, basically, he is chubby."

 Margaux threw a nod at Uriah who smiled at her with a wait-till-later look on his face.

 "It's ok. I'm better now at dealing with such comments even though they still bite me savagely." I said bravely.

 Soon lunch was over and everyone was leaving for afternoon activities. Becca and I walked slowly towards the therapy room.

 "Elena needs some solitary confinement if you ask me. She's not fit to be around people who are trying to recover from an eating disorder. I'll go to Trixie later and tell her." Becca enlightened me on the facts of Elena, she made it amusing and I wondered I hadn't missed Becca more.

 Jem hadn't arrived when we got to the room. We waited outside, conversing over all that I had done with my new found freedom. I had just finished explaining some baking I had done the previous day when Jem arrived.

 She was a rounded woman if about twenty-five with medium length coppery hair and turquoise eyes. In short, I thought Jem was beautiful and it made me wonder why part of me felt that my eating disorder improved my appearance and feelings. Jem was chubby but clearly happy with the way she was. That would be bliss. I could tell from the look on Becca face that she felt similarly.

 "Hi. I'm Jem. You must be Becca and Bryony."

 "Hello." Becca and I replied in unison.

 We went into the room and sat down. Jem got out a pad of paper and a pen, setting it neatly in front of her.

 "So," Jem began. “Shall we look at this question and then I'd like us to work on a little role play to explain the possible answers. Does that sound okay?"

 "Yeah. Let's try it." Becca smiled at Jem enthusiastically.

 Jem passed us each a piece of paper. On it was a single question and a few boxes.

 "I'd like you to fill in the boxes and get down your ideas. Then we'll work together to create a role play."

 I chewed the end of my pen and considered what I thought of the question.

 'When does a bad habit become serious enough to be classed as an eating disorder?'

 What kind of a question was that? I mean, a bad habit could be like only eating healthy foods and being began or it could be solely eating salad if anything. And, in my opinion, you got disordered eating habits before you could be classed as having an eating disorder. It was such a complex question. How did Jem think that we could make a role play out of it?

 I filled in the boxes and glanced over at Becca who seemed to have finished as well.

 "So now we'll feedback ideas and start on the role play." Jem announced.

 We spent the rest of the session drafting a role play including all our ideas. It was funny and such a different take on counselling I almost didn't recognise it as such until I got home and realised the effect it had had upon me. Jem made us show Dr. Wakes when we had done and he was very impressed with our work. I think he's going to make me have more joint counselling sessions with Jem and Becca now, seeing as it was so successful.


 That evening I signed up to go to a local netball club. Despite what I had told Margaux and the others Elena's words had hurt me and sport was the only safe way to get the hurt out. I knew I was getting fatter and I struggled to come to terms with my expanding waistline but I had been feeling better until Elena came along. It was then that I realised what my answer to Jem's question was. All bad eating habits should be seen as an eating disorder because they all add up to something serious in the long run and will have stemmed from feelings or thoughts that could be solved by a few counselling sessions. My revelation had come. I picked up my phone to text Becca and to see if she had had any similar thoughts.

 Once I had settled all these matters I decided to relax and have a bath. The bubbles tickled my skin and the sweet fruit smell nearly meant I fell asleep it had made me so drowsy. When I was dry I curled up in my bed and wrapped myself in a couple of blankets. I reached for 'The Great Gatsby' and earn to read. It was an interesting book and I read until Mum called up that it was time for me to go to sleep. She had been doing that ever since I came out of hospital, I think she feels I need protection and I should get as much rest as possible. Mothers are fantastic creatures but sometimes their help and support is a little over powering.

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