Jenny’s Journey Part 3- How I Overcame What Seemed Impossible!

Written by Jonathan Kattenberg on September 4, 2020
Est. Reading: 10 minutes

Hello everybody. Thank you for taking the time to read Jenny’s Journey Part 3.

I’ll warn you, it’s rather a long one so grab a brew!!

Where did it all go wrong? I’ve thought a lot about this over the years and I find it sad to say, it was over 20 years ago.

When I was about 14 (maybe a bit younger), I remember being in school and deciding I was going to start eating healthy. I swapped my usual peanut butter and jam sandwiches for tuna, and pizza and chips for chicken and vegetables etc. I was never even close to being overweight and I was very active.

At the time I maybe thought...

“I might get noticed/accepted more if I was thinner”.

School was quite savage really, now I look back. Materialistic. If you didn’t look a certain way or was a proud owner of the latest Top Shop bag or coat, you were classed as a geek and the ‘cool’ people wouldn’t give you the time of day. I realize now that even though I was never bullied, I was not strong enough to be unaffected by the indirect mind games and desire to fit in and be accepted in certain groups.

Feeling confident for the wrong reason

As I started to lose weight, I got comments and noticed more, to which I suppose I saw as a confidence boost, but also a challenge to carry on. I started cutting more out of my diet (I’m not going to go fully into how I did it as it may be triggering to some people). I was in control of something and I liked being liked.

Little did I know that I’d have a 20-year battle ahead. Fast forward to the end of year 11, GCSE’s, life was getting hectic, adult life choices were expected to be made and there were a lot of changes. I’d been in a structured familiar environment (school) for the last 10 plus years with a safe routine, stable friendships and now it was time to go to college. Time to grow up, I had no idea what I wanted to do (still don’t know now).

Then my horse died. It sounds ridiculous but this affected me massively. He was a huge part of my life and the way it happened was traumatic for anyone. To see what happened to something you love, was horrendous. So, I suppose I was trying to “spin a lot of plates”, thinking everything was ok. All the while restricting my diet as it seemed that was the only thing I could control at the time. It was my “safety net”.

A strict diet routine

I spent my college years surviving on very little, over exercising, wearing ankle weights under my trousers, constantly cold and with very little energy. Even half a piece of cucumber outside of meals was out of the question as was anything outside of my “safe routine”. No eating out, no socializing; I was constantly hungry, thinking about food, it was an obsession. It took over my life and it stole away from me what should have been the best years of my life (apparently). Then the obsession with exercise started. To the point where it physically and emotionally hurt me, gave me horrendous headaches but nothing stopped me, it used to make me cry. But I had to do it. Cue the depression, a very dark place.

Fast forward a couple of years, some therapy, dietician, psychologists, I seem to snap out of it or so I thought. The issue however was only patched up given the therapeutic approach applied to me. I started to eat normally, it looked normal for those on the outside, but deep down it was a mess!

I don’t blame individuals trying to help. I just put it down to their experience and training.

The wrong solution

Then I found “my magic pill”- Bulimia. I’ll go into more detail about that in another blog. That also could be a long one!!!

Over the next 15 years anorexia began raising its ugly head a couple more times with bulimia staying in the background. Maybe due to life situations out of my control and not knowing how to deal with emotions. Again, it was patched up. 6 sessions of CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) as that was all the NHS offered at the time (this was after 6 months of waiting) but the bulimia was never tackled. However, I was probably not fully honest, as I found it the hardest of my issues to admit or talk about, for some reason.

So, 2014, I found out I was pregnant. Complete surprise (I didn’t think I’d be able to have children because of what my body had been through, my menstrual cycle was hit and miss and pre pregnancy I hadn’t had one for 5 years). Dare I say I actually enjoyed being pregnant.

I accepted my body for what it was and what it was doing. So I ate well, however, without the correct help and support I sometimes needed my “release”. The only way that worked in the past (that’s my old thinking, it’s not a positive thing, I’m not glorifying it) was bulimia. So in October 2014 our bundle of joy (I use that term loosely now, haha) arrived. I’ll call him Bob for the blog, his name is not Bob. I got through the next couple of months like “supermum” (or so I thought).

My relationship with Bob’s Dad (I’ll call him Barry, that’s also not his name) was stronger than ever, we were a good team and we were a happy little family (wow, that’s upsetting to write, even now after 3 years of being separated). To cut a long story short (yes, this blog could have been even longer!!), Barry carried on doing the things he did before Bob was born. For example, Golf twice a week, doing jobs on the side after his normal 9 hours of work, still meeting up with friends on set days every week. Life started to get a bit lonely (I definitely had post-natal depression, but only recently acknowledged that that’s what is was. I probably ignored it).

I started to get anxious, I was tired and stressed. I began to feel “I know, I’ll have a perk me up, I deserve it, I’ll have some prosecco to calm me down, make me happy”. It started as an extra day added onto my usual weekend drinking. Soon it was every day, then the prosecco was upgraded to vodka. I was always “happy”. It escalated quickly and I’d wake up anxious, rough, tired and emotional so I needed hair of the dog.

My relationship with Barry was showing cracks, I wasn’t getting the support I needed and Barry didn’t believe in mental health problems, life problems were turned into a joke (I’m in no way saying I’m a perfect partner, I can be terrible at times). I felt like I was raising Bob on my own. Barry is a fantastic father and I understand mental health is very complex. Then one day at the end of March 2017 I couldn’t take another petty argument or being snapped at over the washing up, I left and went back to my parents.

I knew I’d get help with whatever was wrong with me. I was scared. I felt vulnerable, depressed, helpless but my eating was ok, but because I was drinking, it made me relax about it. It was another reason for my drinking (I realise now), drink not to care about my eating issues that were never conquered, just patched up and I could get away with “looking ok”. (“Bear” with me guys….no pun intended).

With Mum and Dad majorly worried about my mental and physical health and my drinking, they paid privately for inpatient treatment at a mental health facility, detox included. After my 10-day detox, which was all that was planned for my treatment, I requested to stay longer for help with my eating disorders. After 6 weeks, a lot of group work and art therapy, I thought I was fixed. Sober, eating better, I was too cocky for the transition home. Too much change, trying to understand emotions and now grieving for the end of the relationship, had I broken up the family? Hello guilt and all the other emotions usually masked by vodka or my eating disorder, I fell off the wagon… massively.

I went back into the private hospital for another 10-day detox. I came out more prepared from my previous mistakes. I was loving life, enjoying it sober, so I thought I was strong enough to get my own house and live alone for the first time ever.

Bulimia reminded me it was still there and then after 5 months sober, Christmas day arrived. “I can just have one, I’ve got this under control”. NO!! This time around all 3 issues, anorexia, bulimia and heavy drinking came back with a vengeance, I must have been dedicated. This was the thinnest I had been; almost down to 5 stone. I managed a month in my own home, then I was shipped off to a specialist eating disorder hospital for inpatient treatment. It was quite a negative experience. Going from eating hardly anything to 3 meals a day (with pudding), 2 snacks and supper with no mental support.

I felt the eating disorder service are reluctant to deal with alcohol issues. So, while I looked like I was coping and saying all the right things, inside I was falling apart. So, whilst I went out for a “cig break”, I’d sneak off to the shop for vodka. I hated it there and discharged myself after a month. I struggled on for a couple of months not eating and drinking at my parents’ house. Several admissions to the general hospital, discharging myself before the end of the treatment and going AWOL and reported missing.

The services did all they could, so it was inevitable that I got sectioned. I can see now it was for my own safety, I wasn’t talking much sense or behaving rationally, but I was not happy. I had completely given up. It took the general hospital 2 weeks to get me physically fit enough for the mental health ward, and there was still the lack of mental support, believe it or not. So, after 4 weeks I was back on my path of destruction. The difference this time, I noticed it was going wrong, so maybe I did care? I confessed to the doctor, and I was sectioned again!! Really not happy this time. I was discharged New Year’s Day 2018. Started drinking again and ended up doing a detox in the general hospital for a week, which I have to say was the worst week of my life.

So many complications, my body was giving up but this time I seem to stay sober for a bit, 13 weeks in fact. It was at this point that “Walking With My Bear” had stepped in, my hero!!! However, it was my birthday coming up and we had planned to go on a family holiday. Again I was too cocky and not mentally prepared, so on my 34th birthday I started secret drinking again (it wasn’t secret for long), it was the first holiday with family, not drinking, thinking my eating was going ok, ever.

The next few months were a blur. My parents became my carers. Luckily, I was given the opportunity to go to a proper detox centre with support groups, for 3 weeks. On the 8th October 2019 I was discharged, and “Walking With My Bear” was still there to support me and here I am today, sober and still tackling my eating issues.

I therefore now have the knowledge to see and pinpoint where it went wrong. Over the years I feel I was really let down by some services because why was the root never approached? This is why “Walking With My Bear” is the knight in shining armour haha. We did sessions taking me back to my childhood, talking to my inner child, because let’s face it I was still hanging onto a lot of adolescent behaviour and thinking. I needed to grow up and face the music but did not feel safe enough to do so. In the sessions we got my mind into a “safe place” and reinforced its strength to deal with and accept my childhood and everything else in between. Some surprising issues came up which I found surprising and proves they affected me in one way or another. We worked on accepting them and letting them go.

I didn’t realise these things would affect my key decisions, thoughts and feelings in later life. My parent’s comments and actions were never vicious, physically hurtful, or intentional, I just interpreted things wrongly. I was also never bullied at school or college; I did a good enough job on myself. My home environment was and still is safe, secure, supportive and loving. We were and still are a close family, even my annoying brother (who is actually my best friend, but don’t tell him). The unconditional support they have given me is unreal, I’d be dead without them.

Finally, to draw a conclusion…. I can see now where it went wrong. I was too young and inexperienced at life to understand that I was not “fixed”, my mind and mental health was just patched up. From a therapy point I was given the tools to deal with the here and now, the original reason, yet the original reason was never broken down. Therefore, when I was going through changes, negative situations and emotions (all of which are normal), I’d revert back to my old ways. I suppose it was avoidance. So when “Walking With My Bear” stepped in applying effective techniques used within “Walking With My Bear”, there was quite a lot of bad experiences (both from a medical “help” and life experiences point of view) to tackle. Recovery is not straight forward, I had relapses, made mistakes (I like to believe mistakes happen because you are trying) but all that changed when I started working with “Walking With My Bear”. He is the person I have been most honest with.

Approaching difficult past experiences whilst in my safe place has helped me acknowledge, accept them and move on. It has also given me the strength, confidence and the right tools to deal with the inevitable (by that I mean life, good and bad experiences), emotions and feelings, which I previously would numb out by drinking or through my eating disorders. I can now feel emotions, and it’s ok!

As I continue sharing my experiences and journey, my whole aim is to provide hope to anyone who may be suffering or struggling to recover, or anyone who maybe trying to help someone who maybe experiencing similar challenges.

There is hope and if you’re willing to reach out to the right people and specialist, transformational changes can happen, and I can tell you from my own experience, I now embrace my life.

Cheers “Walking With My Bear”!!!!!