Portfolio of Hope

When I was 14, I found running-
something which I was good at-
a skill
turned into a love
turned into an obsession
turned into…
a death sentence.
I went from feeling like I was good at
feeling good at…

Having always been the quiet one at school,
not popular,
not unpopular-
never bullied-
it felt good to be recognised,
good to be chosen first in teams for PE,
instead of last,
good to have people show an interest in me
for the first time
it felt good to feel…
(because, running did make me feel happy,
at first,
everything changed/
until I started to associate speed,
with weight-
drawing my own conclusion that;
to run faster?
I had to lose weight)…

By the age of 15, I was diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa,
at the age of 16, sectioned,
my 17th birthday spent in hospital
where I would stay for 7 months-
in Riverdale Grange-
to which I owe all the staff who were there in 2018-19,
my life,
and to whom
I dedicate this post to today….

Riverdale Grange :

Endless days of eating
and sitting.

3 meals a day,
3 snacks a day,

and rest
1 hour ‘sit down’ after meals,
30 minute ‘sit down’ after snacks.

The two things that I had been avoiding so obsessively for the past 3 years,
forced upon me…
so much food,
so much sitting-
so much anguish…

When I wasn’t internally screaming over what I was eating and how much I was exercising,
(or rather, not exercising),
I was in therapy,
also internally screaming
at first,
but then,
more ‘me’ with the conclusion of every session:

  • Body image therapy with Vanessa-
    ‘string’ work-
    making me realise that;
    ‘what I see isn’t what I am.’
  • CBT with Simon, and psychotherapy with Jack- making me realise that;
    ‘what I think isn’t what I am.’
  • Occuaptional Therapy with Richard-
    making me realise that;
    ‘there is another life waiting for me, outside of my eating disorder.’

(I always say that I learnt more about myself in the 7 months that I was in Riverdale, than I learnt about myself in the previous 16 years of my life)…

And, there were all the groups, too;

  • Triggers group with Theresa and Jack
  • WRAP group with Stevie
  • Photography group with Richard
    (I can remember being at Burbage Edge, with photography group, and saying to Richard; ‘this is what I want to do when I come out’, and, here I am now, in the peak district every single Saturday, just me, my dad, and my camera. This is my therapy now- nature.)
  • Arts and crafts with Angie
  • ‘School’ with Julie
  • Baking, cooking, Gardening, & our weekly Thursday trip out with Sarah-
    Mini golf, Fired Arts, Ecclesall Road to pick a christmas tree-
    but !!no patient contact!!

&, not forgetting:

  • Wednesday ward round/Monthly CPA,
    with Dr Aldridge, Jack, Jeanette, Georgina,
    sitting there with my list of questions*
    *(we were always given an opportunity to ask any questions we had, to which I, often, had a 2 page list of ’em)…
    ‘When can I move onto the self-portioning table?’
    ‘What is the average length of admission?’
    ‘When can I leave this hell hole’
    (just kidding- well, now I am, anyway- at the time though, that probably was on my list of questions, to be honest)!

I was just ‘eating to get out at first’, evidently, and fooling no one…
But then,
1 month became 2 months
became 3 months-
(at which point, after 3 months, my section was lifted)…
and yet, I stayed
for a further 4 months-
no longer just ‘eating to get out’,
eating to get my life back…

As the days, weeks, months passed me by, watching summer turn to Autumn turn to Winter, the Riverdale routine gradually became familiar,
a comfort, even/
a literal
‘home away from home’, as I was;
Finally engaging in the treatment,
and I was;
finally ‘getting better…’

The routine:

Queueing up for meds
in our nighties-
every Monday,
(5 years on
and I can still smell adcal-
I can still taste it’s chalky texture in my mouth).

Meds, then weigh-in.
Standing on the scales
with mixed emotions-
torn between hoping for weight gain-
but also,
of dreading weight gain-
So terrified of becoming ‘fat’/of being ‘out of control’-
(oblivious to the fact that I had no control in the first place-
that; Anorexia was the one in control
of us all).

so many numbers.
Life dictated by them…

Then it was back to my room to get dressed in that weeks charity shop finds-
shirt, jeans, docs-
(it was in Riverdale where I first became OBSESSED with charity shops and vintage clothes)
and then it was into the dining room for breakfast.
Sitting round the table,
unless I was having a bad day it was always nice.
We had some laughs,
shared stories,
transformed eating from a thing of terror, to a thing of happiness,
transformed life to a thing of happiness.

Like the late night chats with Georgina,
when I was questioning the point of carrying on.
That was nice.


That‘ trip to Cosmos with Theresa-
the first time I opened up about my childhood-
properly opened up
about my Mums drinking, my Sisters mental health struggles, Mum and Dads ‘rocky‘ relationship.
The first time I felt…
because she listened.

Everyone in Riverdale was so incredible, ‘nice‘ doesn’t do them justice…

always happy when you were on. You know when you just get a ‘good feeling’ about someone?-
a ‘good soul.’
& Emma, Vicki, Dr Aldridge, Jack, Mai, Lizzie, Stevie, Ellie, Patsy, Melanie, Melissa, Holly- so many people to whom I owe thanks to/
so many people whose kindness was overwhelming*.

*Now, don’t get me wrong, I know that it was their job to be there-
but, still,
when I think about the impact they all had on my life,
and how, without them, things could’ve been so different,
I realise that, I owe them so so much,
and, it kind of makes me want to cry
when I really stop and think about it…
When I really stop and think about how; they didn’t just save my life once– when I was admitted to Riverdale- but they have, unknowingly, done so so many times since then, too, even post discharge.
So many times I have reflected back on their kindnesss when the world has felt scary-
for, doing so? It helps me to carry on/
it helps me to ‘keep going’…

Their impact on me really was that strong-
(so much so that, even now, even 5 years on, I still can’t fully put into words just how grateful I am-
though, this is my attempt at doing that, today)…
Why through writing? Because, I have always struggled to show my emotions/to say- verbally– how I really feel
(hence why I am writing it down-
to emphasise exactly how much the whole team at Riverdale really meant to me-
mean to me).
You meant everything.
I owe you everything.
And so, that is what this is-
a ‘thank you’
for everything.
I will be*
*(I am)
eternally grateful,
for you all.

~Thank you~


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