Malnutrition at midnight and what happened next

”Cashew nuts, tuna, and scrambled eggs. What you eat at midnight when you realise those symptoms you have been ignoring are getting worse, and you should have had those blood tests last week, and you are more than a bit malnourished.

I am sat in my living room eating tinned tuna, scrambled eggs and cashew nuts at midnight, and the jokes write themselves while I wonder who I trust to check on me in the morning without letting my ex know I asked them to do it. A month until I see the dietician and a GP too shocked to offer productive advice, and this is the situation we have. Me, google and whatever protein and fat my cupboards can provide at this time of night after I realised my body had been telling me clearly this is more than just thin.  I am confident as much as I can get in, in a manageable stream, is good right now.

Chocolate complan washes down the tuna surprisingly well, it looked like such a huge amount as the bag was handed over earlier in the week when I thought that was as bad as it got. The pressure reappears inside the front of my head but isn’t spreading the way it was, I can’t eat enough to make it go away for good but it stays away longer the more I eat. I have been at this since I realised what those symptoms were, after a good few weeks of attempting to increase what I ate, thank fuck.

I hadn’t realised this was why trying to eat more wasn’t working. I can’t undo this by remembering to eat breakfast occasionally, scoffing the fishfingers leftover on the kids plate, or with a one off binge of tinned fish and nuts and random cupboard items rich in nutrients that I might need. My eyes are sunken away from my fingers when I run them over my face, my skin is dry and itchy within a second of moisturiser being applied. I don’t look that different, you have to pay attention to the bits that indicate trouble and ask why my skin appears a decade older than 6 months ago.

The revelation of a meal in a shake, the one that changed the game and made it winnable, made a trip to the doctors worthwhile. The doctor could not understand how I could have a healthy attitude to food and be so thin, the nurse who said I should see him did. He was put out by the beaming health of those who depend on me as they left us alone, and the presentation of a woman who to all intents and purposes is ‘normal’, with bags of food next to her. Questioning to check if I was a drug addict, anorexic.

Do I recognise the ghoulishness which looks back from the mirror as wrong? Of course I do, I don’t think the doctor appreciates how much I miss having a bum. A barely noticeable choice, the one expected until people feel uncomfortable with the consequences of it being made and ask why you didn’t do something else. The questions to hide that this has the potential to be a child protection issue if not illness related, I am thankful there is an illness to route it back to

I don’t know what it looks like when things start shutting down, lying in a hot bath isn’t enough to get rid of the chills and it is only September. I intended to sort it, but how do you prioritise yourself without a reason? Malnutrition is a reason but also evidence that you fall short, and when you fall this short everything goes under scrutiny. You put your child first to the point where you don’t care for yourself, it’s as bad as not putting them first in the first place.

I can bear the fur of tinned tuna, eaten without ceremony with a side of 4 scrambled eggs, with handfuls of cashew nuts thrown in after. Nuts are small. You can always get another nut in, if you let the dryness from your last mouthful pass and wash it down with thick chocolate milk made light enough to allow you to eat. Almonds are amazing, ground almonds by the spoonful less so.

Who knew those tins of tuna and beans that stack up would come into their own fending off malnutrition symptoms in the middle of the night? When you bite into a butter bean it explodes into dust in your mouth, truly, I don’t give a fuck about protein, I can now say I would rather die than eat butter beans. The bit of me that is ruled by appetite is screaming that it wants nothing else, trained by my regular behaviour, I have ignored everything else for too long and now can’t get nutrients in as quick as they are needed.

My ex-husband has been looking for something, my body deciding to shut down on a Friday night while everyone I know is away being sociable would fit the bill no matter how sortable. He pretends he doesn’t know stress stops me eating while being a prick, which is stressful. Protein or bust, and am never eating tinned tuna again. If this was audio you would hear it spattering against the microphone as my mouth ejected fragments of fishy fur in righteous protest.

I fucking hate tinned tuna and cannot fathom why I have butter beans in the house, I’m not sure they are mine.

Each time I stop where I would usually stop, exhausted with chewing and not wanting to swallow, ignoring the elephant of no appetite in the room and a mouth rejecting protein in its most unappetising, constantly measuring whether the pressure in my head is better or worse than ten minutes ago.

I sometimes feel a tingle in my eyes or part of my vision disappears momentarily, the pressure at the front of my head moves, and for a second I get very scared. It used to be just about putting weight on. My weight hasn’t changed for weeks. I have been trying but my body has forgotten how to want the calories it needs and resents the imposition and it’s been raining shit so I haven’t had the chance to think about it.

The knowledge I could have done real damage means I find room for another handful of cashew nuts and consider boiling some eggs so I can keep them at hand. I am holding it down well, I’ll probably find out I wasn’t supposed to do this and you can overdose on food or this counts as binging. I’ll be found like punk Mary in Eastenders, a tuna tin, eggshells and a butter packet, in lieu of syringes and vomit.

I may as well use the time to put a load of washing on, playdate tomorrow after gymnastics in the morning. They want to do anything but a boring walk in the woods and there is the possibility of a sleepover, so I can rest without it looking odd.

What if I do myself some damage and I overestimate how much I can eat? My body may be a temple held up by toxins and not much else, but my stomach warrants the description bijou these days. It could easily resent the intrusion of all this protein rich fur, card, and wood textured food and fail to note that this is a sign it has to function properly again in protest.

Manchester tart? That could be my waffer thin mint….. think of the calories. Even if my stomach pops….custard, coconut, jam and pastry would be worth it after all that furry dry protein. Wonder what the nutritional breakdown of the glace cherry is.

Too scared to go to bed right now, I’d only lie there feeling the throbbing at the front of my head, imagining my brain shutting down and my little boy finding me motionless, which reason says is deeply unlikely. I will go to bed once that washing is done, but the act of going to sleep now feels as irresponsible as not. Time better spent eating.”

This was written a few weeks ago, I appreciate it’s not a fun read, I was really scared. Within a week I had gained nearly half a stone and now I have more energy than I have had since I was a teenager. Turns out your body needs food and I have to learn how to include myself in the budget I manage, so that I continue to function and care properly for those who depend on me. This feels like an impossible task and for many it really truly is. This blog is my attempt to undertake it.


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