How It Feels To Be Recalled To Hospital Under A Community Treatment Order

If someone had asked me what it feels like to be recalled on a Community Treatment Order (part of the Mental Health Act), before it had ever happened to me, I am not sure what I would have said. Possible guess answers that I might have offered would have probably included things like “scary”, “shocking” or “dramatic”. Probably one of the last answers I would have given, would have been “it feels like having your car stolen by a band of incredibly apologetic thieves who are very sorry for your loss”. However, as it turns out, that is exactly what it feels like…

As you will all know from the fabulous explanation of the Mental Health Act that I posted last year and linked to again last week (hint…it is right here: Demystifying The Mental Health Act…With Penguins), when you have a CTO, you have a list of conditions hovering over your head which must be adhered to if you want to avoid being legally recalled to hospital. Rather than conditions hovering like ominous wasps at a picnic who like a look at your jam sandwiches though, I like to think of them as “things that hold you accountable” or “reasons to do things”.
Every time I was scared to challenge my eating disorder and follow my meal plan I had an argument I could use, that being, “you have to do this because otherwise you will lose weight and go back to hospital”. It was a system that worked but admittedly I felt really trapped by it.
Every day I would wake up and force myself to eat a number of calories that made me feel depressed, knowing that it would keep me at my CTO weight which felt equally depressing.

All I wanted to do was give up, give in and lose weight but I felt I couldn’t because that would only involve being recalled to hospital which was simply not an option. My CTO weight was the border to a war zone and I was not taking a single step into no man’s land.
Then however, the recent hospital surgery medical drama, naturally led me to lose weight and I crossed that barrier without even intending to. Before, that CTO number had held a power over me, every digit had felt significant, like a law from the gods that I would probably find carved into one of those massive rocks at Stonehenge if I visited and looked close enough (a lot of people have theories as to why those mysterious stones are there including “for religious reasons” and “rituals”…My theory is that they were simply put there by some cheeky prankster who wanted to leave a pile of stones lying around so that future generations would ask “why the hell are those stones there?”)

When I went under the weight however, the power of that number and the spell was broken. I had thought that one step over the border would have resulted in guns and tanks sending bullets and bombs flying all over the place…but nothing happened. Of course it would have had the weight loss been “my” fault, but I had an excuse, my appendix did it not me, so it was almost allowed. Obviously the CTO weight still mattered and I had to get back to it, but with this medical “it isn’t my fault” get out of jail free card, I knew that I could take advantage and lose more weight without getting into trouble.

Thus it was that, as you know, I ventured further into no man’s land, and it was a sudden surprise when after all this “oooh this feels quite safe and allowed” turned into the previously expected “guns and tanks and swords and back to hospital for you”. Unsurprisingly, it was pretty distressing and traumatic, so a lot of people have been very sympathetic which has been lovely. I really appreciated comments from people online who were not directly involved in the situation because they felt genuine, but it is when we get to the words of the people closest to me that we get to this whole “I feel like I have had my car stolen”.

To use another analogy, I suppose you could view my body as a car that the garage have been keeping very strict rules on. I may have owned the car but there were restrictions as to what I could do with it, what colour I could paint it and how far I could drive. Then, when the CTO barrier was broken, I suddenly regained control over that car, so I grabbed that wheel, painted it purple and zoomed off into the distance (I suppose if we are combining this with the other analogy I zoomed it off into former no man’s land…just like people did with BMWs in World War Two…I may need to retake GCSE history).
With the car all to myself I set my speed limit, I pumped the tyres to a level that I wanted and I filled every seat with penguins because that is what I wanted to do. I could chose…until I was ambushed by bandits who seized the car and stole it, meaning that it didn’t belong to me anymore. Suddenly they would decide how much petrol went in, how plump the tyres were and how many miles it could run and my opinion was irrelevant (the bandits in this analogy being all the doctors and psychiatrists who recalled me to hospital).
Naturally, having just had my car stolen, I was not best pleased. Thing is, when you ACTUALLY have your car stolen you never tend to see the thieves who are the new owners enjoying a trip around the block in what used to be your very own automobile, and they are unlikely to be very apologetic.

Being in hospital though, I am not only seeing the “thieves” every day, I am living with them, and watching them abuse my car. The doctors and therapists decide what I eat now, when I sit down, where I can go and it is all very hard so I try to talk and work through it with them. I say how scared I am to eat, how scared I am to gain weight, how scared I am of everything and like many people online said last week, they say things like “I am so sorry you are in this position”, “this must be very hard and scary for you” but unlike when people online say it, it makes me angry, and all I can think is “WELL YOU CAN’T BE THAT DAMN SORRY BECAUSE YOU ARE THE ONE DOING ALL THIS. YOU STOLE MY CAR, I AM UPSET ABOUT IT AND CRYING AND NOW YOU ARE SAYING HOW SORRY YOU ARE ABOUT THE SITUATION BUT YOU ARE THE THIEVING, HYPOCRITICAL VAGABOND! VAGABOND I SAY!”

I don’t believe that they can really be sorry because they have what they want, they have the car and are legally allowed to do whatever the hell they want with it. I feel the same way about professionals as I do about close family members like my mum, which I know is terrible and I know I shouldn’t feel that way, yet still as much as I love our visits and I would not be able to get through this place without her, what I get out of them is entertainment, love, company, kindness and knickers (she brings in my clean washing…thanks mum). What I do not want from my mother, is sympathy because in my eyes she is kind of like a thief. Admittedly she did not do the legal act of stealing the car, but she gets something out of it, she now has a say over the car and the thieves will take her views into account. If my mum insists on yellow wheels and the thieves like that idea, those wheels will be the colour of sunshine within 24 hours. She could not have stopped the legal act from taking place but she has more say in it than I think she has used, I am sure if the next of kin kicked up enough of a fuss someone would have to listen, but no fuss has been kicked. On top of that, by me eating and being forced to stay in this hell hole gaining weight, she has benefitted from the thieving.
Again it sounds AWFUL to describe it like that, to compare my mum to someone who is in cahoots with criminals and joyrides around with lemon wheels, when I know she would argue that all she has actually done is not try to stop the people attempting to save the life of her offspring by their actions. She isn’t joyriding (my mum is not a joyful driver…especially if there is a cyclist nearby), she is finally offloading this nightmare she has been living with to professionals who can look after it instead and she can finally sleep rather than stay up into the early hours arguing about sweetcorn. She is benefitting because she gets a break, because as I gain weight she will feel safer and therefore I assume happier yet again, any “I know this is hard and horrible and I am sorry” inspires that same “WELL MAKE THEM GIVE ME THE DAMN CAR BACK AND WHY DID YOU PAINT THE WHEELS YELLOW” rage.

That is why if you were to ask me “how does it feel to have been recalled on your CTO and sectioned back in hospital” I would tell you that it feels like some very apologetic thieves (some of whom are related me), have stolen my car.
Now I am just watching them all make the changes they want, implementing the modifications they have decided, desperate to run out and stop them but with my hands tied. I am just an observer watching people do things to my car, watching things happen to this body that I have had to disconnect from and pretend isn’t mine anymore for my own sanity. I guess a more accurate explanation/analogy then would be to say it is like having your car stolen and then having the thieves force you to be a mechanic carrying out every wish of theirs or risk being whacked on the head by a spanner, but that isn’t how it feels. It feels like things are being done to me, any movements I make are via the puppet strings that they hold, I have no say. When it comes to living with an eating disorder you don’t have much say or control either, but this feels different, this feels more stripped, more naked. This is not my body, it is just a body that I am trapped in, and I am witnessing it be torn to pieces every day. Every meal. Every bite.



16 thoughts on “How It Feels To Be Recalled To Hospital Under A Community Treatment Order

  1. I felt this way when I was inpatient (and when I was threatened to go back). So first of all, I really appreciate your writing and explaining things, because I haven’t been able to explain this to anyone as good as you just did.
    Anyways, I felt (maybe still feel) the same about my mum in this whole “hospital thing”. When my mum drove me to the hospital, I thought that this was just a joke and waited for someone to jump out of the corner with a camera saying that I was on some comedy TV show. But when the doors to the unit closed and my mum left, the reality hit me hard. I realized that I’m fucked and my mum was not going to get me out of there. The only one who could get me out of the hospital was ME.
    You explained it as “theft of your car”, but I think it feels like people who were forced to play “games” in SAW (the horror movies) must have felt. They also had a chance to get out, but they had to follow the rules of the game. I know that in the hospital you’re unlikely going to lose your arm or something (but the psychological pain is the same), but you lost control of your life the same as they did.
    So I know this is going to sound like I’m not sick enough or something. But I made a game out of the situation (just as in the SAW movie). I took my weight as points (and as in many games the more points you have the more likely you!ll win). So I ate, sat, laid just as they said. I didn’t cry about my weight going up, I acted as a robot I would say, because “it was a game” and I was winning. Maybe this was just a method for my brain to save myself from emotions. But it worked. I got out of the hospital. Now I’m still not “healthy”, but I can use my “car” as I want. I have freedom and you can get it, too.:)

    Liked by 2 people

    • That bit in your comment where you said you realised that you were “fucked” and that your mum was not going to get you out of there is SO DAMN RELEVANT right now. That is exactly what it feels like and is exactly what is going on. I know that in actual fact you are right, the only person who can get me out of this is me…I can see that makes sense…I guess I have just still thinking that everyone is going to turn around, jump out with the cameras and admit this has all been one huge mistake.
      I also have to give you some kind of trophy for that SAW comparison too because that was GENIUS and my goodness am I stealing that games and points idea. It will be like competing for the Triwizard cup with less Merpeople and fewer mazes! You know how competitive I am! I love points! I LOVE WINNING. Definitely going to try this tip and see how things go over the next few days if thinking about it this way. Thank you for being so helpful, I wish I could give you a hug for all the support you give me! Much love xxxx


  2. The terrifying thing is that I know that at this moment, your brain is genuinely making you believe that you are ‘watching them abuse my car’. When in reality (and please don’t hate me too much for this analogy), this is more like the garage had rules allowing you to drive your car, then suddenly you had full control, you painted it purple…. and then drove it into walls. Or into ponds. Or into fire. And because you somehow managed to get the car out of the pond (maybe the penguins helped), it kept going, but eventually it wouldn’t so the garage took it in for a service and a full MOT, and have given you some free driving lessons into the bargain (hurray!). So that when the car is out of the service station, you can avoid the walls/pond/fire safely, and pootle around to your heart’s content…

    That’s what happened. The abuse came before the garage took the car in for some care, attention, petrol and new tyres. Not after. And it is only by opening up and being honest about these feelings to the team around you that they can help you see it xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

    Liked by 3 people

    • First of all, there is no way on this earth, no matter what you say, that I will hate you, and secondly this especially won’t hate you for giving me your honest opinion of the reality you can see whilst I am all lost in confusion. You could easily just send me a hug but you are being a true friend by giving me an alternative perspective to try and get my head around and believe to make things easier. I promise I am going to read this comment every morning and every night to try and get this perspective to be the one I believe in my head as apposed to the perspective of a dear friend who I love very much but who is unfortunately on the outside of my brain (I feel it would be much more fun if you operated that damn organ!). I love you so so so much Amy. Thank you for sticking with me so consistently, kindly and persistently in all of this when I know I am probably being quite difficult right now. The fact you talk to me at all and offer any support let alone this level of support is beyond amazing what with having to deal with your own struggles going on too. You are truly an amazing friend. I am always here for you and I love you infinitely and forever. Hugs and penguins xxxx


      • I will always be here for you – YOU – not the poor body you are abusing, not the way you are pushed into acting by OCD or by resisting the rules of others. For YOU. I get you must feel so disconnected from this, I know that body/mind disconnect is something of a struggle, and you must feel so far from thinking of any good reason for you being where you are. But there are many many reasons to be motivated and positive and make some choices for YOU and YOURSELF when you are in the unit (choices that are actually coming from you, and aren’t designed to hurt yourself). I hope this analogy is useful to you and to anyone else who is in a similar position. I love you always and always and forever and then another day…. xxxxxxxxxxxxxx

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh Katie, it amazes me how – despite suffering so much – you manage to write such a wonderfully coherent blog post. I was going to use the same analogy as Amy above. Your car is broken and it desperately needs fixing otherwise it may be written off. The mechanics are skilled, professional people. They do not want to abuse your car – all they want to do is restore it and ensure it can drive smoothly again. How you are feeling now – betrayed, hurt and terrified – is exactly how I felt when I first went IP, so I think your reaction is normal, if utterly distressing. I hope that one day you can read this post back and realise how unwell you are, and quite how much anorexia has distorted your view. I’m thinking of you and sending all my love xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    • As always, obviously I hate to hear that you have felt the same horrible things but I have to admit I do find it quite comforting to hear that you also felt like this during your inpatient admission. If other people feel the exact same things with different staff but the exact same illness it makes it harder to believe people when they say that it is the illness and not the staff that are causing the problem and that maybe I am not right about everything and actually the ones who are right with the right car analogy are people like you and Amy. I hope I can read this post and see it as distorted too. Preferably soon. Thank you for your kindness and support again especially when I know you have so much going on in your life right now. Also thank you for saying I am still coherent! I feel so incoherent right now that it is good to hear that people can still understand and hear me. Lots of love and hugs xxx


  4. I can’t imagine how violating the whole experience must feel. Where is Katie in all this? It struck me what you said about being a puppet on strings. First the eating disordered/ocd thoughts push you to behave in ways you know aren’t logically healthy or sensible. And now literally, your every movement and action is controlled by a team of people following legal orders. How on Earth do you maintain any sense of yourself, who you are, what you want, in all this?? You are so much more than your body, your behaviours, your diagnoses… but when you’re reduced this way to numbers – input, output, KGs, kcals – where is the person, you know?
    Of course it’s all to keep you alive (whether you like it or not), and if you were my sister/daughter of course I’d want mountains moved to keep you safe. I just worry about the damage this kind of disconnection does – the body from the person. You’re not a house that’s been burgled and taken over by new residents who are redecorating every room in colours you hate! I do love the car analogy, and it’s so helpful in understanding some of how you’re feeling, but yeah… it’s an upsetting thought.
    I truly hope you’re being treated as you deserve to be; with humanity and dignity and kindness and respect. Don’t lose your You-ness in there ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • THANK YOU. THIS IS MY POINT. It feels like I am not a person anymore. I am just told what to do and where to go whether that voice comes from stupid OCD being an idiot or a member of staff telling me that I am not allowed to do something because of some rule. Your burglary analogy summed it up so perfectly that I wish I had thought of it myself! Just trying to believe everyone else who is saying that actually these new decorating residents are doing things in my best interests although I do wish I had a bit more say in the colour scheme they have chosen for the metaphorical living room. To be fair the nurses and HCA’s here are lovely people who are being kind. I just wish we could agree on more things and that I could understand what they mean and relate to all the things they say. Thank you so much for being so understanding and lovely. Your support in this comment has felt like a hug. I will try not to lose my “you-ness” too much. Sending loads of love and hugs. Always here for you and hope that you are ok. xxxx


  5. I really don’t know what to say, Katie. You must have heard “I’m so sorry” a million times so I’m not going to repeat it. I know you can’t see it right now but they are trying to save the car! I know it sucks when you can not control things (especially your body) but in this case is better this way. If you kept driving the car the way you want God knows what could have happened to you! Katie, you need help and you have to accept it. You might feel like you don’t but you do. Please try to fight it.
    I know eating disorders go beyond logic but try to use it.
    I love you and I only want the best for you.
    Kisses from Portugal ❤
    P.S: You are not alone in this. I'm gaining lots of weight and it's fucking hard to accept it. It hurts like a son of a bitch. Sorry for the language.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much my gorgeousness. I promise I am trying to trust you in that they are trying to save the car. Isn’t it funny that I can trust you who I have never met in person so much easier than I can trust the people here around me who I have known for years. Do you realise how special that makes you!?
      If you are fighting your ED then damn it I am fighting mine alongside you. Thank you for being in this fight with me. We must remember that we are gaining life and not weight even though it does admittedly hurt like a son of a bitch! Thank you for making me feel less alone. Love you and also only ever want the best for you. Here if you need. Kisses from England xxxx


  6. I know this isn’t directly related to this post but I just wanted to let you know that you are not going through this alone. I have spent today reading some of your older blog posts (for once something nice to do with all the free time in hospital!). It seems like we are in quite similar situations, I totally get when you say that being sectioned is like having things done to you while your hands are tied. I feel exactly the same but I guess we just have to try and trust that the staff/our parents have our best interests at heart. Thinking of you. Bex xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    • You have been voluntarily reading my old posts without me coming round to your hospital and demanding you do so? My goodness what a fantastic taste in mental health literature you have 😛 (Seriously though that is really freaking awesome and has made me smile).
      I do however hate that we are in similar situations and wish that I could break both of us out of these hell holes! It is so comforting to know that I am not alone in going through all of this right now however as currently I feel really isolated and alone on the ward. I can’t really communicate or be honest with other patients because we are all in such different situations so having a fellow patient, even one in a different hospital, is helpful. It can be hard feeling like you are the only one without control in the world so I hope you knowing that I am with you has been comforting to you. We will just have to keep trusting all these people like you said. They can’t all be wrong…right? Thinking of you and always here if you need. Loads of love and hugs xxxx


  7. I am so sorry you are going through all of this! Once again your other readers have offered such wonderful insight and suggestions that there is little I could add. I hear and am trying to understand how you are feeling. It is a frightening blow to independence and dignity to be hospitalized against your will. I hear a lot of all or nothing thinking though and having OCD I know it only too well. You are not a car or a house. Your mind and your body are one and not playing well together right now. But if I was to use the house or car analogy I would say that while someone has burglarized your house or stolen your car, they were well intentioned thieves. That doesn’t make you feel better right now, but those thieves don’t intend to take these things from you forever. Most importantly though is that it’s not forever. Color schemes can be changed again (just ask my husband) and new cars are plentiful . That someone has your car or is calling the shots is temporary. It is until you can make safe decisions again. It isn’t forever. I understand your anger at your mom. I had to force my son to the hospital to save his life. He was not pleased to say the least. Yes, I slept differently, not necessarily better though, and I was relieved that he was in a safer place than I could provide. We needed the break and so did he because in his heart he knew things couldn’t go on as they were. It wasn’t a judgment on either of us, it was a temporary regrouping so we could both be healthier. He lost his freedom, for awhile, but he got it back. Life is a series of regrouping and resetting, it isn’t all or nothing. OCD loves to whisper otherwise. You will come through this experience to the other side. It is painful, I know. You have many gifts and help many people with your humor and your writing. Turn that same compassion and determination on yourself.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I always get excited when you comment on my blogs because I know I am in for some wisdom and then today when I got to the “all or nothing thinking” bit I got extra excited and all “YES OH MY GOODNESS THAT IS ALL I DO ALL THE TIME I AM SO HAPPY TO HAVE SOMEONE WHO UNDERSTANDS THIS!”. I also loved your car/house analogy a million times more than any possible one I could ever think up. It is like what you said with the all or nothing thinking, everything feels so dramatic, so permanent and so “THIS IS FOREVER” which I think is why it feels unbearable. A marathon would be a lot harder to run if you didn’t know the race was ever going to finish and you would have to be running for the rest of your life! I think this is something I really needed to be reminded of. It is also especially helpful hearing from someone who is also a mother because it is like hearing from her perspective. I often think I get a bit selfish and angry and forget what she is going through in all of this too. Reading what you did for your son all I could think was “that is totally reasonable and you did the right thing” and because I am an outsider in the situation it makes more sense rather than feeling like the personal attack it felt like with my mum. I didn’t speak to her for a while because of all this and I am still struggling but having read that I do understand a bit more and later when she visits I hope we can talk things out a little. Now you are helping me and my family! Family therapy online! Who knew! Thank you so much for being so kind, so wise and for helping both me and my mum today. You are a wonderful human and I hope you are treating yourself with a lot of compassion today. I hope you are as kind to yourself as you are to me! Sending love and hugs to you and the family, thank you again xxxx

      Liked by 1 person

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