Dinner Date

Tonight I went out for dinner with a friend. It was my second meal out this week. There was an obvious safe choice on the menu but I was feeling fed up with the same bland thing. I decided to choose something a bit different.

The whole meal time sadly reminded me of the dark old days. I was sat with a soft drink while my friend had a Vodka & Coke. I found it hard to concentrate on anything but the menu while we were choosing (despite having looked it up beforehand), and when the food came holding a conversation was a real challenge with Ed in my ear. For someone with an eating disorder, trying to eat a challenging meal means there is a constant voice in your head analysing every bite, questioning whether you really need that extra mouthful and screaming every time you go for another piece. It was not enjoyable and I imagine my friend saw a change in my behaviour.

It made me question what all this is for? Why try and drop a number on a scale if it means not having fun with friends? Is it really worth it if you wake up and go to bed every day feeling miserable? I am sick and tired of wasting days thinking about f***ing calories and food. What am I trying to prove? No one is going to congratulate me when the numbers go down apart from my eating disorder. And even if they do it will never be low enough. I can’t understand why I still value that voice more than the voice of friends and family and medical professionals. What I am doing is wrong and yet I don’t seem to have the power to stop it.

I think I need to go back to basics. I must remember that challenges aren’t always fun, but they are necessary in order to recover. It may be scary but I need to face fears – FEAR: Face Everything And Recover. Tonight I feel like a failure because I didn’t have what Ed told me. But that is so wrong. Tonight is a victory because I didn’t have the safe option. I just need to hold onto small thoughts like that and try and find my own voice through the screaming, deafening sound of Ed.

All I am proving at the moment is that life is no fun with an eating disorder. It doesn’t make me happy, it just makes me weak and fragile. There is so much more to life than Ed and I need to start proving it.

Tomorrow,“I will feed myself and fight this illness, not feed this illness and fight myself” 

A Cry For Help

Last night, unsurprisingly, my parents sat me down to talk. They had read my blog and noticed the change in my behaviour. At first I wanted to run away and not talk about anything. But I knew deep down it was the right thing.

After talking things through and discussing what we should do next I felt a lot better. The whole talk reminded me that whilst I may be the only one who can beat my eating disorder, I can’t do it alone.

Sharing my struggles and fears with my parents reminded me of how important it is to not keep everything to yourself. My eating disorder was the one who didn’t want to talk about anything. And of course Ed would think that. By keeping things to myself I can continue down a path of denial and destruction. The truth is, speaking to other people helps and it takes some of the weight of your own shoulders.

I know deep down my last blog post was a cry for help. I don’t like admitting that because Ed is telling me I don’t need anyone’s help and I can do it alone. The problem is that I can’t recover alone. I can only make myself worse alone.

Today I am feeling slightly better.

‘Every accomplishment starts with a decision to try’

The past week has been a struggle. I haven’t wanted to write anything for a number of reasons. Firstly, it makes me feel like a failure. I hate how I can be doing so well, getting further down the journey to recovery, and still struggle with ‘blips’ (as my therapist likes to call them). Secondly, I am now at home and as soon as I hit ‘publish’, a copy of this post will be sent to my Mum and Dad. Although I am glad we can be open with one another, I also find that it can stop me writing so freely. I am scared that they are going to read this and start watching my every move.

Things have been a bit difficult since I got back from holiday. After having had such a ‘blowout’ while we were away, I was conscious to be more ‘sensible’ when I got home. However, I find it so hard to get a healthy balance. Because I started making healthier choices when I got back and cutting certain things out of my diet, it triggered further restriction. It reminded me how an eating disorder is like many other addictions. When you start using again, even if it is just a little bit, it is hard to put it down. Although it may start small, it can get out of control quicker than you think. Once you’re hooked again, it’s hard to give it up.

I am used to hearing Ed’s voice but I had also got good at turning the volume down. It doesn’t scare me that I can hear the voice of my eating disorder, I am used to that. What scares me is that I am listening to it. I am making myself believe what Ed is telling me. Even though deep down I know what I am doing is wrong, I can’t seem to stop it.

Part of me has been keeping all these thoughts to myself because I don’t want anyone to stop me. But I know that’s dangerous. I always tell myself, ‘I will never get as bad as I was’, ‘I could never go back there’. Maybe thats true. But why even go a bit of the way back? I should be marching forward, progressing and getting better. I don’t want to screw up everything I have worked so hard for.

I have shared some of these thoughts with my Mum. She has asked me why I am acting like this? Asked why I am listening to the voice and letting it takeover? The truth is, this shitty illness baffles me at times. It’s confusing and right now I’m not sure I have the answers she wants. I know I don’t want to be lying in bed hungry at night. I know I don’t want to be wasting my time counting calories and planning meals in my head. I know I don’t want to be scared of going out for a meal with friends. However, despite knowing all this, I am letting it happen. I need to be brave and keep fighting, but sometimes it feels too damn hard.

I looked back at some of my old blog posts to try and get some motivation. I never like to write anything unless there is some kind of positive message. I came across the following quote which I have blogged a few times:

“Your body is not your enemy; it is your ally. It will carry you into the future if you nourish yourself well for the journey. Your most valuable traits cannot be measured, weighed, or graphed. Your power comes from passion; feed your dreams and you will thrive”

Erica Rivera

I am at a point in my life now where I have my future ahead of me. I am currently looking for exciting new jobs and then I’ll be planning a trip around the world. I am not going to be able to achieve everything I am capable off if I keep waking up exhausted because I’m out of fuel. I need to nourish myself for the journey ahead of me.

No one in a future job interview is going to ask me for my weight or BMI. They are going to want to hear about my valuable traits, about the things that matter. They will want to know that I am hardworking, organised and ambitious. Not whether I’ve gone up or down a dress size. They will want to get to know me. If Ed is lurking around, I wont be able to reach my full potential and I wont be able to thrive.

Time to try harder.

Happy Birthday To Me!

Today I turn 22- Happy Birthday me!

I feel a bit weird about my birthday this year. I think it’s because turning 20 marked the begging of everything ‘going to shit’. 21 marked the beginning of getting my life back on track. Now I’m turning 22, what will this year mark the start of?

Everyone is telling me that 22 is going to be my best year yet. I am doing well in my recovery, I am healthy, I have finished education and I am going to be travelling the world… What could possibly be better? Although I agree with people that this year could be a fantastic year for me, I get scared by the high expectations.

Today, I am a different person than I was when I turned 21. I can see and be grateful for my progress and the changes I have made in my life. However, I still don’t have total freedom from the chains of my eating disorder. There are days when Ed wins… Although these are outnumbered by my own victories. So what if things don’t go to plan? What if it isn’t the best year of my life? What if Ed is still lurking around when I turn 23? I want total freedom, I don’t just want to get ‘better’. I want to be cured from the hell of anorexia.

This year I need to work for six months to earn money for my travels. Despite having found a job starting today, the job has fallen through due to a ‘recruitment freeze’. So my first task this year is to find temporary work until Christmas. At the same time, I need to apply for a graduate job to start next year. Whilst this is quite an exciting thing to do, the jobs are hugely competitive and it can be a stressful and disappointing process at times. Amongst my two job hunts, I also need to start planning my trip around the world!

Although these are all quite exciting things to do, it freaks me out that nothing is sorted. I like control and I like to know that everything is worked out and organised. At the moment, it kind of feels like I have no control over any of it. I am making sure I am aware of this as I don’t want to start seeking control in my food to make up for it. However, although I don’t like the uncertainty and spontaneity that this year brings, I know it will be a good challenge for me. I need to learn to live with a little more disorganisation and a little less control.

So perhaps this year can be a year to take risks in the unknown. A good friend said to me recently that ‘taking risks is what life is all about… we can thrive in the unknown and surprise ourselves in how well we do so’.

I’ve had a dark year of being ill and I have had a year in recovery. I hope that this year, I can continue on my path to recovery and embrace the unknown. By taking risks I will try and discover new things, meet new people and see life through a new lens.

Happy Birthday Juniper!

One Year Later

This time last year I wrote my divorce letter to Ed with one of my best friends S. Exactly one year later, 2nd July 2014, I am graduating from University. 

The two days are very different. Last year I felt like a child who was unable to look after herself, today I begin life as an adult. However, the two days also have similarities. I consider them both as turning points in my life. Last year was a turning point as I found the courage to make a commitment to my recovery. This year is a turning point because I have finished university and am about to embark upon what I am told is “the real world”!

I considered writing another letter to Ed, but instead decided to reflect upon my last year in recovery.

I can’t believe a year has passed since the divorce letter. It might have been a tough year, but I have started to believe that there really is light at the end of the dark road to recovery. Last year, I was begging for freedom. I was desperate to be ‘healthy’ and I never believed it would be possible to live the life that I am living today.

Over the last year there have been times I have wanted to give up. Days when I questioned whether recovery was even worth it. And moments when I didn’t think I had the strength and courage to fight for another day. However, with the support of friends and family, I have proved myself wrong.

In my divorce letter I said that I wanted to listen to my own advice. At first, I didn’t have the right advice or the answers to my problems. I was too used to listening to Ed’s advice to know the right thing to do. But by spending time in the clinic, reading about recovery, speaking to people about recovery and having weekly therapy, I now believe that I am equipped with the answers to my problems. There is no point in kidding myself into believing that I don’t know what to do to recover. I know full well what to do. I just need to be brave enough to do it.

I also wrote that I didn’t expect the divorce to be ‘easy’. I was right. It hasn’t been easy, but it has been worth it. There are still difficult days and there are still times when I look in the mirror and want to cry, but these days are out numbered by times of freedom. I still hear Ed’s voice every day, but I no longer feel inclined to act on his words. I can turn the volume down and find my own voice.

This time last year I was saying goodbye to Paris and preparing myself for a summer in the clinic. This year I am saying goodbye to Bath and preparing myself for a job and 7 months of travelling. There were times last year that I didn’t think I would even be able to go back to university, and today I am graduating with a 2.1. I am proud of myself for that. I am also proud that unlike my year in Paris, I can look back at my time in Bath with Ed only as a shadow in the background, as opposed to being at the forefront of everything.

I also want to thank my friends and family for all their help and support this year. While anorexia is a very lonely illness, I have learnt that recovery doesn’t have to be that way too.

To my family, thank you for your never-ending love and support. You have put up with the tears, tantrums, anxiety and fear and also celebrated the success along the way… big or small. It can’t have been easy living with something that is impossible for an outsider to understand, but you have all done a bloody good job. I also want to thank my younger sister. When I came back from Paris I became the ‘baby’ of the house. I couldn’t be the supportive older sister. But you have always been a support to me and I can never thank you enough for that.

To D, thanks for always being there. I could always rely on you for some fighting talk whenever I needed it. But most importantly, thank you for all the laughs. You kept my smiling at the worst of times… Laughter is a great medicine.

To S, we may have spent the last year on the other side of the world to each other, but you never felt more than a second away. You really are my rock and together, we have put up a pretty good fight. I am so proud of us both this year.

So people are right when they say that recovery can be hard, that there are times it doesn’t seem worth it, and days when it all seems like too much work. But people are also right when they say that if you keep fighting and stay committed to your recovery, life will be better. Today I am living a life that I didn’t believe would be possible this time last year. That makes me both proud and excited for what is to come.

I asked last year that I could just walk the path to recovery with my head held high. Today, as I walk on stage to collect my graduation certificate, I will hold my head high and remember that recovery is worth every second.

Happy Holidays

I’m on my way home after two weeks away in Turkey.

The last time I came on holiday to Turkey was last September, a few days after two months in the clinic. I am pleased and proud to say that this year, Ed’s presence was considerably lower than last year.

We were staying in the same villa and visiting the same restaurants, and so there were lots of reminders about how different life was this time last year. This year I chose what I actually wanted and didn’t spend my days counting calories in my head. I didn’t make my family eat at regimented times and I had more nights out drinking than ever before!!

I was speaking to my friend who was with us last year, and she said how nice it was to be out with me and not see worry all over my face. By being able to turn down the voice of my eating disorder, I was able to fully participate, smile and have fun.

Another difference this year was that the guy who I had a holiday romance with last year now has a girlfriend. I didn’t think there would be any feelings for him this year, but it turns out this wasn’t the case. I think that because I met him last year at quite a turning point in my life when I had just left treatment, he played quite a significant role. He helped me begin to believe that a man can find me attractive and have feelings for me. He was also really kind and taught me that maybe it will be possible to find a respectful, nice guy to love me! I took him having a girlfriend as rejection which I know wasn’t the case… It’s not like we even stayed in touch and I don’t know why I expected him to have stayed single in the hope that I may come back one day! At least now I can realise that and not let it be an excuse for my Eating disorder to come back into my life and tell me he’s the only ‘man’ for me. I deserve a better than to spend my life in a relationship with Ed.

I am so grateful to my wonderful parents for taking us on such a great holiday. It’s been a fantastic two weeks with friends and family and it was sad to say goodbye. Plus, while we were away I got my results and will be graduating on Wednesday with a 2.1. I always put too much pressure on myself and there was a part of me which was disappointed in not getting a first. However, I reminded myself that the important thing is to do MY best, and not THE best. I worked my arse off all through uni, did my best and have now accepted that a 2.1 is good enough!

Whilst I am excited to graduate and see my friends at home, part of me is anxious about my eating disorder. It is fair to say I ate and drank a lot this holiday. Despite people telling me that that’s what a holiday is all about, I am still not totally fine about the whole situation. I fear I may land at the airport to find Ed waiting for me holding a sign with my name on it. I am hoping I can be strong enough to fight him away and not spend the next few weeks trying to compensate for what’s been an amazing holiday.

I bought myself a bracelet while we were away called a circle bracelet. The message is to keep the circle of life full of love, peace and happiness. I am wearing it on my wrist alongside my serenity prayer bracelet: ‘God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference’.

I can’t change what I chose to eat this holiday. However, if I have the courage, I can try and continue living without Ed when I am back home. I don’t want to punish myself for having a fun holiday and I don’t want any regrets. So I will keep using my bracelets as helpful reminders and work hard to keep fighting and keep life full of peace, love and happiness.

20140630-021154-7914067.jpg

We’re All Going On A Summer Holiday…

Tomorrow my family and I set off on holiday. Every year we would all get so excited about our summer holiday. Mum would swear to be all packed and ready 4 days in advance and always be up until midnight the night before packing the final things! Without doubt, Dad has a moan every year about something (We now just consider it a family tradition) but he is soon told to shutup because it’s holiday time! As soon as the car was packed with cases, dvd players and extra pillows my sister and I would burst into our favorite holiday song… ‘We’re all going on a summer holiday!’. Sadly my sister grew out of this tradition by the age of 10 but I still try and get her singing every year…!

Last year wasn’t entirely the same. I was anxious and scared. My head was going crazy trying to figure out how on earth I could stick to food plans whilst I was abroad and how I would cope for two weeks without any therapy. We got through it and we had a nice time, but I am relieved that today, I am in a better place.

Most people prepare for their summer holidays with some kind of holiday diet. Everyone at uni was discussing how they were planning on getting a ‘bikini bod’, moaning about how they had to be on a beach in two weeks in a bikini, and desperately trying every single diet fad in an attempt to look good for summer. My preparation has been slightly different. I have baked a batch of cookies, cupcakes and a ginger cake. I have also spent this evening with my best friend having a Chinese takeaway and wine, followed by more cake!

I have learn’t that having a history of anorexia means that I can’t live like other people. At my current stage in recovery, I can’t expect to go on a ‘crash summer holiday diet’ without my Eating Disorder taking over. Plus, more importantly, I am learning to recognise that I don’t need to diet. So I have prepared for my holiday by pissing off my eating disorder and challenging myself in the hope that I can get on the plane tomorrow and leave Ed behind.

Also, this evening my friend gave me a congratulations on graduating card. In it she wrote, ‘Its so nice to have my best friend back to being happy, healthy and loving life’. It is words like these that give me the motivation to keep on fighting. I am not only in this fight for me, but for all my amazing friends and family too.

One more sleep until holiday time…. Bring it on!!

Back To Baking

Today was my first full day at home and I’ve spent the whole day in the kitchen!

In recent months I moaned that I didn’t have a hobby or something to be passionate about. However, the truth is, I love to bake. I have always had a sweet tooth and although my eating disorder tricked me into believing that I didn’t like cake and no one needs chocolate, I am happy that I can now see the truth. I absolutely love cake and I believe everyone needs chocolate! 

As part of my recovery I am trying to get back into baking. Today I even treated myself to a new cake stand to encourage myself to keep cooking! I guess baking used to freak me out because naturally I eat and try the mixture as I go along and then enjoy the finished product. However, I am trying to remind myself that that’s all part of the fun and it’s nothing to be scared of. I am good at baking, it is a way to be creative and it is also something I can share with others and a way to make people happy. 

Tonight I was cooking for my best friend and wanted to make us a special meal. I decided to make a huge plate of homemade sushi, followed by homemade double chocolate chip cookies served with homemade white chocolate ice-cream and strawberries. We had a lovely dinner together. It was refreshing to be able to browse recipes knowing I would be choosing one, as opposed to torturing myself with all the beautiful cakes and cookies which I knew I would never end up eating. 

Helpful Reminders

For the past couple of days I’ve been visiting my friend in London and buying new summer clothes ready for my holiday in a weeks time.

As much as I love shopping and love clothes, there were points of our shopping trip that I found really painful. For a start, I am buying bigger sizes in everything. Secondly, I tried to find a bikini and hated the sight of my body when I tried any of them on.

Although I have been finding more freedom recently, deep down, I am still struggling with my body image. A part of me wishes I could go on holiday in all of last years clothes. However, I need to keep reminding myself of the following:

- Last year I had just left a clinic. I was still pretty ill. The clothes I wore last year don’t represent a happy time, they fit the body of a poorly person. Of someone who was struggling.

- Last year I wasn’t free. I was still largely controlled by Ed. Today, I have more freedom. So whilst I may be a size bigger, I need to remember that I am a hell of a lot happier.

- A size is just a number. I am worth more than a dress size. The size of my clothes is not a reflection of my worth.

- Size isn’t the only thing that people find attractive. The most attractive thing in a person is their personality. Last year, my personality was largely controlled by Ed. An eating disorder steals your personality until you are a prisoner in your own body. Today, I have my personality back. The attention I’ve got from guys has been a hec of a lot higher recently than it ever was when I was in the depths of my eating disorder!! Clearly, what makes someone attractive is when they can be themselves.

- Even when my body image sucks I need to just let it be. I can’t fight back and try and shoot the numbers back down. I need to acclimatise and get used to my body the way it is.

Writing all these things down is helping me gain some clarity and find my own voice instead of listening to Ed. I just want to be able to go on holiday, look in a mirror, and think ‘you look hot!’ I don’t want to look in the mirror and be sad.

I am fully equipped with some new clothes, all of which are a healthy size, and all of which are going to look great (at least that’s what I’m going to keep telling myself!)

I hope you’ve all had a good week! X

“There are no regrets in life, just lessons”

Given that this week is my last week in Bath, my friends and I have been making the most out of the city. Today, despite the pouring rain, we all set off on a tourist day out. We visited the Roman Baths and then went for a delicious lunch and cake in a new café we had heard about. We then visited two art museums, looked around the town market and then went for a famous afternoon tea. On our travels we also picked up fudge and speciality chocolates for an evening of TV and delicious snacks!

I am pleased to say that I enjoyed the day. Every time I have days like today I remind myself that it wouldn’t have been possible last year. Despite living in Paris last year, there are countless museums I never visited and numerous cafés I didn’t eat in. When I re-visited Paris earlier this year I couldn’t help but feel a deep sense of regret for all the things I missed out on. However, I can learn from the past and I am determined to not let that happen again. I never want to look back and think, ‘I could have eaten that’ or ‘I could have done that’.

I was unsurprised that my eating disorder was loud at some points during the day. However, as opposed to letting that stop me from participating, I persevered and succeeded in enjoying myself. My therapist has recommended that instead of expecting to shut ED’s voice out completely and not experience any negative thoughts, I should instead just try and turn the volume down. So if I am ever faced with food challenges, I imagine a volume dial in my head. Then, I try my best to turn the volume down and carry on. I guess it is a bit like when you’re on a train and there is an irritating person speaking loudly on the phone or someones music is playing way too loudly. At first it is loud and annoying, but if you persevere, you can eventually ignore it and carry on with your own thoughts. Eventually, you don’t even notice it.

So for today, I am grateful that I had a day of no regrets with some of my best friends!