Dinner Time

Yesterday I returned home for the Easter holidays. Last night I had a celebratory welcome home dinner with my Parents. This afternoon my Sister returned home and so we had a belated birthday meal to celebrate my mum’s birthday. Tomorrow I am going for an Easter Lunch at my Grandparents house.

It got me thinking about how much my family uses food to celebrate and how much we all enjoy it. Whenever there is a special occasion or something to celebrate, it is celebrated around the dinner table. Every time it is someone’s birthday, we have a special meal. For my graduation meal, the restaurant was the first thing to be booked. Every year when we get exam results, we go out for lunch.  

I also realised that for my whole life my family have always had dinner time as a family around the table. It was a way to catch up and share stories about our day. Even if Dad was late on the way home from work, we would wait until he got in before we started eating. I even remeber the times when my sister and I would try to drag out meal times by making my parents play games… Who Want’s To Be The Weakest Link was often a favorite! Tonight my sister even managed to get us all playing a game of Guess Who! In sum, dinner time was a happy, family time.

When Ed came into my life, meal times were no longer fun. I no longer looked forward to mum calling us down for dinner. I dreaded it. I couldn’t just run down the stairs when dinner was ready, I would wait anxiously in the kitchen to make sure my mum weighed out the exact, precise amount. There wouldn’t be laughter or smiles. Instead, everyone would sit anxiously in the hope that I would finish my meal. I can’t even remember what we would talk about as the only thing I would listen to was Ed’s screaming, torturing words in my head. 

Sitting at the table with my family this evening made me realise how much more enjoyable my life can be without Ed. Being able to engage, laugh, talk, chat and eat a meal in peace is refreshing. This evening as I was baking a cake for my mum (it was the best cake I have ever made), my sister came over and gave me a hug. She said how nice it was to have me home. It was lovely to hear her say that because this time last year, it wasn’t nice having me home. I wasn’t a good sister or a fun person to be around. Instead of catching up on stories we would cry about the pain we were going through and desperately try and make things better. I am grateful that so far this time round, there has been no tears, apart from my mum crying because she loved her birthday gift (My family are right softies).

I hope that as I continue to fight my eating disorder every day, I can continue to enjoy meal times with my family.

ps. I was so proud of the homemade caramel sauce I made to go with my Banana bread that I had to upload a picture!

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Count On D

Last night D and I headed over to M&S to buy some dinner. Ed always like to join us on these trips. They normally go somewhat like the following:

We walk in and check out all the Dine for 2 deals. Normally we can never agree on the same thing, D preferring Chicken and Bacon and me preferring some kind of bland salmon option. So we wonder around every aisle looking for something to agree on. We never do. So then we decide to just choose our own thing.

The problem with buying pre-prepared meals is that the calorie count is stamped on the front. The calorie counter on the front of meals, with the dreaded little circle telling you the exact amount of fat, sugar and salts, haunts me every time I go shopping. I hate them. I really bloody hate them. I find it really tricky to just buy something I like the look of. Normally, I choose whatever has the lowest numbers and the most green segments of the circle. They say that nutritional information helps you ‘Live Well’, I would beg to differ.

Last night after choosing to have our own things, I headed to the ‘Count on Us’ aisle- a range of meals that have been specially developed to be low in fat and calorie controlled. We were always told in the clinic to never choose the ‘Light’, ‘Diet’ options as these are for people on a diet…. I however, am not on a diet. 

I don’t know why I find that concept so difficult top grasp. I think it’s because I always put myself on some sort of a diet growing up. I used to read dieting blogs and tips while I was in school and I dreamt of being able to join weight watchers or do some kind of Atkins diet. I loved projects and goals and I guess I just saw dieting as another project. I vividly remember starting each week telling myself, ‘right, this week will be a good week’. Even if I made it a ‘bad’ week, I would start again the next monday. In sum, I feel as though I have been on a diet for as long as I can remeber.

Last night, after having chosen my ‘Count on Us’ ‘diet’ meal I went and found D. He knows a lot about Ed and was quick to point out that I was making a bad choice. I tried to justify it because it was a pasta dish and so it was a fear food. Irrelevant, said D, It’s still the diet range. I tried to argue with him but I don’t know who I was trying to trick. I knew as soon as I had picked it up that it was bad choice and not pro-recovery. So after a deep breath and a bit of help from D I put the ‘diet’ pasta down and got myself a carbonara! D and I had the same thing, enjoyed dinner, and felt satisfyingly full.

Team D&J: 1,  ED: 0

Together We Are Stronger

I have recently been planning what I will be doing after university. My parents are being supportive of my decisions and wanting to help me find a good solution. However, I told them that I want to “figure it out alone”. When I told my Dad this, he replied saying “Sorry, but I don’t know what that means”.

At the time I was frustrated with his response. I thought he wasn’t listening to what I wanted and that he wasn’t even trying to understand. He just wanted to be right (sorry Dad). And although it pains me to say this… I think he was right on this particular occasion. We don’t need to do anything alone. Being alone is a horrible feeling.

Today also got me thinking that if I had to do things alone all the time, life would be a hell of a lot harder. People often say that only YOU can beat your eating disorder, but you don’t have to do it alone. I think this is so true. Only I can beat Ed. It is a part of me and unfortunately only I can fully destroy it. But if I didn’t have my friends and family on my side in this battle, the fight would be impossible.

I have been struggling a lot with body image recently. The self-hatred every time I look in the mirror is getting seriously painful and I would do anything for it to go away. I look forward to a day when I can look at myself in the mirror and love my body. I had told myself I would go to the gym today and because I was so tired after a week of living in the library I didn’t manage to get there this morning. It got to 7pm and the voices in my head were screaming at me to go. It was dinner time, it was a saturday night, and I couldn’t think of many worse things than going to the gym. But, I got my gym kit on ready to leave.

Seconds before leaving the house I took a second to properly think about what I was doing. I instantly got on my phone to contact my friend and talk it through. I knew deep down I was doing the wrong thing. She told me to take my gym kit off and not go. I am stronger than Ed. All I needed to do to prove it was change into some comfy clothes and start making dinner. I took some deep breaths and after 10 minutes of deciding what to do I managed to do the right thing. Although it felt like a failure, I know it was a victory.

As I was sat in my room in tears, trying to take off some stupid gym kit, I was reminded that I couldn’t fight this illness alone. And I am so lucky that I don’t need to. If it wasn’t for my friend S today, I would have gone to the gym and Ed would have got even louder.

People always say that Eating Disorders are a “family illness”. They don’t just affect the sufferer, it affects the family too. Well in my case, I think my eating disorder is a ‘family and friends illness’. I most definitely haven’t been Ed’s only victim over the past few years, and I can never thank my friends and family enough for sticking by me. If I were alone, I dread to think what my life could look like.

Out Of Fuel

It’s on days like this when I question why I ever listen to my eating disorder. 

This week has been a tricky week and I turned to Ed for some “support”. I thought that restricting would make things easier and more manageable. Whenever I turn to this coping mechanism, it always, without fail, let’s me down. It never, ever makes things easier. Why do I still listen and give in? I guess that is all part of the illness.

I am in my final year of University with 5 exams and 3 coursework deadlines approaching and I have been studying non-stop in the library. However, because I haven’t been fuelling my body enough, I have reached the end of the week drained of all my energy. This morning it was a struggle to get out of bed and last night I crashed at about 5pm. I need to remind myself that my body is just a machine. It needs fuel to keep working, especially when it is working this hard. If you don’t put petrol in a car, it won’t run. As a result of not giving myself enough food this week, I feel like my car’s broken down. 

I have less than two months left of University. Then that’s it, education done. I can’t afford to mess it up now. I am going to try and remember a quote that I blogged about a few months ago that said: 

“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 may not care about my health enough at the moment to want to keep eating, but I do care about my exam results, and I do care about my future. So that will have to be my motivation. Eat for exams!

The Fashion Show

Tonight I went to a charity Fashion Show. A good friend of mine was organising it and so I wanted to show my support.

It was a good event… There were lots of people, a great venue, good music, I was with my friends. However, I didn’t manage to enjoy it like everyone else. I couldn’t just look at the clothes and discuss the latest looks with my friends. The only thing I really looked at was the size and shape of every model that walked down the catwalk. By the end of the show, I had pretty much worked out the size of every girl who took part. The most painful thing about it was that I had compared myself against every single model, and even most members of the crowd. 

It pains me to write this down. I sound so judgemental. But the truth is, I still find it so hard to not compare myself to skinny women and having a catwalk of them parading in front of me sent my head spinning.

The other thing I found difficult was the thought that there was no way in a million years that I would have volunteered to strut down the catwalk. The thought of wearing a short stress for the world to see filled me with dread. It upset me that I don’t have self-confidence like the models I saw this evening. I want to love my body as opposed to constantly wanting to shrink it away.

The only positive thing I can take from tonight, apart from having supported my friend, is that a part of me didn’t think the really skinny girls looked that good. Ed was doing his best to tell me that they did, tell me that they looked beautiful, happy, wonderful, sexy and attractive. But the truth is, I didn’t 100% believe him…. At least that shows some progress.

 

A Change Of Plan

I haven’t posted in a while and I’m not sure where to start. The past two weeks have been extremely difficult, and last week was probably the worst week of this year.

As I have said before, D is my best friend. We lived in Paris together, we worked together, we live together at university and we are on the same course. For the past two years I have seen D nearly every day and we have been through a lot together. He was there through every step of my recovery, has seen the good days and the bad days, and never stopped helping me fight Ed. Now I am in a better place our lives don’t revolve so much around Ed. We hang out together, work together, laugh together… He is my best friend.

In less than two months I will have finished university. 4 years of uni education done. To say I am terrified would be an understatement. I love having a plan and for the past 17 years I have had a plan in place. School, senior school, sixth form, university… it was all figured out. I have known I have wanted to study Business Management and French since I was about 13. I had always imaged that I would graduate with a good degree and start a top job in the city somewhere. However, things don’t always go to plan.

I did some job applications, reached the final stage and didn’t get the job. I was devastated. It felt like everything I had been working towards was for nothing. However, things worked themselves out. My friend D was taking a year out to apply for jobs the following year and was going to go travelling for 6 months. My parents always tell me that ‘everything happens for a reason’ and it seemed as though they were right. Being declined from the jobs meant I would travel for six months around the world with my best friend… I was so happy. So excited. We had started planning and talking about it and I couldn’t wait.

However, again… things don’t always go to plan. A job offer has come up in Paris and D is going to take it. It means he won’t be travelling and it means he will be leaving very soon after exams. As for me, I now have no plan. It feels like I have been left alone with an empty year ahead of me. Never in a million years had I ever imagined the end of Uni to look like this.

However, the thing that has been the hardest through all these changes is the thought that D will be leaving. I feel like I am loosing my best friend and I am not ready to face the world by myself. I knew that there would come a time when our paths would go separate ways but I was never ready for it to be in eight weeks time. For the past two years I haven’t made a plan without D in it, and so I am not sure where to begin.

When I found out that D wouldn’t be here after university I cried myself to sleep for a week. I am terrified about having no plan and the the thoughts in my head started becoming a little insane. For a split second I considered turning back to my eating disorder, making myself really ill again and spending time back in the clinic. These thoughts were quickly rejected but I tried to figure out why I was having them in the first place. I think it is because, in a weird kind of way, the clinic is like a safe haven. I get cared for and looked after there. There is routine, a plan, a goal. But I know these thoughts are crazy and I don’t ever want to waste more days of my life away in a hospital.

D moving away has made me realise that I need to be able to support myself. Since I got really ill a couple of years ago, my support has been external. Through everything I have had D and my parents. I had a therapist and a nutritionist in Paris. I was in a clinic in the UK. I now have a therapist in Bath. However, the truth is, these people won’t always be here to support me. Plans change. People move. And the only person I con truly rely on 100% of the time is me. I am not saying that I can’t rely on other people at times, but ultimately, the only person who is always there for you is yourself.

I feel as though this year is going to be a challenge, but a challenge that needs facing. I need to learn to spend time with myself. Learn to love myself and take care of myself. I also feel like I need to grow up. Last year I celebrated my 21st Birthday and the week after I was admitted into an ED clinic. At a time in my life when I should have been celebrating adulthood, I was having to be tought how to eat. I was being taught how to eat toast, milk, dessert and chips…. The things you learn at the age of about 2. I needed a team of people to take care of me because I couldn’t look after myself. The relationship with my parents became extremely Adult-Child. Although I was the eldest sister and 21 years old, I was the baby of the family. The one demanding all the attention and care of her parents. I need to start behaving and being treated like an adult.

So all in all, I never imagined the end of university to look like this. I am not excited, but scared. I am not happy, but sad to be leaving D. But I am prepared to face up to the challenge. This next year is going to be a year for me. I am going to learn to connect with myself and get to know myself. I am going to try and enjoy the lack of structure and no plans and enjoy a year off to do whatever the hell I want. I am going to see the world, meet new friends and see new things. I am going to try and learn to be happy without D and learn to support myself.

 

“Life is not what it’s supposed to be, it’s what it is. The way you cope with it is what makes the difference”

This week I have learn’t that whenever I come up against challenges in life, or am faced with disappointment, I turn to my eating disorder to make me feel better. Similarly, whenever I feel lonely I look to my eating disorder for company.

Recently, I have tried to convince myself that I can just ‘use’ my eating disorder for a couple of weeks. Nothing drastic like in the past, but just a bit until I feel better. A part of me tries to believe that my eating disorder is a coping mechanism I can turn to when things in life get difficult and I feel like I am loosing control.

However, I need to remember that there is no ‘healthy’ way to use my eating disorder. It is not a coping mechanism and it won’t make things better. And there is most definitely no ‘healthy’ way for me to loose weight. Restricting my food and trying to push the numbers on the scale further down each week won’t make my life easier. Moving further away from my target weight won’t get me a job, make me happy, and give me the life I so desperately want. It will just be a passport back to the clinic… A place which is definitely not on my bucket list.

I feel like it’s reached that time again when I need to dig deeper, pick myself up and find some strength to fight harder. This week has just been a ‘blip’, a bit of a standstill on my journey. The best thing I can do now is make sure it doesn’t turn into something bigger. I don’t want to step backwards or fall down. I don’t want to have to go through the same damn struggles time and time again. So instead of trying to overcome this weeks challenges and disappointments by turning back to by eating disorder, I am going to try and view it as an opportunity. It will be an opportunity to try and cope with life’s struggles without Ed, and do things the healthy way.

The Calm After The Storm

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Today I went to church with a friend of mine. I have been wanting to go for a while and today I finally went.

After worship people could come to the front and minister. It was a chance for people to share stories that they felt would be relevant to other people in the service. One man talked about a picture he had seen of a ship. I can’t remember exactly how he described it, but he said something like, although the ship had just come out of a storm, the sea was a calm and clear and the ship seemed peaceful upon the water. However, the lighthouse in the corner of the picture was a reminder of the danger that had passed. The ship could continue to be at peace away from the storm, but it was important for the captain to keep an eye on the lighthouse out of the corner of his eye. The captain had to remember the danger and keep his eye out for any other storms.

I felt as though I could really relate to what he said. This whole journey of recovery has been like a sea storm. I have been through ups and downs. I have been frightened and scared. At times I feared my ship was sinking but I managed to stay afloat.

However, I am now beginning to feel like I am coming out the other side of the storm. The sea feels calmer, the water is clearer, the sky is brighter. I am more in control of my ship and I am steering myself closer to safety. However, I always keep a keen eye on my eating disorder, like the captain keeps an eye on the lighthouse. I don’t want to forget about the storm, or loose sight of it because I need to remember how bad it was in order to keep moving forward. I need to keep my eye on the danger so I don’t hit another storm without warning. I need to keep my eating disorder in sight, because I don’t want it creeping up behind me when I’m not ready.

But for now, I am grateful that my ship is sailing and not sinking and the waters are feeling calmer.

 

Congratulations

Today was weigh day. My worst kind of day. As I stand on the scales I have to fight to shut out Ed’s screaming voice. He loves weigh day. It’s the perfect opportunity for him to try and get me back. Tell me the numbers are too high, that they have to be lower. He’s angry that I have let the numbers get this high. After I worked to get them so low, he tells me all the work was for nothing. That I am a quitter. A looser. A failure.

Today my weight went up. It went up a lot more than I was expecting. Normally my weight stays pretty stable or I see a little gain, and so today was uncomfortable. I am now pretty much at my target weight.

This morning after I recorded my weight I felt trapped inside my own head. Just me and Ed. The abusive thoughts in my head were getting louder by the second, my thoughts started spiraling, my mood dropped. I panicked. I really bloody panicked. I couldn’t think straight. I was by myself and I felt like I needed to cry for help. Why? Just because some shitty numbers had got bigger.

Tonight I am meant to be baking a cake, going for drinks and going out for dinner. My first thought was how could I do that now? How can I possibly go out and do those kinds of things now that the number has gone up? I am also meant to be going out clubbing this week. Well now that the numbers have got bigger I need an excuse to get out of that one. And what about dinner out with my friend on Thursday? How can I get out of that?

I am fed up of numbers controlling my life. I am worth more than numbers. There is more to life than numbers. The fact the numbers have gone up shouldn’t stop me from doing anything. Every time they go up, it means I gain my freedom. More power. More control. As my friend told me this morning, getting to target weight is a step closer to getting back the life I want. It doesn’t need to stop me doing anything. I need to remember that I wasn’t set a target weight to make me fat, ugly and disgusting. I was set a target weight to make me healthy. Make me strong. And make me normal.

Today should be a celebration. This is what I have been aiming for for the last 15 months. This was the goal. The target. All the hard work, the panic, the tears and the fight has been for days like this, when the numbers go up. This is what I signed up to when I said I wanted to recover. Today is an accomplishment and something to be proud of. The only looser today is Ed. And every time he looses, I get stronger. The only thing getting weaker is Ed.

I was listening to my fighting playlist this morning and it said ‘Live the bravest life you dare’. So tonight, I am going to go out, I am going to bake a cake and I am going to have a glass of wine. But most importantly, I am going to celebrate my achievement. I didn’t put in all this effort for nothing.

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“Life is full of ups & downs. The trick is to enjoy the ups and have courage during the downs”

This week has been particularly difficult. My body image has been crap, the voice in my head has been loud, my thoughts have been obsessive and it made life pretty difficult. I sat in therapy on Wednesday in silence and just cried. It is very rare that I have nothing to say. I tried to explain how I was feeling but all I was feeling was sad and angry. Angry that this battle isn’t over and sad that the battle began in the first place. But what I need to remember is this:

“The problem is that you don’t just choose recovery. You have to keep choosing recovery, over and over again. You have to make that choice 5-6 times each day. You have to make that choice even when you really don’t want to. It’s not a single choice and it’s not easy.”

Marya Hornbacher

However, despite the sadness and the anger, I feel like I have managed to turn things around this weekend.

Last night was one of my best friends birthdays. Sadly, she has also had some of her own ED struggles in the last couple of years. I had been napping in the day and was in no mood to go out but I made the effort to go anyway… I am so pleased I did. For the first time in over a year I saw my friend back to her old self. She was drinking, having fun, chatting away and being totally normal. She looked great and it was so amazing to see. As I sat and watched I felt inspired. I felt inspired to keep on fighting. She was proving to me that life is more fun when Ed is not around. Life is more fun when you can be yourself. So I poured myself a drink and joined in. We had a great night out together and it was so amazing to feel ‘normal’ again with my friend. We have both fought bloody hard over the last year, but nights like last night prove that all the hard work is worth it.

Also given that I have tried to avoid Fear Food Friday for the past couple of weeks, I thought it was about time I made up for it. We ended the night in McDonald’s and so I took the opportunity to tick off another fear food. McDonald’s is one my greatest fear foods. Even though Ed hates me telling you all this, I actually like the taste of McDonald’s. So last night I had a burger and some chips and even a couple of chicken nuggets after my night out. I feel uncomfortable even writing this down, but hey, fuck off Ed. McDonald’s is also one of D’s favorite things so I text him to tell him I had finally had a McDonald’s! He was proud. That made me happy! Before we finish uni I have said that we will have a McDonald’s together, so last night can be considered practice.

Today is my housemates birthday. We kicked off the day with brunch… the biggest brunch I have ever seen. I joined in, I had what I wanted. Hey, I even ate cake for breakfast. It was great! I needed to get one up on my Ed this weekend and I feel like today has been a victory.

This week I have also learn’t an important lesson: I need to give myself time to ‘acclimatise’ to the new me. I feel like I am able to get to a certain point in my recovery and then I panic. I freak out and feel like I can’t do it anymore. I feel like I am getting to big and I start to feel too uncomfortable. As a result, I try and gain back some control with small restrictions or an extra gym session here and there. I think it will make me feel better, but it is only making this road to recovery longer. So I am going to try and stop the panic and give myself time to get used to my ‘new’ body. As my therapist said, I just need to give myself time to ‘acclimatise’ to how I am feeling and what I look like.

So all in all, this week has been full of up’s and down’s. For now, I’m on an ‘up’ phase. Let’s keep climbing!