I went back to Paris with D this week for the first time since moving back last summer. I lived in Paris for a year and it was half way through that year that D moved out to Paris and I faced up to my Eating Disorder and began treatment.
I have so much to say I don’t know where to start. I have tried to sum up some of the main things I took away from the trip.
Fine tasting freedom
For my whole life I have had a sweet tooth. It comes from my Grandpa who is a pudding expert! However, during my whole year living in the home of patisserie, I can pretty much count the number of different cakes I ate on two hands. I would walk past the bakeries and the patisseries, look in the windows, smell the delicious pastry and carry on walking. Ed would tell me how strong I was, how good I was for not buying anything. I had a good friend at work who was a patisserie expert and she told me about all the best places to go, so I had a list of cakes and patisseries I wanted to try. But Ed told me that it wasn’t worth it. I didn’t need it. I was better than that. I was stronger.
Going back to Paris this time was totally different. I walked into patisseries, smelt the lovely pastry and began ticking cakes off my list. I tried a Madeline, a lemon mille-feuille from the world famous Pierre-Hermé de Paris, the best eclair of my life filled with salted caramel creme patissière and a white chocolate cookie. I also had pastries every morning to make up for the amount of times I missed out and I even bought myself a rose and lychee croissant for the train ride home. Being able to buy, eat and most importantly enjoy all of the above felt incredibly liberating. I truly kicked my eating disorder and it felt great!
Never say no
However, I did find it particularly hard in the bakery at the end of my old road. It is a really great bakery and well known in Paris. I walked in and everything was exactly the same. They had the beautiful patisserie, cookies, cakes and macaroons. I could have probably named nearly everything in there I had been in so many times. However, I realised as I was standing in the queue, that I had only ever tried two things in the whole entire shop, and I couldn’t help but feel really sad. Because of my eating disorder, I missed out on experiencing so many wonderful things. I tortured myself when I used to go in and only walk out with a small wholemeal loaf. I used to imagine what it would be like if I could try all of the things in there. However, this time round I didn’t need to imagine. Instead of being sad, I have promised myself that I will never let myself miss out like that again. I never want to go back anywhere and feel such deep regret for having deprived myself of something and saying no.
And it wasn’t just cake that I tried during our trip. This time round in Paris, I looked at a menu and chose what I wanted. In the past, I would look at a menu, choose what I wanted and then look again and choose the lowest calorie option. I never let myself have the steak, a croque-monsieur, cheese or wine. I wold have the salmon, a salad and a jug of tap water. So I am proud that I am now able to eat out at restaurants and choose for myself. Not let Ed choose for me.
Going with the flow
Another great thing I learnt is that I am now able to ‘go with the flow’; something which was never possible when I was in the depths of my eating disorder. On a couple of occasions D and I turned up at a restaurant to find it had closed. In the past, that would have freaked me out. I wouldn’t have been able to cope with a change of plan as it would have taken me days or hours to psyche myself up for the restaurant of choice. This time round, it wasn’t a problem. We just went somewhere else.
A crime scene
While we were in Paris D and I also went back to our old flat. It was so weird to be back. It looked the same and smelt the same, but it didn’t feel the same. Although I have some great memories from that flat like sitting at the kitchen window and chatting to D for hours, I couldn’t forget the hard times I had had in that building. I could still remember sitting curled up on the tiled entrance floor desperately calling my OA sponsor, I could remember being weighed by my dietician on the ground floor when she broke her leg and couldn’t climb the stairs, I could remember checking my appearance in the lobby mirror every morning to check my breakfast or last nights dinner hadn’t made me look any bigger, I could remember walking the stairs and being exhausted by the time I reached the top as I was drained of all my energy. All of the memories came flooding back and it felt strange. I didn’t feel like the same person walking around the building. It felt like I was remembering a previous lifetime. I guess that’s a positive thing as it shows how far I have come in recovery. Although I loved that flat, I never want to be the person I was who lived there again.
While we were at the flat we also thought it would be funny to go back to our old local supermarket. I didn’t really think anything of it at first, but I a wasn’t prepared for how that felt either. I guess it is a bit like a crime scene. I walked around staring at all the things that used to go in my basket. The natural yogurt, fruit, salad, nuts and wholemeal everything. Ed used to drag me around the shop telling me what I could and couldn’t buy. I used to have to go to the shops so often to buy the same list of items so I could prepare lunch and dinner every day. Rarely could I risk having to buy a lunch at work. I also walked down the biscuit and cake aisle- an aisle I never used to even bother going down. Again, I could spot about three things i had bought in a whole year. So to make up for lost time, I have bought back a case full to the brim of French biscuits I have never tried.
Becoming a victim
After the slightly weird trip back to the flat and the supermarket D and I went on a walk along the river. D was being rather quiet and I knew something was wrong. I asked if he was ok and he began to cry. I very rarely see him cry. He said that he was just upset because being back had made him remember the hard times too. He remembered how much my life, and his life, was controlled by my eating disorder. So much so, that there was hardly time for anything else.
Seeing him so upset gave me motivation to keep fighting this horrible disease. It was a reminder that I am not the only victim, my friends and family are victims too. And in Paris, D was a big victim. He didn’t sign up for living with Ed. He had no prior experience of eating disorders. He didn’t even know I was sick. How was he supposed to, I didn’t even know.
However, whilst Ed no doubt changed D’s time in Paris, D stuck by me every step of the way. He fought hard against Ed, he gave me strength, he gave me hope and most importantly he kept me smiling and kept me laughing. I have no idea what my life would be like if D hadn’t been with me in Paris. I can’t even bear to think about it. I am lucky and blessed to have a friend like D and am very proud of his fight against Ed. I have no doubt that our six months living together in Paris were some of the most challenging months of both of our lives, but the fight we put up together is also one of the biggest achievements.
So all in all, this trip proved to me how much better life can be without my eating disorder. Living in Paris with my Eating Disorder drove me insane, made me unhappy, upset those around me and deprived me of the freedom to enjoy things. Going back to Paris after a year in recovery has given me the motivation to keep on fighting. It is a long, hard and challenging fight, but my God it is worth it.
So thank you Dad for paying for me to go back and thank you D for coming with me. À la prochaine fois Paris!