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!!

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“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!

A Week Away

This week I have been staying at D’s house as we are revising together for our finals (2 weeks to go!). 

It is the first time in over two years that I have stayed at someones house for more than a night and had someone else cook for me. I guess it must seem totally normal to most people, like an exciting week away. However, for someone suffering with an eating disorder it is quite a challenge. The loss of control can be frightening.

All in all, I think I’ve done pretty well. D has been really great and stocked up on some food that he knew wouldn’t freak me out. I also coped well with dinner apart from on one occasion. One night dinner was later than I was expecting and I didn’t really know how to cope with it. Although the right thing to do was to have an extra snack, eating more than my food plan before dinner is really difficult. As a result, I just made myself endure the painful hunger pangs and try and carry on revising. Unsurprisingly, my standard of work was poor. I achieved nothing. Ed was happy, I was in pain. 

The second most challenging task was eating cereal from a different bowl. This must sound absolutely bizarre, but since I stopped weighing my food I have become comfortable with having my cereal from a certain bowl. I made sure we had the bowls at home and I also took some with me to uni. I have eaten out of them for about 10 months! In these bowls I can tell when I have about the right amount of cereal and so they’re a safety net. However, I have learn’t that they are just another way of seeking control. Sometimes it is hard to break out of these safety nets but it is really important not to let things as silly as a bowl control the way you do things.

I guess every challenge presents an opportunity to learn and over the past few days I have learn’t some valuable lessons. I learn’t that you can always rely on your good friends to have your back (I knew this one already!). I have learn’t that I can hand over control and I will survive. I have also learn’t that I need to let go of my safety nets, even if we are just talking about a bowl! I have also been reminded that the brain and body can’t work properly without fuel- so fuel it. 

Thank you D for putting up with me this week. As always, you’ve been a great friend.

 

“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.

“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!

The Dating World

For the past couple of weeks I have been going on dates with a guy from uni. The dating world is new territory for me and so I am embracing it with caution. I have been for drinks, out for dinner, to jazz concerts and had dinner cooked for me. Whilst I can’t deny that I have been having a great time, it has also presented me with some new challenges. The dating world, whilst exciting, is also quite triggering.

One thing that has become blindingly clear over the past couple of weeks is my fear of rejection. I feel that if this goes nowhere, then it means I’m not good enough, that I need to change and that I need to somehow improve. My friends and family tell me that this isn’t true. Whilst I am trying to tell myself the same thing, I can’t deny the fact that the thought of rejection fills me with dread. It is a perfect excuse for my Eating Disorder to start telling me that I need to be better. It is a perfect excuse for Ed to try and convince me that if I eat a bit less, start restricting again and go to the gym more often, I will be a better person and people will like me more.

All of these thoughts have made me realise that my past therapists were absolutely right when they used to tell me that dating could be a bit tricky in the early stages of recovery. However, I am grateful that I now feel strong enough to be able to cope. I know that restricting wont make me a better person and that anorexia doesn’t make me special. If there isn’t another date and I am disappointed, it isn’t because I am not good enough, but just that this guy isn’t right for me.

The other challenge I am facing is a lack of control. I have no control over how this guy feels about me, I don’t know what he’s thinking, I don’t know if he likes me, and to be quite honest, it’s driving me crazy! Because I feel like I have no control over the situation, my natural instinct is to seek control in another area of my life… Which often tends to be my food. However, I know that this isn’t a solution or a magic cure to my worries.

Going on these dates also made me realise how much my eating disorder has controlled my life for the past few years. When I was asked about my interests and passions, I felt a bit stuck for something to say. Part of me blames my eating disorder for that. For the past year and a half I have been so occupied with recovery and getting better that there has been no time for anything else. Whilst I was sick, my only main concern was restriction, exercise and calorie counting. I am no longer going to let ‘Anorexia’ be an interest of mine. Recovery is part of my daily life and something I need to be mindful of everyday, but it doesn’t need to be all I care and think about. Life is full of so many other more exciting things to do.

The other thing I have learnt is that I no longer feel the need to be defined by my illness. The guy I have been dating knows nothing about my eating disorder and I have no intention in telling him. I no longer want it to be a part of me. I no longer believe that people only like me and care about me because of my anorexia.I am not my illness. I don’t want to be ill anymore. I just want my life back.

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“Because someone we love is in heaven, there is a little bit of heaven in our home”

Only yesterday was I laughing, smiling, and grateful for such a happy and positive start to the new year. In fact, my friend said I was ‘glowing’. As soon as he said it I knew I was back and Ed had taken a backseat!

 

This morning I found out the sad news that my Grandad had passed away. I have never had to deal with death close to me. I am grateful everyday for the fact I have had four grandparents until I was 21. I am incredibly close to all of them. I know my Grandad is in peace now but I can’t help but feeling annoyed that whilst everything in life seemed to be going so well, there is yet another test. Another challenge. And another battle. And this time not just for me, but for all my family. I don’t want me or my family to be sad, in pain, mourning or crying.

 

Only last night my friend shared with me that “God thew all this shit in my face, yet he knew I had the strength, patience, determination to deal with it”. People are given challenges in life when God believes they are strong enough to deal with it. So for today, I am going to hold onto the fact that me and my family are strong enough to get through this. 

 

My Grandad had a long and happy life and that is something to celebrate. I don’t know how to mourn, fortunately I have never had to, so I don’t know what I should be doing right now. So I am going to celebrate the good and happy life of my Grandad, be grateful that I spent Christmas with him, be grateful that he saw all his family over Christmas and try my best to keep laughing and smiling. I know that my Grandad was happiest when he saw his family ‘glowing’.

 

 

 

 

 

A Bientôt Paris!

Last year I lived and worked in Paris for a year and I have very mixed memories. On the one hand, it was one of the most difficult years of my life. I faced up to my Anorexia for the first time, began seeking treatment and embarked upon what has turned out to be a very long a difficult journey of recovery. So in that sense, Paris is a bit like the crime scene of my Eating Disorder. On the other hand, I lived with some of my best friends, met some amazing people and had the time of my life. 

It was half way through my year abroad that I began seeking treatment and being away from home was obviously a struggle. However, I got through it thanks to some amazing people I met in my self-help group and thanks to a very special friend of mine. My housemate at the time was one of my best friends, and with his help I managed to complete the year. I dread to think where I would be if he wasn’t there and can never thank him enough for his help and support. Although Ed put me through hell and back at times, having my friend with me every step of the way meant that I can actually look back at my year and remember some very happy, hilarious and unforgettable times. And for that, I am forever grateful.

However, despite having fun in Paris it comes as no surprise that Ed didn’t allow me to embrace everything. I have always grown up with a sweet tooth and despite living in the city of fine patisserie Ed wouldn’t let me try them. We lived on a road full of wonderful patisseries and I became too scared to go in. France is also known for amazing wine, and whilst I did enjoy a number of nights with some red wine, Ed eventually stopped me doing that too. I also rarely had croissants for breakfast and never let myself try a chocolate almond croissant which was something I had always wanted to try. I also never walked down the road eating the end of a baguette without feeling guilty and rarely enjoyed french cheese without an unbearable amount of guilt. So en bref, Ed didn’t let me properly live, properly participate and fully enjoy my experience. And for that, I am forever ungrateful.

However, my Dad told me that once I get my period’s back and once I feel up to the challenge he would buy me a ticket to Paris. Today, I booked my ticket! I am going to go back and eat patisserie, drink red wine, try a chocolate almond croissant for the first time, eat baguette and enjoy some cheese. However, the best thing about the whole trip is that my friend (housemate from Paris) is coming with me!

It’s a big challenge and it’s going to take some preparation but it will be a challenge worth fighting for. I can’t go back this time with Ed. If I did, I fear it would be too triggering as I will be in the place where Ed once had full control. So I am going to prepare by trying some of these fear foods before I go and getting used to it. 

It is going to be an exciting trip for many reasons. My friend and I will get to go back and visit our old friends, we will get to revisit all our favourite places and I will get to see Paris through my eyes, not Ed’s eyes… à bientôt Paris!

New Challenges

I always see new steps in recovery as new challenges. Whether it be trying a new fear food, going out for dinner, having dinner with friends or going for drinks, each step is a new challenge. What I need to remind myself is that given the nature of ‘challenges’, they’re not always going to be fun. However, the more times I challenge myself all of these things will become fun. As I have said before, FEAR= Face Everything And Recover.

I am going to try and accept that as I am still in relatively early stages of recovery, Ed is still going to join me when I’m out for dinner, trying new foods or having a drink. I will still hear his voice and I imagine that when I embark upon pretty tough challenges, he will be shouting pretty loud. But instead of using this as an excuse not to try new things and push myself, I am going to try and just acknowledge his presence and try and turn the volume down. I guess it’s a bit like when you’re stuck on a train and can hear someone’s really loud annoying music or the person next to you is having a really annoying conversation, you can hear it, but it doesn’t mean you have to listen. You just try and block out the sound and get on with what you’re doing.