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.

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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!!

Post 101!

Yesterday WordPress notified me that I have made 100 posts. I felt really proud of that. Since I have started blogging it has been amazing to know that while I help myself in my own journey of recovery, I am helping others too. 

Since I started treatment I have always been encouraged to write things down or ‘hand things over’ to someone else. In sum, not keep things totally to myself. I am a real believer that in writing your troubles or achievements down, or by sharing them with someone else, the problem won’t feel as bad. A problem shared is a problem halved.

So in today’s post I just want to thank everyone who has supported me via my blog, your kind words are a huge encouragement. I also wan’t to thank everyone who reads my posts- I hope they help you as much as they help me. For those of you who are suffering with your own ED’s, by sharing our stories of recovery I hope our strength against ED can become even stronger. For those of you who are fortunate to not be suffering with an ED, I hope my stories have given you a little bit more of an insight into a life with Ed. 

Thanks again! 

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.

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.

Image

“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!

“I want to be recovered”

This week has been a shitty week. The guy I was going on dates with didn’t text me back. I have been worrying about the gym. I have a lot of uni work. But mostly, I am sick to death of Ed’s voice screaming in my head. I am fed up with the self-hate, the worry, the panic and the fear. I am over a year into my recovery and sometimes I begin to question how many more days I can last. My life is a whole lot easier than it was this time a year ago, but today I am resentful that the battle continues. I want to be crowned the winner. End the race. Cross the finish line. I want to be recovered.

I was looking on the internet for some inspirational quotes, something to give me a bit of hope and comfort. Nothing really jumped out apart from a quote that said “Hey You. Don’t Give Up, Ok?”. I have come too far to give up now, even though it sometimes feels like the easier option.

I am trying to take comfort in the fact that today I can say that “I want to be recovered”. Last year I was still clinging onto a bit of my eating disorder. Part of me still loved Ed and found comfort in my illness. A part of me didn’t know how to live a life without anorexia and how to be happy just as ‘me’.

However, today I want nothing more that to be rid of it. I hate it. I want to kill it. It is upsetting me, wearing me down, beating me up and I can’t take it anymore. It is so loud. I just want space and quiet to be able to think clearly, collect my thoughts and be at peace in my own body.

I know the only way I can be free from this hell is to keep on fighting. There is no other magic solution. I just need to keep fighting as hard as I can. No one ever said it would be easy, but many people say it will be worth it. Let the fight continue…

Helpful Reminders

I returned home on Wednesday evening and I was feeling pretty confident. I had had a good week at Uni food wise, and despite all of the Christmas celebrations at the end of term I managed to stick to the trusty food plan. However, I am really struggling with body image at the moment. I am finding it hard to cope with the feeling of being heavy and since being home I know I have been restricting. Part of me doesn’t even want to write it on here, as I know my parents will read this (Ed really doesn’t want them to know).  And part of me doesn’t want to admit it, as Ed is telling me I need to start loosing weight again.

However, this week I am one year in recovery. I was home this time last year from Paris and I had my first ever therapy session to try and figure out what was going on with my “eating habits”. No one had uttered the ‘A’ word and I don’t think I really knew the severity of what I was doing to myself. As well as my first therapy session, I had a doctors apt to go through blood tests etc. I vividly remember the doctor telling me “Its an issue but it isn’t really a problem”… little did he know that that triggered me to return to Paris and drop weight until it really was a problem… a f****ing big problem. It was a problem all along. I also clearly remember locking myself away in the utility room last boxing day because I was so anxious and withdrawn and isolated that I didn’t even feel capable of holding a conversation with my own family.

I guess it is interesting to look back at this stuff because I know that in the last year I have made massive improvements. I have come further than I ever believed was possible and I am a lot happier. This time last year I would not have gone for a champagne dinner last night to celebrate my friends birthday! I guess I want to look at the improvement and also look at how horrible my life was this time last year so I have the motivation to keep on fighting. I have been finding this week difficult and so it is important, in times like these, that I look back at the hard times and ask myself, Do I really want to go back there? Is the few pounds I could loose by restricting really worth it? Was Ed telling the truth when he said my life would be better if I was thinner? The answer is no. I know that. When I think rationally it is a no brainer.

Before leaving Paris I also wrote a Divorce letter to Ed (see Divorcing Ed: The Divorce Letter). I wrote this so that when I have difficult times I can read it and remind myself why I am in recovery and why this daily battle is worth the fight. I would recommend anyone suffering with an ED to write a divorce letter to their Eating Disorder when they are feeling in a strong place and look back at it when you are struggling. There is something very powerful about reading advice you have written yourself – there is no excuse to believe it is bad advice, or from a bad source, as it is you who has written it.

What I am going to hold onto from the letter today is “I don’t expect this will be an easy, happy or clean divorce. But day at a time I am going to keep fighting my battle against you until I win.”. -I need to remember to keep fighting, even on difficult days. And secondly I want to remember that, “This path [to recovery]  isn’t a path to size 0. Walking the path won’t mean that i’ll still be classified as underweight. But you know what ED, there is more to life than being thin. Being thing doesn’t make me more special like you’ve tried to tell me over the years. It doesn’t make me a better person and it doesn’t make me more beautiful. “

So tomorrow is a new day and I am going to try even harder to win.

Check-up at the clinic

Today I went back to the clinic for the first time since September for a check up with my old nutritionist. It was quite strange going back. Firstly, it wasn’t the same being there without Fight Club, however I am grateful that none of us are still there. Secondly, it was a place I went to get “looked after” and so I always feel more like a child whenever I go in. However, there was something quite rewarding about going back today. I am in a much better place than I was when I went in in July and it was nice to be able to recognise the progress I have made since then.

 

I am now not far off my target weight. I was speaking to my nutritionist about how I don’t feel I need the next few kilo’s. I discussed the body image issues I was having and said how I am doing well now but will find it hard to put on more weight. I questioned whether it was actually needed. Luckily, she told me exactly what I needed to hear. 

 

She said that not putting on the last few kilos to get to my target BMI is a bit like cutting out a tumour but leaving a little bit there. Sure, there is a chance that it might not grow any bigger and it might not spread. But why take the risk? The extra few kilo’s I don’t put on would probably make no difference to how I look, yet it would be enough fuel to keep Ed alive and enough power that he could use against me. There is no point in fighting 90% of the battle and giving up now.

 

Another thing I need to remember is that although I may want to look like I did six months ago, I most definitely do not want to feel like I did six months ago. I was unhappy, anxious, worried and scared. Now, although I may be a few kilo’s heavier, I am more happy, more relaxed and less frightened and anxious all the time. The weight gain may be difficult, but it is worth it to be happy.

 

Lastly, it was so nice to be able to talk to my nutritionist about my future plans. I told her about my trip to Paris in January, plans for graduation and the most recent travelling plans. Before, I was unable to plan more than a day at a time. I would spend so long preoccupied about what I had eaten for breakfast, what I was going to have for lunch, what I had eaten for lunch, what was for dinner etc that there was no time to think about anything else. Now, I am able to actually think about more meaningful things and make more exiting plans than what I am eating that day. The food is now taking a more backseat role and life is in the driving seat.

 

 

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!