Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Shouldn't I be pooping rainbows?

A good friend knows that just recently I've been feeling a bit out of sorts, bit blue, bit down in the dumps, bit hopeless.
This recent bout of blueness has been getting me frustrated at myself, you know, because, well, I'm better, shouldn't this cloud of insecurity and gloom have lifted and be gone for good? I am also happy so there's no reason for these down days, so why do I get days where I feel a bit numb? Why do I get periods where I feel just as anxious and as sad as I used to? 

Shouldn't I be pooping rainbows and sweating glitter? Shouldn't I be skipping around handing out hugs? 

So she sent me this, and after reading it I realized that I should cut myself some slack. I realised I am no where near as 'hopeless' as I think, that I'm not 'failing recovery', and that even though there may be days where it feels like I only smile because my goofy boyfriend manages to pull me out of a slump, that those days seem to be rare. 
(not the days his goofiness makes me smile, trust me that happens a scary amount, its nice.)

It made me realise that these vulnerable days are my becoming. They show that I can handle, sit with, and most importantly get through being vulnerable.  

The reason why I am saying all of this is because I am sharing what she shared with me, I have written it out below, because it reminded me that recovery is hard but so is regular life, even when you are so much better. It reminded me that recovery isn't all butterflies and rainbows and eating tubs of ice cream, and that the odd days of struggle doesn't mean you are failing, it means you are getting stronger, it means you are involved in life, it means you are becoming. 

No-ones life is butterflies and rainbows so we shouldn't expect that of recovery, we aren't failing, we are living.

'1.The ultimate paradox of getting better is this: You cannot have a life until you are well, but you cannot be well until you have a life. Almost all of your struggles in recovery will come from this. 

2. You must start creating a life, even if you don’t feel completely better yet. I know you love to-do lists, so fill them now with tasks to help you connect with the world again. Texting that friend you haven’t talked to in ages. Applying to that job. Writing letters. Reading books. These things are more of your recovery than the meal plans and doctors and perfectly-filtered pictures of your oatmeal will ever be. 

3. The problems your eating disorder helped you to run from are going to be back and all-too-alive when you hit a certain point. The idea that recovery is nothing but ice cream and sunshine is a lie. If it was raining when you left, it will be raining when you come back. Don’t quit therapy. You are going to need to learn to deal with the clouds in a new way, and it’s going to be pretty terrible sometimes. 

4. You may find yourself thinking about the eating disorder now more than ever. While you’re walking to class, talking to friends. It will be a drumbeat in the back of your head, whispering, “you’re not sick anymore, but remember when…” 

5. You will look at sick photos and have the odd sensation of both wanting to go back and feeling that even your lowest wasn’t enough. It will leave knots in your stomach, because you will feel your get-out-of-life free card fading. If not your sickest, how much will it take to finally get the comfort you’ve been searching for? It will occur to you that the sense of peace for which you were destroying your life was all just a mirage. You will quickly tuck this terrifying thought away. 

8. Recovery is not life. Recovery is a protected, pre-portioned, planned path towards Better, and life is none of those things. Life is messy. Life is heartbreaking. Life is excessive and bright and bold. 

9. You were wired in such away that the world has always felt a bit too loud. Studies show that criticism hits your brain harder than your friends’, that you empathize more deeply with those around you, that you are more sensitive to pain. You became a professional harm-avoider not because you were weak, but because you were trying to survive. Don’t compare yourself to others. Remember that your brain has the volume turned up much louder than theirs. 

10. At some point, the unfairness of this all will hit you. This is good sign. It means you are coming to believe two important truths that you before never quite internalized: 1. You did not choose this. 2. You did not deserve this. 

11. When the eating disorder leaves, there will be a gaping space where it once was. You will not know what to do with this. You will first try to fill it with Recovery. Then you may try other things: A relapse. An obsession with fitness. A boy. A girl. Constant reminiscing on your illness. You will wonder what on earth you filled this space with before getting sick. 

12. I know you feel like you should have it figured out by now, and I know how much you hate uncertainty. But the truth is that learning how to fill this vacancy is going to be a lifelong pursuit. And you have only just begun. 

13. Here’s the important part: Everyone around you is doing just the same. Those still in their eating disorders have plugged up their holes with illness and destruction, but you’re not one of them anymore. You are one of the vulnerable again, and unlike them, every day you are becoming. 

14. The pain of becoming is constant and real. 

15. In the end, you will have a whole life to show for it.'

Thank you J Bird. We are becoming.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

This too shall pass

 Today has been horrible, and it feels like the next few days will be around the same intensity, lots of instability, unpredictability, triggers and change.

My old coping mechanism for when things became overwhelming was my Eating Disorder. 
It blocked out the anxiety, the feelings and the vulnerability I felt, nothing could hurt me when I was already hurting myself, it didn't matter if things were going wrong because I was so wrapped up in my ED, I would just numb my emotions through my ED. I was so terrified of failing or of the things that felt so unstable that anorexia was a way of hiding from them, when you enter the anorexic bubble its all the world becomes, you effectively shrink away from everything else.

Stress and the feeling of failure makes me want to disappear, anorexia provided me with that possibility.

So now when things become overwhelming and unstable I find myself struggling to cope, I cannot use my old coping mechanisms to block out the emotions, but yet I haven't found a way to be able to sit with them. Its tough because even though I don't use the behaviors from my ED my brain tells me to, screams at me to, to help it to cope/not feel. This means that even though I am not using my old method of coping it's not because it hasn't crossed my mind, it's because logically I know that, what I would tell myself, is just a day of relief would spiral into more, and then that would be a bigger problem.

There is no purpose to this blog, I just know that a lot of people are struggling right now, and I guess that today I was one of them.

Life is unpredictable, ironically that is one thing that we can predict. Today has shown me that during times like now that my brain will automatically jump to my engrained coping mechanism. It's shown me that even though that is my automatic response, it doesn't have to be my only one. It's shown me that maybe recovery is about accepting that you have to feel the anxiety, that you can make it through unpredictable times.

Maybe it's about remembering the cliche sayings that are thrown at us in every treatment unit, that
'This too shall pass'
'A day at a time'
'The only way out is through'

There are a lot of people struggling right now, and for those people that need someone to tell them that it gets easier, it does, I'll be that person, it gets better. 
Today I really flipping struggled, the anxiety was suffocating and I cried more then I care to admit to, but I already know that tomorrow is a new day.
I already know that this stressful period will pass and I will be glad that I didn't turn to my ED to cope, and that will make me stronger.

I already know that days like this do not out weigh the days of freedom, and those days of freedom are worth it, oh so worth it. 

Wednesday, April 1, 2015


Timehop; it can be incredibly amusing and incredibly unneeded.

It can also remind you of the past and help you appreciate the present.

Yesterday it reminded me that it was the 31st March, it reminded me that a year a go I was desperately questioning my flaws.
It reminded me that 2 years a go I was dying, that I felt unloved by the person I was with and that my world was crumbling.
It reminded me that 3 years a go I was getting married. 

In reminding me of all these past events, past events that, lets be honest, I would cut out from my life if a magic Genie approached me and offered me the chance, it brought my brain to the present. This sounds like a trivial thing, don't we always live in the present?, but not for some and certainly not for me. I've been stuck in this mid 20's phase, a phase that no one tells you about, the one where you desperately want more out of life and just want to get the future sorted, concrete, secure. 

I am impatient and because I know what I want I just want to get to the finish line, now please, no seriously, now please? I guess in a way it gets more complicated, through having many months of my MA being told 'no' I automatically feel like I can't do it, with such a gap I feel out of the loop writing wise and that push back into essay writing is not a welcomed one. I have re entered a world where I am questioning my capability, and with so much doubt and insecurity (sorry I know that's not an attractive trait) the future not only feels far away but also a bit unobtainable. 

Then good old Timehop reminded me, the 31st last year, 2 years a go and 3 years a go, and it brought me to today. 

The 31st this year I got up early, got in my car (because yes I now own a car), 
I drove to Southampton (because yes I am now healthy enough to be legally allowed to drive), 
I went to The Priory (not for myself) 
and interviewed an Eating Disorder Consultant (once again not for myself but for research),
and I was shown around the Unit and introduced to nurses (not as a potential patient but as a professional).
I then went to visit my best friend and beautiful God son.
I spent time with my family.
I woke up looking forward to driving myself home and to spending time with someone who makes me very happy.

I guess what I am trying to say is that sometimes we can spend so much time wanting more, always wanting to get to the next step, wanting the future to happen now, that we forget that we are already in a future that we used to be so impatient for. We are always warned that life goes so fast, and I can see why, because we are always one step ahead in our minds/wants/needs and never really enjoying what we have right now, or for some just stepping back and seeing how far we have come.

Good old Timehop :)



Saturday, February 21, 2015

Having THAT conversation.

'You must do the things you think you cannot do.'
Eleanor Roosevelt

 Next week is Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2015, yes another one, and once again I find myself wondering how I feel about it. Luckily I will be on holiday in Center Parcs with my boyfriend and family so I'll be away from all of the very unnecessary before and after pictures that make me want to shout and scream so much, yes we all know what the conventional anorexic looks like, lets not (excuse the pun) feed into that stereotype anymore please.

Every year I have participated and even used it as an oppurtunity to take a step forward in my own recovery, in fact it helped me say the words 'I have an Eating Disorder' out loud for the first time after my first hospital admission. 
Last year it wasn't so much a step forward for myself but more of trying to raise awareness that recovery was possible, that there was hope for those that are in the depth of the darkness, that there was a way out of the torment, and even though I am not there yet I still believe this.

This year the most important thing that has happened in terms of my recovery is people calling me out on my slips, people caring enough to talk to me when they see my strength falter. These conversations can be so crucial to someone at any stage of their Eating Disorder. I cannot stress enough how much good it can do if done in a sensitive manner.

Essentially starting off a conversation with someone can be nerve racking, and depending on where they are on their journey you could get a number of responses, but I promise you that having that scary conversation can potentially make such a big difference.

When I was first ill I hated the people that would try to talk to me, I would put up a barrier and become defensive, but I would always go away and think about it, and a small part of me would know that they were right, and I now have so much admiration for the people that approached me. 

Later on down the line the people that spoke to me would just be met with confusion, denial and ambivalence, I would feel so touched that they cared but not quite understand why they were being so dramatic, but knowing someone was worried and cared that much really helped me start to doubt that maybe my Eating Disorder was dangerous, maybe I did really need to make changes, maybe I was about to lose everything.

Either way having that conversation got the real part of me thinking, and any anger that came out was from my Eating Disorder, it was being challenged and confronted, it had been seen and it was becoming difficult to get away with. The Eating Disorder part of me was scared, which made me scared.

Now the conversations that I have, as heart breaking as they are, pull me out of any form of denial that I've been in, they open my eyes to the slips that I have allowed because, well, as long as I'm not as bad as I used to be right? Wrong. A million times wrong, but I could of gone on letting these slips happen day after day had I not been called out on them, and for that I will always be grateful.

So if you know someone that needs a conversation, be brave enough to have it. Sensitively confront the Eating Disorder and let it know that it's not getting away unseen.

The MIND slogan is 'It's time to talk' and it is.
That conversation could make a world of difference, I know all of mine did.  

Thursday, January 8, 2015

The end of limbo.

A very very good friend of mine once described Anorexia in a way that left me speechless. She said that 
'Anorexia is an unwelcome visitor that sits in the back of your head, eternally. It’s a radio frequency I can’t quite tune out of. I can, consciously tune into other stations at the same time, and play them louder, but I’m still ignoring it crackling away in the background. Sometimes something great happens – and it’s like my favourite song has come on which I love singing along to and getting lost in, and for a moment I’m so enjoying it I manage to tune completely out of stupid-anorexia.fm which is playing behind it. But then that song finishes and I can hear it again. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to consciously ignore a noise, but it’s very hard. Sometimes your frustration with not being able to turn it off comes to a point where you almost think just turning it up loud enough to actually hear it properly would be better. At least then you can hear what’s actually playing on that station. Of course, I know that’s a stupid thing to do…but that’s the level of desperation this takes you to.'

I remembered this metaphor because just recently I have found myself tuning into stupid-anorexia.fm when I am on my own
and I've felt guilty for it as I have things and people in my life that make me so very happy; then I remembered this metaphor and realised that just because I have found myself tuning in when I am on my own it doesn't belittle the happiness felt when with others, or when listening to the favorite songs. It doesn't mean that you can't be happy at other times, it doesn't mean that you can't appreciate the other stations, the happiness you feel when surrounded by those you love.
It is, however, a scary thought to need the noise of others to be able to tune out of that ever so suffocating stupid-anorexia.fm.

For a few months now I have been in limbo. It has felt like I have just been waiting for the go ahead to get on with my life, I guess in a way, due to my uni course, I was. All I know is that, life wise, I have wanted more, I have felt inadequate and stagnant, not moving forward and desperately trying to not move backwards. Going nowhere.
It got to the point where because I wasn't moving forward I craved giving up and moving backwards, giving in and turning the volume up on the station that refused to go away, tuning in and checking out. I have been very lucky because even though I'd like to believe that I am stronger then that on my own, I also have someone who makes me extremely happy and with just his presence manages to tune out the crackling of stupid-anorexia.fm completley.

 The reality of recovery is that it is really fucking hard, excuse my french.

It is a fight, every second of every minute of ever day. You don't just decide to get better, you have to decide it over and over again, and sometimes you can't, sometimes you slip up, but that doesn't mean your failing, it means you have a chance to decide to fight at the next hurdle. The challenges are exhausting both mentally and physically, and even when challenges are achieved it doesn't end there, there's usually an aftermath of guilt and terror, a countless amount of 'what have I done's and break downs and your brain screaming horrible things at you. The act of recovering goes against every single fiber of your being, it is wanting to do one thing with all of your heart and soul but knowing that your life depends on you doing the exact opposite.
Its going against what has been engrained to keep you sane for such a long time, it is exhausting, it is hell, but it isn't permanent.
It is hard but it does get easier, life takes over, the decisions become less hard to make, the days of falling some how become less, you find ways of coping with the difficult feelings. It takes time, a lot of tears, a lot of challenges but you CAN get through the tunnel that feels so dark and scary.
You then get the chance to build the life that anorexia made you so fearful of, and you can find that the fear was unnecessary and that life has some amazing moments that you would of missed out on if you had carried on down the path of self destruction.

My limbo is over, and it is a relief, I have my ethics approval and it feels like I can breathe again. It feels like I have finally shaken the label of 'vulnerable', and I can now start to move on to another chapter in my life.
But this time last week I felt like I never would, I felt like none of this would ever go away, I felt like I was in my worst nightmare, in the nearly, not quite, nowhere. The recovery that meant you weren't ill anymore but not yet well enough to be enough for 'life'.

It just goes to show that when you think you have reached your breaking point, you're low that will send you backwards, that you might be closer out of the tunnel then you think. 

Never give up. Recovery is so hard and it can feel like you aren't making progress, but keep at it, you might be closer out then you think. Trust the process. It's going to be ok.