The Ground Beneath My Feet.

Published 6 April, 2013 by ladyem83

Let’s see, am I walking on a solid footing, marshland, or quicksand?

It seems to change almost on a daily basis and I don’t like it.

Not too long ago the ground I walked on was solid but, of course, there were those external factors that knocked me off my balance once in a while, which is perfectly normal.

It’s different now, however, as I’m not sure whether the next step I take will lead me into a suffocating pit, or whether  it will support my weight and carry me a little further forward.

But, this path isn’t being paved for me.  I wish it were.  I wish I could attribute the good times and the bad times to fate, I wish I could hand over that responsibility to something or somebody else.

I don’t believe in that though.  Yes, I believe things happen for a reason, but I don’t believe that I am a mere puppet in my life’s play and that someone else is pulling my strings.  I am accountable for my decisions.  I have to decide whether I throw down a solid paving slab on which to step, or whether I step off the edge into the bog and then have to drag myself back up and out again.

The frustrating thing for me at present is that I want to throw down those paving slabs but I seem to be struggling to do so consistently.  It’s a question of confidence in the belief that I deserve to walk proudly on solid ground rather than disappearing quietly into the murky depths.

I have to find a way to gather that confidence and throw down a paving slab each day, because I can’t carry on in this haphazard way.

 

To be honest….

Published 14 March, 2013 by ladyem83

This phrase seems to have been incredibly diluted through excessive use in popular discourse.  My brother uses the abbreviation, ‘tbh’ too frequently in text messages.  Why do we feel the need to prefix certain statements and/or opinions with a warning of honesty?  Surely we should be confident that every opinion we express is done so with pride, conviction and, above all else, honesty?

I have entitled this post as such because I feel a need to qualify my previous post  My 30th birthday…

This blog honestly describes my path through anorexia, depression and recovery.   My 30th birthday… described how I enjoyed and experienced my fabulous birthday weekend.  If, however,  I am to be true to this blog, then I should also describe the other aspect to my birthday weekend because, recovery isn’t all party poppers and Champagne.

My path through recovery seems to be hellishly bumpy.  Just as I begin to gather strength, a degree of contentment and self-confidence, a demon inside me hits the self-destruct button and I spiral downwards at a rate of knots.

In my writing, I purposefully separate myself from the demon.  You may think I’m seeking a scapegoat, so that I can excuse my thoughts and behaviour. This isn’t the case.  I know this isn’t the case because I have lived most of my life without anorexia and depression.  I know that I do not want to walk the path to self-destruction, yet there is something inside me that paints an extremely convincing picture as to why I deserve only self-destruction.  You may say; “Well, if you know that’s not the real you and that you want to behave differently, then why don’t you?”

At this point, I hold my hands up.  You may give up reading here, and I don’t blame you.  You may despise my weakness and think I should, ‘pull myself together’;  I know that’s what I think.

I am a strong character.  I have been strong for the last 17 years.  I really don’t know why, but now, for some reason I can’t quite muster that all-encompassing strength to put myself on the right track and continuously keep myself there.

Oh, believe me, when it’s called for I can put on my ‘Game Face’ and knock it out of the park.  But, during the hours I spend alone (and they are many), I struggle with the other voice.  I’m so tired of putting on my Game Face.  Even at the weekend when no Game Face was required, just being happy and being me, is enough for the other voice to kick into gear and put me in my place.

So, here it is TBH:

I was shaking and crying when I saw my birthday cards and presents….I don’t deserve that love.

Mum held me to ransom outside Aberdeen:  “We will sit here in the car until you’ve eaten that bread roll.  IT doesn’t want you to enjoy this weekend, we are not giving IT what IT wants.”  I hid half of the bread roll in the folds of the road map until an hour later when I confessed to Mum what I’d done and then ate the rest of it, knowing that doing so was like throwing a grenade into the heart of Ana’s camp but that I needed to do it.

I felt I didn’t deserve the effort my brother and his girlfriend had gone to to make a wonderful, relaxed birthday buffet for me (including all my safe foods).

I don’t deserve, I don’t deserve, I don’t deserve.

This all sounds so self-pitying, and I won’t think ill of you if you interpret it that way.

As a small token of defence I will say that; I am trying.  Yep, I’m tripping up and cocking up an awful lot, however, along the way I am telling those who need to know all about these mess-ups.  I don’t think I’m strong enough to do this on my own.

I would so like to bury my head in the sand and stay there, but if I do so I will be signing my own death certificate.

Suffice to say, something is still preventing me from signing that death certificate and at times, I really resent whatever that ‘something’ is.

In the meantime, I’ll just keep walking, making messy mistakes, stumbling, falling, reaching out my hand, getting up and falling again until, finally, hopefully, I am able to walk alone.

This is not a pretty truth, but it’s my truth. 

My 30th birthday…

Published 14 March, 2013 by ladyem83

…was perfect.  It was a wonderful compilation of everything I love.  There is a reason I have emboldened and italicized that pronoun and it will become evident subsequently.

In the meantime, however, excuse my indulgence as I relive my weekend by recounting it here.

I came downstairs to the birthday scene of my childhood:  the ‘Happy Birthday’ banner  (now somewhat crumpled as it’s just about as old as I am!) was draped across the chimney breast in the dining room; and cards and presents were presented on the dining room table.  Even as I child, I was never one to dive in and start ripping open the paper; my brother always did that!  I preferred, and still do, to stand back and take in the scene.  I look at every detail and see the thought that’s gone into it and I feel its warmth.  The fact that Mum dug out from the depths of some drawer the old birthday banner touched me so much.

Breakfast with Mum was Marmite on toast (our staple breakfast choice) and Moet (she knows me well!).  I popped my first Champagne cork with no breakages- but I did give a little yelp of excitement!

The rest of the day was spent driving to Aberdeen as we were spending a long weekend with my brother and his girlfriend.

On arrival, after hugs, my brother asked whether we fancied a cuppa or popping into the dining room.  Given that the door to the dining room was covered with a huge banner saying, “THE PARTY IS HERE!”, the decision was not a difficult one to make!

I opened the door, peaked inside, gasped and flung the door open as I stepped in!  Balloons! Birthday banners! A table filled with party food…and an exquisitely decorated birthday cake along side a bottle of equally exquisite Champagne!

We popped party poppers, we yelped when the balloons got too close to the light fitting and spontaneously exploded, we laughed, we took silly photos, we chatted; we were a family and I was an active part of this wonderful family unit.

The rest of the weekend was the same.  It was our family together, with the addition of an extra special member (my brother’s girlfriend who makes the special threesome of Mum, my brother and me, an equally special foursome).

My brother took us on a wild goose chase through Aberdeen to find the harbour because he wanted to see the boats.  Under normal weather conditions, this would not be an issue for me, or his girlfriend, but- oh my gosh, it was blowing a bloomin’ gale and freezing cold!  Nevertheless, I am (somewhat) glad that I saw the harbour, as it was breathtaking.  The white horses were fiercely dancing atop the excitable  waves and the sea was dotted with tankers and ships.  With my hood pulled up and feeling grumpy at my biting cheeks, even I could not help but be moved by the sheer strength exerted by the forces of nature which I saw before me.

That evening we put our glad rags on and dined out and it was lovely!

I said it repeatedly over the weekend, and I’ll say it again;  it was truly a wonderfully unforgettable birthday.

Over The Hill?

Published 7 March, 2013 by ladyem83

Tomorrow is my 30th birthday.  Am I ‘over the hill’?  I bloody well hope so!

The hill being this hard slog from rock bottom to the vantage point from where I stand now.

So, what do I see when I look ahead now?  Well, there’s a vast landscape ahead of me.  I can see the green pastures where my dreams lie, the hard, rocky ground which I will no doubt have to traverse at various points.  The sky is blue and the sun is shining but, of course, there are clouds.  I know there will be days, weeks, who knows how long, when the sun will be obscured and I’ll be trying to trek my way through muddy grounds.  I don’t doubt that there will be times when I want to just run into the nearest dark cave and hide there.  Maybe it’s OK if I do that because, I now believe that the sun will slowly peak through the clouds again and entice me out.  More importantly, I’ll want to come out, hold my head high to its rays and bask in them.

This landscape perhaps seems ‘normal’ to you but a year ago I didn’t/couldn’t see anything but suffocating, toxic smog.

A couple of days ago I hoped on the scales and was disappointed to see the number, which I thought was too much.  However, once dressed I looked in the mirror and what I saw I thought was OK.  That’s somewhat unnerving for me.  Should I feel like that? Do I deserve to be proud of myself?  Well, I say, yes, I do.  This isn’t a fist thumping determined yes, it’s spoken a little softly with a slight questioning inflection but it’s still a yes!

I haven’t been on the scales for a few days now and I don’t want to.  Not because I’m scared of the number, but because I’m just so tired of being a slave to it.  I’m so tired of thinking about food, restricting, counting, calculating.  There must be so many other things with which I can occupy my mind and my attention other than that.  What have I been missing out on?!

I’m not going to dwell on that.  I firmly believe things happen for a reason and I will take every lesson I can from them and move forward.

I’ve still got a way to go, more in terms of addressing certain of my behaviours and beliefs which aren’t helpful.  But, I’m seeing a therapist and doing the thing I hate the most; opening myself up.  Well,  I’m starting to, or am willing to at least.

There are so many things I know I need to do and which I’m pretty scared of doing as I’ve built one hell of a thick wall around myself.  But it really is time to strip some of those layers back.  Brick by brick and slowly but for the better.

So here’s saying goodbye to my twenties, thanks for the lessons learnt and hello to my thirties and, who knows what!

Act Two: One Year On

Published 12 February, 2013 by ladyem83

Do you remember the simple science experiment where a lit candle is covered with a glass jar and eventually the flame runs out of oxygen and it slowly dwindles, its glow fades until eventually, it is extinguished?  We learn that the flame feeds on the air around it.  When the flame is partially covered, perhaps to protect it from a bitter wind, it still glows, albeit with a little less fervor, as it can still find the oxygen it needs.

The seemingly innocuous, protective glass jar is anything but as it closes in on the flame.

Exactly one year ago my flame (me) was all but extinguished; it was just a weak glow which limply flickered as its fight dwindled against the suffocating environment of the glass jar.

This all sounds very melodramatic, doesn’t it?

Excuse me; it’s the only way I can find to express the sheer terminal effect that Ana was having over me.

One year on….

Some of my ups and downs have been documented here.  I still haven’t had the courage to re-read them.  Why?  I suppose I’m frightened that I’ll feel Ana’s pull again.  She’s still in my head every day.  When I walk, I hate the way my body feels, the way it moves.  In the changing rooms yesterday, I hated seeing my rounded tummy and my full arms.  Those qualities still signify weakness to me. Yes, I’ll admit it, I miss the slender limbs.  I say ‘slender’ you say ‘skeletal’.  But, having said that, I tried a silk dress on that, despite my ‘shapeless, chunky arms’, looked nice on me and only because I filled it.  At 6st 10lb (my lowest weight)  I could never have worn a silk dress and look like anything but a lifeless skeleton draped in silk.

So, in the changing rooms, stood in that slinky dress, not liking my tummy or my arms, I chose to look at something else.  I did this without really thinking.  I looked at my hair and, thankfully(!) I was having a good hair day, it looked pretty, my make-up looked nice (I dismissed the voice reminding me that I was in flattering soft lighting).

I stepped out of the changing rooms to look at my reflection, and I mean really look at it.  How can I best describe my thoughts?  As I looked at myself  I simultaneously told myself: I’m more than my tummy; I’m more than my arms; I’m more than my thighs; I’m Emma.  I’m a friendly smile and a warm heart.

I suppose this is what I wanted to say.

The beginning of National Eating Disorder Awareness Week has coincided with the one year anniversary of my diagnosis.

I’ve been reflecting on the last twelve months quite a bit.  I have two cards in my bag so that I can write to my two best friends to let them know what they and their support, love and friendship have meant to me.

I’m by no means in a safe place.  I know I’m teetering on the edge.  Only two weeks ago I was in the depths of anorexic despair and resorting to old habits.  I’ve formed new ‘coping’ mechanisms since Christmas which are equally as toxic.

So, what’s the difference?

I eat and I look forward to food! But, I have my rules.  Of course, when I break them, I beat myself up.  There are foods that I just won’t let myself eat.  But there are so many foods I love eating again and without a second thought!

However, even today, I thought, why don’t I treat myself to my favourite scone and pot of tea at Betty’s, but I couldn’t.  The reason: because I was accounting for the breakfast I’d eaten  and the dinner I was going to eat.

Recovery isn’t a miracle.  It doesn’t happen overnight.  I’ve had moments of strength when I’ve eaten steak and onion rings and moments of terror when a new potato has reduced me to tears.  Its ups and downs and it blindsides me, sometimes.

I’m lucky that my two closest friends have never discussed weight/looks.  That’s not because they thought I had an issue but because it wasn’t the be all and end all to them.  Yes, I know they have their private hang-ups but they live healthy lifestyles; treats when they want them, exercise and a balanced healthy diet the rest of the time.  They nurture their bodies and enjoy their lives.

When I read the likes of Glmaour, Marie Claire, Vogue, I am so so thankful that the people who matter to me the most really don’t care whether I’m wearing a top I wore two years ago or whether I’m four pounds heavier this month than last month.  What they care about is the same as what I care about:  them and their lives, their troubles; their goals; their dreams; their achievements.

I love them.  I don’t love their dress size.  I really must remember this.  I really must learn not to compare myself to others.  Only I am me.  I can’t be anybody else, that’s genetically, biologically spiritually, totally impossible.  So why should I try to be?  Moreoever, why should I want to be?  Surely there are very few things in this world that are truly unique except for each and every one of us.  So, why don’t I celebrate and be proud of that rather than hankering after ‘the other’?

I’ve got some way to go and lots of work still to do but I’m really getting there and I want to get there.  I used to be proud of myself notwithstanding the bits I thought weren’t that great because I could see the bigger picture.

Ana made me believe that she was my best friend and that if I stuck by her side I’d be safe from hurt forever.

I know differently now.  I know that first and foremost I need to be my own best friend.  I need to trust, care for, like, love and appreciate myself.

At the BAFTAs on Sunday evening (oh, I would have loved to have been there, or at least the after party!) Ben Affleck likened his exploration into the world of directing as his ‘second act’.  This struck me.

My First Act revolved around academic achievement, goals, perfection, attainment, self-protection.  I achieved what I set out to, academic success and the attainment of a career.   Instead of recognising that this was the moment to take an interval before commencing the Second Act, I didn’t realise there was an Act Two.  I kept trying to keep the format of the First Act going, but that wasn’t going to work.  The pace was different going forward.

My Second Act now needs to be about, well, me.  It needs to be about growing as a lawyer, gaining and furthering my expertise and finally pursuing things just for myself.  Happiness no longer can be found in the 100%, A*s, or distinctions but rather in a job well done, a weekend spent with friends or family, trying out a new activity, reading a new book.  Quite simply being comfortable in my own skin will be quite enough for me.

Dangling Carrots

Published 20 November, 2012 by ladyem83

Excuse me the indulgence of a further post today.

My last post, ‘A Game of Patience’ explains what the last few days have been like; dark and lonely.

I’ve spent the last hour or so searching for scientific research articles to explain this disease.  What am I looking for; a cure, a step-by-step guide to recovery?  I want to understand the beast that lurks in the dark places in my mind and continues to torment me.  I thought that I was Ana but that’s not the case.

Just as a group of haywire cells divide and form a malignant tumour which invades an otherwise healthy body, a part of my brain malfunctioned on some level and anorexia developed and forced its way into my mind.   The degrees to which I invited it, permitted its presence and colluded with it are something that only I can try to work out.  However, Carrie Arnold’s book, ‘Decoding Anorexia’ is now on my Amazon wish list is a research guide!

It’s different now, I don’t want to be Ana’s victim.  I have chosen not to follow Ana’s ways and yet she’s still hanging on.

However, despite her persistence, I want to let her know and those who read this and perhaps are fighting a similar battle, that our small victories must not be overlooked:

I eat. I even eat chocolate, cashew nuts and…haggis!  Not in one sitting, not frequently and not in great amounts but I know that I can!

I recognise when I’m hungry and I’m generally not afraid to feed my body.

I can leap in the air!  This formed part of one of my exercise DVDs and only a few months ago I didn’t have the strength to jump up.

I wear clothes, I fill them out.  Clothes no longer hang from me.  Yes, this scares me but I will continue to tell myself that it is healthy.

I can read.  My ability to concentrate has returned and I can  now sit and read a book without rereading the same paragraph several times.

I have a growing sense of myself again.  I haven’t got it all back and I don’t like that I lost it along the way but I am finding myself again.

I can run!  I have to be in the mood but my legs feel strong and I feel energy running through them.

I laugh, I feel, I enjoy. Undeniably the most precious and which should never, ever be taken for granted.

So, although when Ana hits me, she hits me hard, I must not overlook where I am now.  I must not forget how far I’ve come.  This is why I have to keep going.

These and many others are the carrots being dangled in front of me and this recovering anorexic is hungry for them all!

 

A Game of Patience

Published 20 November, 2012 by ladyem83

I never believed anorexia was an illness.  I thought that it was who I truly was, I thought it was a choice I had made.  But, I held that belief when it was thinking for me.

Now, I know it’s an illness.  Now that I’m fighting its urges, breaking its rules and trying hard to be me again, I know that becoming anorexic wasn’t a choice I made.   I don’t know how it happened or what wires in my brain have become frazzled or crossed but anorexia is not a path I chose.

This weekend Mum and I went to visit Granny.  I’d been uncertain about going and had had a wobble in the morning when I tried on my pre-Ana jeans and they fitted me again.

Despite being confused and scared by how this made me feel I decided to try and block out Ana’s thoughts. I was going to make Granny proud of me.  I was going to show her how ‘well’ I was doing.

At dinner that evening I was on form.  We were laughing and chatting and I even had some gravy and a small bite of a roast potato.   They were delicious!  We followed dinner with some fruit cake and I let myself try some cheese and crackers.  Yes, I was pushing it but I wanted to.  I wanted Granny to be proud of me.  I didn’t want her to know that I was still painfully blighted by thoughts of toxic food infecting me and making me swell. That I could feel my jeans hugging my waist and my thighs touching slightly and pushing against the seams.  I wanted to enjoy a simple family meal.  I wanted to enjoy cheese and crackers as they’re something we don’t have at home.  I wanted to just be!

Mum and I share a room at Granny’s and I woke at 2:30am.  Ana was swarming around in my mind.  What had I done?  Why had I been so weak…again.  I’ll pay for it, she’ll make me pay for it.

I began to squirm as I felt the poison expand in my stomach.  My breathing gained pace.  I clenched my fists, feeling what was happening and trying to pull myself back.

By now my feet were twitching fast as I tried to fight the feeling of the poison spreading so quickly throughout my whole body.  I continued to squirm and let out desperate groans.   She’d got me.

Mum woke and asked several times whether I was ok and, of course, my response was a curt, ‘Yes, I’m fine’.

She got up, put the light on and pulled the sheets back.

I pulled myself tighter into a ball as she tried to coax me out of bed.  I didn’t want to move.  Moving would be fighting Ana.  I had to just ride the punishment out.  Mum’s tone changed from assertive but gentle to determined, not taking no for an answer.

I don’t remember walking down stairs.

I don’t remember Mum making us a cup of tea.  I don’t remember her getting the deck of cards from the drawer and declaring that we’d play a game of patience together.

She held the cards in front of me and told me to shuffle.  I pulled my knees to my chest and shook my head.  I couldn’t be distracted from Ana.  I couldn’t let myself walk away from her.

After three attempts I picked the deck up and began to shuffle.

For the next two hours we sat at the breakfast table playing cards.  We laughed when I insisted on ‘helping fate along’ aka cheating!  We laughed when Mum came up from behind me and surprised me by grabbing my twitching feet.  She encouraged me to drink my tea even though I didn’t want to put anything inside me.  We played cards until Ana realised that I was no longer paying her the attention she demanded and she quietened her voice and slackened her grip.

Mum clasped my hand instead and told me to look at the bond we made.  She told me that we’re an extension of each other and we’ll help each other through.  She won’t let me go as long as I hang on to her.  We were a team, as we always have been.  She pulls me back but that’s because I choose to let her.

The same thing happened the next afternoon at the dinner table and I left Granny’s with tears streaming down my face.  We drove for miles with my hand over Mum’s on the gear stick as I tried to focus on each gear change.

At dinner tonight, despite it being a meal we’ve eaten hundreds of times and one I feel safe with, I felt Ana swarming into my stomach again.  I was full and I didn’t want to be.  I hated the feeling and the taste of food.  With tears in my eyes I went upstairs and brushed my teeth until I felt clean.

I don’t want to be like this. Why is my mind attacking me in this manner?  Why can I walk down a street one day and feel fine and the next day my eyes are darting from body to body examining, comparing and questioning.

Anorexia isn’t a lifestyle choice; it’s an insidious disease and the only tool I have to try and slowly cure my broken mind, is my broken mind.

This is the hardest game of patience I’ve ever had to play.

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