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All posts for the month September, 2012

Breaking the Routine

Published 27 September, 2012 by ladyem83

I wrote yesterday about how uncomfortable I am with change and how I crave stability and routine.  Yesterday evening and this morning has really brought this home to me.

I was coming home from having been in town all day and had planned on reading and watching some TV before I starting to cooking dinner.  I was looking forward to this time and had specifically allocated it as being between 4.30pm and 6.30pm.  Instead, I was stuck in terrible traffic and the 25 minute journey took 3 hours.

I looked at the clock in the car and watched the significant time points go by.

5pm: I would have been home reading now.

6pm: I’d be getting a shower and Mum will text me to let me know she’s on her way home.

6.30pm:  I’ll start preparing dinner.

As each time point passed I felt anxious and was starting to panic.  This wasn’t how I had planned my day.

Lying in bed this morning I was already considering how I was going to fill my day; which activity would be allocated to each time slot.  This gives me a sense of purpose.  I cling on to this routine for security.  It gives me a sense of being safe.

Of course, that is provided that I’m in control of the routine.  As soon as something knocks it off course, I panic and feel as if I’m spinning out of control.  I look for something to grab hold of.  I quickly try to reconfigure my routine to accommodate this interruption, but I’m not comfortable because the ‘new’ routine then feels like a fraud because I haven’t planned it.  At this point the gremlin’s voice pipes up and starts to tempt me with its crutches.  

This morning I’m trying not to follow my routine.  It feels utterly ridiculous to say that already I am feeling anxious, queasy and guilty.  It’s 11am and I’m writing my blog.  I don’t do that.  My blog writing is only ever done in the afternoon.

Today, I also want to bake, do some yoga, go for a walk, read, watch some more West Wing (!), do some housework and clear the ironing pile.  That is my ‘To Do’ list and I know where each activity slots in my normal routine.  I can feel the sense of calm wash through me when I think about it.  I know exactly how my day will pan out.

But, if yesterday’s post highlighted anything, it was that life doesn’t work like that! On Monday morning my brother was a contracts manager for a local firm.   He’s now a junior project manager for a large organisation in Aberdeen.

Life, my life, anybody’s life, really can turn on a penny.  I can’t control that.  Of course, I can have a say in its direction via the choices I make, but there are countless variables and external forces that will steer my life in so many different directions.

This January I was working full time as a commercial property solicitor. Then, one morning, I crumbled.  The next day I was sat in the GP’s office alongside my Mum and was being told that I was suffering from depression and perhaps an eating disorder.  I’ve been signed off work since then.

I never, ever imagined my life would take this course.

Ultimately, my intense desire to be in control put me totally out of control.

I know there are feelings and issues I need to let go of but it seems that first and foremost I need to let go of my need to control.

That’s going to be hard given that my days are all my own so I am totally in control of them and have been for the last nine months!

However, I need to find a way so here is what I’m going to try today:

1. I won’t look at the clock.  I can’t tell you how many times whilst writing this post my eyes have wanted to dart to the clock at the bottom of the screen; but I’ve resisted.

2.  I will do what I feel like doing, when I feel like doing it.  This scares me.  What if I miss an allocated time slot for doing something?  What if I haven’t got my brother’s lunch prepared for him and his cup of tea waiting for when he arrives for lunch?  Answer:  NOTHING WILL HAPPEN!

3. I will ride out the anxiety.  I will feel it and acknowledge it and I will learn to manage it.  Yesterday, sat in the traffic jam and feeling anxious all I could think of was my crutch.  I was becoming consumed by it and the more I thought about and knew I couldn’t have it in the car, the more anxious I became.  I recognised this and tried to distract myself from the gremlin. I took out my notebook and started copying down some poems that I’d saved on my phone.  I very very slowly calmed down and could rationalise the situation.  Arriving home later than the norm didn’t matter.  It wouldn’t change anything.

As I let go of my eating disorder it is natural that I’ll crave other sources of control and security.  But I need to develop healthy coping mechanisms and recognise that, perhaps, allowing myself to flow with the current might be more exciting and offer more opportunities than fighting against it.

Finally, thank you to Fiona Robyn , the author of the blog, ‘Writing Our Way Home’ and to Laura, the author of the blog, ‘A Little Bit of What you Fancy Does You Good’ for their timely posts, which prompted my thoughts.

The links to both posts:

Laura’s post entitled ‘Tick, Tock, Tick, Tock’

http://alittlebitofwhatyoufancydoesyougooddotcom.wordpress.com/2012/09/26/tick-tock-tick-tock/comment-page-1/#comment-130

Fiona’s post entitled, ‘What Do You Worship (my answer is embarrassing)?’

http://www.writingourwayhome.com/

 

Going With The Flow

Published 26 September, 2012 by ladyem83

How apt that my last post was entitled, ‘Winds of Change’.  I’ve always known that I don’t deal well with change but I never realised the extent to which it troubles me until now.

I’ve always been a creature of habit and routine.  I would have the same ham sandwiches for lunch day in and day out and would never tire of them.   I always have lunch at the same time, whether or not my stomach’s been growling for the last hour.  I can’t bring myself to act out of my norm.  Of course, I’m sure we’re all the same to an extent.  We have our ways of doing things and our routine may give us a sense of security.  But the crucial key to a healthy routine is flexibility.  The ability to take a step to the side of your norm and feel comfortable with that.

Over the last few years there have been several major upheavals which I’ve had to deal with, and I thought I had navigated my way through them well.  That wasn’t the case.  Rather than addressing what was scaring me, I put myself into fight mode and buried those feelings as deep as I could.  I don’t do breaking down, I don’t do ‘weakness’.  I have to succeed.  I have to surmount each obstacle and do so without bothering others.  I have to be strong.

Fast forward a few years and the wall around those suppressed emotions couldn’t take the strain any more and it crumbled.  The ensuing raging flood took me with it and I had no strength left to fight against the tide or even tread water. I sunk to the bottom of a suffocatingly bleak and murky pool.

My obsessive control over food and my weight became my stabilising force.  But, that’s fading now.  I’m learning to feed my mind, body and soul again.  In doing so, however, certain of my usual behaviours have become engrained to the extent that they are as destructive as my eating disorder.

Mum always sends me a text when she’s leaving the office so that I can start preparing dinner and we’re not eating too late.  Last Friday she had to do the ‘Big Shop’ on the way home.  I knew this and so knew she’d be a little late.  That was ok, it would mean she’d be home around 7.30.

At 7pm I still hadn’t received a text so I called her.  She was only just leaving the office and wouldn’t be home until closer to 8.30.  I went into a spin.  This didn’t fit with our pattern, this wasn’t usual.  I could feel the anxiety levels rising in me.

Here is where I admit that lately, another gremlin has been growing inside my mind and I’ve been listening to it when I’ve been struggling and it’s effects have become quite serious.  I’ve recognised it and have been open about it as it scares me.

As I grew more and more anxious all I wanted was the numbness and release from the ‘crutch’ that my new gremlin was suggesting.

I would not do it.  I wanted to do it so badly though.  I wanted to stop the feelings.

I didn’t trust myself to move from the settee.  I knew, if I got up the gremlin would walk me to my new crutch and let me indulge.

Instead I sat dead still.  I didn’t even get up to close the curtains or put a light on as the evening’s darkness came in.

felt the anxiety. I felt the panic, the confusion, the feeling of not being in control of the situation, of myself.  I heard the gremlin’s voice over and over again, tempting me and giving me its wonderfully simplistic logic.

It was utterly horrible.  It was the longest hour I can remember and it shocked me.  How could something so trivial as Mum being an hour later home than usual cause me so much physical and mental pain?

Two days ago my brother was offered a job in Aberdeen, which is roughly a five/six hour drive from where Mum and I live.  I’ve known that he was applying for jobs up there but I never really considered the reality of it until it hit me face on and hard.

I am ashamed of my initial reactions.  I claimed that this would be the end of our tight family, that he’s too lazy to keep in touch, that we would see each other once a year. I heard the words coming out of my mouth and I knew they were born out of my fear of change and instability but I couldn’t stop them.

I took myself up to bed and lay there fighting back the tears.  My chest felt tight and I could feel my heart hurting with every beat.  I didn’t want him to go.  I wanted him to stay close by.  I’ll miss him so painfully much.  As before,  I sought release.  I wanted these feelings out of me.  This time, however, my gremlin offered a different crutch; a deeply more disturbing one.

As with anorexia, I had now had two voices in my head.  The gremlin rationalised the wonderful, blissful benefits of this newest crutch.  I could visualise the numbing release, it was just there in front of me.

But this gremlin’s new voice isn’t as strong as Ana was, it doesn’t have the power over my mind and body yet.

I let this new gremlin tempt me with its emotive, persuasive images but, I told it no.  It wasn’t a definitive, strong ‘no’ I admit.  I pinned my body to the bed, as I had done the week before to the settee, and I did not let myself move a muscle.  I didn’t trust myself not to give in to the gremlin but I knew if I stayed still it would get tired and go away.

Of course, I’ve told my Mum about this new gremlin and its two ‘crutches’.  I know the dangers of keeping him as a secret ‘friend’ and  I do not want to succumb to him. 

On Monday I met with a new consultant psychiatrist (that takes the count to 33 people I have had to speak to about all ‘this’.)

I told him about the first crutch which I’d been turning to and he explained that it was likely that this was because of my release of Ana.  Ana saw me through the tough, stressful times when my world was turning upside down.  I’ve created another gremlin with two new crutches as a substitute because I don’t have alternative healthy mental mechanisms in place to deal rely on.

Yesterday my brother and I had talked about the move.  I told him the emotions I’d gone through and he talked about his fears and worries.  I must admit, I was unsure whether to talk so frankly to him as I didn’t want to give him more stress or worry.  But I wanted to show him that I hadn’t succumb to my gremlin, that he’s helping me to learn and to recover.  That I will be ok, I will get through this and he will be ok too! 

I love him with all of my heart and every bit of my being.  He’s my best friend, my brother, my rock, my everything.  That won’t change just because his address changes.

Buddhism tells us that one of the causes of our suffering is that we try to hold on to that which is impermanent.  Everything changes, even we do, we age.  If we hang on to things then we’re inevitably going to be hurt when they change or leave our lives.  This doesn’t mean that we should be detached from our lives and our experiences, or in our relationships.  Rather, by recognising and allowing ourselves to move with the changing flow of the river we’ll move forward.  It may not be in the direction we envisaged, we may drift here and there, but we won’t be exhausted by trying to endlessly tread water against the tide.

I’m buoyant now, I know that I’m not going to drown.  But I can’t continue to tread water.  I have to let go of the edges and my floats and trust that my body will stay afloat and that I can move with the ebb and flow of the river.  I have to learn to be comfortable with that.

Now for the hard part; actually doing it!!

 

Winds of Change

Published 12 September, 2012 by ladyem83

Last week was a dark one. Ana’s voice was back and felt strong. I slipped back in to the dark habits of months ago. Despite knowing better, I felt safe indulging in them. I wanted to be empty again.

I woke up in the middle of the night one day last week with griping stomach pains. I lay there and for the first time, I realised I’d hurt my body. I was feeling this pain because of something I had done to myself. Why would I want to hurt myself like that? I realised that although I’d never felt physical pain as such over the last few months, what I had been doing was still harming myself.
The next day I didn’t feel quite myself but I got on with my day until the afternoon when I went to lie down.

I’d tried a guided meditation a couple of weeks ago where we were encouraged to imagine a room filled with light. We would walk into that room and leave behind in the darkness our worries and stresses and feel the peace and joy of the brightly lit room.

In my imagination I stood at the threshold of that door but I could not cross it. My feet were fixed to the ground in the darkness that I had come to know as my safe place. I questioned myself. Why couldn’t I walk forward? I was creating my own world, I was supposed to be in control of it, why couldn’t I put one foot in front of the other and move myself forward?

Only when I stopped questioning my inability to move did I become aware in my mind’s eye of somebody by my side: myself. I took hold of my hand and we stood looking into the light. We knew I wasn’t ready to cross into it, but my other self was happy to hold my hand and wait until I was ready. I felt some comfort from that. When I stood at the threshold on my own, I was scared about crossing the line and confused as to why I didn’t feel strong enough to do it. But, imagining myself standing there with a stronger and more content version of myself by my side I felt safer and calmer.

That afternoon last week, I let myself relax in the silence. I began to feel the still weight of my body but I felt that my body was separate from my mind. As if my body were only a shell for my soul, now all bruised and exhausted from the months of constant conflict and deprivation.

It’s in such quiet times when I’m most susceptible to Ana’s voice, when I start to think about what I want, where I’m going, what I deserve, what I’ve done….

This time, however, another voice spoke so clearly to me and I could do nothing but listen. The other voice speaking was me.

Afterwards I wrote down what I’d heard. I won’t share everything here as some things are just for me, but here’s a small excerpt:

“Nobody should stop your heart from shining. Nobody should quieten or quash your enthusiastic spirit. I know you thought you were being strong and finding a way to protect yourself but instead you forgot yourself. You let me go because you thought I’d got you into those painful situations. Those situations are going to happen. But everything around you comes and goes. Live it, appreciate it and learn from it but please, don’t become it.

You and I can walk together though this and out the other side and I’ll hold your hand so very tightly all the way. I won’t let you go again, I promise.”

Ana always used to contradict such thoughts but this time, she wasn’t there. I only felt that I had somebody different to rely on now, myself. My strong self had come back to me.

Over the last few days I haven’t heard Ana’s voice. I haven’t questioned what I’ve been eating, I enjoyed the family dinner we had to celebrate my Granny’s birthday and I even enjoyed pudding and a piece of chocolate!

There have been so many ‘ups’ over the last few months that have then been followed by a crashing low that I’m cautious of declaring this to be a definitive change. But, my gut is telling me this time it’s different. I don’t feel scared of the changes that are to come. I don’t feel alone. I feel that I can rely on myself and trust myself. I feel like I can go easy on myself, let myself go, let myself be happy, let myself indulge in an extra slice of toast, a piece of cake or a hot chocolate just because I want to! I feel that I can let myself not be perfect.

Somebody I hold so dearly in my heart asked me recently when she was visiting, why can’t I just settle for something less than what I deem to be perfect? So what if the cake doesn’t turn out exactly how I want it to, it’s still delicious isn’t it?! I’m starting to see the benefits of accepting a little less. That doesn’t mean not striving to achieve, it just means accepting the result for what it is.  Of course, the challenge for me now is to practice this acceptance, not only in the good times but in stressful situations as well.

I’m struggling to adequately convey the significance and the depth of the experience of that afternoon last week. I wouldn’t describe myself as a spiritual person but, to me, the feeling of being separate from my body and my mind, of hearing a voice I recognised as my own talking to ‘me’ is something I consider to be more than me just thinking. It was a moment of reconnection.

I now feel that I can begin to walk forward as my whole self. I’m not made up of a crushed, scared soul occupied by a twisted and powerful minx.

I am aware, however, that Ana came into my life for a reason and she could very well do so again. I know my triggers and so now I need to learn to manage my reactions to them differently. I need to make sure that when I’m dealt a blow that I come to my rescue and not Ana.

I think the way for me to start to bring this about is for me to learn to open myself up to others. This will be one of the most difficult things for me to do because I fear vulnerability and being hurt so much that I have not just closed myself off but I have built Fort Knox around myself. But that, in part, contributed to me finding myself in this situation.

I must learn to allow myself to turn to other people and accept their love and support.

One of my truest friends will recognise the sentiment behind those words as it comes from her, she has said it to me on so many occasions over the last few years and most recently, only last week. She is right.

For the first time whilst writing a post here I feel calm. I don’t feel conflicted, confused or restless. I don’t feel an inflated sense of determination. I just feel collected. I know what I need to do. I know that there will be stressful points ahead which will test me. But, I have myself, my family and my wonderful wonderful friends. I can see that now.

 

Fighting Fire With Fire

Published 6 September, 2012 by ladyem83

The following paragraph was written following some reflection.  My initial draft of this posting was called ‘One Step Forward, Two Steps Back’ and included the content in both those now separately entitled posts.

However, after some time out I returned for a re-read and, as always made a few tweaks.  As I was reading I remembered the positivity I felt from lunch with A on Saturday and how happy I’d felt.  There was a dawning realization in me which consequently resulted in me splitting the posts into two and ending with on this note.

If nothing else, the today’s three posts make patently clear the utterly exhausting rollercoaster ride of emotions and thoughts that is Anorexia.

The following paragraph tells of my tentative steps out of the darkness of the last three days into today’s soft glow.

I am determined to use the memory of lunch with A as a weapon to fight Ana.  Anorexia is made up of such a tangled, horrible web of emotions, misconceptions and conflicting thoughts. I can try to ‘talk’ to Ana, to offer up ‘rationale thinking’ but she always comes back with emotions and feelings.  My stomach knots itself and leaps, my legs tremble, my heart thumps faster. Her evil wrath is tangible and physically and mentally hurts me so deeply.

 So, I’ll fight fire with fire.  I’ll match Ana’s emotional wrath with my emotional positivity and optimism.   For every negative feeling Ana attacks me with, I’ll put up my shield. My shield of positive emotions!

My shield is only tissue paper thin at the moment but it’s something to build on.  It won’t be destroyed, it may be screwed up, torn at the edges, scorched but it won’t be destroyed.  I’ll find a way to add another layer to it.  

Whilst my sense of self worth may not be there, my sense of not being beaten has flared up a bit again. So, if that’s my only motivating force for today then I’ll go with it.  I’ll have to find a way to work on the rest.

Two Steps Back

Published 6 September, 2012 by ladyem83

The day after lunch with A Ana’s familiar voice started whispering but this time I found that I could just about drown her out.

To start the new week I lay in bed and decided that I’d give up weighing myself daily. I use the number on the scales to determine my mood, my feeling of worth, my sense of achievement, my confidence.  I use it to decide what food I will ‘treat’ myself with or deny myself.

As the day went on I felt increasingly lost and terrified.  How was I ever going to be able to make a decision?  What have I got if I haven’t got the scales to give me my sense of achievement? How can I judge myself, my progress?  How can I be?? I bought some Yoga videos and decided that I needed to do more exercise.  Of course, this was a control mechanism.  If I couldn’t check that my weight wasn’t going up then I’d have to do everything possible to ensure that it wouldn’t.

Over the last couple of days this misplaced control mechanism has spiraled out of control.

The next morning I tucked myself into bed with Mum and confessed that I couldn’t decide what to have for breakfast.  I felt like my usual breakfast, which I love and have never been concerned about before, but I kept thinking that porridge would be the safer, healthier option.  The magnitude of this decision was overwhelming me.  Normally, I’d have tousled with it then hopped on the scales and made my decision from the reading.  But, I was on a self-imposed scales ban!

Mum offered to have breakfast with me and we talked it through.  We acknowledged that this was Ana making me doubt myself again.

I had porridge.  I gave in to Ana.  Without checking the scales, I couldn’t risk the alternative breakfast choice and possible weight gain.  For the record, the alternative choice isn’t a full English, it’s just toast and marmite!

Ana’s voice has grown in decibels and screamed at me on Tuesday after a conversation with one of my best friends.  I won’t go into the conversation here or my actions afterwards but they were extreme and they were all Ana.  She took me over completely and literally trod me into a weeping ball on the bathroom floor.

Since then, she’s kept her voice there.  My dreams last night were laced with Ana’s poison.

I told Mum this morning that I absolutely 100% don’t want to put on weight.

I cannot see any reason whatsoever for doing it.  I don’t believe I am worth a place in my life or the world.  I don’t believe I have anything to give.  If I disappeared, I wouldn’t leave a hole.

 

One Step Forward

Published 6 September, 2012 by ladyem83

I was weighed last Friday and crushed by the 2 pound increase.  I was furious with myself.  How can this have happened?  I haven’t been actively increasing my calorie intake; I haven’t wanted to put on weight.

I went straight from the doctors to see my CPN. He got the full brunt of my fury. I sat with my arms crossed giving him the briefest of responses to his questions. Part way through I could feel the emotion bubbling up inside me and tears welling in my eyes.  I didn’t want to cry. I didn’t want to let go. They were tears of anger, frustration and confusion.

I NEED MORE HELP!

We talked briefly around my issues, beliefs and he questioned them.  I questioned right back at him.  Why should I take down the brick wall that’s around me when it only results in me getting so painfully hurt?  It’s happened too often. I’d rather live closed off and safe than open and utterly vulnerable to that pain.

But would I? When I really think about it, deep deep down, I want to be free. Carefree. I want to be happy. I want to engage in my life.  But the scars I have are still painfully raw (despite me trying to cover them up).

I’ve become an expert at shutting my emotions away; at building an almost impenetrable wall around myself and my heart.  My wonderful Dad died suddenly when I was 12 and from then on the wall’s been getting taller and deeper.  Dad’s there, locked away in a tiny space inside me protected by that wall and now I’ve gone to join him.  When I say ‘I’, I mean, that loving enthusiastic me that I’ve spoken about before. So, I’m now left with an outer empty shell governed by Ana and challenged sometimes by a quiet voice shouting from that safe place.

My CPN suggested rather than trying to process and work through my big issues, I should just tackle one thing that I know that I can change, however difficult it may be.  I admitted that lunches are one area that I cheat.  I don’t eat anything close to what my dietician recommends and I don’t eat snacks.

On Saturday I was meeting my friend, A.  She’s been such a wonderful support over the last few months. She’s been through something similar, is straight talking and knows something of the internal battles I have.

Every now and then she sends me little packages that are so thoughtfully compiled.  A selection of books she’s enjoyed, or DVDs. A little pamper package complete with a selection of nuts (sensitively included as she knows I couldn’t dream of eating a box of chocolates!), and this week, she sent me a small Tupperware container with two different compartments to encourage me to take my own prepared lunches with me when I go out and could manage my portions of meat/fish and cous cous.

Remembering what my CPN said, I suggested to A that we went out for lunch. I was terrified.  I didn’t want to do it, but for that very reason alone I thought I should do it.

My legs were trembling as I sent her a message that morning with the suggestion. I was worried because I’d had a full breakfast whereas had I known I was going for lunch, I’d have compensated. I was scared of eating so much at lunchtime and not being able to try and burn it off.  I was scared of allowing somebody else to prepare my food behind closed doors.  What secret calories would be added without my knowledge? I’d also have to come home and have dinner that evening.  Wouldn’t all this be too much, an indulgence that I didn’t deserve?

We met and went for coffee first and we talked through my frustrations with the ‘treatment’ and ‘support’ I’m getting (I use those terms loosely as, in my mind, what I do receive falls painfully short of what I need. That’s a rant for another post, however!).

After a chat, some black ED humour and lots of laughs, she said, “C’mon, let’s go get this done with then!”.

We went to my favourite little courtyard bistro tucked away in the middle of town on a cobbled street.  Irrespective of the weather this place creates the feeling of a long, lazy relaxed Mediterranean afternoon enjoying good food and good wine with great company.  Spanish music accompanies the gentle chatter of its customers and the clinking of glasses and cutlery.  The tables outside are all under heaters and just in case that English chill manages to bite, there’s a blanket on the back of each chair; a wonderful touch!

We looked at the menu and I breathed a sigh of relief as I spotted the tuna salad as I’m comfortable with that.

We placed our orders and when it arrived I looked at the size.  Ana kept telling me it was too much for lunch, I’d normally eat this for dinner! I countered her voice with the reasoning that it was just salad, there was no dressing and I wouldn’t eat the potatoes or the garlic bread.  It wasn’t too much, this was normal, safe and I deserved to enjoy this!

Oh and it was wonderful!  We took our time, chatted and relaxed.  A put me at ease as we easily exchanged confessions of our weaknesses and fears, gossiped and caught up with each other’s latest sagas; a proper girls’ lunch!  It soon didn’t feel like a test, it didn’t feel like an issue, it was lunch out with a friend and I cannot sufficiently convey how much I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I wondered whether I’d feel guilt afterwards but I didn’t.  I even admitted to Mum that I felt hungry for my evening meal later on!

I felt buoyed up by my first lunch out.  I felt proud to have done something ‘normal’ again.  I felt happy to have treated myself.

But as ever with this rollercoaster of an illness, Ana pulled me back into her clutches.

Time to read ‘Two Steps Back’…

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