Bringing Me Back

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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. 

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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!

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.

The Inner Dialogue

Published 11 November, 2012 by ladyem83

Wake up.

Emma:  It’s breakfast time.  Am I hungry? Should I have something to eat?  Breakfast is a normal thing to have.  Do I need it?  If I do have something to eat what should I have?  Toast or porridge?  Which is better?  If I have toast then how much?  If I have toast then I’ll have jam or Flora on it too.  What about the fat and sugar?  How do I calculate those calories?  Or maybe I should have porridge.  But if I have porridge should I put some chopped apple in?  I like that but I don’t need it.  What do I feel like eating?  I don’t know.  Do I feel hungry?  I don’t know.  I can feel something in my tummy but is that hunger or greed?  Should I feel hungry now?  If I’m not hungry and I eat breakfast then what does that make me; greedy, weak, fat?

Makes toast and a cup of tea.

Emma:  I’m not sure how I feel about this.  I’m not sure I want it.

Takes a bite.

Emma:  I love Marmite on toast! But what’s it doing to me?

Ana:  You’ve given in again.  Why are you eating this when I told you that you don’t need it?!  Getting pleasure from eating is weak and only leads to bad things.  You’ll get fat, and weak and disgusting.  Remember how it used to be, remember how strong you felt with those pangs of hunger in your tummy.   You were stronger than everyone else because you felt them but didn’t give in to them.  That was good!  You’ve been giving in this week so much but no more.   I want to test your strength.  I know you can do it.  You deserve to be punished for what you’ve done.  You should bake your fruit cake.  I know you love the moist, brandy infused fruit and the warming taste of cinnamon and mixed spice.  I was there when you ate it last week.  You enjoyed it.  That’s not the way.  That food is dirty and dead.  It does nothing but infect your body with fat and sugar.  See how your face is ballooning, see how your stomach is swelling, even your wrists, your fingers, your feet.  Fat is getting everywhere and all because you listened to other people instead of me.  They want to you to be vulnerable.  They want you to be like them, they don’t want to see you exhibiting the willpower they can never have.  So you’ll bake the cake but you won’t eat a single crumb.  You may want it but you don’t need it.  I promise you that if you don’t eat the cake, I’ll make you happier than food could ever make you.  I’ll make your body look beautifully lean again.  Your arms will be slim, the contour of your shoulders will be sleek.  That’s what you want.  That will make you happy again.  Being strong makes you happy.  You don’t need to eat those things.  They won’t make you happy.  You have nothing without me.  You are nothing without me but weak, fallible.

Emma:  But what about these words:   ‘I can promise that while you might have been lighter in February, you didn’t look healthy. The pleasure from food isn’t one to run from. Your body needs food. If you give Ana these wins, you’re getting her one step closer to her ultimate goal – to take you away from everyone who loves you. She will kill you. Food is your ammunition and you need to fight with everything you’ve got.’ I think there’s truth in these words.  Remember February, Em.  Remember how your eyes had no life, remember catching the reflection of yourself in the mirror and seeing the shape of the Scream mask.  Remember how you shivered with cold all the time.  You haven’t had a bath for 10 months because you can’t get comfortable on the hard surface.  You haven’t had a meal out with the girls, or spent a full weekend with them for months.  You used to love your weekends with the girls, long lunches with a bottle of wine then getting glammed up and going out for a late dinner and drinks.  You loved walking down the street with them.  Remember how proud you felt to be part of that three-strong friendship group.   Now when you look at them all you see is two wonderful, beautiful shining stars who don’t deserve to be dragged down by your presence.  They’re everything you want to be.  They’re happy, they have loving partners, they’re building lives you dreamed of having.  Do I deserve to have that?  Is it even possible for me to have that?  I don’t think it’s meant for me.  I believe those things happen to other people.  I’ve learnt that.   I’ve learnt that they’re the good ones, they deserve the love of someone else.  I’m the one who fails, makes poor judgments.  People have shown that I don’t matter to them, they saw me as nothing more than a pawn in their game; disposable and unimportant.  So it’s best that I don’t get involved, that I stay on the periphery where it’s safe.

But then I re-read those words above.

In chess a pawn can be promoted to any other piece of its player’s choosing if it reaches the opponent’s side of the board.

I was never a victim.  I never let myself be walked over.  I always found a way to play to my voice, to do what was good for me and what I knew to be true.

I’m getting angry; really, really angry.

Why am I letting the effects of those two people ruin me?  Why am I allowing Ana to beat me down?  Why do I believe that I don’t deserve to have the things I dreamed of having as a little girl?  Why don’t I deserve to be happy?  Why do I believe that I am not enough, not good enough?

If I walk back into Ana’s arms, I will never find the answers to those questions.  I will only continue to believe their mantra.

‘Permission is the paradox that gives control.’  By allowing myself to be free, to be forgiven, to be myself, to accept myself, to like myself, to be proud of myself, I regain control.  I am allowing Ana to control me now.  All I need to do is allow myself to control me.

I’m so very very tired.  I’m so fed up of so much of my time being consumed by the endless circles of discussion going on in my head.  The constant questions, fears, arguments, tears.

But I have always worked hard to get the things I want.  This is another thing I have to work hard at.  This is undoubtedly the biggest challenge and the stakes have never been higher.  But could there really be a better goal to work towards than a happy life?

The Next Round

Published 9 November, 2012 by ladyem83

I clung to my Mum and cried desperately.  My fingers dug hard into her shoulders.  Don’t let me go, Mum.  Pull me back.  Ana’s pulling me hard.  She’s twisting the knife hard into my stomach. She hates me.  She’s making me suffer.  With every last little drop of will I am trying  to stand up to her. But it hurts.

I slept yesterday afternoon and on waking I just sat.  I knew something was different.  I was still not out of choice, but out of fear.  If I moved, I feared waking the dragon.  If I parted my lips I was afraid of what would go in.  I knew I couldn’t eat dinner.  I visualised the alternative meal options but I could not imagine any of them inside me.  I could not imagine allowing food or liquid to penetrate my self.

So when Mum arrived home later than usual I lied and told her I’d had dinner.

Mum, please question me.  Please doubt me.  If you ask me I know I won’t be able to lie to you but I can’t defy Ana and offer you the truth. You have to ask me for it.

She didn’t question; not out loud anyway.

I willed her to ask if I was OK.

My mind was spinning on repeat: skipping dinner was wrong; it was a backward step.  But you don’t need dinner.  You’re stronger without it.  Feel that hollowness in your tummy; that’s strength, that’s your power.

Mum finally asked and I told her:  I can’t put anything inside me, Mum.

She suggested marmite on toast.  I considered the strong, savoury, salty taste and felt disgust.  No.  I suggested a piece of plain toast.

Dry toast. …that’s not a real meal.   That’s cheating.

Mum offered to share some of her dinner with me.  I accepted, but I didn’t want anything to do with it.  Could she prepare it and bring it to me? If I got involved with its preparation I was complicit in allowing this violation.

She brought the plate in and I ate four slices of courgette and a small fork full of meat.  It felt thick, stodgy, dirty and toxic.

I kept going.

It’s just food.  It’s fuel.  It’s your body’s medicine.

I eventually finished.

I turned to Mum and held on to her tightly as I cried.

I was being attacked from the inside by this poison I’d just ingested.  I physically felt it spreading its way throughout my body, infecting each inch of me with poisonous thick gloop.  It was clinging to my body and I was growing fatter and dirtier by the second.

My body and mind had turned against me in a vicious attack.  The ability of the mind to inflict so much distress and pain on itself is terrifying.

Mum wrapped me in her arms and stroked my hair as she told me I was safe.  What I had done was good.  It was the vicious disease making me feel like this.  I’d been strong and showed the disease that I wasn’t going to give in to it.   All I’d done was give my body what it needs to get a little stronger and healthier. She was proud of me for doing it.  She loved me so much.  She wouldn’t let me go back to Ana.  We’ll do this together.  I’m not alone. 

I hung on to her every word.  Healthy, safe, strong, good, love.

She held me, comforted me and repeated this over and over and over until the tears calmed and the pain lessened.

All I’m doing is trying to beat Ana and reclaim my voice.  I could give in.  God, there are days when I just want to go back to her control.  I want to stop fighting it. I want to stop hurting.  I want to stop the battle with myself.  If I resign myself back into her clutches life will be simpler.

But…..Ana will kill me.  I know she will.

I don’t want to die.  I don’t even want to disappear anymore.  I might not totally occupy my space in this world at the moment but I know I want to.  I want to fill out every corner of my space, in fact I want to explode from the seams of my space.  I want to shine.  I want to be a complete person.

So, I’m picking up my emotionally limp, battered and bruised body and I’m getting back into the ring for the umpteenth round. With a heavy heart, sad eyes and only a flicker of strength inside me I say:

bring it on.

 

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