All posts in the Identity category

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. 


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!


Squidgy Around The Edges

Published 15 October, 2012 by ladyem83

I’ve just typed the heading to this post and felt a lurch in my tummy and tears prick in my eyes.

I don’t cry easily these days.  In fact over the last 10 months of this hell, I’ve hardly cried.  So, to spare my pride, let’s attribute this emotional wobble to tiredness!

My body is changing; perceptibly and before my very eyes.

My weight loss happened gradually over a two year period than dropped dramatically in the space of a couple of months at the beginning of this year.  However, my eyes were so blinded by depression and by the opaque cloak that Ana had thrown over me that I couldn’t see it.

Today was my fortnightly check in with my nurse for my blood to be taken and weight noted.  I’ve put on 2lb in two weeks and am now 1 stone heavier than I was in March.  1 stone.

My thighs aren’t as stick like (although my legs are still pretty unshapely still), my arms have lost that emaciated look.  My cheeks have filled out and my waist  has a softness to it:  I am squidgier around the edges now.

So why am I so scared and uncomfortable by what I see?  I have been two stone heavier than I am now and still been slim and, more importantly, I was happy and confident with the way I looked!

Ana taught me that protruding bones and the leanest of lean limbs were a symbol of my strength, my determination, my achievement.  It was a way to show the world that I was stronger than they were.  They were weak for giving in and feeding themselves.

The thing is, whilst I know that I am feeding and repairing my body, Ana’s words still linger in my mind.

How odd it is that I look at other women of all shapes and sizes and praise them.  I see their shapeliness not as indicative of greed or indulgence but of their pride in themselves.  I see it as representative of them being happy and content, I imagine them laughing freely with their friends over cocktails and nibbles; enjoying wonderful meals out with their partners.

Yet, when I look at my changing body I don’t see it as representative of any of those things.  Perhaps it’s partly because the weight gain has been caused not through happy social times but by bloody hard work.  Eating three times a day even though my dietician wants me to eat 6 times a day!

I’m a bundle of contradictions.  I want to be proud of the skin and the body I’m in again, like I used to be.  I want to really wear my clothes, not have them wear me.   Yet, despite wanting this so much, I’m not comfortable with the real life transformation that is visibly happening.

But, I will take the words of my dietician forward with me.

She used the example of a newborn baby, whose flesh and limbs are so soft and almost pliable.  The tissue making up those limbs has never been used, it has never borne weight.  Compare that newborn tissue with that of a toddler whose body is growing, learning to walk and carry its weight; that toddler tissue is firmer and grows into lean muscle.

In starvation mode my body had started to consume its muscle mass.  Now that I’m feeding it again, its stores are building.  Those stores aren’t lean muscle….yet.  They will change though.  The more I fuel my body, the stronger I get, the more my muscles will form underneath the soft tissue and I’ll regain my shape.

I had never ever thought of my body in those terms.  What terrible, terrible harm I inflicted on myself.  I caused my own body to turn on itself.

This truly is an existentialist journey of transformation, not only internally but externally.  I’m nowhere near the end; in fact, I suppose, there isn’t an end.  I may think that I’m well, fit and healthy, but I still have some distance to go before this butterfly breaks from her chrysalis.

World Mental Health Day and Me

Published 10 October, 2012 by ladyem83

It’s World Mental Health Day today and twitter has been flooded with positive words of support, inspiration and motivation to all those suffering with a mental illness.

This morning I joined the masses and wanted add my voice to the increasing chorus.  I wanted to shout about it, let everybody know that what I’m going through isn’t unusual, it isn’t wrong, it isn’t my fault.  After yesterday being such a dark day for me, today I felt buoyed up by the determined voices speaking out in unison each against their own ‘Black Dog’, ‘Gremlin’.

I took some time out and continued reading ‘The Chimp Paradox:  The Mind Management Programme for Confidence, Success and Happiness’ by Dr Steven Peters.  I have been attending CBT sessions and this book neatly compliments them.  Through the metaphors of a ‘Chimp’ (the emotional and reactionary part of our mind), a ‘Human’ (the logical part of our mind) and a ‘Computer’ (the part of our mind which stores the information (which becomes our core beliefs) sent to it by the Chimp and the Human , the book explains how our thoughts, emotions, behaviours and beliefs inter-relate.  It invites you to stop and break down your engrained thought processes and behaviours with a view to understanding their origin, questioning them and, where necessary, re-programming your ‘Computer’.

This book has provoked me to consider myself in a way I never have before.  Of course, implementing the changes I know I need to is a challenging and slow process.  Especially when there are days when I can’t see the value in anything, when I feel numb and just want to sleep until this all goes away.

I have digressed.

I started to become aware of how much ‘thinking’ I was doing.  I was thinking  about my feelings of depression that have flared up again over the last few weeks.  I was thinking about my reliance on my Gremlin.  What did my depression and my Gremlin make me?  I’m recovering from anorexia. I’m recovering from depression.  I’m teetering on the edge of succumbing to another Gremlin and trying hard not to.

I can only describe what I felt by likening it to being in a noisy shop, when there are too many people around you, you can’t quite see the way through to where you want to go and you’re constantly being distracted by them and their chatter.

I wanted some silence.  I didn’t want to be surrounded by the chatter in my mind.  I didn’t want to be a recovering anorexic, depressive!  I just wanted to be Em.  I wanted to return to the days when I could read a book and my mind wouldn’t wander.  I wanted to hear only my voice and be comfortable with it.

I put the book away and picked up a fiction book, The Hypnotist by Lars Kepler.  It’s a fast paced thriller which I’ve just started reading and am increasingly enjoying.

I’d read a page, then my mind would wonder to my Gremlin; how would I cope later on without its support? I refocussed on the book.  I thought about the number on the scales this morning; is that a good or bad number, should I do something to reverse it, am I lazy, am I greedy?  I refocussed on the book.

This mental cycle continued for an hour until I decided it was time to break the motion and go out for a run.

My point is, whether it is depression, an eating disorder or any other mental illness, it is just a label.   The illness tries its damnedest to define us; to suppress our individual spark.  Today, I wanted to to take a step back from it.  I didn’t want to think about it any more.  I didn’t want to listen to its voices.  I wanted to remember me and just be me. 

Of course, the hard thing now is for me to believe that the person I am without Ana, my Gremlin, or my Black Dog is enough of a person.

Am I a good enough person….?

That phrase captures it all.  Good enough for whom?  I should only be trying to be good enough for myself.  I know that I used to be so content with the young woman I had become.  I was confident, comfortable and accepting of myself.

I think I need to stop thinking and questioning.  I need to quieten my mind so my old voice can come through again.  That’s the one that I need to listen to.  That’s the one that will help me recover.

I’m Em; nothing more and certainly nothing less.


Rules, Rules, Rules

Published 8 October, 2012 by ladyem83

Whether consciously or not,  I’ve always adhered to a set of rules which I’ve imposed on myself.   I touched on this briefly in my post, ‘Breaking The Routine and Going With The Flow, however, over the last year and particularly when I fell into Ana’s tight grip, I have added to these rules and become imprisoned by them.  Abiding by them has become such an engrained part of my life that departing from them, or even bending them, causes me so much inner torment and confusion.

My CPN asked me to consider the rules which I live by and the effect they have on my life.  So here’s my Rule Book.  I need to see it in black and white.  I need to consider the true worth of each rule.

Rule #1 – I must always be active.  Being still is lazy and indulgent.

Rule #2 – I must make sure that those around me are happy. I must look after them.

Rule # 3 – I must be ensure that everything I do is to my standard of ‘perfection’.  ‘That’ll do’, isn’t acceptable.  Nothing is ever totally right, I need always to learn how to better what I do.  I cannot settle for anything less.

Rule # 4 – I cannot treat myself unless I have done something to deserve it.

Rule#5 – I must achieve the goals I set myself.

Rule #6 – I must please others.

Rule #7 – I define myself by the goals that I achieve.

Rule#8 – I must adhere to every plan that I set ahead of myself.

Some of these rules have been engrained in me since I was young, others have developed latterly and others I have taken to extreme lengths only recently as depression and anorexia took over.

I don’t doubt that there are also numerous other rules  to which I unconsciously adhere.

These rules gave me a sense of security.  When I was younger I had no self-confidence, so ensuring that I got full marks on each test, passed my exams, got a good career meant that I was worth something.  It gave me a means against which to measure myself and my value.

When I qualified as a solicitor, those regular benchmarks disappeared and I felt lost.  I had nothing against which I could measure myself; so I started to loose my self-confidence and my self-esteem.

As this happened my fixation on the other rules grew.  If a test couldn’t tell me how good I am then I needed to go into overdrive in all other areas of my life.  I needed to ensure that I was the best person I could be for other people.  Whether it was friendships or relationships, it was those other people who mattered more than I did.  I lost my identity by trying to be the person I thought other people wanted me to be.  This manifested itself not only in my behaviour but even the way I dressed changed.

My Rule Book engulfed me.

So now it’s time to re-write the Rule Book.  In fact, let’s throw it out!  I don’t want my life to be governed by rules.  I want to govern my life.   Of course, this doesn’t mean that I will lower my standards.  I believe in being the best I can be.  I believe in learning and growing.  I believe in being a loyal and supportive daughter, sister and friend.  These are my values.  Values are important; they help to define a person’s character.

How could I ever  fully experience my life, and thereby become the rounded person I want to be, if I am forbidden from stepping outside of certain fixed parameters?

As long as I remain true to my values then I don’t need rules to govern my every action and thought.  I can explore, learn, try, fail, succeed…live!

I don’t expect that I will be able to throw the Rule Book out today but I’ll close it and put it on the shelf.  The only question I need to ask myself is whether I’m being true to what I believe in.  If the answer is yes, then I’m free to do it!

Do you have a Rule Book?  

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.


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