Introduction

All posts in the Introduction category

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.

 

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.

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?

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/

 

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.

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’…

Let me introduce myself…

Published 19 August, 2012 by ladyem83

Over the last few months I’ve wondered about writing a blog but something has always held me back.  I love to write, I have so many journals and never struggle to spill my thoughts onto a page.  But, a blog is so…public!  What have I got to say?  Are my thoughts worthy of other people’s attention? Will anybody be interested in little old me?

The time wasn’t right before but it is now. Why now?  Because now I’m moving further away from what I’ve come to term as ‘The Dark Days’.  I won’t delve into the details of those days right now; no doubt, however, when the context calls for it a reference can be made.   Now, the time is right because I can confidently answer the three questions above respectively with a resounding:  “Lots!”; “Absolutely!”; and “So what if they’re not?!”

So, that’s what this blog is about: me and my meanderings along my ‘Yellow Brick Road’.  That road from the well loved tale, The Wizard of Oz, along which Dorothy journeys to find her way back home.  This blog will tell of the tornado that ripped apart my world; the new life I found myself in; the truest companions who helped me along the way and what they taught me; and how, ultimately, I’m finding my way to take the tornado broken pieces of my old ‘home’, dust some of the good old pieces off, add in some new parts and build a myself a new ‘home’.

It feels good to be starting this.  I don’t know where it will lead me, but that’s ok; being comfortable with the unknown and the uncontrollable are my first steps.

So, I’ll finish this inaugural post firstly by saying thank you for reading and, hopefully accompanying me, and finally with this quote said by the Witch of the North to Dororthy:

‘ “You must walk. It is a long journey, through a country that is sometimes pleasant and sometimes dark and terrible. However, I will use all the magic arts I know of to keep you from harm.”

“Won’t you go with me?” pleaded the girl, who had begun to look upon the little old woman as her only friend.

“No, I cannot do that,” she replied, “but I will give you my kiss, and no one will dare injure a person who has been kissed by the Witch of the North.”

She came close to Dorothy and kissed her gently on the forehead. Where her lips touched the girl they left a round, shining mark, as Dorothy soon found out later.” ‘

[Baum, L. Frank (Lyman Frank) The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (2012-05-16) (p. 14)]

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Dawn O'Porter

Stuck In Scared

"Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself"