Change

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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!

 

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?

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.

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!!

 

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