Breakfast
Rice Krispies.
Wholemeal toast x 2, butter.

Lunch
Egg mayo sandwich (white), 5-bean salad, side salad.
Cherry full-fat yoghurt.

Afternoon snack (SELF-CATERED)
Dark chocolate-covered cranberries and yoghurt-coated banana chips.

Tea (‘EAT WELL’ GROUP)
Chicken and mushroom risotto, vegetables, sweet potato fritters.
Banana and butterscotch pudding, ice-cream.

Supper
Bran flakes.

…& the usual PINT of semi-skimmed milk.

 

Wow. What a day. Emotional… (I don’t think I’ve ever cried whilst playing my guitar before – that happened), but challenging and rewarding all at once. As I awkwardly shimmy through this inpatient admission, and I’m able to access more leave/flexibility off the ward especially at weekends, the days that I’m ACTUALLY here feel very full-on. But in a good sense.

So today, was inevitably another weight-gain. Which in ‘Stage 3’, feels incredibly hard. But I had a hugely helpful session with my dietician. So as I already feel ‘obese’ compared to what I’m used to, for ME, in terms of ‘coping’, the sirens keep sounding when the number gets higher, still, week on week. But the way this unit works, and the program I’ve chosen is fantastic.

It turns out getting to this ‘set-point’ weight thing, is a separate mission in itself, to ‘restoring’ weight and there is an interesting bit of nutritional science to how to find where that ‘set-point’ RANGE (and not a specific number) for YOUR unique body is… scary, and it means lots of tolerating uncomfortable feelings but I’m trusting science. But that’s why I feel so lucky to have this chance and the time to suss this out with myself.

We also had ‘Eat Well’ group, which was pretty much the main event of the day – this is where, everyone who is at the self-catering stage, plans, shops for and cooks a meal together. This week’s ‘challenge’ aspect was to buy a ready meal/frozen food and practice eating for convenience. And this was REALLY bloody useful, and great practice for future ‘real’ life. It was like a school trip to Asda, mind, but yeah – overall, despite how much I wanted to dissolve because of my own insecure issues, it was such a good opportunity and I’m glad I did it.

It took up a large chunk of this afternoon, along with a lot of my personal/emotional energy which I’ll go in to in my next post. As well as exploring the fears behind ‘ready meals’ and a bit of general chit-chat with probs my usual tangents somewhere in there.

Sorry to round this off quick but it’s been a hectic one. I’ve also decided that I’m going to post less on here, soon to be once-a-week, so that I can again focus on my recovery-related stuff. And hopefully when I do post, make them a bit juicier instead of quick and slap-dash. I’ve lots of exciting potential bits being explored with my Occupational Therapist, and now I feel like the care/emphasis is being placed on helping me piece together my life/ambitions/identity as a whole, rather than on the food itself.

For one, I’m going to explore ‘Open Mic’ nights in Leeds, and attend some local acoustic music events which will help me tap in to one of my passions and hopefully get to know and meet people with similar interests.

Just quickly before I dash off for another compulsive strum, if you’re a fan of sticky-toffee pudding and banana-flavoured stuff then I would HIGHLY recommend the mouth-watering ‘Butterscotch and Banana Pudding’ from ASDA! Microwaved and with ice-cream!

Oooooh my god, it really is amazing!! I just went with the group choice at the shop and wasn’t too fussed, so I didn’t know what to expect. But it’s one of the best desserts I’ve had, I’d go as far to say the past few years.

It’s a warm and oozy, lickable hug.

Pop one in your basket next time and I promise you won’t be disappointed.

IMG_8616Breakfast
Rice Krispies.
Wholemeal toast x 2, butter.

Morning snack
Dark chocolate-covered cranberries, yoghurt-covered banana chips.

Lunch (SELF-CATERED)
Egg mayo, wholemeal pitta bread, crackers.
Lemon mousse.

Afternoon snack
Unknown.

Tea
‘Harvester’s.

Supper
Unknown.

…& the usual PINT of semi-skimmed milk.

 

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

–          Maya Angelou

I’m currently on the bus to the train station where I have special leave from the Unit granted to go see ‘Little Mix’ with my mum and sisters! I’m looking forward to spending time with them – a hell of lot, but my thoughts around body image and finding something to where to what feels like such a momentous occasion, and something that was initially a gamble when my mum booked it (she couldn’t be certain either me or my sister wouldn’t be ill), have been taking over this morning and trying to dampen the excitement. But I’ve made it on the bus, so I’m starting to feel it. And to shut the hell off in my mind about how I currently feel in my body. On track and sticking with it. What I look like and what I feel I look like does not have to minimise the enjoyable experience.

So before celebrating too much and getting over-excited I wanted to reflect on something quite significant yesterday, that does to show the devastation of mental health suffering…

How your priorities can shift within a matter of seconds, I find incredibly fascinating. Even something so powerful and controlling can be quietened by a sudden gush from an event/thought that is in tune to one of your higher values. Even just for a morning, a day even. Sometimes for others – weeks, sometimes for others months/years/forever.

I may be at a stage of my recovery where I’m allowed to work towards maintaining my weight, but my head is still very meshed in the fear of my Eating Disorder – the power, less so because I continue to push against what it wants of me. The dread of weigh-days is still a horror and sometimes I’d rather have pins and needles all week, if it meant choosing between that and facing a number that my head still finds threatening.

So the usual feelings came, yesterday morning, until. Until I read a text to ask me if I’d heard Hannah had died. About 3 minutes before weigh-in.

Hannah is a beautiful, elegant-ly speaking, mother of two little cuties and a dedicated wife and Christian. She’s also struggled long-term with her mental health. I first knew of her about 4 years ago when she became good friends with my sister, through inpatient treatment for Anorexia. I knew how she struggled but how much she smiled and cared for my sister. She’d light up in the company of her; she had a thing about giraffes and good coffee. I got to know her more-so, when I was also admitted after struggling to recover myself after a lot of outpatient treatment and became a day-patient.

I saw all of those above things, amplified, when I got to spend more time around her…

Then, after both of us got discharged at different stages, I got re-admitted some time later, terrfied of my first inpatient admission. Regardless of how we wasn’t close-close, we still clicked and were on the same wave-length. She offered out her hand to come and visit me, when I’d just had my first NG-tube removed…

Chatting with her that day, it was one of those moments where anything problematic fizzles somewhere we’ll never know. But the moment, feels safe, warm and chirpy. Yeah she told me about her struggles, but so did I. But she mad enough me feel like I could pick myself up and get my life together as soon as we went our own ways that day.

You just never expect that those self-critical thoughts will ever take that person by the hand to a place we’ll never see them again.

So when I found out that news first thing yesterday morning, at the flick of a switch I didn’t give a sh*t what I weighed. It was a shake into perspective, and, as well as it propelled me to feel focused and positive about learning to manage my own mental health, and to get out there and make the MOST of every opportunity, on the flipside there was also of course that sad hopelessness.

I can relate to so many of thoughts around her mood/sadness/conflict with the world, so I begged within myself this wasn’t the only way out of suffering. This also kind of goes to prove that Anorexia CAN be a temporary coping mechanism to numb from all those feelings… but the longer you suffer, the harder it is to muddle through recovery and feel like you’re doing the ‘right’ thing as you grapple to find some purpose/self-worth – no matter how many people around you tell you you are many great things, your negative self-perception mumbles the loudest.

Hannah gave the world many things that wouldn’t be there before if it wasn’t for her existence:

Two young, beautiful and creative children. A marriage to a committed, loving man. A warm, chirpy inside feeling to all in the room when she smiled. Laughter, honesty, elegance, love and support.

Rest in peace, Hannah. You were tricked into feeling like you didn’t deserve to be here, but you have left an abundance of evidence behind to prove that you absolutely did.

You live in your children, your memories, your support to others with Eating Disorders and their conflicting mental health… and lots and lots of LOTS of people’s hearts.

Thank you for helping my sister with your friendship, which therefore helped my family and therefore helped me. And for then shining a light into my life when i got the privilege to know you better.

I hope you are at peace now, you deserve it and always have. But not like this. We have to take the positive spirit you’ve left behind and I for one know you have given me one more reason to fight for my mental health.

Sleep tight, beautiful.

Just a few examples of your most recent support with this recovery journey:

Thank you. 😢🌹

 

 

Breakfast
Golden syrup porridge.

Lunch
Tomato pasta with ricotta shavings and salad.
Vanilla ice-cream.

Afternoon snack
Fruit ‘foamy’ sweets.

Tea
Chicken and coleslaw sandwich (white).
Strawberry yoghurt, flapjack.

Supper
Sultanas and raisins.

…& the usual PINT of semi-skimmed milk.

 

Behind the vibrating sound of my toothbrush this morning, and the minty taste of ‘Colgate’ I had one of those moments. A ding-dong thought.

At this curious stage of recovery, where if feels like I’m testing how my ‘head’ will react to this new ‘thing’ (my relationship with food AND my body), every day currently feels like an experiment. I am a guinea pig.

How will I cope? When will I explode of disgust if my Eating Disorder/body-shame feels so loud but I KEEP choosing to eat without rigid rules, measurements and over-planning? Am I kidding myself that this could leave to a ‘better’ life? How will I know when that feeling of ‘happiness’ will lead me to lose control and become a mess of a human being… ?

Rebelling against all those things that promised to make me feel emotionally and psychologically ‘safe’ can feel dangerous, but then freeing and exciting and hopeful, all in the space of a few minutes. And sometimes, it can feel like ALL those things at once.

But back to brushing my teeth this morning – I was trying to picture what would best sum up how it feels in my head and where I stand with food at the moment. In fact, I was trying to work it out for myself, too.

And suddenly I realised, often it feels similar to having a teacher in class at school, to having none. Sometimes, although we moan, having rules and expectations set by someone/something outside of us can keep us focused and on track – there’s less decisions for us to make and we hand-over the responsibility. Less likely to go ‘wrong’. Whereas, the feeling of the teacher being out of the room and all the kids messing about makes me feels like I’m full of errors, unfocused and rebellious. Sometimes I don’t know how to think and behave around food, so I have to wing it. I have to be my own teacher.

Particularly as I’ve reached ‘Stage 3’ of my treatment program, and now there’s no-one saying I HAVE to put on weight (but I might, yet, until I reach set-point) these disorientated feelings are a lot more intense. It’s almost like, as difficult as it is at first coming into hospital and completely scrapping your Eating Disorder rules for hospital rules in your ‘best interest’, putting on weight and reaching ‘targets’ start to become the NEW pre-occupation, and what you once used with your Eating-Disordered energy, transfers into this instead.

In a sense, your Eating Disorder thrives off having NEW rules and boundaries. The comfort of being told you are ‘allowed’ and ‘have’ to eat from the prescribed weight-restoration meal-plan. Having to put on weight, almost reassures your Eating Disorder that it existed, that you deserve to eat because ‘science’ (your body/brain’s nutritional status) says so.

Whereas now, learning to maintain and HOPEFULLY hold my weight without freaking out and reverting backwards, I have to learn that I deserve to eat, just because. Not because science says I’m worthy, but because of just being me, I am.

And that’s a fucking long shot right there.

I’m doing it, but it’s terrifying that people around you may assume that now you FEEL deserving to eat these nice foods again and keep your weight healthy. Not the case. I’m in training and will be for a LONG time.

But without committing to this training I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy an absolutely gorgeous 2-course Italian meal with my Great Auntie in Sheffield today. Or that home-made flapjack on Friday. Food stuff aside, neither would I have genuinely been INTERESTED in talking about stuff I failed at connecting with because of my Eating Disorder taking up so much space, or been able to laugh and mean it, or been able to talk the dog for a walk without feeling ‘compelled’ or treating it as punishment and a way to gain reward.

And now, after typing that up to there in ‘Pret’ whilst having my sarnie and decaf coffee, I’m finishing this off back at the Unit. And going from that space to this, the reality of weigh-day tomorrow again has hit…

The cobwebbed thoughts will remain, but it’s how I choose to find the light through them and clear a path I want to go down. Instead of assuming the cobwebs will build and build until I’m a fly amongst them, surrendering to my Eating Disorder again. Like the whole idea of ‘controlling your inner chimp’ (the rebellious/obsessive/habitual/coping part of you) I read this in a helpful book once! …it’s like making sure I stay mindful of that cheeky ‘spider’ casting it’s dusty webs in my head (the clinging Anorexic thoughts and echoing, low self-worth).

The biggest change this week I’ve noticed, although I struggle mainly with my anxiety and fear of losing control on the evenings, is my compulsive urges to play the guitar/sing… it’s a similar feeling to when I’d either compulsively feel I needed to re-add my calorie content for the day or in whatever I was about to eat, or to plan for the next few days food, or in more the Bulimic-days, the midnight urge to walk to the shop to fulfil something and suddenly get rid of it.

This new compulsion, to me, is a good sign.

I’m feeling like someone, instead of an Eating Disorder again.

But it’s STILL weigh-day tomorrow. Sh*t.

Breakfast
Bran flakes.

Lunch
Roast chicken, coleslaw and salad sandwich (white).
Apricot yoghurts.

Afternoon snack
Fruit ‘foamy’ sweets.

Tea
Grilled salmon with sweet chilli sauce, quinoa, rice and sunflower seed mix, salad.
Bran and coconut flapjack with ice-cream.

Supper
Not sure yet! (beauty of spontaneity… love a bit of that don’t you Anorexia!

IMG_8358.JPG

Doodle from the other day. Inspired by the fact that our brain relies so, so much and pretty whole-heartedly on CARBS!! CARBS are GOOD… the moment you take them away, the moment our brain cripples. It’s our brain’s GO-TO energy source. They are NOT bad and carb-free diets are a load of bollocks. Thank you to the incredible dietetics sessions we get on the Unit and for helping us fight against a brainwashed world! (cheers to the greedy diet industry)

About four and a half months ago, I was bamboozled, terrified and almost refusing to eat half a slice of toast suggested by paramedics who were called out to me in the middle of the night, at the Eating Disorder Unit because of my dangerously low pulse and blood sugars. Today I licked the spoon after baking flapjack… …it was one golden second of feeling free and alive that I want to keep in my pocket forever. Especially as it’s something I got to enjoy with my Great Auntie, just like we used to, with my sisters when I was about 10.

Yesterday… 6.45am… scales under my feet…

“You know what that means… ?” my support worker said, copying my new BMI down off the calculator and onto my weight-chart.

“Stage 3?” I replied doubtfully (not actually wanting to hear the answer) behind gritted teeth after cringing as I pulled back on my pyjamas bottoms, hearing that wasp buzzing (see last post) so loud after looking down and seeing those red flashing lines form a number.

I’d sensed it coming for about a week or so. Stage 3 of my treatment program. The beginning of my work at ‘maintenance’, when my new strength for eating enjoyable/fear-type foods relied on my backstage thought of “Well what’s the worst that can happen? I need to put on weight anyway…” comes to an end.

Waiting for the feedback around my weight-gain yesterday, felt similar to opening my GCSE results, but not actually being able to work out if I’d passed or failed. Because of the thoughts in my head…

…of course this felt like a harder moment of grief for Anorexia. Hearing that the ‘weight-gain’ was now allowed to be slowed – that I no longer ‘need’ to replace what Anorexia took away. But I didn’t find that the thoughts fought back as hard as they used to. Which was weird…

…I heard and felt my Eating Disorder shower shame and regret and the usual “I told you so…” but it’s like the side of me is starting to give up throwing the punches as hard because I’m getting thicker skinned. (in my brain and I supposed, literally – sorry for the awkward pun!)

BUT I AM scared, which I also shared with my team, how this will affect my mind-set towards those foods I do enjoy, now that I don’t associate them with the safety of having to put on weight, but learning that I CAN eat them as part of an EVERYDAY lifestyle.

As my diet is not yet getting reduced, it’s also pretty daunting that my weight could still go up, but I have to remember that it’s my Eating Disorder that’s rigid. Just because I have now reached a BMI of 20, it doesn’t mean the work or necessarily the weight-gain stops there. I guess for so long, Anorexia has made me see a BMI of 20 as the finish line, when really, my body has no finish line. If it takes a bit more to get my body settled, (I haven’t yet got my periods back, so that’s a sign…) and working properly, then it will make things feel kinder if I accept that my weight is free to be anything in the healthy range.

I still often feel like I’m wearing a fancy costume, don’t get me wrong – it’s going to be a marathon towards body acceptance, let alone confidence – BUT right now, I don’t regret the path I’ve chosen.

I’m scared, sometimes untrusting of myself, sometimes very doubtful… but finally hope and CURIOSITY outweighs that.

I’m quite excited for life again.

So much can change in five and a half months. Physically, mentally OR both…

…never give up and never surrender to your goals.

Breakfast
Bran flakes.
White toast x 2, butter.

Morning snack
‘Seabrooks’ crisps.

Lunch
Corned beef and tomato sandwich (wholemeal), 5-bean salad, side salad.
Cherry full-fat yoghurt.

Afternoon snack
‘Nutri-Grain’ bar.

Tea (NANDO’S)
‘Beanie’ burger, mashed potato, seeded salad with dressing.
Carrot cake.

Supper
Biscuits.

…& the usual PINT of semi-skimmed milk.

 

When will this feeling stop?

…the waking up, every day, to this growling, noisy grumble.

Not the grumble of an empty stomach. That, of course, isn’t the case nowadays…

A permanent wasp under my skin. Yet that noise is my body, the place I’m supposed to live. A healthy BMI, and the one I’m told will put me in a much better position against a future relapse. The place I’d LIKE to live… I could choose to turn back to the over-familiar Anorexia, where the sound of that wasp can be quietened, muted sometimes even, but that’s not an option. The fly-swatter, I know how to use within in easy reach. But shouldn’t be used… all it does is trap the wasp (the thoughts/low-self esteem/anxiety and everything else an Eating Disorder masks), squashes it for a bit, until it wriggles through one of the holes and flies back round again.

That’s why I can’t trust Anorexia and those urges like tides, to control something that offers such a false but believable sense of peace in my head.

So I’ve no choice but to hurt my ears for a while.

Perhaps if I can sit with the wasp long enough, the buzzinh will dissolve into the background because I’ll no longer notice it. And the sound of being free and alive will be louder. When this body feels like a new ‘normal’ and not a threat to my state of mind, maybe the thought will become a weed I know is somewhere to be dug out, rather than a long-armed, reaching tree you’d find in a swamp, always there – it’s prickly branches protecting my self-critical thoughts from being released into the air. Instead they linger and muster, the wasp buzzing and buzzing.

I hear it the moment the curtains of my room and my eyes open… and when I hear it, I feel like I should touch it – all the wobbly bits of me, I press my boobs down convincing myself I’d feel more free and at peace without them there, I grab the cushioned parts at my hips, the lower bits of my belly – but all that touching makes it more painful. You wouldn’t put yourself in more danger by touching the wasp that’s bothering you – you’d ignore it until it went away.

But this body isn’t going away. Because that’s something I’ve chosen. And this time in recovery I’m taking responsibility for it, and not seeing this body as something that’s been forced upon me, or happened because of my emotionally changeable relationship with food. It was a decision, that although still feels incredibly difficult to come to terms with on the outside, is empowering.

Touching it makes me realise how dead Anorexia is, physically, the once reassurance of a flat ironing-board stomach, like the comfort, secure straps of a pushchair – the bones on each hip reminding me I wasn’t ‘too much’, that I wasn’t expressing on the outside any more value than what I felt inside.

So this is very much where my head and body are sending and receiving mixed messages. They feel very much contradictory. But sitting with all this noise, I hope that they will get bored of fighting and accept each other so that I can hear other things, which I am as I progress through recovery – life does feel like it’s opening up, I’ve started playing my guitar again for example and genuinely enjoying it instead of fearing what it might trigger, but the buzz, the sticky disgust I still feel towards myself is still louder than it all.

If it sounds like I’m being negative, I guess I am, but I’m not. It’s how I feel and every feeling is valid. That’s what we feel them for. I’m expressing how I really feel which is helping me feel more accepting of where I am… many of us sail through life not being honest about what’s going on inside, and trust trying to fix things on the outside. And I wouldn’t stick it out feeling this way, if I didn’t know, trust, hope and fully believe that this discomfort won’t quieten. That the benefits to come out of being at a healthy weight, and living a fuller, richer life will outweigh this current lingering body-shame.

Within the inpatient environment, as fantastic as this place is for the support and the treatment program, one thing I’ve come to realise presents as a setback when you’re trying to re-build a positive relationship with your changing body through recovery, is newly admitted patients. And the frustrating thing is, you know completely how they feel in those early stages…

I remember when I was first admitted, my head completely warped by a sergeant major and his army of numbers, terror of any ‘soft’ bits clinging to my body… knowing how much I wanted to aim for a ‘full recovery’, but also, irresistibly comparing my body to where those further in recovery were, wondering how on earth I would EVER live with myself in my own body at that size. Even though ‘that size’ was normal. Healthy. Where I am now. Those repetitive doubts about if I was ‘able’ to let go…

Well, I’m here. And I’m staying here, listening to the wasp. It doesn’t mean I’m suddenly accepting of this place, and I’m remotely far from ‘comfy’ and settled. I won’t be having a house-warming party just yet. Maybe one time soon. Ideally.

So when patients are admitted, at a similar place to where I was, I can’t help but notice their subtle glances towards my body and how Anorexia may be warping how they see me. Maybe sometimes I’m paranoid this is happening, maybe not. But it’s completely natural. It’s like starting in year 7 at secondary school, and having a curious stare at the year 11’s in the playground. How they swagger about with their backpacks with those extra years of education under their belts, almost ready to take their GCSE’s, it all seems a long way off and you could never quite imagine yourself feeling that ‘old’/’mature’.

I can empathise as I was the terrified one too, when I was physically much more ill – seeing the healthy look as one big messy, unsettling threat. And now, that’s exactly what I am to Anorexia.

Sometimes though, rather than take it personally, it can be helpful to my reasons for pushing on – I’m not just fighting Anorexia for me, but as part of the bigger world; the more people that are, we’re fighting society’s perception of body image and how this can quite drastically feed into mental health. Eating Disorder or no Eating Disorder.

We can’t help that the people we love and surround us don’t ‘like’ themselves or their bodies, or don’t seem to value themselves and that doesn’t help but rub off on us. Where does this chain end? If the people we value so much don’t value themselves, how are we supposed to learn to value ourselves too? If they’re acting like they’re not good enough then how are we supposed to trust that we’re good enough too, when we value that person… and then know that we’re allowed to treat ourselves like we ARE good enough?

It makes me sad and frustrated at how body-shaming and general self-shaming is seen as the ‘norm’, like an everyday attitude that must be born into us, and if we don’t feel that way then we must be someone special. Or big-headed.

Body-shaming is buzzing so loud it’s distracting us from realising all the good things that we are, and we’re missing out on all the good bits that other people see in us too.

If you hear your own wasp, don’t pretend it’s not there. Talk about it.

Then decide if you want to keep swatting away that body-shame with temporary coping mechanisms, let it linger and accept that it’s always going to be there… or work on focusing your energy on the things that are positive about you, everything going on around you, and what else could be in your future. What you really want for your future, without a wasp of self-doubt distracting you, telling you you’re not good enough.

You’ll be surprised how the buzzing stops.

This is what I’m aiming for.