Strapping the Toddler in the Pushchair

If you read my post ‘DAY#4 FULL PORTIONS’, you’ll be aware of the disobeying thoughts in the dining room. Where there’s currently just me and one harmless, lovely new patient. I have been fearing and experiencing the huge threat my Eating Disorder felt when she was struggling to complete her half-portions. My thoughts of greed, shame, underserving, over-eating embarrassment, tucking into and completing my ‘full-portions’… which, then lead me to negative behaviours after meals/during our ‘rest’ periods in the lounge. I’ve become an anxious, distant, agitated, upset mess at times.

As I’ve tried to explain the staff (and now the new patient), it’s nothing personal towards her, it’s my own self-destructive thoughts that I need to learn to accept and take responsibility for. I can choose not to listen to Anorexia. I am walking my own journey. Solving my own Eating Disorder’s crime. There are going to be times in my life when I will be eating more than others round the table and that doesn’t make me more or less of a deserving person. Never, do I look at anyone else and judge them for the amount of food they’ve managed to eat, nor the way in which they eat.

I guess again, for some reason it makes a difference when you know that person has Anorexia. And something tells you that you’re failing and they are succeeding. This is where I’ve got quite skilled in recent weeks, of being able to separate the Eating Disorder from myself. (or trying)

So, as the meals go on, and the other girl has still been struggling to complete, my thoughts have become sharp to the head, like acid rain. The repeated embarrassment of feeling like every time her time was up and I sit there eating my full-portions alone, I feel like I am making some bold statements about how brilliant I am; “look at me being all deserving, eating this whole portion of food”, “I’m eating this food because I deserve it and you don’t”, “watch me sit and indulge in all these flavours” “I accept this food that I am eating”, “I want you to take notice of me enjoying my food”.

Because my thoughts are the complete opposite, it feels so, so wrong…. time after time at meal-times, I have started to feel this humongous selfish greed. That’s why in ‘rest’ periods I have found myself wanting to self-destruct to numb the pain. To compensate for what I’d just felt from acting in every way opposite my Eating Disorder.

Until yesterday, I’d got myself into a couple of habits (which I can only pin-point by writing about it: the first – covering my mouth out of shame and staring at the floor for forty minutes, in an awkward pose at the end of the sofa, so not to allow myself to relax. I’d just experienced all that ‘pleasure’ in my mouth – how would I be then deserving to do such a thing? I couldn’t even let myself curl up and cry like I wanted to as it felt lazy to put my legs up. Now that I’d worked hard to stop my restless behaviour which used to soothe my head, of ‘shaking my leg’ in communal areas to avoid creating more guilt for myself about affecting other people, these other bizarre reactions to the dining room seem to have replaced it.

Another behaviour which I have tried to nip in the bud after my rocky morning and pulling-myself-together moment yesterday afternoon – is scratching. Over the past couple of days, what had started as mentally soothing nipping of the skin on my arm to calm my thoughts, turned to something slightly a bit more vigorous, until starting to draw blood and creating burn marks up my arm. The repeated physical action distracted me from all those feelings of shame, until it began feeling a comfort, and then the comfort came from the subtle pain. Of punishing myself for what I’d just done.

So what was my main motivation to change and step-in to stop Anorexia putting me on self-destruct mode? Reminding myself of everything my Eating Disorder was making me as a person, that I despised. Reminding myself that acting in these ways, listening to the thoughts, was making me feel like an even WORSE person. More guilt. More shame. Making the food feel even more of a challenge. Then reminding myself of everything that I WANTED to BECOME through recovery…

Childish. That was my main focus for change. One thing on my listen dislikes list. Anorexia likes me to act like a child. It makes me feel babyish. It makes me react like a baby. It makes me feel needy and weak. This is a bit of me I’d feel much better to let go…

If ‘becoming a WOMAN’ is one of my concrete goals… I have started spotting opportunities to get there. Becoming this way has potential to make me happy in the long-run, to live true to myself and have some real, valuable purpose, not the quick-fix I always turned to that was Anorexia. But I know I have to put in the work… as my Eating Disorder has controlled the majority of my life on and off for 8 years, I feel in many ways 8 years behind in my head. In terms of career, taking on adult responsibilities, lack of independency, experience in relationships, lack of social experience, the major percentage of my life these past few years spent in my own safe company. I say ‘own’, I mean in my Eating Disorder’s ideal, numerical world. My days planned around food, therapy, health appointments, reading to ‘fill-in’ time and feel productive/deserving of food. Feeling like I’m retired before I’ve even lived.

Since blogging about my recovery, it’s been a mental lifesaver. It’s helped me question the backstage of my Anorexia. What goes on behind the scenes in the way it ticks. Which is what has lead to me being able to step in better to change things in line with my recovery goals… one of those being like ‘strapping the toddler in the pushchair’. The kick up my arse to change. This has involves me doing something pro-active when I recognise I feel the child in Anorexia coming out. The child it makes me feel.

Yesterday felt like an example of that – when I went back to bed after weigh-in, and didn’t respond to staff or get up until lunch. My child-alert alarm flashed, and I found myself acting the opposite to the stubborn child. I might have gained more weight than I’d prepared myself for, but it was a hell of a way off yet until my BMI got me to a point of earning boobs, periods and a sex-drive. All physical indictors of when I finally re-develop. So yes, I would still feel shit about eating lunch but I still did it.

Mostly so, is the situation with the new patient. I had a bit of a lightbulb moment during my sleep one day, after questioning what the ideal, real me wanted the situation in the dining room to feel like. And that was to be helpful. To take her under my wing in a sense. Remembering I am 8 years older than her. So why, pathetically did I feel triggered by someone so young and innocent, also suffering by the same evil illness as me?

Regardless, when you put a few Eating Disorders together in the same room, you sometimes get a glimmer of feeling like you’re back at nursery. She’s fresh to the b*****d that is Anorexia. I could turn what started to feel like a negative trigger, into an opportunity to help her suffering.

As my Anorexia feels very selfish, it wants me to put MY food in the spotlight, and think of nothing else whilst I’m eating. All eyes. Like it was under police scrutiny and must be analysed. In a way because your brain is starved, it heightens your attention to seeking food anyway. So biologically it also explains this. But if I invested some energy into wanting to understand what are her personal mental barriers, her Anorexia’s rigid rules to break, along with her motivations for recovery, that would give me some other purpose. Feed something more valuable than Anorexia.

So this is what I started to do. Act against the child, ‘strap the toddler in the pushchair’ and offer out a hand. It started with sending her a motivational postcard to try and give her a boost. That didn’t feel enough. It almost seemed like she was still within that numb bubble that needed popping. Anorexia’s grip. The sadness and the pre-occupation in her eyes…

I felt so wary about being ‘too pushy’ – if it came across that I was invading on her treatment and recovery. But I had a gut feeling about needing to speak from the heart and my own experience; to comfort her about choosing to let go, that she deserves to taste and enjoy food. I was sorry to say that the rules and thoughts of her Eating Disorder are all lies (that they don’t in fact keep her safe), to let her know that as hard as it feels at first – it will get easier, to remind her of the last time she really laughed, the last time she was able to join in a family celebration care-free (she is a big family person, due to her Indian culture), the last time she had fun with friends. What that felt like and how she could have that back.

After slipping it under her door along with the poster ‘No food will ever hurt you as much as your Eating Disorder’, I felt nothing more of it. Except that I felt content for acting in line with the compassionate part of the real me, rebelling against my Anorexia. (strapping the toddler in the pushchair!)

Then, as an incredible surprise, she appeared at my bedroom door. Hair still wet from the shower, she burst into tears. She was so lovely and grateful and I felt so much pride and relief that I could finally see her show emotion. Anorexia’s numb shell had been cracked a little. I was hoping it was a sign that she had woken up to the mental torture she was currently living. And that there WAS a way out…

…sitting on my bed, after we hugged (mainly from relief), she reached out and wanted to talk. She expressed her fear at the whole situation of being at the Unit, and I reminded her how lovely the staff were. To approach the staff at any point she needs to talk. To put her trust in them. That over time she will gain the trust and things will feel automatically easier. That fundamentally, what recovery comes down to is eating the food and completely scrapping Anorexia’s rules. That weight gain won’t be as fast as she might think.

I told her that the only way things will start to feel easier is to do it, to complete the food on the plan and sit with the uncomfortable feelings after… to cry, get angry, that feelings always pass, and you have to experience the rain to feel the sun. (and then apologised for being a cheeseball…) That sitting with the guilt afterwards is the only way to get through it. As she spoke I could sense an optimistic drive build… and she declared that her goal for the day was to try and complete her slice of toast for morning snack. Which she didn’t, but made huge progress which left me feeling so proud. She went from nibbling the crust up until the day before, to eating half the slice.

From then on, I have found myself wanting to keep the toddler of Anorexia strapped in – so keeping it’s negative, selfish thoughts at a low volume and turn my attention to being helpful/some kind of comfort. A hug, a rub on the back, a reminder that she can do this before entering meal-times. I then found myself at meal-times feeling the pressure (in a positive sense) of acting like a role model, to keep the ‘toddler’ in check. This made me consciously try and relax in order to help her feel more relaxed when eating… at one meal in particular (when two of the chatty, loveliest support workers were sat with us) it was the weirdest feeling – I felt myself make more conversation than I had ever done at a meal-time since being there. Suddenly, I was less anxious about my own meal and more focused on what the new patient could achieve with hers.

Continuing to be of support to the new girl, has proved challenging as well as rewarding… there are times when I feel frustrated at myself if when she continues to struggle, asking myself “have I said enough?”, “have I been too pushy?”, “what am I doing wrong that I can’t help her more?” …that I let my own self-worth latch on to her successes. But I did pick up on this in myself quite early on, so am aware of that now.

I also sometimes can’t help those feelings of repeated shame and embarrassment re-occurring as the same scenario about me having to troop on with completing my full-portion, while she still has the majority of her half-portion sat there. Sometimes I can’t hide that in my face either, and I have approached her to apologise and say that it’s nothing personal towards her that I’m upset, it’s my own shame that I am dealing with. I worry about her feeling guilty, because I know what it’s like being in her position too, and feeling guilty for not finishing meals.

There are many times I can remember of feeling like a small child. I guess, crying over certain things of a meal – portion sizes, the way food is presented or mixed for example. My eating behaviours – eating food groups separately, which I will go into explaining in another post, being generally picky and rigid about food, the way I speak I’ve spoken to people if it angers Anorexia, threatens it in any way, makes it feel lazy, messes with it’s rules. I even feel like my Eating Disorder makes me talk in a tone like a child at times. There are so many things I’m prepared to dispose of.

I guess not only does it make you think, feel and act like a child, it also turns your body to a child-like state. I’ve got used to feeling ‘safe’ having no boobs, no extra flesh on my chest. It feels protective. It reminds you that you’re not ready for the daunting adult-life. Also, what’s a period? Out go the hormones. As a way of your body wanting to preserve energy and save it for the more vital tasks of the organs, hormones stop being produced.

I’m actually looking forward to having to buy tampons, wanting to shave my legs, wanting to soak in a bath and come out smelling like a ‘Lush’ sensation (all that relaxing is a no-no with Anorexia – quick shower will do it). Fitting in kids clothes’ is a big hit with Anorexia. Pass me a pair of teenage skinny jeans, my adult leggings sag around my thighs and slip off my bum. Nice, female look there…

…most importantly, to the ideal future woman in me, is pregnancy. That bloody cracking privilege of creating and carrying your own little human. Who you can choose to raise with warmth, inspiring self-acceptance and body confidence.

Finishing on a more random thought…

Why do so many of us feel guilty when we’re happy? Like it’s a selfish thing.
Looking after our own happiness is such a positive for those around you. We’re always drawn to happy people and enjoy being in their company.

I’m such a hypocrite but I am working on this… one thing I’ve learnt recently is that the more we work on creating a happy, positive life for ourselves, the happier we make the people around us. The lesson is, being happy in our own skin could never be a selfish thing.





One thought on “Strapping the Toddler in the Pushchair

  1. Wow yasmin you have made a tremendous breakthrough. You are an inspiration. Your posts would look brilliant in book form because your writing is beautiful and honest. I am looking forward to the day when you become a full deserving woman and start living the life that you deserve. Much love xx

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