Weetabix x 2.
Wholemeal toast x 2, margarine (on one slice), butter (on the other).
Sweet and sour chicken, boiled rice, green beans.
Cherry full-fat yoghurt.
Tuna mayo, sweetcorn and red onion sandwiches on wholemeal, 5-bean salad, salad.
Bread and butter pudding, custard.
Weetabix x 2.
One life skill I’m making an effort to keep up in recovery, to help the future Eating Disorder-free me… is asking advice when I need it. To not feel weak or needy in doing so. To not feel like a failure if I can’t achieve something on my own. To me, honestly, it’s like a mouse learning how to dribble a football or a meerkat learning how to use chopsticks to eat a bowl of Rice Krispies…
Tattooed to the back of my brain since my therapist said it a couple of years back is “no man is an island”. This stuck with me and I believed it instantly. We are stronger when we work with each other – we are more successful, more well-rounded, more confident when we recognise what we can’t do or manage alone. Yet, for many years why have I not felt the need, trust and strength to apply it to myself?
Anorexia has kept that stubborn independent fire alive in me. Told me that there’s much more chance of feeling in control and keeping it together if I’m consistent to it’s rules and keep others out. That getting too close to people is dangerous and could destroy my self-control. To only trust myself and the food I work for. That I must prepare in a precise manner, all my own meals, snacks and drinks. And that if I can work to earn food, I can cope with anything.
It literally helped me get from A to B through the day to use Anorexia’s strategy. I’d use the tasks that I needed to achieve – anything from posting a letter, doing the washing, folding the laundry, sorting out my sister’s washing, meeting a friend, food shopping, finishing a piece of work, writing a CV, going to my volunteer shift, reading a chapter of a book, as a way of earning my carefully calorie-calculated food allowance. You could say it helped me stay focused and motivated with life.
As I became more ill, lost more weight, starved my brain… the thoughts became more intense, that I pretty much through the whole time of completing the task, was obsessively thinking of the food at the very end of it. (in-between the panicky moments of re-calculating and going over the calories I’d prepared for lunch, putting no trust in the last time I checked)
A lot like a dog obeying ‘roll over’, knowing there was a bit of sausage waiting. The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. I could allow myself to sit and enjoy the taste of my meal or snack, knowing that I’d ticked off exactly what I’d aimed to achieve. Usually at the point where I felt mentally and physically drained.
It sounds so silly to see that written on the screen instead of remaining an invisible weather of thoughts in my head… if you’ve just read that last paragraph, you’ll now understand why having Anorexia absolutely does NOT mean you don’t enjoy food. I’ve always said that I love food. Even the consultant that tried to section me when I was on the Coronary Care Unit for low heart-rate during my last inpatient admission, didn’t believe me… just because I was on a heart monitor due to my low weight and jeopardised organs, would you believe that, no – it still did not mean that I don’t enjoy the taste of food.
But the taste of the stormy thoughts – the anxiety, shame, guilt and disgust is enough bleach to pour all over it and take the flavour off anything.
This taste tennis match, is something that still is a daily battle – it’s just that I’m making sure that right now I prioritise restoring the body – the one that my mind has destroyed, still knowing that the thoughts are painful and need work to be challenged, if I’m going to live a life not seduced by those destructive thoughts any longer. And that’s me CHOOSING my next path, instead of falling for the easy route of my Eating Disorder which has been programmed in me for so long.
So the whole point of this descriptive rant was to highlight why it felt like I made a positive step this morning. Going against what’s easier for Anorexia. Against my own high expectations of trying to accomplish everything alone, which sets me up to fail. That is asking for help, knowing that trusting others could help me make a better decision.
I was finding it difficult filling out my meal-plan for tomorrow. We do them daily until we move to the ‘Stage 2’ main dining room (see my ‘Intro to how things work on the Unit’ post for more explanation about the dining rooms) when you then plan them all a week in advance. The rules were a firework display in my mind. My Eating Disorder’s rules that is… the ones that expect me to find a mathematical formula to making the ‘right’ selections. It has an expectation that there’s a ‘right’ way to spread food out for the day. That there’s a ‘right’ time to pick certain foods. And when I’m faced with a difficult decision because of what we HAVE to choose for the meal-plan, Anorexia feels there is an investigation to be carried out… which ‘rule’ will trigger less guilt if I break it?
This is what I needed help with. I needed some human input, to hear a reassuring voice. I needed to hear that it was okay to break one of the rules so that I could hear something louder than my Eating Disorder. What was convincing me I was in control, was actually making things more messy – one big, noisy, cluttered firework display of decisions. There would never be a ‘right’ solution for Anorexia. I would always be tripped up for making the ‘wrong’ choice…
…like today for example. I realised by the time tea came round that I had made a big no-no. Choosing ‘bread and butter pudding’ after a SANDWICH. Bread and bread so close together in one day… why did I do it to myself?? Anorexia found this messy, wrong and stupid. I felt that acid rain of self-destructive thoughts hit. But then I couldn’t win because the alternative sticky toffee pudding at lunch-time was even more of a tasty threat.
At the end of the day, recovery would always involve me eating things and amounts that it didn’t approve of… so I approached my dietician for help. I acted on my gut instinct and it felt so true to the real part of me.
After apologising to her for sounding silly, as my brain was feeding me with “how needy, pathetic, childish, she probably thinks you’re making your problems up, you should be able to do this on your own, you’re weak, you’ll still listen to me afterwards anyway, how can you trust her decisions, you’re 26 and asking what to have for lunch tomorrow…”, I explained what rules jumped out when I was trying to choose.
I knew it was impossible to take them all on board because of the choices available, so something had to give… but I really wanted to push forward and challenge something. I confessed I was worried I wasn’t choosing to challenge things mentally enough with my food choices, fearing that my body will go too fast for my head to catch up. I didn’t want to achieve a healthy unfamiliar body that would take some adjusting to, only to find myself trapped in the same rigid rules.
Without making things confusing by writing out all my weird rules tonight (which I WILL break)… I’ll just mention the ones that I decide to challenge on that day. Like for tomorrow – after the tug-of-war, made easier by talking it through with the dietician I ended up settling for selecting my ‘substantial’ pudding option (plum crumble and custard) after my main hot meal (pork in gravy, and any potato and veg option) for tea. I have this fear of eating my main hot meal and main pudding together, especially in the evening… the fear of eating too much food crammed together in a short space of time.
But if I didn’t, I’d have to either choose the more challenging pudding at lunch-time (lemon sponge and custard), or the more challenging main course for lunch instead to make it feel more ‘spread out’ (savoury minced lamb and Yorkshire pudding, and any potato and veg option) which goes against my ‘no more than one carbohydrate in each meal’ rule. What utter bol***ks anyway! It’s normal to eat a yorkie with potatoes. It’s practically the English way. And the real me loves yorkie puds.
The dietician made me feel better about going ahead with this challenge, as it was a ‘realistic’ one to face. I’d had that pork in gravy, unlike the other, and also the plum crumble and custard. (I always find it safer to choose whichever pudding contains the most ‘fruity’ element) The challenge itself was having those two things together in the evening. I know this is a very normal thing, especially if you were to go out for tea. So I’m trying to view it like that. I don’t know if maybe being in this situation – an inpatient Unit, unable to go out, knowing I’m here to gain weight, all that makes it harder to get my head around. That I’m always trying to find the easiest of a difficult bunch.
Seeing as I had a trusty human voice here to drown out the Anorexic fireworks, I jumped at the chance to confess I was getting bored of having Weetabix for breakfast every day. (sorry Anorexia) And supper. But I was terrified of trusting the unweighed cereal portions. And at supper my head till latches onto the fact it’s the lowest calorie choice of all the snacks. Unless ‘raisins and sultanas’ is on the menu, which is but not very often. And some of the biscuits are in my safe zone but you can’t guarantee that type will be brought up that night. There’s so many tasty things to choose from too, some new ones of which we just got in yesterday… chocolate brownie, crisps, a ‘Nutri-Grain Raisin Bake’ bar, ‘Twirl’, ‘Drifter’, ‘Kit-Kat’, ‘Picnic’ bar, ‘Tuc’ cheesy biscuits, oaty and fruit cookie, chocolate fudge brownie cookie, triple chocolate cookie, toast, a sandwich… and all of the cereals from breakfast.
I think because there’s so many times we have no choice but having to eat foods that feel indulgent anyway at meal/dessert times, that my head sees the above rules with Weetabix as non-negotiable.
I was reassured by the dietician that again, it’s still early days. She wants me to focus mainly on breaking my rules for how I’m currently selecting my main meals. To challenge what’s driving me choosing certain foods and avoiding others. That when I move to ‘Stage 2’ and start weekly meal-plans we can start to forward-plan the breakfast/supper snack challenges.
Ooooooooh and she threw it out there that as of tomorrow I’m going to start transitioning to the ‘Stage 2’ main dining room! Just breakfast. Then adding in another meal each day, until by Monday I will be in there for all meals! And that in itself is a step forward. Another unknown, another challenge. Positive though, don’t get me wrong! It makes me realise that my feet are moving forward… …that recovery again, is real… with that she said it best to keep the breakfast choice safe to what I know for now rather than facing everything in one go.
I’m scared. But excited. The atmosphere in there is completely different. Social. Round tables, not one long meeting-type one. Chatty, not silent and awkward. Where everyone completes their meals and past the point of struggling which is obviously so much less triggering! I’m a bit anxious about the whole ‘social’ side of it… although over this past week, I’ve relaxed into exchanging more friendly words with patients, I still very much keep to my own company. And as you can tell I’m pretty obsessed with splurging my thoughts out at my laptop. A life-saving distraction from this whole process and so much change…
I just want to say a massive thank you to every single person that has read any of my posts. This is my therapy. So if it’s of any entertainment/education/help to anyone else, it’s a bloody big bonus. Thank you.