Weetabix x 2.
White toast x2, butter.
Cheese and tomato roll (wholemeal), 5-bean salad, side salad.
Cherry full-fat yoghurt.
Braised sausages with onions, mashed potato, mashed carrot/swede.
Pineapple sponge and custard.
…& the usual PINT of semi-skimmed milk.
From shock/guilt/anger at myself to pleasured curiosity at the flick of a switch. (or a raisin) Anorexia shot itself in the foot… but for my own benefit. So for that, I thank it very much!
For today’s afternoon snack, other than ticking ‘crisps’ which is my safest option from the menu (the dietician has allowed me to stick with the same thing until I’ve gotten used to the increased meal-plan)… I zoned in on the ‘yoghurt raisins’… the unhealthy of my brain-cells thinking “oooooh” “healthy option?” “Lower calories?”, “We’ve struck gold here – I might be able to give you a bit of peace if you eat those…”
I know this is my Eating Disorder steering my ferry of thoughts on the choppy foodie waters. It’s ears (forbid it ever actually WAS a real creature…) pricked up at the opportunity for a potentially ‘safer’ option. After all, we ARE having to eat all the rest of this ‘indulgent’ amount of food all day, right? Yes, the usual boring train of thought. It might be day 65 of my admission, but that train won’t be giving up just yet. It’s all going to be down to how I RESPOND.
So I had envisaged a kind-looking pack of ‘Fruit Flakes’ which I used to have in my lunch box at school. A nice fit-for-kids snack. I hadn’t thought any different, and never had I really associated raisins with indulgence before, unless they’re chocolate-coated. (which are pretty tasty, let’s be honest…)
Handed my pack today, as I stopped mid-crochet… it felt like a bag of coins at the slots compared to the confetti-weight kind of packet I was expecting. (or my Eating Disorder was)… a purple, bulky bag in comparison. And to look at the contents… chunky white balls of ‘succulent raisins’ as described on the packet, rather than the twiddly little yoghurt-coated flakes I was expecting. (or had associated from the past…)
Tough luck. I shouldn’t have done it, but compulsion took over in a panic and I flipped over to the back to find the calories. To Anorexia’s shock, I felt like I’d just been caught in bed with someone better looking… the number was DOUBLE what we regarded as the ‘safest’ snack, my usual choice.
It was prodding and urging my brain cells to approach staff to worm my way into changing it last minute. But that would be colluding with my unhealthy brain cells. I think this worry was just emphasised by the fact that today, I had already had to swap my ‘hot’ pudding to the evening’s option due to the Unit kitchen being closed at lunch for a deep-clean. A lot of patients have also felt on edge about this change of routine at lunch-time. So it makes it easier for Anorexia to spot any other signs to feel guilty for.
I reminded myself what I was HERE for, especially after signing up for the ‘full recovery’ program yesterday but knowing I have to PROVE to the professionals I can do it… after the quickest milli-second talking-to I had ever given myself. And I felt some curiosity spark in ME, over what numbers I was getting over-shadowed with. Reminder: food is food, food is fuel and we’ve “gotta nourish to flourish!”… as I’d written on the communal board at half 4 this morning, due to not being able to sleep! Food is not numerically measured. Your body does not numerically recognise it once it is in your poor little stomach.
Plodded through, opened the bag… and yes there was more than the ‘diet’/’restrictive’ form of yoghurt raisins my Eating Disorder had associated the snack-name with. But this was why it felt wrong – as being in recovery actually means re-training your brain to recognise a SUBSTANTIAL, lasting, fulfilling portion size…
…to my surprise, after the first few bites of the sweet, sugary whirlwind that gave my taste-buds a shock as my unhealthy brain cells looked for evidence I should feel ashamed deciding to commit to this mystery, deceitful fruit snack… I could tell looking on at myself, that I found the thick coating of yoghurt which reminded me of milky ‘white chocolate’ alongside the plump juicy raisins really enjoyable. Very tasty in fact…
Yes for Anorexia it was like expecting a money spider… but getting faced with a tarantula.
For me it was like expecting a safer snack to quieten the usual shower of shame… but getting faced with an EQUAL amount of shame (not more like I was convinced would happen…) but for BETTER taste benefits. Because let’s face it, Anorexia will never be happy. In recovery, it’s down to how I base MY happiness on IT’S satisfaction.
I’m glad I unexpectedly rode my bike into new fields. That’s the quite nice thing about life. Coming across little hidden gems…
The gem in my day yesterday was of course my first hour of FREEDOM and a venture to Asda/B&M. Like I spoke about in group this morning, it was so incredibly strange. But such a good strange. An overwhelming ‘strange’ though…
…even opening the door at the end of the ward corridor, being hit with a new smell, clambering down the stairs of 9-weeks-forbidden-territory… then what felt like rebelliously stepping the other side of the automatic doors at the hospital block’s reception. (this was a selfie moment for Instagram… not for vanity, but as a souvenir of my freedom! Ha…)
Not only was I feeling mentally a bit scatty now I was unleashed from the very routinely/structured safety of the Unit, but not being a Leeds local, I had to whip out my trusty ‘Google Maps’ to suss out my journey. ’14 minutes’ on foot flashed up, I was on my way, and in fact it probably took 10.
I was walking with a similar pace to what my heart was beating at, due to the adrenaline getting it’s gush on… not through an opportunity to ‘burn some calories’ as what was my superior motivation for walking 65 days ago… but through the transformation of mental and physical energy of this sudden shock of change/excitement.
I won’t bang on too much as I already have today, and went into the experience in quite some depth when sharing with the group this morning. We all have to bring a situation/event that we’ve experienced over the week and talk about the corresponding ‘thoughts/feelings/behaviours/physiological responses’…
I’m not going to lie – it was quite difficult being smacked in the face with a huge, over-loaded aisle of food straight away when stepping into B&M, and I almost didn’t quite know what to do with myself. Before, I would have stopped to gaze at the treats, the nutrition on the back of packets, or eyeing up what I know I can’t eat, or will be able to ‘one day’, or how much of that could I potentially allow myself as a ‘treat’ one week soon… there was almost an element of trust from my Eating Disorder to be able to look, browse at food. Because it knew ‘we’ were in ‘control’.
Now that I wasn’t purposely going in with any ‘food/calorie list’ in mind, and now that I was in this in-motion recovery place myself, all this free space in my head, I almost felt robbed of my right to even make eye-contact with the food.
Like keeping my head down whilst walking through a dark alley of intimidating teenagers, I powered to the back of the shop. Then I questioned what the hell was going through my head… this shame I am being controlled to feel. Just because it reminds me I’m no longer in ‘control’ (ironically, being in recovery and on weight restoration treatment program I am actually GAINING control)… then I don’t deserve to look at food. Especially when I’m not due to eat it.
This was a similar feeling in Asda too… I felt awkward seeing crisps, bread, yoghurts and everything else pop up, quite overwhelmingly when I’ve not stepped into a supermarket for over 9 weeks. Part of me felt scared. And guilty. Guilty and pathetic for seeing ‘ordinary’ people who have their lives in tact popping their weekly food into trolleys, care-free, buying it with money they’ve EARNT… with a JOB they work hard in… back to HOMES they invest in… and probably a family they have raised, a partner they love and loves them, or friends they’re connected with.
If I let myself over-think it all becomes horrible. I could let it guzzle me up. Makes me feel like I’ve got my life to built from scratch. But we have to remember there is no black-or-white end result of anything… everything is in motion and on it’s own journey… I know these strangers have far from a ‘perfect’ life but I guess it’s just a harsh, stabbing reminder of the child I feel inside. The independence this Eating Disorder (and I have to take responsibility and say my OWN decisions) have taken away from me. It makes me question – am I even capable of ‘getting my life together’?
I KNOW that I am, but I haven’t given myself enough of a chance to prove it yet. What’s the point in dwelling on the shit that may have plopped up? Anything from yesterday and beyond. It doesn’t exist any more. Only invisibly in the person that feels suffering. All we have is NOW, and we can do something little every single day to get us to where we’d like and deserve to be.
THAT’S the logical answer to hope. Not re-playing the same dampening, bleak thought record of what-already-has-been or what-should-be.
My HAPPY feelings however, I felt surface in my cheeks when I approached the ‘tea and coffee’ aisle. Of course. I’d found my home, my sanctuary… ! I also had a quick ponder around the clothes aisle… feeling quite confused… I had craved buying a new item of clothing as a little ‘reward’/to cheer myself up but realised this alien air that my body is currently floating in. I could risk buying a couple of bits and experience not fitting in them a few weeks down the line, or wait to treat my new healthy body when I’ve gained the weight I’m aiming to eventually maintain. I’ve fed my wardrobe with enough clothes of various sizes that have gone through fleeting phases. Perhaps it was time to invest in my body like a ‘permanent tattoo’, when I’ve got there… rather than reassuring my underweight figure. I feel like buying it new clothes would be reassuring it is okay. Although as my body expands and grows, I’m likely to have to buy some mid-way bits and pieces in the process of getting my body from this point to that ideal point.
I did end up carrying a pair of slippers round the store with me, debating with myself for ages about whether to buy them. I kept replaying the thoughts of undeserving shame and guilt, due to being around people who were working to EARN their money and were making lives for themselves. It felt wrong, so I put the slippers back. But I justified buying a couple of books which I knew would be a productive use of my time/distraction on the unit, as well as some flavoured teas of course… and some other essentials.
When arriving back at the unit, I actually felt very grateful and lucky to be in this position. After feeling pretty out of my depth outside, and being hit with the reality that I am far from ready to deal with such a free/unstructured lifestyle, I felt comforted by coming back to structure. Safety. The thoughts around food and that element of control is taken away by the staff and this whole process. Which at this stage feels a big relief. I also felt a bit scared of the prospect of when eventually I will have to ‘self-cater’ which means we have to prefer two hot and two cold meals for ourselves each week – but you still get to sit with the dining room with everyone else. And you do of course carrying out an assessment with the support of the Occupational Therapist.
But even still the idea of having some control back over food feels quite unsettling because at the moment I’m so used to not having to think about it, so not having to battle decisions/fears/judgment around what I’m deciding to put on my plate. Or to cook. I’d like to think when I do get to that stage, I will start exploring what the REAL part of me would like to taste again. And not stick to safe, rigid, bland foods that may tick all the boxes, but scrimp on flavour for the sake of mental ‘safety’.
Coming back to the unit after that Asda trip, also made me feel very proud of the other patients who are further along… because now I can relate to how underestimated the challenge of starting to go out in the ‘real world’ is. Trying to re-learn everything, the motivation behind every of those things too, whilst unsticking the Eating Disordered thoughts.
It’s a whole new way of seeing the world…
…I’m hoping this is FINALLY my time.
It makes me excited but pressured (in a good way) that I’m now officially signed on to the ‘full recovery’ program. All aboard. And due to making that treatment choice, there is literally no turning back. You’re not ALLOWED to change your mind. And I love that idea… so time to prove the professionals wrong.