Weetabix x 2.
White toast x2, butter.
Breaded fish fillet, chipped potatoes, mushy peas.
Ice-cream (2 scoops).
Cheese and pickle sandwich (white), 5-bean salad, side salad.
Bread and butter pudding, custard.
…& the usual PINT of semi-skimmed milk.
Up until Tuesday, I’ve been carrying a plastic red bucket. A bucket of sand – sand being my OWN hope and trust that this ‘full recovery’ treatment program is right for me… the sand was delicate, easily blown, easily lost. But always carrying my red bucket with me, whatever people said. However much wind was in the air…
Since professionals had expressed their uncertainties about my decision, that I should opt for a ‘shorter’ program, therefore not ‘recovering’ for my life but instead stabilising my health and continuing to live with a life controlled by my Eating Disorder… I felt and saw those cloudy whisps of sand blow away. Maybe the hope was daft. My decisions over-ambitious. That I didn’t deserve to recover. That I wasn’t capable of meeting their expectations.
I felt sand-grains in my eye when my consultant first crushed my hopes of feeling this WAS the right time for me… that I could not possibly live with the torture of clinging on to Anorexia’s compromising life any longer. There have been times since then when I felt like abandoning my little red bucket altogether. Dropping it on the sand. Giving it away to some kid on the beach. But it’s been by my side this whole time, however much people have or haven’t believed in me.
Today, I was amazed to start feeling my bucket get heavier. After having a very productive/supportive session with one of the staff on my team, and also the dietician… I feel that sand has quietly change into cement. No longer delicate, whispy stuff… but bold and definite. Not only is my own hope and trust in my decision stronger, but I now feel like people are starting to believe in me. And most importantly, that I’m proving it to myself.
“I heard you’ve enrolled/have been approved onto the full-recovery program” …”Well done”, “Congratulations”… they’ve been the magic words to transform the contents of my little red bucket this morning from a few staff members. “You’re doing the right things” with behaviour and food challenges; to hear this from my dietician is such a comfort blanket. Hearing that people struggle with certain challenges/behaviours but choose not to do anything about it, but that I’m deciding to crack on feels positive for a change. Before, I would have seen that as a negative, the fact that I’m choosing to ‘rebel’ against Anorexia, feeling like others must be doing something ‘right’ that I’m not – and that I’m kidding myself for feeling like I ‘deserve’ to recover and decide to do things differently…
As well as my bucket of cement, I got a soft, colourful, cuddly blanket thrown my way… In the session with the dietician, we spoke about the ‘set-point’ weight theory. And although I know it (but it’s easy to be brainwashed out of it in today’s world) we are ‘born’ with a unique, genetic ‘weight’ that our bodies are most settled, just as we are born with a set height.
Yes we can manipulate the scales to high heavens – successfully or not, in fluctuations, on the yellow yo-yo of diet terror through our lives… but your body STILL knows where it is happiest. That much, we can’t manipulate. Dieting creates a constantly losing battle between brain and body. A ‘set-point’ is a weight at which your brain and body aren’t constantly fighting to be at peace… scientifically proven to be between a BMI of 20-25… a weight at which if you learn to judge and work with your own hunger, you can eat anything in moderation. Life can become about freedom of choice rather than a prison of numbers. Whilst STILL being in control – ultimately, you are this way MORE in control of you than any diet could elude you to be.
Putting your body at it’s ‘set point’ weight brings peace. The fact there is an actual theory behind it, is such a comfort blanket. It’s a reminder for when those ‘thoughts’ of guilt overrule, through the weight-gain process, or eating certain enjoyable foods that I feel I don’t deserve. It almost scribbles over in a black sharpie Anorexia’s rule of ‘the lower weight we are and the more in control of food we are, the more peaceful your head will be’… and replaces it with ‘a BMI of 20-25 puts your brain and body in the happiest place. You will experience less long-term torture, physically and mentally… you are giving yourself the best chance at LIFE.’
If I struggle with emotions, I can trust that although things will inevitably feel sh*t in life at times, my brain is going to be at a MUCH better advantage of dealing with that emotion and pushing through… if the cells in my body have the colour and umph they are craving, by that I mean nourishing my body physically to it’s ideal level. Not assigning my body to numbers and treating it like a maths test, until my true self is a silent flicker of ash under a rock…
When the dietician and I were having this discussion, it gave me something sturdy to work with. She expressed how/why it’s difficult working with and promoting the ‘symptom reduction’ program, whereby people choose to remain at a lower/compromised/Anorexic weight (this was me at my last inpatient admission – ADAMANT that I couldn’t possibly live Anorexia-free) and even in treatment it’s an ongoing battle of fighting with the person’s body, and their brain’s ‘natural’ desire to be at a certain weight. Where it would settle, and function at it’s best level.
I say it like it’s easy. It’s really not. I still fear waking up every day and noticing the little changes, the more flesh, the child-like body vanishing, body parts expanding. This is where I have to tear through my emotional connection with the visual way of which I look. Because they shouldn’t… it doesn’t make sense that emotions and visual appearance can be so intertwined. Why does being in control of my visual appearance make me feel mentally settled? There is no logical or practical explanation, apart from the false sense of confidence Anorexia fuels.
I hope that empowered feeling of being in control and therefore leading to ‘confidence’ which has seemed to numb my social anxiety and all the high expectations/perfectionism with myself, I hope I’m able to recreate that same mind-set and lift in a HEALTHY body. Without ‘needing’ my Eating Disorder. If it’s just a state of mind, then surely that’s possible? There’s a part of me that fears I’ll get to a healthy weight and feel so trapped like that weak schoolgirl. That I’ll have no confidence, and feel powerless, that the only direction seems to be to inflict that control back onto my body. For feeling that conflict and disgust at it. I’m scared of not being able to use my voice. But things CAN be different. I have to trust that I’m working hard and committing to change. That the little things we do every day add up to a big difference.
Whatever happens, I have my little red bucket.