White toast x 2, butter.
Bacon chop, mini hash browns, vegetable medley.
Ice-cream (2 scoops).
Egg mayo sandwich (wholemeal), 5-bean salad, side salad.
Pineapple sponge and custard.
…& the usual PINT of semi-skimmed milk.
Does anyone have sixteen birthday candles handy, to stick on tonight’s pineapple sponge? (preferably pink and white stripy if poss… or ‘Toy Story’ themed – not too fussy)
No I haven’t turned sixteen (that was a decade ago now, WHAT?!) …which is hard to believe, as I feel my mental-age dragging on the back of an ‘ASDA’ lorry, somewhere down the M1. Although it’s not all to blame, as I’ve been on the Eating Disorder yo-yo for eight years now, my maturity (practically/relationship-wise/socially/emotionally) all feels a bit stumped. A tree stump a pigeon has very likely pooed on. A few times.
It’s left a desperate child still running round inside of me, up and down the aisles in a supermarket, lost, trying to find it’s mum…
If I let myself wallow right now, it would be so easy for me to compare myself to my friends’ lives… and those who I see pop up on Facebook and Instagram, from school. They have children, mortgages, full-time careers, long-term relationships or all of the above.
Thinking about how my mum gave birth to me at the age I am now, when I’m currently sat in an Eating Disorder Unit, no idea about the future apart from I am COMMITTED to this recovery… makes me feel like I’ve failed at life… but I know I haven’t, as I’m doing everything I can to succeed at being my ‘genuine’ self, building the skills for my emotional toolbox that will equip me for a happier future, taking my own journey which is just as valuable as everyone else’s… at my own pace.
Apart from the few months I spent in Norwich at University when I started my Nursing (but had to come back home because of a relapse – I ended up binging and purging most days in my room, smothered with an addiction, but filled with constant fear of the sight of my body)… I’ve never yet lived independently. I’ve never had a ‘set’ career path or held down a job long enough due to repetitive tug-of-war between Anorexia, Bulimia and recovery attempts, or been bothered (my hormone bucket have been empty thanks to Anorexia) about a relationship. I was too romantically connected to the safety and numbing of my Eating Disorder.
(ooooh the excitement of starting to ‘fancy’ men again (crikey, it’s been that long I almost said ‘boys’)… instead of planning what time I’m going to microwave my bag of chopped swede to snack on for supper. Really selling myself to the lads.
I can be thankful though, for the degree in Performance I achieved when I first started accessing Eating Disorder services during my final year. Even though it wasn’t in a subject I was serious about pursuing. As many teenagers, I was a lost puppy feeling like I should be ‘decisive’ about what degree to pick, so settled with a course that was most easily under my nose after studying the subject for A-level. BUT there were parts of it I can take… the writing, the creating, the confidence-building skills… and the best bit was, I got to experience a WHOLE extra three years with my best friend. I have some incredible memories we will forever be able to laugh and refer back to.
No experience is wasted.
I just know that I love creating. I love sharing new ideas, capturing small details, I love helping people in new ways. Where to go with this, I don’t yet know… but this blog is helping me to maintain doing something along those lines, whilst working on my own therapy. And if you’re reading this, then that is a huge bloody bonus, so thank you! It’s obviously killing a few birds with one stone. (as they say)
Back to the candles… sorry, drifted… looking at the number under my bare feet this morning, felt a bit like turning up to a surprise birthday party I wasn’t prepared for. In ripped trackies and a ‘Spice Girls’ vest-top. Everyone else dressed in snazzy bodycon dresses, or expertly-ironed shirts.
It’s such a weird feeling… my weight now tipping into the ‘40’s’ of the kilogram world… instead of the ‘30’s it’s been tinkering with, safely for now such a long time. It does, in an over-amplified, over-thinking kind of way (to Anorexia) feel like I’ve entered another stage of my life in the space of a few seconds. All because of a 1kg weight-gain difference over the week. How does forty-point-something look in such a different league from thirty-nine-point-something… that’s why Eating Disorders just do not make sense… they focus on the numbers, for reassurance, which has no logic. Emotions become channeled into that couple of flashing digits on the scales.
Don’t get me wrong – I actually ended up coming away from that clinic room at 6.30AM this morning CHUFFED more than anything, by the fact it meant I had my second golden pass in a row for weekend leave. (hitting the 0.8-1.5kg target to be granted this free time) And while curiously working out my re-shaped body in the mirror – the softer, wider bits on my arms, the dissolving bones at the top of my chest… surprisingly accepting of my changing body. For the first time in ‘recovery’. I feel like I’m getting to know a new friend (as cheesy as it sounds). Like showing the new girl round school, but instead I’m showing my new BODY round my old brain.
That shift in weight meant, the support worker declared, my BMI was now sixteen-point-something instead of fifteen-point-something. (bring on the birthday candles) For some reason, my Eating Disorder has always been ‘threatened’ by the sixteens… but then it’s threatened by anything much more than minimal. Nothing’s ever ‘enough’. Which is why working on self-acceptance is key… weight is not the answer and choosing to change your diet to alter your emotions, or ‘punish’ yourself only in the long-run digs you deeper into a hole of fear, regret, misery and guilt. All things you DON’T see the ‘Special K’ lady advertising with her angelic lips around a cereal bar.
Even though this is still in the ‘Anorexic’ range, to me, for quite a while now, this is the point at which my brain has programmed to see as it’s new ‘normal’, healthy shape. So there is the huge anxiety/threat now, of how my head will take the next chapter of pages… as I continue to progress towards BMI 20+ (set-point weight).
At my last hospital admission, I reached this sixteen-point-something and then was allowed to be discharged – I was adamant I had reached my limit and couldn’t take it any further. That I saw myself as probably living with Anorexia in a malnourished body for the rest of my life. I wasn’t in a ‘ready’ state of mind for a full recovery. But, legally, as I was put onto a ‘Community Treatment Order’ (like being ‘sectioned’ but in the community instead of hospital) it was written that if I slipped below a BMI 16, I had to be re-called back to restore the weight I’d lost. (this happened)
I’d set myself up for a ‘revolving door’ situation.
As Anorexia LOVES numbers, you can probably see how this affected my rigid mind-set. Anything above ‘16’ now felt like my version of ‘overweight’… I’d re-adjusted to the way I saw myself, and manipulated myself into thinking this was my new ‘healthy’. When really, it wasn’t. I was still classed as ‘Anorexic’ according to the BMI chart.
And now I’ve reached this stage it’s very mixed feelings about blowing out those candles. I’m partly celebrating, proud of myself for getting this far and enjoying the smell of the birthday cake (the new opportunities up-and-coming) But equally, my Eating Disorder is now shaking in it’s boots. The weeks from now on are definitely going to be a brand new test for me… as I put on the weight, I may as well be shovelling cream cakes one-after-one in front of it’s face while holding a gun at it’s head. And because that victim once felt like my emotional/safe superhero, part of me feels a sense of loss and grief. And panic about how to cope.
All I can do is keep trusting the unknown and treating each BMI increase as a new milestone. And of course, more birthday candles to blow out.
(only pink and white stripy/’Toy Story’ ones though, remember!)