Wholemeal toast x 2, butter. (…Marmite on one slice)
Chicken breast in a crusty honey and sunflower seed roll (buttered), BBQ sauce, coleslaw, side salad.
Salted caramel (‘Oykos’) yoghurt.
Savoury minced lamb, boiled potatoes, broccoli.
Chocolate sponge with chocolate sauce.
‘Triple Choc’ cookie.
…& the usual PINT of semi-skimmed milk.
Yay! I’ve now got my own little space in the fridge, and a shelf of my own in the therapy kitchen cupboard… this all feels surreal after living 98 days in a protected bubble, not having to give a flutter of a thought towards preparing my own food! Or having to use a kitchen!
I feel like today has been a bit of a ‘handshake’ with Asda.
If that trusty, green-twinkling supermarket (my usual go-to for value, and the biggest in my local area) had eyes in the walls… it would have seen me through all sorts of dramatic relationships with food. It could write a book. I’m sure I looked like some addicted girl with a fluctuating taste in boyfriends. (in the form of food)
From dawdling into Asda as a kid for the family-shop (arguing with my sisters over who gets to sit in the ‘ferrari-like’ seat at the front of the trolley, or asking to be pushed along whilst holding on to the front metal bars, feet off the ground, gliding down aisles)… before food fizzled from as important and natural as oxygen… to rules, numbers, fear and emotional chaos…
…to lonely (but fiercely independent) repetitive, anxious, fast trips, clutching my basket with cracked, bleeding knuckles (due to my dry, malnourished skin – Anorexic boyfriend) power-walking with bags the weight of bricks (due to my enormous melon fetish and general fruit/veg) to hurry home for the ‘specific’ time I’d planned to eat lunch. “…if I don’t, what if I lose control? The numbers won’t add up… and don’t forget – there’s all that weighing and calculating to do in the laboratory first.” (kitchen)
… to compulsive midnight trips – dashing there in desperation, pyjamas under my coat, feeling all my self-respect stripped away. (I became weak at the knees to Bulimia and I hated myself for it). These days in particular make me cry inside, remembering how desperate, lonely and angry I felt. How pathetic, greedy, ‘crazy’, confused… like sleep-walking but being so emotionally raw and aware of the ‘binge’ food and money spent I knew I was going to be throwing up in a few hours time… I’d really like to explain my past experiences with this in a bit more detail, but to be honest it feels too difficult trying to re-live it by typing it up…. it’s like more people ‘accept’ trying to understand Anorexia, because you can SEE it… but Bulimia is the more mentally abusive boyfriend we’re too ashamed to talk about. Yes, you can look ‘tip-top’ on the outside but still suffering JUST as much, if not MORE than how it might appear on the outside – that frail and bony appearance of someone with Anorexia.
Photographs of me over the past eight years are not reliable evidence for my suffering. The ones where you can see my bones are no more definite proof of what was going on in my head than the ones at which my weight appears ‘healthy’. I’d like to share the range of photos with you when I feel at a more comfortable place to do that, but I just wanted to give you a heads up, seeing as I was on the topic of Asda, which is a place I never knew could bring up so many weird foodie emotions!
So after having spent most of my time in Asda, by myself, controlled by either of the above explained abusive partners, (aka my Eating Disorders)… I found it both bloody strange but LIBERATING going there this morning with my Occupational Therapist.
It was my cold self-catering assessment today… which sounds all formal and driving-test-like, but it’s really just a casual go preparing a cold meal in the therapy kitchen and talking through your anxieties about it afterwards. My OT is absolutely lovely – I find it refreshing too that he’s a bloke, as until this inpatient admission, I’ve had little experience working with them when it comes to Eating Disorders. But he’s bloody brill, and I feel so lucky…
…so when we went shopping, I tried to use having someone there as an opportunity to talk through thoughts around my ‘decisions’ around choosing certain things… which brought to light that there are quite a LOT of factors that feed in to the difficulties of Eating Disorders. Originally, if I’d have talked myself out of speaking out loud about how I was actually feeling, I probably would have just plodded on, accepted the feedback he was giving me (almost people-pleasing) without actually pin-pointing what was going on.
I didn’t actually realise, until shopping WITH someone today, how much my brain must run on auto-pilot… and especially since the lunch I had planned with my OT last week was a ‘challenge’ in itself, I found my head trying to find ways to make the more ‘indulgent’ bits (which are actually not) – like coleslaw, the delicious crusty bread roll more justified and ‘feel better’ by picking other things… like when my gut instinct was to choose the salted caramel flavour yoghurts, as soon as my head realised there were no brown rolls which it had been so set on, I then doubted the flavour yoghurt – thinking maybe I should pick one of the more ‘fruity’ flavours which might help the meal overall to ‘appear’ more ‘right’. So I dashed to the aisle last minute on an instinct to change my mind, until my OT reassured me it was okay, and that this decision-changing would be ‘feeding’ in to my Eating Disorder.
It’s almost like algebra, trying to work out the equation, making the answers fit. Anorexia thrives off rules, and if there’s none there, it will try to create some…
…because in the past, I often approached food-shopping with salad and veg being the ‘priority’ part of the meal, it was weird to spend so little time down that particular aisle. I told my OT I had set in mind I’d need to be buying lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber etc. when he suggested buying a bag of pre-prepared mixed leaves to make life easier, as it would only be a side salad anyway. There was part of me that worried about this, as even when I do ‘challenge’ different foods/meals, I’ve always kind of clung-on to having a fairly big salad too, almost to ‘even’ that algebra sum out in my head – almost like eating more of that part, makes the rest of the meal feel more ‘justified’.
Even just by saying this out loud to my OT, was reassuring and he helped me come to a more ‘healthy’ decision. So I settled with just the bag of pre-prepared leaves. Makes life easier. (which Anorexia very much doesn’t like). But this is another thing… because the work of food-prep is already done, it kind of makes the meal feel more ‘undeserving’… whereas if I’d have had to chop the lettuce, some cucumber and tomatoes… I’d feel like I’d done my shift by putting in the effort to earn it. So THAT felt like an additional challenge, just to stick my hand in the bag and dump some leaves and shredded carrot onto my plate.
When at the self-checkout, and my OT was waiting further ahead, there was a niggling urge to run for a cheeky cucumber to satisfy that ‘urge’ to ‘justify’ the coleslaw and the more ‘indulgent’ (but only because I knew it was a flavour of choice I’d enjoy) crusty roll… mid-scan… for some reason the ‘fear’ of not having enough salad with those foods was bothering me… you’d think I’d be fine with having ‘less’, and in fact more at ease… but this is where it just doesn’t make sense!
Anyway, I behaved, because I recognise that would have been acting on a compulsion – and I can trust now that my compulsions are usually not based on ‘what’s best’ for my mental health. And I’m thankful to have been shopping with someone who made me feel so reassured and at ease. I’ve never known myself to chatter on so much about my thoughts (very therapeutic!), and kept apologising on the way home for if this seemed ‘selfish’, because it does feel very odd being the only one shopping, especially when it’s food… as this then likes to feed itself into the whole ‘guilt’ which is a huge barrier for the recovery-focused mind-set. But then of course, he reminded me that was the whole point of the trip… and that’s what he’s paid for… in the past I wouldn’t have spoken through anything, it would have been easier to bottle, whereas now it’s given me hope and confidence for moving forward…
I think it just felt bizarre, because food-shopping for me, has for such a long time been a personal and intimate experience. That now I felt quite exposed, I may as well have been shuffling around in nothing but a pair of giant granny pants.
I could go on and on, but to cut a long story short… it went well. My first meal prepared in 98 days. WITHOUT WEIGHING ANYTHING OR COUNTING CALORIES!!! (what took about 5 minutes, would have previously taken half an hour…) We sat in one of the small therapy lounges, and I was terrified of it feeling awkward, just the two of us munching away… but it went okay.
I’ve planned another self-catering for Thursday too… it scares me a bit… because I know how my head gets carried away with planning, to the point where it becomes draining, and then it becomes one big time-consuming negative cycle. Which doesn’t help my Eating-Disordered thoughts. So I’ve decided not to think about what I’m making yet, I’ll open that can of worms tomorrow. But annoyingly, I also know how EXCITING it is to be able to have more freedom with food AWAY from the same old 3-week-rotated hospital menu.
I’m testing shopping on my own next time… I’m scared by being bombarded with too many choices and then doubting what I’d already ‘planned’, but it will be a test.
On a side note – I do love a good seed in a crusty roll! Those sunflower chaps do add a much-needed umph to a sarnie. And for the record I have a lot of respect for white bread… but due to being given the ‘freedom’ of choice, I’m finding my head discovering new hurdles – now that I have more choice, I now feel a greater responsibility of guilt… and as my head was so ‘set’ on a brown crusty roll, and with there being none, this felt like a lack of control which then shone negativity onto the white ones. Even though I know how me and white bread have become decent pals lately??!
The crusty roll was delish by the way. I would deffo recommend!
I’ve also been bashing together a doodle on ‘bread’ (not actually drawing ONTO bread slices – I don’t think my felt-tips would appreciate that – but ABOUT it I should say…) which I had planned to post up today, but I think I’m going to save it for next time as it’s been SUCH a bloody busy Monday! (hence the rushed, babbly post tonight)
Anyway, all in all… a very productive and positive day!
If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you…