White toast x 2, butter.
Morning snack (SELF-CATERED)
Baked beans, jacket potato, side salad.
Cherry full-fat yoghurt.
(I’ll tell you next time!)
…& the usual PINT of semi-skimmed milk.
Typing this with weight-restoring ‘sausage fingers’ (a specific negative attribute about my body image, that has stuck with me like the middle of a Jaffa Cake on a classroom ceiling)… yes this IS an actual thing, apparently. It happened once during one of my classes at secondary school.
A boy in my year 8 Business Studies skilfully nibbled the chocolate and cake away (the beauty of classes in which you could hide behind the computer screens) before flicking the circle of orange goo upwards at boyish teenage super-speed… the best bit ‘n all. What a waste.
But it turned out, actually, not to be a waste – instead, it provided entertainment for us kids for weeks on end! One thing we’d look forward to about that class was placing bets as to whether the flying saucer of goo would still be there – which it often was, petrified like a prawn, stuck to the same spot. The spiciest bit of the fun laid in the fact that the teacher was completely oblivious to all of this…
OR the party-poopin’ option… had it dared lose it’s stick, dropped to earth and been swept up by the cleaner???
SHOULD the goo (we prayed) still be present by the next class… there was even more excitement on the cards: watching the teacher enter it’s firing line, as he paced up and down, reading his ‘Powerpoint’ presentation. Oooooooh g*d, the suspense. Cringing behind blazer-covered arms, we’d hope for the little orange jaffa to keep up it’s stick, whilst also secretly cheering it on with our eyes to see it take a cheeky fall.
Have you ever heard of so much adrenaline surrounding a ‘Jaffa Cake’… ?
Well it stuck and it stuck for ages. I’m not actually sure when it took an invisible abseil back down to earth… sorry for the anti-climax, but wherever it may be, I wish it the very best. And for the teacher – may you not be the object of entertainment alongside sticky orange things any longer.
I’d planned to start this post here (until I got off on a tangy tangent): I feel like I need a bit of a comedy in my life. A bit of Peter Kay’s face to giggle away this deep can of worms this recovery-job seems to be demanding just recently!
Everything feels so intense and heavy – because I know I’m putting the work in with my recovery – physically and mentally, but also, as I’ve said before my other anxieties and insecurities feel so heightened; I feel like my self-esteem is as fragile as a china teacup, as I still really struggle picking up on signs that people don’t like me, and as much as I tell myself maybe it IS irrational, I can’t help but hold onto the fact it still feels true. I feel as though I carry a fuzz of negativity around with me and the frustration that I’ll never feel as good, as confident or as powerful as others when I’m in group situations. This all makes me feel powerless and now I’ve chosen not to turn to Eating Disorder behaviours, it’s difficult to sit with. But I’m trying to be as patient with myself as I possibly can.
No turning to impulsive behaviours this time. I’ll get no answers through my body or shining my brain-torch on calories any longer. I refuse to let it ever be a distraction from facing my REAL issues again…
But yeah. It’s been a group-heavy couple of days… ‘Thoughts and Feelings’ where I spoke about the discomfort of my body image at the moment as it wriggles through this weight restoration process – and feeling angry with my boobs just lately, wanting to punch them away out of my face; feeling like they’re wrong, extra baggage, telling me I need to have my life together to deserve to be a woman, which I very much haven’t yet. Don’t get me wrong, I’d LIKE to like them, I’d LIKE to like my growing EVERYTHING. I’d LIKE to like the girl in the mirror that still feels lost and unsafe in this world. The girl who always feels as though she could be doing better…
I’m trying. I’m trying to being patient.
And ‘Inpatient Group’ – where for once, I thought I’d test using my voice and making myself vulnerable, by putting a slip in the ‘suggestions box’ saying “How appropriate/helpful is it to talk about previous inpatient admissions/hospital experiences in communal areas?” When I’ve often thought of something to bring up to talk about in the group since I’ve been at this Unit, I’ve always worried about having to ‘own’ the topic when it got discussed. That I’d actually HAVE to speak. So I’d rather not. That, even though I wanted to use my voice, and the million times I’ve felt something sitting at my throat waiting to fly into the world… I didn’t trust how it would sound, whether I’d make a fool of myself, whether my voice would even work at all, and whether others would think I was a bad person for anything I might say…
After having a psychology session today too, I think I can acknowledge some of my core beliefs surround things like “I was not born to be confident”, “My voice isn’t as important as others”, so subconsciously, these drive my behaviours… usually to avoid. Which reinforces these beliefs.
So I just haven’t bothered putting my voice forward, because my brain tells me subconsciously that I don’t have a choice – the threat is too big if I dare try and make myself heard, like I actually think I’m important and have something valid to say. But that’s why, I love my writing. My sixth toe.
Popping that suggestion slip in the box for the group, I knew would mean bringing on a challenge situation for myself when it got read out by staff… and I’d have to take ownership, and the lead of the discussion. Gulp. I knew I’d feel terrified, so therefore I knew I’d be doing something to help me move forward, and to try and prove my negative beliefs wrong. That’s the only way I can change anything and to smash through this mental brick wall of anxiety.
The topic was something that sprung to mind this week, when I realised that hearing negative talk about past hospital experiences being spoke about in communal areas was affecting me, making me feel triggered when so far this Unit has embraced a very positive, hopeful, forward-focused atmosphere… but I’d written if off the moment I’d thought it could be an opportunity to actually speak and raise my thoughts. It meant I’d have to speak and “I have no right”. I also obviously knew it would be a topic opening up opinions and a mixed bag of thoughts, that I’d have to face opposing views and tell myself this was okay. It wouldn’t mean that what I had to say was stupid, just because there were other ways of looking at a situation…
…but I came away really glad that I’d spoken and contributed something. Yes, I doubted saying something at ALL. Doubting that my thoughts and my voice are worth something… I still could hear thoughts making me feel pathetic and embarrassed. But I decided to own it; I felt like I had my say and it didn’t feel as bad as my head worked it up to be. It was lovely, too, to hear the reassurance of others that had felt similar to how I did – and it opened up an interesting conversation. I was scared of feeling selfish for speaking at all, but it felt nice – we all have thoughts, feelings and opinions for a reason – we didn’t choose to have them. These are things that come with the package of being born into this world with a body and a brain. Our thoughts, feelings and opinions aren’t ‘bad’ – just as there are no ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods, there is no black and white for how you feel. If you know you mean well with your intentions, and you know what you’re saying or doing is lead by something honest and gut-driven then it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.
That’s why self-assurance is key for a peaceful life. That bit I’m working on amongst many other things! But it’s made me realise that building my confidence, learning my voice is as valuable as other people’s, being able to be assertive without feeling selfish, recognising my own needs, making time for enjoyable activities just as much as I prioritise being ‘productive’… (okay, didn’t mean to mention THIS many things)… will ALL help to minimise the triggers for me falling back towards my Eating Disorder in the future.
We also had ‘Recovery Group’ (a smaller group of 4 for those who have chosen the ‘Foundations to Recovery’ treatment program) which feels intense for all the right purposes. Down to the nitty-gritty, helping to dig out the weeds of the Eating Disorder. This week we practised problem-solving skills, which in the long-run helps you be able to juggle life and perhaps puts us less at risk of again, falling for the Eating Disorder. I shared my example (of which I’d only just done my homework that morning – it came relevant to something I had to problem-solve that day anyway!) of arranging when I would be able to self-cater a ‘challenging’ meal with my dietician before she leaves next week. The result being: eating pizza with her on Monday! (more on this in a later post…)
So ALSO we’ve had ‘Aims and Objectives’, in which I’d set two aims:
- Start to experiment with hobbies/interests that aren’t ‘achievement’-focused, and are not related to my Eating Disorder… one idea being playing my guitar. So the first smaller goal to me achieving this is: to ask my Dad to fetch my guitar from home when he picks me up tomorrow to go on weekend leave.
It may sound daft… but as I’m finding at the moment, the hardest thing about sticking recovery out when you’re feeling disorientated and lost in your changing body/mind, is rebuilding your indentity. I’m scared of playing the guitar again, as much as I love it, because I’m scared of it triggering off unpleasant thoughts. And if it then becomes a chore and an ‘expectation’ because I get carried away with having to do better and better… that it all starts to feel out of control and I can acknowledge, then, has an impact on my mental health. And that’s when this feeling is likely to trickle into my relationship with food. And THAT’S where I get scared that doing something I know I have a love/hate relationship with will make me lose control of food.
I went through a patch, a couple of years back, still within outpatient support for my Eating Disorder, after one day-patient admission, but before either of my inpatient admissions… I’d discovered my passion for playing the guitar again, something I had the privilege of given lessons for as a child… in a way I started to find my voice through that. It was one of those things, that when I was doing it, I felt ‘right’. I felt like I belonged somewhere, I felt at peace and for once, time didn’t matter because I was in my own place. I knew I enjoyed it, so I attempted sharing it with others – I braved an Open Mic night once, to prove to myself I could practice confidence doing something I loved. And from then on, I discovered more Open Mic nights, was invited to perform gigs, wrote and sang a couple of my own songs, met some like-minded people… and then, somewhere things got lost. It was becoming a hairy monster following me around telling me I needed to be better, that there would never be enough time to practice until I was good enough. The fear of making a fool of myself, and feeling like a fraud – that everyone would discover what a rubbish, weak person I was if I didn’t keep trying harder.
And that’s where the rigidity towards what was my passion chipped it’s way in again, and then back into my relationship with food.
So yeah, that’s why I’m scared. But I’m excited too… I know I just need to work on a kinder relationship with what I enjoy(ed). And not expect too much of myself – something that seems to be my norm.
Anyway, enough of that… (my next aim for the week was)
- Review my behaviours/rules around how I eat certain foods, starting with toast.
Up until a couple of months ago, I’d put a hell of a lot of work into normalising my eating behaviours. You may have read many blog-posts ago. And it worked brilliantly, being able to set small goals and monitor on a ‘thought record’ every day. And then things got to a point where I started prioritising other things because I thought things were going great, and progress kind of stuck. There’s been a couple of things around how I eat certain things that have popped to mind over the past few weeks that I realise are still a ‘rule’ that make me feel compelled. And I feel annoyed at myself for not being able to change it on the spot, so therefore I know it’s something that’s still holding power over me.
One of those things is how I eat toast – don’t get me wrong, I’ve come on miles in general with my Eating Disorder behaviours. From the outside, this wouldn’t even seem like a big thing, and it doesn’t in the bigger perspective, but I know that if I latch on to these tiny little rules, it’s still leaving a gap for my Eating Disorder to worm it’s way in.
For the record, rationally I know my fingers aren’t ‘sausage-like’, and I apologise to my body for speaking about it this way! But as it’s something I used to use all the time as an insecure teenager towards my fingers, it’s one of those automatic kind of thoughts that pops back up – even if in my recovery-focused mind I feel past that now.
Aaaaagh, so much more I want to say but time’s a-ticking! We also had a VERY helpful, VERY recovery-positive group this evening… my first of the groups where we cook and eat something that is ‘challenging’ and will help us outside in the ‘real’ world.
Hard. Difficult. But brilliant…
…I’m so proud of all the other patients that did it too. Incredibly, actually.
More on this next time!