It’s as though I’m thinking, through my heart, about an ex-boyfriend. We had so many good, comforting times together. He’d make sure to keep me safe, he’d promise me that in his arms and with his kiss, we didn’t need anything else. Just us together, we could take on the world.
If I had a bad day, I knew where my security blanket was, that I could return to bed each night knowing everything would be okay because we had each other. I had someone looking out for me regardless of how the day went, and how the following were to be.
And then he started hitting me and it hurt, but then he hugged me so everything was okay again. I’d always keep giving him a second chance, even after the two-hundredth-and-seventy-fifth time, because all the love and protection he showed me in-between the punches and the kicks, made up for it. I’d never found that anywhere else, so I needed to hold on.
Luckily now, he is still an ex-boyfriend. But I’d never thought I’d see the day. I was lovesick, calorie counting, and it was that same gushing warmth you get when you’re with a partner, and you forget everything around you, because it all just feels so right.
It’s taken many near death experiences with Anorexia, but being a low weight hasn’t always seen me return to my ex-boyfriend. When I was further on with weight restoration, I was still adamant that even after I’ve become more physically healthy, I would still need the feel of it’s arms around me. Around heart and my brain…
… and this is why, even after stays at Eating Disorder Units I would always relapse. I remember a few weeks after being discharged and reaching my ‘compromised BMI’ that I was allowed to maintain, even though it was still in the ‘Anorexic’ range (I say this but at the time, as the illness does to you, I felt like a heffalump – now, looking back, it makes me realise how unwell my mind was. Because this isn’t the truth)… but basically I’d had a bit of a breakdown, I’d attended an appointment and I just burst into tears because I was terrified for the rest of the day. No-one had died, the rest of the world was turning absolutely fine, but my head became a torture chamber. Why? Calorie counting.
I was addicted, stuck – I was terrified of leaving my crush, but terrified of living without it. How else would that hole be filled? But if I was dreading returning home for the tip-tapping calculator in my mind to start doing overdrive, could calorie-counting really be that safe for me? Sometimes I knew that sense of protection was lies, but then I’d be craving it again.
A year and a bit since that particular time – although I’ve been up, down and round that relationship… I’m pleased to say that, since my first few weeks in Leeds, my last inpatient admission so we’re talkingJune/July time 2017… this relationship has become a hell of a lot more balanced. In fact, it doesn’t really exist any more.
I no longer weigh my lettuce, cucumber etc. and all the other burning details to a specific number, that calorie crush pushed me into. I feel like the handcuffs have been taken off – the most beautiful part of this is probably the cups of tea. Bbecause of ever putting in milk, there would be a huge red flag, and it would signal a need for over-working in the calorie office whenever I chose to take such a risk in my mind, that it was all so controlled.
Now, I drink both tea and coffee with milk, and am no longer tied to rules and limits in that respect. Am I going to transform into a Blue Whale, pregnant with quintuplets any time soon if I live this way? No. Anorexia is so, so terrified that it makes up lies to fill the gaps.
It’s literally liberating to be able to make my own cups of tea on MY say-so. And it’s a mighty-fine job, with this weather at the moment!
Now? My relationship with calorie-counting, generally, is non-existent. Because I know if I start, for example, giving myself certain numbers to aim for per meal, that my buckets of fear, guilt and doubt will be given a very good excuse to start overfilling and drowning me as a person, and all the things I’ve managed to slowly build up in my life again. Since I’ve looked at food as it is, I’m starting to trust myself more. When you are calorie-counting and weighing, it only strengthens the DIS-trust with yourself, and the more reliant you are the less you can truly be yourself.
Of course, now and again, I get that feeling of an ex-boyfriend-type-thing of taking a quick nosey on Facebook what he’s up to, or wondering maybe IF we tried again, things will be better different, but I no longer give energy to that calorie crush. I still measure certain things to help gage an actual portion… so for example, rice. If I’m just making it for me, or pasta… or if it’s one of those big yoghurt tubs.
And seeing as you can’t fully escape from the calorie information on the front of packaging, at times, in shops I still find myself compare and then never quite going for the higher of the options… but that tends to be in meals already prepared.
But generally, actually thinking about it now and typing it up, I’ve come on leaps and bounds. I think it might be easy, knowing my story surrounding Eating Disorders since I’ve 18, to worry I’ve not moved anywhere. But even with my struggles now with binging-and-purging at times, I never let my calorie crush become an option again. Up until this period of the behaviours I’m currently struggling with, I’d always be seduced back to calorie-counting, through this cycle, throwing myself in and giving it anything it wants of me. But days after a bad evening with behaviours, that option just does not roll into my mind, because I’ve gathered enough evidence to myself that it just does not work. It does not offer me the peace it ever promised. In fact, calorie counting created more chaos, than how it feels now, just to look at food, look at what I might fancy. I never thought I’d be able to say that.
So as it’s Eating Disorder Awareness Week, I thought it was worth saying that it’s important to acknowledge the things you have achieved through recovery, not just to highlight the struggles you’re dealing with right now.
For anyone that is stuck in calorie counting, or feels compelled in some way… I promise you, you can be free of that number-controlled lifestyle. It was my main struggle for years and years, because for so long I was convinced that it was helping me in some way. But really, it causes you to run so far away from yourself, it’s no wonder you start feeling lost. So, please, if this sounds like you, know that it can be better. You can be free and you CAN win some of your brain cells back!