You know when you’ve accomplished something you were desperate to, and then it feels like a whisp of the positive emotions you had hoped for? Like you’re so busy to really feel it’s gush, but there’s still a bigger plumped up cushion of peace in your head for having done it? Or maybe it’s because I’m not quite sure how to react to it, and not to celebrate too much in case it sabotages the bit of momentum I’ve got going on. Or maybe it’s because, although I acknowledge what a positive this is for me, I’m trying to value ‘life’ bits and pieces, and happiness in relation to things away from food, over where my Eating Disorder stands. To take the spotlight away from what has defined me for so long – either being in recovery, or in the depths of my illness. I want to look back and not have memories overshadowed by food and how I feel about my body. All that kind of terrifies me.
But ‘ey up, I suppose I should still say it out loud what a big deal this is in my world…
…so as of Sunday, I went (I’m saying this whilst feeling quite numb to the good stuff this oozes) THREE NIGHTS with no binging and purging to be seen!! So since October when I got transferred from Leeds Eating Disorder Unit, and I was so devastated and lost, having to deal with this new body without having finished my recovery programme there, the Bulimia side of things snuck in like it was flippin’ some God of Ancient Greece. (oh, please no… you don’t deserve a place as a character in hell, let alone up there with Zeus and what have you…) And that was something I DREADED returning whilst I was in recovery from my haunting friend, Anorexia.
But it’s happened. It’s done it’s bit. And there have been times since then, where my days have consisted of fearing that happened, then it actually happening, and then the cleaning up of it all happening, then feeling suicidal and all that malarkey. It’s consumed so much of me and my existence. Just a few days ago, I felt disheartened about the future – I don’t have enough ‘evidence’/life experience of being able to be a person without Bulimia or Anorexia taking the driver seat. I guess the main thing to keep pushing me through, was the hope in that I can be in control of GIVING myself that evidence, to work at it, so that the more I do it, I will understand that emotionally I survived, in the hope that this will get easier without it seeming like an endless battle with a Rubix cude.
There was no light-bulb moment, no special day to start getting ‘clean’, (yes, the binging and purging feels like being on cocaine – I can only liken my symptoms to coming off it, whilst comparing to a drug addict going cold turkey) I’d tried too many times at finding the ‘right’ day to start afresh, to keep putting off the feelings I thought would swallow me up and spit me out, that I wasn’t strong enough to deal with or put up with myself. There was my moving into my own flat day (-nope, didn’t work), working towards a gig (-nope that didn’t work, cancelled it), my ‘New Year’s resolution’… (-eugh, nope), then the start of each month.
Mental illness doesn’t work that way, by giving it a special day I’ve found that you put far too much pressure on yourself. Every single day, is just as good as any. Every day offers a new opportunity to try something different to meet your goal. And I’ve been trying and trying and trying, whilst still making my Anorexia shut the f*ck up – by committing to three snacks and three meals a day. THAT BIT has amazingly, looking back, become so natural. After a bad night, I’ve always found myself holding onto that – for one, it helps to keep structure in your day. Even just putting together a meal can make you feel capable, when you feel so helpless and crap. Keeping them colourful has been the answer to holding on to food as my friend, whilst my Bulimic behaviours were poisoning it big time as the enemy.
I wonder if keeping up the basics of self-care has made a difference, too. I got to the point a couple of weeks ago, where I was too terrified to have a shower, the fear of standing there, everything hanging loose, feeling the weight of myself. I’d stopped my light exercising because I just feared how ballooned and weighted I would feel doing it. So I just got into this really sh*tty spiral, of feeling crap, but anything positive that I could do as a bare necessity, felt too painful.
Writing down the negatives of binging and purging, in bold, and the positives of giving it up, also has helped me consciously bring to the forefront of my mind, what the consequences are. Financially, confidence-wise, letting people down and cancelling gigs, the shame of going into shops at stupid hours wearing my pyjamas under my coat, etc. etc., the list goes on. I then stuck this list of points on the most visible wall, over my sink in the kitchen.
You HAVE to keep getting up and trying again. No matter how many times you’ve tried, never lose the belief in yourself. It’s exhausting, but once you get that bit of momentum going and proving to yourself that you’re worth it by taking care of your basic needs, things will slowly trickle into place. That’s how it feels for me at the moment, anyway.
On that first night ‘clean’, I remember having a little read in bed – the first time I’ve tried this, because I wouldn’t make it to bedtime without the urge coming over my head like a tidal wave. I used to think the act of reading, staying still and being with your thoughts, would feel too painful and only exaggerate the negative thoughts that I couldn’t shake off. But once I was doing it, I began to feel engrossed in the story, before my arms propping me up were getting tired, and I closed my eyes in hope that my efforts took me one step closer to falling asleep without the urges taking me hostage. And voila! Waking up the morning after, was so bizarre. Strange… airy… but once I was up, realising there was nothing to clean up – invigorated.
This confidence I took with me through the next night and the next.
And then I had a ‘blip’. But being able to say I had a blip, and not being in a relapse, which I thought was going to be the summary of my existence, is quite bloody fantastic. The most I’ve gone is 1 night on my own since October, and to have three in a row gave me more hope than I thought possible.
But yeah, Wednesday night went a bit sloppy. I gave in to that annoying, brain-tapping urge… once I felt it coming, I accepted it. If I was to just think I could stop it, like that, when I felt like it, I would have probably been cured ages ago. So this was bound to happen – I pushed my comfort zone, and it pushed back. I had already subconsciously planned writing off the next day because of the hatred I would feel towards myself for ‘ruining’ things and the hope I had built up.
BUT, after ten minutes or so stewing over the night before, I reminded myself I could either give in and self-sabotage, or I could get up, slip on the boxing gloves and fight again. This lack of evidence I had for being able to neither restrict or binge and purge, was beginning to fill a little. I had that three-day run to remind myself that I could do it.
And yesterday, I clawed things back! Four nights in total this week! What on earth??? 4-1 to my Eating Disorder.
I think it’s been so vital immersing myself into things that mean something more to be than my Eating Disorder. To take out my energy, be that negative or positive, even after a ‘bad’ night and a overwhelming loss of hope, onto things that I’m passionate about. For me – art, reading, singing and playing my guitar.
Find the things that make you feel most alive, and let them be there for you through the hard times and the better times!