(photo available at: https://roseelliottartworks.wordpress.com/2015/07/26/pick-n-mix-illustration/)
Confetti, colour and spontaneity; Mamma Mia 2 embodies everything Anorexia is scared of. And by ‘eckerz, did watching it feel good!
Lesson – feel all of the shapes in life, don’t just exist in it. Take risks. Make mistakes. Let your spirit be free. Watching the corker of a film this afternoon, it felt like putting a stamp on my divorce documents with my Eating Disorder. It was quite the statement for where I’m at in my recovery. Stamp; “fuck off, I will not any longer, allow calorie equations become the rule of my day”. Stamp; “you will never let my unique colours fade again.” Stamp; “this is the kind of life I want to feel through my hair, and not the mundane rigidity of that word beginning and ending with the letter ‘a’.” I officially am DONE with you Anorexia. I mean, I know I’ve said this before… but it’s often clawed it’s way back in tiny, tiny ways… the odd bit of calorie-counting here, the sudden urge to focus on just a bit of weight loss until I will allow myself to do this, that or the other (we know that never has an end point…) And I’ve always had doubts in my mind about how strong enough I was to leave Anorexia for good. But I’m realising, you’re not born strong – you practice it. You grow with it. You slowly become it.
I may still struggle with the compulsions of Bulimia from time-to-time, and too often I beat myself up about it. But every single day, I am making a flippin’ solid choice not to listen to Anorexia’s secret nudges. Yes, it has the suction of a hoover on my subconscious. There’s lots of “what if I just…”, “but go on you know you’ll feel safe and at peace if…”. Well, I’m done.
Now, I’m stumbling sometimes… but I’m finally exposing my flaws, yet also abilities to the world (and cringe at ever confessing I may actually be good at something – we all are), instead of hiding behind the black and white vertical bars of the ‘a’ word. Truth is, although Bulimia is mentally so chuffin’ sore, it’s debilitating much of the time, I also now recognise the good in it, if there ever could be such a thing. The progress of my mindset. It’s a sign that I’m really trying to live. I’m learning to trust myself – to flop at it that’s for sure, but also to learn. And trying to juggle more colours of life, often to me feels chaotic, overwhelming. Emotions and anxieties and insecurities – sometimes it’s really too much. But now I understand that my Bulimia is my brain’s version of a lamb learning to walk without it’s muscles fully formed. I’m still training my brain – it may have been almost ten years since my Eating Disorder first made an appearance, but hell, I’ve learnt so much and I continue to. Even on my worst days.
By choosing not to view Anorexia as the only way out of my Bulimia as I have done too many times in the past, I am becoming that learning little lamb. And I don’t think I’ve ever reached this stage.
I could name so many things from the film that are just a no-go with Anorexia. The sheer fact that the main character Donna doesn’t plan her future – she doesn’t know in which country she’s going to live, let alone what she’s going to have for lunch, and at what time she’s going to do what today. To Anorexia, all of this is absolute gobbledy-gook. But it made me realise how much more alive, allowing spontaneity to take you by the hand, this kind of approach can make you. Trusting yourself, to just go with the flow, to not have a plan takes some pure balls. But at the end of the day, we always find a way through – even the really difficult stuff. So maybe we all have it in us to do the unthinkable.
Watching Donna’s friend (played by the legendary Julie Walters) eat cake, multiple times to comfort her emotions, and confess that her soulmate must be ‘carbs’… this would have, in my Anorexic days, made me feel a little bit awkward, and I know I’d feel a deep sense of grief for the life I was missing out on. The whole film would trigger this sense of grief, of the life that I convinced myself I would never be capable of.
Do you know what I did? I can’t quite believe it, myself. Maybe it was Julie Walters’ spontaneous cake-eating, maybe it was the empowering tunes, the burst of colour, an excitement for life creeping it’s way through my body (and pushing the negative self-talk backstage)… but I went and bought a soddin’ pick ‘n’ mix!!! I have not bought myself one of these in a long time. The turning point wasn’t this in itself… but it was the fact I’d already had my ‘planned’ snack when the trailers were on. Perhaps in celebration of the film, and the way I was feeling… I just had the sweet craving. I wanted to fully involve myself with the positive vibes of the film… so I took a trek mid-film to the snack counter. In actual fact, I had intended to buy some ‘Sports Mixture’ – probably because I have had these a couple of times for snack before, so they therefore feel fairly ‘safe’ – especially if I was going to eat extra on top of my snack. Maybe it was the connection I had with them – I used to calorie count each one as I ate them.
Guttingly, there weren’t any. Most likely, it was the surge of Mamma Mia fans that have booked up the cinemas this weekend, along with it being the start of the summer hols, but never mind the ‘Sports Mixture’, there were no bags of sweets left but Werther’s Originals. And as much as I love a good butterscotch boiled sweet, it just wasn’t what I was fancying.
So I was going to cave in and turn around… when something that I was blind to, until I had to remind myself of the opportunities I wasn’t letting myself see – to my left, a plethora of plastic boxes containing all sorts of colours and shapes of sweets bombarded my determined-to-fully-recover vision. Pick ‘n’ mix! Why had I never allowed this as an option for so long?? I think it was the distrust I so strongly held in myself.
But what the film reminded me to do was to listen to my cravings… listen to your nudges to feel true to yourself. So I layered myself up in a paper cup – a mixture of midget gems (that were actually a softer, jelly texture which was a bonus as I usually find them a wee bit too hard), wine gums (the best of all – I love that one of them was a pear flavour), and theses strawberry and cream lace/cable things. I literally felt like a kid in a sweet shop – I embraced this umph of free spirit that had now taken over me, and made me feel like I’ve never really known myself properly before now.
And suddenly – I was ten again, as I did the old cheeky trick of squashing my pile of yummies down so to slide on a few more wine gums (whilst two or three toppled off…) and I was so chuffed when I went to pay, feeling like I was actually doing this shit. Genuinely, I expected the lady at the counter to turn around and tell me ‘this isn’t what you do’ and stop me from buying them. Or looking at me suspiciously like I was doing something wrong. (thankfully, I was just a ‘normal’ customer to her and I was up, up and away, back to the screen to chomp on some sweeties.
Did I trust myself? No, but I was open to letting myself ‘play’ with the idea. Was I terrified of eating and eating until they all ran out? God, yes!! But did I… ? No. In-between savouring every bit of jelly goodness, I really did try to listen to myself inside. To ask myself was I hungry, did I want more, did I need more? These questions became a bit of a broken record. Something in me was hungry, whether that was physical or not… but I had to tell myself that was okay. Sometimes we eat when we’re not starving, when there’s no physical need, but it’s part of the experience.
After popping a lime-flavoured midget gem or two, there was a silent sheer panic of ‘how do I know when to stop’? But I just did. I thought how far can I experiment myself with this, before I just end up making myself really cr*p? I obviously didn’t want to end up mindlessly eating, as this is something I would have done years ago, and I was scared of becoming this girl again.
But somehow, I just did. I didn’t pop one sweet after another, instead I listened to my little nudges during the remainder of the film, and ended up eating half of the cup by the end.
I literally can’t tell you how freeing this little achievement has felt. Doing something so unplanned, so ‘extra’ (Anorexia would tell me this was overeating) but what helped me maximise what was such a positive, enjoyable experience. To be able to share some with my mum too, that topped the whole thing off.
It didn’t matter, suddenly, that I’d struggled last night, that I’d binged and purged. (that used to completely write off anything I wanted to experiment with when it came to food the following day) Because, hand on heart, every day literally is a brand new opportunity. Seeing life this way makes the fight so much more doable. When I really allow myself to do that, it makes me feel relentless.
Yes there’s part of me that wants to say how much I utterly despise how I feel in my skin, how utter sh*te my body image is, but there was moments today when I could elevate out of that. When you find something that helps you realise how much less power these feelings have on your purpose and your ambitions, it is one of the most freeing things in the world.
Here’s to the lime midget gems and pear-flavoured wine gums in the world!