To the tune of ’12 days of Christmas’ “Fiiiiiive Christmas Wins”… gold rings who?
Welcome to the other side of the festive period. We all made it through the jungle of stress and list-making! Hopefully you enjoyed yourself in the process. I’m happy to say, I felt the most eating-disordered free this 25th of December, since about 2007.
Here’s my five recovery Christmas wins of 2018: (first point is a long one but the others are snappy, promise.)
- I had my first NIGHT OUT (un-calorie-counted plethora of alcoholic beverages, not including a cup of tea that previous pre-drinks on nights out with Anorexia involved!)… in literally years – with my old best friend that I used to feel alive around, before my eating disorder wedged it’s way between our memories together. It wasn’t an easy decision at all… as even up until a couple of hours before, the temptation to cancel was very loud. But after the regret of cancelling so many times before, especially last Christmas, I knew if I wanted to change my future I needed to change the same-old shitty record in my head. I knew I had to take a little journey of discomfort, anxiety and a backlash of old eating-disordered thoughts in order to arrive at ‘happiness’ and ‘connectedness’, instead of ‘safe’ and misery-inducing.
Even when I had committed myself, I felt this ‘rule’ wiggle in… ‘stick to spirits’ so that I could monitor the calories better and to ‘resist any offer of sweeter drinks’ – including cocktails… but THANK THE LORD for letting my hair down… what started as a rum and Pepsi Max, became prosecco, unicorn cocktails and ‘dirty mop’ cocktails. I have no idea what else… but when I was with my friends, the priority of playing safe climbed down my ladder of priorities and instead, when offered a glass of prosecco at the celebration of my friend’s birthday before we headed into the town, the desire to live in the moment rose real and fast. And I didn’t drink for the sake of trying to purposely get leathered, or for unlimited bags of false confidence, but I found myself just going with the flow… and believe it or not, 98% of it I remembered the next day.
How did I manage this? I set small goals in my head, and when I conquered them… questioned where I could take it next and if I could shuffle forwards just a little bit more. So turning up to my friends pre-drinks and then going home if I felt I needed to afterwards, being the first aim. Then, when I’d eased into that situation, seeing if I could make it out for just ONE drink with the option to return home (handy living so close to town) if I wanted to. To my horror, my friend then suggested we get a taxi into Cleethorpes to have a dance, and my natural defence was to say no and to go home (I didn’t bring enough money or my card either because I didn’t expect to be surviving as far into the night!) but she insisted that she wanted to pay. This is something I struggle with in itself – accepting payments or unexpected gifts from people… but some little ‘fuck it’ monster told me again to live in the moment, and remember I wouldn’t see my friend for a good while after this, seeing as she lived in York.
So off we went, and before I knew it, we were throwing moves all over the place to Christmas songs in a karaoke bar… and I was back home at 3.30am. (there was me aiming for midnight in order to christen myself wild child 2018…)
Just to put the cherry on the top of this very messy cake, I woke up the next day remembering the bloody chicken kebab (personal Anorexic suicide!!) I had before the taxi home. Before I had chance to hear my automatic thought of ‘shit, you fat fucker… told you you wouldn’t be able to control yourself’ I decided to ACCEPT that in that moment, I needed that extra food. Not only would it have soaked up the alcohol, but I had been dancing like Julie Walters in Mamma Mia so I must have been craving the refuelling. Plus, it is totally ‘normal’ to get the munchies in this situation. And this doesn’t happen every day!!
There was a little river of guilt somewhere in there of course, and for people without eating disorders it’s important to remember they experience this too after a night on the town… but the difference was, I didn’t feel CONTROLLED by the guilt the following day. And this was the big signifier for me about where I’m at with my recovery. I still ate, as part of me wasn’t sure I would, and I felt genuine happiness for the first time in such a long time at the pure act of living in the moment.
(pictures, in order: 1. my pre-drink of a cup of tea before a night out in 2011, along with 2. me pre-occupied by my calorie-counted cracker snack for when I returned home on a night out… versus 3. 2018 my same friend and my million-times healthier brain and more lively face enjoying a ‘dirty mop’ cocktail!)
2. I ate a full Christmas dinner! I did, almost, last year but during that time I was still controlled by binging and purging so this would have been plaguing my mind on Christmas day, as I knew ultimately what would be happening that night, and had done the night before. So to know every sprout, gravy granule, stuffing and bit of Yorkshire pudding would have stayed inside me and absorbed into my bloodstream… is a satisfying thought.
3. I resisted putting a Fitbit on my Christmas list. For a while now, I’ve been pondering over this. Is it too early? But could it be a long-term useful gadget for keeping up my general health and being aware? Is it ‘right’ for someone with a long history of an eating disorder to engage with one of these – to be aware of every calorie through the day and activity levels, on their wrist so easily? I think the answer of that isn’t as obvious as it may seem. It totally depends where you’re at… and although I am in a place where I’m not remotely tempted to lose weight to an unhealthy BMI, and my sole focus at the moment is to feel and be healthy, there’s still a part of me that wonders if it’s too early. I am 50-something days into no binging and purging, which is great, but there’s more to consider. Maybe some time in the future when I’ve been brave enough to weigh myself and after I’ve lost a little of my Bulimic weight (very, very slowly and in a healthy way I have to add here…) and I can prove to myself I can maintain a healthy weight… maybe then I would consider it. But it would have to be for the right reasons.
So instead of jumping ahead of myself, I decided to take it off my Christmas list. (my diary was my favourite present anyway! Bit of an organisational geek!)
4. (prepare for controversial opinions…) I went to the gym on Christmas morning. Not because I felt I HAD to… but because I wanted to. When you’ve had an eating disorder, I feel like people assume without considering the full picture, that something like this is coming from an evil within yourself. I feel like when I’ve told people this they don’t take me seriously. Genuinely… I enjoy the gym. I enjoy feeling healthy and strong, and feeling like I can take on the day. It makes it very convenient that I only live a 10 minute walk away from a 24/7 gym… whereas if I had to catch a taxi, or walk a long way there on Christmas day could have seemed a little more desperate. Who knows. But it’s become part of my daily routine anyway. And I woke up knowing that Christmas day was going to be one of complete spontaneity, full of spending time with people, which as much as I love them, makes me feel quite anxious. So I knew it would do me good to try and cement a bit of routine in there. I hadn’t even planned to go… I’d written it off as a day off, but when I woke up, I had some time to kill and I wanted to feel how it makes me feel in the morning. My decision wasn’t out of thinking I would be eating more and needed to burn it off, because I didn’t need to eat too much anyway – it is assumed that everyone wants to. I ended up eating the full day’s 2000 calories.
5. I felt fully present on Christmas day. Unlike previous Christmas’s, I wasn’t distracted by hunger pangs… or urges to binge and purge later that evening. My emotions were more in tact then they have ever been – and I felt like I could properly enjoy myself including laughing and WANTING to make conversation, thanks to a healthy brain and a healthy body. Sometimes I have realised that the old feeling of hunger, even the temptation it presents nowadays, to ‘want’ to feel it almost is a way of trying to fill a void of unfulfillment within myself – something I’m unsure what to do with. Feeling hungry actually makes me anxious nowadays… because I want to be able to do my best at everything I do, and knowing that my body and my brain isn’t fed, makes me feel like I’m not doing my best, and I’m not being the best person I can be.
(impulsive edit: 6. I owned and ate (all) my first advent calendar in years!! As if I forgot that bloody chestnut)
Thanks to the people around me, this was the best Christmas in a long while.
There are little gremlins I am battling every now and then, but I’m definitely moving in the right direction, and so many things that I’ve faced just lately have re-affirmed the way I am looking at my relationship with food. I will be talking about my little gremlins in my next post, along with my goals for 2019.
But for now… happy new year! Bring on a mentally and physically healthier one for us all! 😊