So what is a bloody blip anyway? When this word was first said to me after being seduced back to Anorexic or Bulimic behaviour following a long spell of being on a recovery roll… I used to feel like ‘blip’ was me making an error. And having to reboot the system, beginning after all that hard work right back at day one. Like some virus creeping in to attack a computer. A big mess of black and white crackles on a television screen or something.
Instead of the smooth as chocolate forever-land of being mentally well I’d been building in my head, gathering my confidence like eggs in a basket along the way as one day became a few days, became a week which became a month… which then became 68 days… facing a blip can feel devastating, like a hand crumples your recovery world up in it’s tight fist, just like that, and throws it in the dog shit bin.
Speaking of dogs and shit, if a puppy went to the toilet on your favourite carpet after a few days of learning how to do it outside, would you take it back and ask for a refund? Or if you chose to keep it, would you choose never to stroke it again? It got me thinking that, when it comes to recovery and blips.
The last thing I felt the morning after my first mega blip a couple of weeks ago, was worthy. I was the puppy that deserved to be taken back for a refund, so I thought. The last thing I wanted to do was take care of myself when I felt utterly disappointed in binging and purging. I thought I’d cracked it. But recovery can be like putting your hand over a plughole that you can feel gushing up but you won’t let it escape. And then it takes something to turn the pressure up a little – an extra bit of stress, a bit more low self-esteem or anxiety… and those addictive behaviours that you used to help you cope suddenly feel wild and unleashed.
And that scares me, I’m not gonna lie.
But really, a blip is a detour. If you ever expect any journey to be smooth… you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. Especially if you’re someone who holds high standards for yourself, like me.
The day after that first blip when I blew money on food to binge and purge… although I couldn’t use the DBT skills I’ve been learning in therapy group during that moment, what they did come in handy for was the following day.
I used the opposite-emotion-action. I told myself whatever negative thought I get that triggers a lack of motivation to get back on board with recovery… I’ll do the opposite, because that’s probably what I need to do.
First thing’s first – getting up to clean up from the night before… I wanted to do it whilst my mum was dropping her partner off (not to be secretive because I’m open about it all anyway) but because I didn’t want to make her feel awkward or uncomfortable. I had intended to go straight back to bed to hang my head in shame from the world. Absolutely.
But once I was up… I felt a flicker of motivation. So because I was up I thought maybe I could try the gym. (head says absolutely not – you don’t want to feel how disgusting it is to stand and move in your body after gorging on all that food last night) So I put on my gym gear (for the endorphins that have been keeping me feeling well)… got there… managed half my usual workout but allowed myself to accept that was okay. It was a compromise. It was a ‘grey’ area… that bit between the black and white that allows us to live more flexible and freely. I had to remind myself that I’d accomplished something much more than staying in bed and hiding away. I’d half-way told myself I still deserved to be out there, seen, and more importantly, to feel how my body feels.
Walking back… another huge tug to get back into bed. So, opposite to emotion action?? I’ll change my bed sheets instead. (the ones that got a bit mucky from the night before) That way, I’ll turn an action involving my bed into self-care, rather than self-punishment and avoidance.
With that, I found the momentum to get dressed. Maybe it was all these little flickers of things through the morning adding up… but I knew I was repelling against the magnetic force that was trying to pull me back into a dark relapse.
Then… when I was dressed… maybe it’s because it was part of my routine anyway when I felt better… I started to feel strongly that ‘I can’t face wearing make-up today’… because for starters I’d have to look at my face, to tell myself I accept myself today to make an effort, and to be reminded of the person I felt disappointed in from the reflection. So – opposite action yet again – put that bloody make-up on, love.
These little things sound so daft and miniscule… maybe even shallow… but that’s not the purpose at all. To be able to act the opposite to the negative pull felt empowering… and I was able to turn baby step into baby step through the rest of the day. And by the end of it, I knew I hadn’t let my eating disorder win by ruling me completely.
Since that day, I have been blipping on and off… but this time I’m questioning why, so that I can acknowledge what’s going on for me.
And I can pinpoint it straight away. A few months ago I applied for a trip to Malta (3 weeks all paid for by the college) – you had to submit why you should be chosen along with an example of your artwork. From the first day I heard about this, I knew it would be amazing. But once I’d applied, and got accepted as one of the very few people… I was head over heels chuffed… but reality kicked in.
Shit. Social anxiety. It’s going to be the little demon I can’t get away from. See the way I manage my life at the minute, is still to be actively involved with life so I can engage in a holistic recovery, but my alone time is incredibly important. It helps me rebalance, plan and take a big breath from the day’s anxiety. Mainly that being people. I love people, but the thoughts around myself and my fears hold me way back and I dread social interactions – usually, but sometimes I surprise myself.
Anyway, getting onto this trip – the reality kicked in. 3 weeks spent with 9 other students I don’t know, amongst Maltese students in a different culture… not being able to calorie count or weigh foods or plan meals a week in advance (another big crutch for me at the moment)… and dreading how I may come across to others, fearing feeling powerless and inferior and purely not being able to cope.
But… I’m opening my arms to this anxiety. Because I can either turn away from it and stay living safe, or welcome a new experience because at the end of the day life inevitably orbits around change. But change brings opportunity.
So I’ve had to ‘radically accept’ my little on/off blips these past couple of weeks in the build-up to this big deal of a trip that is happening. My anxiety has been through the roof about it, and I’ve been so close to telling the college I can’t do it, that I don’t deserve the place because I don’t want to let them down if I don’t always come across as outgoing or keen when we’re at the art college, I don’t want to affect their top-notch reputation that they have around this big international exchange program.
People closest to me have doubted whether it’s right to go because of how I’ve coped recently, but to me it’s exactly the right sign that I have to do it. If I don’t go I’m become the victim to social anxiety and I will never be able to prove to myself any different to this broken record of negative thoughts. Going on this trip, will actually BENEFIT my mental health… because facing up to what I’m most scared of and being able to come back alive at the other end of these 3 weeks will be a fucking huge big deal for me.
(…also I came to the realisation that it’s probably okay to allow myself sweeteners/Pepsi Max/sugarfree sweets (things I wanted to give up) over this trip if need be, because sometimes I think you have to make compromises with your long-term goals for ways that help you cope when there’s another big stressor in your life… I’m still a little disappointed in myself to fall weak at this. But this 3 week challenge comes first!) And I have been doing well with the no sugarfree stuff up until now, so it shall resume when I land back in England so I can soldier on with my long-term aims. (Y)
I’m utterly grateful for a place on this amazing trip.
But thoroughly shitting it.
Tomorrow at 6.30am… yiiiiiiiiiiiiiikes!
College work handed in today, of my step-nephew Archie… at least getting engrossed in painting helped distract from anxiety.