Life as a Board Game

Sometimes my brain works like a picture book. A picture book of metaphors. And one that popped up in my mind a few weeks ago, making another cheeky appearance a few days ago, was this one:

In each of these buzz wire games, life and my mental health recovery still feels like a constant wiggly journey keeping me on edge and battling the thoughts away, weighing up which ones to keep and act on and which ones to discard like a boring, rubbery clump of used chewing gum. Whether that’s anxiety, urges to restrict (which I’m mastering whole-heartedly, despite struggling with Bulimia – a difficult thing in itself when I do also wish I do wish I could change my body and feel smaller in the world), the urges to obviously binge and purge (I’m sure you’re bored of hearing this now), or my low mood with the addition of still grieving the Anorexia that I am always trying to bat away like a baseball.

In the second picture, I feel all of this bubbling underneath, but I manage. I’m able to move forward. The wire is thinner, and I’m able to power to the end, faster, without that annoying buzz sound going off or electrocution. There’s enough space between my metal loop on a stick, and the wire itself; I feel able to breathe and regulate my emotions better. I attend college, I stick to cooking meals for my mum once weekly, and eating meals that my family have cooked every now and then, I can food shop and not waste extra chunks of money on binge food, I go to bed and wake up without the guilt of the night before, or if I have had a blip, I have a wobble, process the guilt and jump on the horse straight away, persevering with my commitments and responsibilities. It’s easier to navigate the little wiggles in the wire, and my concentration levels are better.

In the first picture, however, the wire is much thicker – so there’s not much space at all between that and my metal loop. Everything is a trigger, because my tolerance towards myself and the prodding thoughts and compulsions, gets less. As I try and get through the day, thoughts of my body image become pumped up like an over-inflated car tyre; I can’t afford to buy extra food to cook a meal for my mum, but I’ll find a way of affording binge food, I’m too scared to challenge what I eat because the binging and purging sessions are out of control that my list of acceptable foods become less. Back to the beginning – again and again. My mood drops, and feeling of suicide comes in waves… to the point where I’m researching, and obsessed with reading and watching information about suicides that have already happened… I convince myself that if there’s so many people out there that have committed suicide, especially people that I’ve known, then maybe that is the way out. Maybe that’s where the peace lies. Then I don’t feel well to go to college, and I’m too self-conscious to be around people that know me, and I fall behind. I end up struggling on my own in the community and feeling isolated, or end up admitted to a mental health unit, like now. In this game of the buzz wire, when I try and take a step forward and feel some hope, I let myself down, and the electrocution is the reminder of the hope I’ve ruined for myself. How will I ever move forwards?

This first version is where I was about a month ago, 100%… and I would say the wire has shrunk a little, but that’s still where I’m at and what I’m working on. I’d maybe say it’s the same, except now it’s like there’s an audience of supporters around me in a circle, watching for collisions with the wire and helping me along. If the second image is when I’m managing but still blipping here and there and everything still feeling like a fight, I’m realising I’d like to aim to be playing Snakes and Ladders, instead. Where there’s ups and downs, but things feel more automatic in terms of the healthy thoughts and ways of coping. With a roll of the dice you keep going until you get to the end. You don’t have to return to the beginning either all of the time (which is how it feels particularly with eating disorder recovery), you usually get sent back a couple of rows or squares, but you sense the hope that there’s still chance of moving forwards; there’s even a bit of excitement when that ladder’s in sight…

…I miss that excitement, and the waking of feeling like I’m managing. I’ve still been binging and purging but on a much, MUCH smaller scale, because of course being sectioned I can’t act on compulsion and go out to do it as if on a pub crawl (but a ‘grub crawl’ – joke’s on me), or fetch a big stash of food back. (trust me, I know it’s gross and awkward to mention, but honesty creates freedom) But I’ve still been doing it on toast and up until the other day, the flapjacks that the café here sells. It’s beautiful, and I think that’s why I crave it so much because I don’t allow it. So yesterday, I ended up eating one, whilst actually RESISTING the choice to eat 3 (the nurse had put my stash away and allowed me a few a day, to minimise and not totally eradicate the behaviour)… so for me, that was a step forward. It’s just a shame about the toast and the biscuits last night. I almost, ALMOST got to bed without having done it. But laying down in what feels like the sumo-suit of the body I despise at the moment, felt too painful again; cue compulsion.

Today though, I actually felt the ‘glimmer’ of a ladder on a board game. The weather, I find, has a huge impact on my mood. I feel like I’ve picked up a game of Snakes and Ladders and I’m in the queue to pay, but I don’t get as far of paying for it, or then playing it. We also had some pets come down from the college for therapy; there were baby bunnies, a lizard with a blue tongue (like he’d been guzzling a fizzy bubblegum drink), a couple of tortoises, and a hedgehog. Feeling the soft, fuzzy warmth of a bunny on my knee made me feel in touch with my lighter thoughts; made even better by the fact his name was Haribo.

I’ll leave this with you. If you could describe your life as a board game, what would it currently be? And which one would you like it to be… ?

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