Special

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I’ve written it before and I’m about to write it again. Over-achiever, Striver, Never-Satisfied, whatever you want to call it, I am it and once again it came up in my therapy session to discuss why we think i’m still relapsing.

It all came down to something quite straightforward, something I’ve briefly touched upon occasionally in this blog.

I’m not special anymore.

And I want to feel special.

But I’m not.

I’m no longer the athlete with World Records to her name. I’m never going to hear my name announced or have other athletes look up to me when I give speeches. I’m nothing anymore. I’m a nobody. A has-been. I feel invisible, I feel like every other person walking down the street and I hate that. Not from an arrogant perspective but from the perspective of the person who always used to stand out.

I’m no longer doing something that no other law student has managed to do. I’m no longer being asked how training is or how my last competition went. I’m no longer a role model, I’m no longer anything worth mentioning.

I’m just normal. And I can’t stand it. I’m not happy simply being me and I don’t know how to accept that I simply am me. This is who I am right now but I can’t accept it. I wont accept it.

Being the best in sport kept me sane (to a certain extent).

Initially, it made me feel better about my weight, better about the bullies, better about me. I was able to say they were all simply jealous of me, but not anymore. Not now. Not ever again. I’m fat but I’m not an international athlete. I don’t have that status to cover up the issues I bury deep inside me.

I want to be special. I want, to a certain extent, to be admired.

Always second best, never even equal to my brother growing up. Bullied. Called stupid and fat by ‘friends’ and teachers and coaches alike. Never allowed to be satisfied with just being me. So i always pushed for more and I most definitely still do. I was never good enough for anyone so I reached for high grades, good university and challenging career. I pushed to become a better athlete and to win more medals, break more records.

I pushed to lose weight.

To become that ‘ideal’ I needed to be, at least, what I thought I needed to be, but it was never good enough. No one ever praised me or let me enjoy any success. It always had to be more. One more percent, one more second, one more pound. Never allowed to be satisfied with me. Never allowed to let myself be happy with me.

Always second best. Never good enough. And now I’ve lost something that, whilst contributed greatly to my eating disorder, still kept me happy…well…it didn’t did it. Thats a lie. This year it didn’t make me happy and thats why I left. But theres that voice lying to me in my head telling me that if I go back I’ll be happy again.

I know thats not true.

Problem is, I don’t like me at the moment, and I don’t know how to make myself like me at all.

Raw

They wanted to weigh me and I hadn’t anticipated that. They sat me down and oh so casually said they needed my weight

I haven’t seen my weight for more than two months and the instant panic made it impossible to speak, I could have told them I didn’t want to see it, or that maybe I didn’t have to, but I couldn’t. So I got up and I stood on the scales.

64.5kg

That’s what the skinny girl weighing me called out.

And the voices came running. The pain struck me and all I wanted to do was cry. I’m sat in the waiting room waiting for the consultant and the tears are burning, trying to burst and run down my face.

I haven’t seen my weight for more than two months and all those doubts were right. I’m fat. I’ve gained weight and I’m so fat. I need to lose it. I knew I needed to lose it but I ignored the voices and let myself eat. I allowed myself to eat similar amounts to everyone else and whilst I haven’t trained I have paid for it. Oh have I paid for all that over indulgence and wrong choices.

Why did I eat what I ate?

Why did I drink what I drank?

Why did I not train as much?

It’s my fault. I’ve gained so much weight and its all my fault. I feel numb and broken inside and it hurts. When that number was called out I felt as if a thousand knives stabbed me at once.

I just felt raw.

I felt the self-hatred come back. It seethed through my body and it burned my insides. My head started spinning and I had a lump in my throat. I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I almost didn’t want to breathe as if I could pretend I wasn’t there. As if I could pretend it wasn’t true, but it was. Almost 65kg and yeah I had my clothes on, but that doesn’t really add much on, does it?

No point hiding from the fact that I’m fat. No point trying to comfort myself and soften the blow that I’m so fat right now. Its blatantly obvious. No point denying it.

One year since things went downhill with swimming and I’ve gained 9kg.

I feel like a disgrace and I need to get my anger out. I just want to scream and shout and just cry…I just really want to curl up and cry away all the pain.

As if crying would make it better anyway.

I can’t even describe how I’m feeling with my words in any sense that is actually an adequate representation. All I know is that I am fat and it hurts. I used to be 55kg and I want to be that weight again. I don’t care if I was purging at that weight, I just want to get there without purging.

I want to be that tiny girl again.

I need to be slim. I need to be better than what I am and I want it now. I don’t like feeling this hurt, I don’t like the pain that burns in my head and my body and I’m sick. I’m sick of being this mess. I’m sick of my life revolving around my weight and the sooner I sort it out the better.

I feel so raw.

I need to sort it out.

I feel so numb.

I just need to lose weight.

I feel so broken.

I just need to be slim again, that small again

I’m so scared that I can’t do it. I’m so frightened that I am always going to be this fat.

I want to do it healthily but I’m scared that that option won’t work.

I just feel empty inside. I feel so hurt and depressed when I look at myself. I want to be more than this. I want to be slimmer.

I feel so broken and numb, but it doesn’t feel like there’s anything I can do about it.

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A Little Birdie Told Me…

On my first race day at the UCI para cycling road World Cup, I woke up to a little birdie tweeting. It told me I was disgusting. It said I was a cheat. It said I was going to fail. It told me I was a crap swimmer, a crap cyclist, and a joke to disability sport.

It tweeted at my club sponsors, my university, British cycling, and UCI.

It was only tweeting about me.

I knew who was behind the pseudonym but that didn’t make it any better. I knew they were jealous but that didn’t make the cuts any less deep. I knew to ignore the comments but that doesn’t mean they didn’t hurt.

I’ve been bullied a lot, especially when I was younger and at school. I remember being scared to go to school as a result and for the first time ever I was scared to go online. 12 hours of these tweets and I was frightened to post anything in case it provoked more abuse. It made me think how much more straightforward bullying was when I was younger; at least I could escape it when I got home, but with every notification my heart jumped, with every ‘ping’ the panic set in.

British Cycling took care of the situation and my friends took care of me.

The other team members started to send me the most supportive tweets and what one person from home sent me was just what I needed:

Whenever something knocks you down, that’s exactly when you find out exactly who cares about you.

It hurt because I had never done anything to her daughter. I had never made any comments about how good I could be as a cyclist and I never would. I had done nothing to provoke such nasty comments and yet she felt the need to send them, she felt the need to create a Twitter account and wait until race day to attack me.

Classification had not gone the way we wanted, they were questioning my disability and the last thing I needed, especially when I’m trying to start my recovery, is someone implying to the whole world that I am a disability cheat. I was in disability sport years before her daughter was and at least I have a MRI scan to prove my CP, unlike her. But that’s not what’s important. What’s important was that she set out with a vindictive agenda to cause me pain. The mother of another athlete set up an account aimed at hurling abuse at me, to send storm clouds thundering in on the morning of my very first international race.

I don’t usually access my phone in competition because if you do well you can get carried away with all the media hype and I’ve definitely experienced that when I made my comeback at Europeans to medal and social media went crazy for the bronze medallist over that day’s silvers and golds.

Now I know what it’s like to have the opposite side of social media.

I’m really good at ignoring stuff before a race. I wake up and I’m already in the zone, I do what I have to do and I get my job done. It’s after the race that the small upsets affect me. It’s when I finish that I let reality sink in and consider how cruel somebody had been. And I dreaded going back. I dreaded the possible comments I was going to receive.

Crap swimmer.

Crap cyclist.

Waste of space.

Disgusting.

Don’t quit your day job.

You’re a fiddler.

Cheat.

Disgusting.

Disgusting.

I refused to eat for the whole day and when my mum finally sat me down to eat I was in so much panic. So much fear. So much dread of getting fat. And it was because of the stress. I was trying to focus on something that I think can make me happy; being in control of my weight loss, and I didn’t even notice I was doing this. I didn’t realise I hadn’t eaten. I didn’t relaise I had entered autopilot. I don’t even want to think how I would have reacted on my own. More than likely a cycle of starvation and purging would have started.

I’m in such a vulnerable state of mind at the moment and I didn’t need that. Even if I didn’t have an eating disorder, I wouldn’t have deserved that. That quote has never been more true:

“Everyone is facing a battle you know nothing about, so be kind, always.”

Victim of cyber bullying…another thing to add to the list of things I’ve had to cope with.

It only lasted a day but it was unbearable. British cycling ensured the account got shut down and all of a sudden I got nice messages from the entire family. I know exactly who sent them and it was confirmed to me but I know how to handle the situation better, I know how to keep the upper hand, and that’s to say nothing at all.

One day. And she broke me down. I can’t begin to imagine how people who suffer from this on a daily basis feel. Actions hurt but words are crueler. And I’ve experienced that throughout my life and the other day through social media. The account was created specifically to abuse me and I think that hurt the most. It wasn’t an athlete I didn’t know questioning my disability…it was someone I knew from home who decided in spite to ruin my first international race.

But I had such a strong network of support and the message posted above was sent to me through Twitter. He knew what was going on, so whilst I received the dread of a new Twitter notification when I opened it all I could do was smile.

I really do have some amazing people in my life and I promise you that for every hater you have, you have 100 people who love everything about you, it’s just trying not to forget that which can be difficult.

The Decision I Never Wanted to Make

I think its time to break away from the sport that’s been part of my life for almost 21 years. I was 2 when I was first introduced to the swimming pool and I simply never left. Swimming isn’t something I do, it’s actually a part of me, a part of my life, my life is swimming. I don’t know any different. Until January of this year I didn’t know what it was like to not have that routine which was simply autopilot. I was introduced to a whole new life that others consider ‘normal’ but it was nothing like what I consdered ‘normal’.

As crazy as it sounds I struggled to cope without swimming in my life, I found the concept of free time difficult and struggled as the smallest change threw me. Something many would consider trivial, such as my sleep cycle changing dramatically, seemed to mess up my entire day to day life. Waking up so much later left me with less time to train and then I was naturally going to bed later because the four hours of evening training that would naturally ensure I would sleep early, no longer existed.

I turned to my studies to fill up the free time. Over January and February I pretty much locked myself in the library and focused so much on uni that, in all honesty, I was more drained than I had been in full training. I was pushing myself in studies because I couldn’t push myself in training. Leaving the house and returning at similar times to my swimming schedule and I wasn’t eating properly either. I was almost scared of the extra hours I would have had at home otherwise. I felt that all the free time spent at home would result in mindless eating and purging so I decided to stay away from home instead.

It didn’t really work, less purging but more starving and yes my weight dropped but once I started to swim again I needed to eat. 600 calories was fine with no exercise but not with even an hour of training. But then I judged myself for eating because of training. I hadn’t swam much I shouldn’t feel so hungry. I thought I was weak for feeling hungry. And the comments came too, the comments of how much weight I had gained, of how it was fine for now but I would need to shift it for any chance of Rio.

I couldn’t train for Rio….so the only thing I could possibly do at this very moment in this time in the hope of going to Rio was to was control my weight. But I couldnt. It kept increasing and I wasn’t used to not having stuff to do. I tried to exercise to shift it but my shoulder was so sore and I could barely even run without it hurting. I refused to go home as much as possible trying to starve the fat away and naturally the purging followed days of starvation. I felt so weak for being hungry and then even weaker for giving into hunger and letting myself have some food. Then I panicked and purged and felt more disgusting for having doing that.

All I could think of was how much weight I had lost over the years and how it had all been ruined since my surgery. I ignored the fact I lost weight unhealthily, focusing on pictures and memories of how slim I had been. As I lost weight I’d gotten so much praise and even the attention I was starting to receive from boys helped me want to keep losing more. Sport emphasised I had to keep loosing to get faster and get to Rio and the compliments I got from friends, family, and boys made me want to stay that weight.

And all I can think of now is how much I want to be that weight again, but I’m battling with the voices telling me to go for the unhealthy options. I hate being the weight I am but I can’t get rid of the association of a lower weight means more happiness. I’m trying to get rid of that but there’s too many mental scars…especially in swimming.

I think I need to leave. I think I’m ready to leave the swimming world behind and its a scary thought. I’ve always thought that without swimming I am nothing. I have no success or anything like that. But it’s been part of my life for 21 years and I never considered how difficult this would be. How much it would hurt and break me inside to leave the sport of swimming. I suppose it’s not how I imagined it. I was going to go to Rio and then transition into cycling but the swimming has not been good for me.

Even before I became international comments were always made about my weight, that I was the wrong shape for the sport. I need to become healthy again and I don’t feel like being in the sport of swimming is conducive to that. I think the memories cut deeper than I realsie and there are so many dark demons with swimming that I need to escape from. I need to put myself first but I feel like I’m a failure for giving up on something that I loved. I read so many articles about athletes with eating disorders who had to give up their sports and I didn’t want to be like that. I didn’t want my eating disorder to beat me but I feel like it has. I feel like I’ve failed. I feel like a let down.

All I wanted was to go to a games, and in 2012, they said I was too fat so couldn’t go…now they’ve changed my categories and refused to consider the medical evidence that they asked me to find…and I’ve had surgery…surgery I needed because my coach pushed me too hard, didn’t listen when I said I was injured so I got too scared to tell him, and then he would yell, saying I should have told him, that it was all my fault.

Everything’s always my fault. It’s my fault I was too fat for London, it was my fault I got injured and won’t make Rio, it’s my fault I’m so fat right now.

Maybe a break will be good. Instead of staying in the comfort zone of swimming, the life I’ve always known, I need to adventure into something different. As soon as I’m back from Italy I’m going to tell my coach and swimmers that I’m having an official break…although i doubt I’ll return. But I’m so scared to do it, I’m scared of admitting how weak I am, of how much help I’m in desperate need of. But I need the help and staying in swimming is holding me back. Too many upsetting memories, too much pressure to prove a point to every bastard who put me down…need to stop focusing on those things and focus on myself because without my health I have nothing. I’ve passed out one too many times and cutting my wrists should have sent alarm bells ringing about how bad things were getting for me.

I need everyone more than ever right now. I need them to hold me together and tell me everything is going to be alright. I need them more than ever before.

I’m scared of being a failure. I’m scared of never being good enough. About being the athlete who almost was, rather than the one who got there in the end.

I didn’t want my eating disorder to beat me and force me out of the sport I love…but if I had never been subject to such cruel comments and pressure maybe it would never had ended up like this. Maybe I’m not the only person to blame in my decision to quit swimming.

Sorry

“She said sorry too often. She apologised for apologising too much. She said sorry like it was a greeting. She apologised for everything that went wrong, because she labelled herself a disaster. She was sorry for not being good enough, because no one ever told her she was good enough. No one ever told her that she was something more than the mess inside her head and the tsunami inside her heart. So all she learned was to apologise for every single breath that she took.”

Whats another crack when you’re already broken?

I’ve never felt so weak, so confused, so unhappy, so broken.

I’ve never been this down. I’ve never felt as if I have absolutely nothing left until now. When I relapsed in January I was convinced with the help of my friends I’d get better but now we’re almost at the end of May and I’m worse, not better. Five months later and I’ve spiralled downwards more quickly and worse than ever before.

I don’t understand. I don’t quite know how I’ve gotten so bad and I most certainly don’t know how the past five months have just passed without me even realising.

I’ve been drifting along and not really paying attention to the things I’ve been doing or the choices I’ve been making.

Last night was an all-time low and I’ve never hit rock bottom so hard. A vicious cycle of eating and purging which ended in me cutting the back of my wrist. I don’t feel anger or hatred. I just feel hurt. There is so much pain aching in my heart and I can’t get rid of it. I feel like a failure. I’m a weak disgusting failure and no wonder no one wants to be with me. I’m alright for a bit of fun when they need it but nothing more. But how could I expect to mean something to anyone when I don’t mean anything to me?

In training last week I hit the shoulder recovery milestone of 5KM only to spend all afternoon in A+E on monday to find out that I had prolapsed my lower discs again and could barely walk. I tried swimming yesterday and only managed 750m. Not even 1KM. Lost more than 80% of my milestone. Injured. Injured Again. Weak. Failure.

Just when everything looks like its getting better something happens. That girl gets injured again. Even my friend made a passing comment of ‘you really are that girl‘, it didn’t upset me at all, in fact I laughed because all I can do is laugh….and cry…and feel hurt and upset…feel weak. Failure. I reached a milestone only to fall back further than before.

I’ve been physically broken since I was born so what difference did every broken bone, severed nerve, ruptured muscle, misplaced organ, skin disorder, torn tendon, muscle defect, joint damage, slipped disc really make?

I was born broken, it  was only inevitable that the cracks were going to get deeper and deeper.

I wasn’t born mentally broken but the physical cracks most certainly didn’t help.

And now look at me.

Almost 23 years later and i’ve got every scrape and bruise, scathe and scar to prove it.

And they knew I was cracked. They knew I had cuts and scars deeper than the normal person but instead of handing me some glue they bullied me. They picked at the scabs and dug at the cracks until there was nothing left. And people let them. Until I couldn’t hold all my broken pieces together anymore. Until I cracked completely. Until I broke.

And I spent two years fixing myself. Slowly picking up the pieces and putting myself back together. And for what? To end up more broken than ever before. Shattered into a thousand pieces instead of a hundred and with far less glue at my fingertips

I used to be angry. I used to have hatred towards the bullies who made me feel so small and hatred towards myself for developing an eating disorder but now I’m just sad. Now I’m just hurt and upset and I want to be happy but the girl I was seems like such a distant memory I almost don’t remember her. I don’t remember how she ignored the world and lived in her own little bubble loving her life. I don’t even know how she could have done that in the first place.

All time low.

Brand new rock bottom.

But what’s another crack when you’re already broken?

Countdown

You’ve not eaten all day.

You need to eat.

And then it begins.

It starts with a question of ‘why?’

Why did I eat?

Why could I not have been stronger?

And then the fear kicks in.

The fear of being fat.

The fear of being ugly.

The fear of becoming that unwanted fat and ugly girl again.


And then the thoughts start whispering.

I’m weak.

I’m so fat

I’m such a failure.

I’m always going to be fat.

I’m never going to achieve anything if I don’t lose weight.

I’m such a disgrace.

And then the thoughts get louder.

I shouldn’t have eaten.

It’s all my fault.

I feel so full.

I’m going to be fat.

No.

I am fat.

I’m never going to be slim.

And then the thoughts start shouting.

So fat.

So ugly.

Failure.

Worthless.

Unwanted.

Disgrace.

Fat, worthless and unwanted.

And then another whisper begins to grow.

Just get rid.

One more time.

Get rid.

Lose some calories.

Less calories.

Less fat.

Be slimmer.

Get rid.

Starve tomorrow.

Just once.

Do it.

Feel lighter.

Get rid.

Feel less full.

Get rid.

This once.

Stop tomorrow.

You’ll become slimmer.

Just until you reach 58KG.

Then you can stop.

But for now.

Get rid.

Get rid.

Get rid.

Get rid.

Get rid.

Gain some control over your weight and get rid of it.

And then the countdown starts


Five Minutes

Get rid in five minutes. It’ll be easier in five minutes.

Four Minutes

You’ll be lighter when it’s over.

Three Minutes

Just until you get what you want. Just until you’re slimmer and more beautiful

Two Minutes

Don’t do it.

One Minute

I need to do it. I can’t do it any other way. I’m such a disgrace, no wonder no one likes me.

50 Seconds

I shouldn’t do this. But I’m so fat. I hate being so fat. Why can’t I be slim and beautiful? Just once.


40 Seconds

It won’t be once. You’ll do it again. And then you’ll have to tell everyone what a disgrace you are, and they’ll hate you for it. You’re such a let down. That Girl relapses…again.

30 Seconds

It’ll be over soon.

20 Seconds

Get ready.


15 Seconds

Sooner you do this the sooner it stops.

10

I need to get rid.

9

I’m so fat.

8

Everything depends on me being lighter.

7

I hate myself for doing this.

6

I’m so disgusting.

5

Fat and disgusting.

4

I need to do this.

3

I need to be lighter

2

I need to be slimmer.

1

I hate being fat.

0

I hate being me.

And then it starts. Take a deep breath and hope for the best. Hope its quick. Hope it doesn’t hurt too much. Hope you’ll get rid of everything. Hope you’ll be in control again. Hope no one finds out. Hope to be slimmer. Lighter. Thinner. More beautiful.

And if it doesn’t go to plan. Take a moment and the countdown starts again. The thoughts louder, the pain deeper. The fear greater.

Hatred seething.

And if it works…relief…inexplainable relief. A slight moment of calm. That’s better. I don’t feel so full now. I won’t be as fat tomorrow. I might be 58KG again. Maybe, just maybe. Back on track now. I can do this properly now.

10

Oh god.

9

I can’t do this any other way.

8

Why did I do that?

7

I’m such a disgrace.

8

I’m a mess.

5

I’m broken.

4

Disgusting

3

Weak.

2

Fat.

1

If you don’t eat you won’t do this.

0

Don’t eat.

The cycle.

The cycle that doesn’t have a determinable beginning.

The cycle that never ends.

The cycle that tries to balance out but never does.

The cycle I can’t break out of.