If I Could Talk To My Younger Self

Dancing Len

Dear 5-year-old me,

Look at you, you dancing, laughing, happy as Larry little girl with the world’s biggest smile on your face and an even bigger heart. Look at how happy you are and stay that way for as long as you possibly can. Keep smiling and laughing and dancing to your heart’s content. Your world is about to come crashing down on you but you’re going to be just fine because you’re a tough little cookie with so much love to give. Keep dancing. Don’t you ever lose that smile.

Dear 10-year-old me,

Look at you, you crazy, loveable, plump little pudding still with the world’s biggest smile on your face and in love with the swimming pool. Never forget how happy that water makes you, how free you feel when you swim. I wish I could prepare you for the mean girls, I wish I could but I can’t. Tough days are going to come but keep your head high because the best is waiting right round the corner and your love for swimming is going to intensify. Never forget why you started the sport in the first place because a dark day is going to come but you’re going to get through it. You’re turning into such a strong girl. Keep swimming. Just never lose that smile.

Dear 15-year-old me,

Look at you, British Record Holder, butterfly specialist and still with the world’s biggest smile on your face and an even bigger heart. Check you out, British Team, multiple sports and smashing up the international stage with confidence. You’ll soon become known as the girl with the toughest mentality, the girl who always bounces back. You’re smart enough to know that means rock bottom is coming, you can’t bounce back from anything lower than that. And I know, God do I know, your world is crashing down around you and it hurts, oh I know it aches inside but you’ll be fine. You’re always going to be fine. Please don’t lose that smile.

Dear 19-year-old me,

Look at you, World Record Holder. Not just British or European but World Record Holder with a degree and its almost time for London 2012. But that smile isn’t quite there anymore is it? I know where its gone and why but you don’t know. You haven’t noticed them wearing you down the past few years. You know they’ve been pressuring you but you have no idea what they’ve actually done to you. Please eat something, anything, just eat something. I wish I could have caught you before you fell but you fell so fast and no one noticed. They’re about to say things that will make the darkness swallow you up but don’t you worry because that smile is going to come back. It’s just going to take a while because the next 5 years are going to see so many people hurt you. Just don’t forget that you have so much love around you and all you need to do is ask. Please try to smile.

Dear 23-year old me,

Look at you, retired athlete, first class law degree with a secured training contract at a top firm. And there it is, that smile is coming back. I can see it, you can see it, we can feel it. I’m sorry that something you once loved turned into a world of fear and pain but stop blaming yourself and feel proud. Proud for tackling your demons and for making the right decisions. You’re going to go to London and you are going to meet some amazing people. Life will still happen just as life does but you’re going to heal far quicker than you imagined. You’re about to become happier than you’ve ever been before. You’re about to become that dancing, happy as Larry girl with the world’s biggest smile on her face and an even bigger heart. No, you’re not about to become her again. She never left.

Look at that smile.

It really is quite something.

Manchester Madness

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What’s the best way to prepare for next weeks’ mocks? Go to Manchester for half the week! To be honest, a little bit of chill time never hurt anyone and seriously, this was the best decision I have made as of late.

A lot of my friends are still in Manchester, some cycling friends, swimming friends, old coaches, best friends, law school friends, you name them, they’re there so a fun-filled three day adventure up North was going to be busy but nothing other than mental fun.

And boy did I have fun.

The cycling social was the first thing I went to, if you don’t include arriving at Rebecca’s and drinking gin from not-quite-5-pm. It’s always a curry social and naturally that has always freaked me out. I think I’m always going to panic around certain triggers but the way I handled it was amazing. I was having so much fun catching up with everyone that the calories were a distant thought. I wanted to be caught up in the laughter and I refused to let my ED stop me from having fun. It’s time to stop the Demon from preventing me from enjoying my life and that’s what I did.

It took a lot of strength I’ll admit, but just being surrounded by genuine friends felt amazing and true to cyclist style, it was a messy night but the funnest I have had in such a long time. Nice and cheap too in comparison to the Capital I’m trying to become accustomed to.

I saw so many other people the next two days, the Head of Sport at the Uni, my old gym coaches and other groups of friends. Funnily enough, well it’s not surprising, but I steered well away from that swimming pool. There’s memories there I don’t want to address but I also realised something else. I genuinely didn’t care about visiting, there’s no point seeing those people who brought pain but, importantly, I felt ‘over it’. Perhaps that exercise with my therapist, although thoroughly draining, really helped me come to terms with a few things and perhaps, it let me forgive.

Forgiveness is a massive strength. To be able to forgive someone, anyone, who has hurt you deeply in any way takes so much courage. But when I think about it, forgiving someone is the only way you can move on. You don’t need to like them or even talk to them but if you forgive what they did to you then you can step forward. Accept that what happened hurt, accept that it was wrong, but if you stay focused on the negatives, on how people hurt you, you’ll never be able to let go and develop yourself as a person.

I feel like there’s a lot of people I have truly forgiven, there really are a lot of things that don’t really bother me anymore, particularly sports related since I retired. However, that exercise really did help and forgiving those who have hurt me, even though I didn’t say the  words to their faces, has brought more peace to my mind I suppose.

And having a more peaceful mind definitely led to a crazy and more mental but amazing three days of Manchester Madness.

isaac

Rose Gold Reminders

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You know how they say weight loss happens where you don’t want to lose it but never from where you want it to? You know, we want our waists to be smaller but then we lose our chest instead? Yeah, well, my fingers have lost weight. Yes. You read that right and I hope you’re smiling at that comment just as much as I am.

The amount of times my rings have fallen off my right hand is getting ridiculous. Even more ridiculous are the places I’m finding them. My washing machine, my bike bag, my fridge…yes you also read that right. They’re literally falling off left right and centre any time I put my hands into a pocket, or I grab something. Always falling off.

Last week, my rings fell off when I was out and I panicked. Quite bad. Not because they’re financially valuable but because they’re emotionally valuable. There is a lot of sentiment behind these two rings and people know that. From the friends who know the reason I bought them to the friends who comment that they simply never see me wearing any other jewellery.  They know they mean something. I’m also a big believer in that, we can have fewer things and appreciate them so much more than if we had twice as much. I’d like a third ring though and I’m working towards that third ring right now.

September 2013. I sat shaking, fighting back tears as I went to see a therapist for the very first time. I will never be as scared as I was in that moment. I remember rubbing my knuckles on my right hand where the bruises from purging were. Perhaps I was trying to hide them but maybe it just provided me comfort to fidget a little bit. To be honest, ask anyone, I can’t sit still at the best of times! I remember looking at my hands nearly every day and I could see the bruises and the bruises have become scars. Scars that aren’t necessarily visible to others but they’re visible to me.

Like everything about myself, I wanted to see something beautiful when I looked at myself. I’ve never cared about my scars, I’ve always been proud of them but the mental scars are harder to accept. I bought myself a ring half way through my first recovery. Something small but beautiful, a bit like me I suppose. The reason wasn’t to have something beautiful though, not solely that. It was because if I wanted to purge I would have to take the ring off. I wore it all the time, even in bed (although thanks to miracle finger weight loss I can’t do that anymore). So I really had to stop and think about my actions, about what I was doing, about whether I really wanted to take that ring off.

When I hit my first real recovery, when I could say I was recovered no longer recovering from eating disorders I bought a second ring, a smaller one that could fit nicely on top of my first. A symbol of my journey, the fact I started out with nothing but scars but ended up with something beautiful to show on my right hand. I understand that I have relapsed and naturally that means the rings have come off but sometimes it takes a little bit of writing and a little bit of reflection to remember the meaning of these two little rose gold reminders.

They’ve provided me comfort when I’ve been stressed because playing with them calms me down because they remind me that I’ve done it before and I will do it again.  Now, I can’t just buy rings each time I relapse and recover but it would be nice to get another one, one to remind me yet again that what starts out in the dark can end up so damn beautiful in the end.

Free

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Walking down the street and I can feel myself smiling from the inside out. Late at night, fairy lights in all the trees and a light breeze in the air. Bit of a spring in my step, walking to the beat of that music and I can just feel the pleasant ache in my cheeks from non-stop laughter with the girls.

And I’m happy.

Beautiful from inside out.

I was almost at my front door and I saw the park across the road and I didn’t want to go in just yet. I wanted to soak in more of that fresh air and so I wandered over. There was no one around and I remember walking to the middle tilting my head back to look at the stars and lifted my arms in the breeze.

And I smiled.

All that fresh air in my lungs and the weight off my back. And me, just me, arms spread wide and smiling at the world.

And I’ve never felt so free.

Felt free because its been another good day…because I’m happy.

The secret of happiness is freedom, the secret of freedom is courage. (Thucydides) 

The past few days, the past few years have seen me be nothing but courageous.

And for that I’m proud but, most importantly, I’m happy.

Broken free from that demon once again.

 

Sparkle

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It’s strange how a day can genuinely turn everything around. I was really open in my last post and although my close friends have always read my writing I made it more public. Just through Instagram but the thing is, I don’t care who reads this, just being more open, being less secretive really helps me.

I don’t go around announcing to the world that I suffer from eating disorders but I do mention it occasionally and not keeping things under lock and key makes me feel less ashamed. I shouldn’t feel ashamed in the first place but knowing I’m attempting to keep something secret is so incredibly draining. Being able to share a little bit more with the outside world made me breathe a sigh of relief. Not from an attention seeking point of view, but simply, weight off my shoulders.

It took a hell of a lot of strength to publish it though.

It’s hard to explain unless you’ve gone through something like a mental illness but sometimes asking for help feels near impossible and maybe it was my way of opening up and declaring that I really was struggling. Regardless, becoming more public just provided so much relief for me. Knowing I was brave enough to share with more people that this is something I am still very much struggling with.

Good news though…yesterday was day one.

I did day one and oh did I do it well!

And oh am I proud of how I coped last night. I am so incredibly proud of myself, faced with what could have been another detrimental evening during my current state of relapse. But now its day two…so now I’m back in recovery.

Now I’m sat (supposedly revising) and I’ve eaten breakfast for the first time since I can remember and I’m not referring to a sole cup of coffee that I usually stick to. There’s something different though, I feel happy. My spark seems to be back. Not just from writing but I simply had the best time I have had in such a long time last night. So many laughs and ‘Len-Moments’ but I just have not laughed like that in a very long time. Maybe opening up further than I’ve opened up before helped me do that.

I don’t want to be a burden to my friends, I don’t want to be the one with an eating disorder but the truth is, anyone going through anything needs to open up. Keeping things under lock and key is not healthy no matter how small the issue is. I’ve always felt down here that because no one really close to me knows, its been harder for me to open up but sharing my blog with more people seems to have helped with that.

I don’t want pity or attention from sharing my blog but I also know that’s not what my friends would ever do. They care about me and what I’m going through because I know, if it was the other way round, I would care equally as much for them.

Its time to get rid of the lock and the key. I don’t need to unload catastrophically on anyone but, let’s face reality, I can’t recover if people don’t know that I’m trying to recover from something, can I? The biggest part of ED recovery is to stop feeling ashamed, especially with bulimia and if its a secret it means I’m ashamed. And I shouldn’t be and I’m not. I’m proud of myself and what I’ve overcome and at the end of a horrific week, last night could have killed me physically and mentally but I didn’t let it. I went out to dinner and drinks and danced til the sun came up and yes, I felt fat going out, I knew my dress was tighter than I wanted but god, did I need those laughs and god, am I proud that although the Demon’s voice was telling me to cancel and not go out, I didn’t listen.

I didn’t let it lock me up and keep me under control. I put the voice to one side and went and enjoyed myself. Unbelievably hard at first but unbelievably worth it. Even the selfie shows the confidence I had….I should really stop taking selfies…nah…who gives a fuck? If I think I look good I’ll damn well document it!

Because ultimately thats it. If I think I look good, if I think about how proud I am of myself, if I have that confidence, I don’t need anyone to instil it in me. I can do that on my own. Getting my spark back is the first big step in my new recovery and I felt it sparkle all night long.

Mistakes are meant to guide you, not define you

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This has been one hell of a horrific week, physically and mentally. I didn’t even realise today was friday, I’ve been that lost all week. I was going out last night and could see how tired I still looked under that make up (and an instagram filter!). I can see there’s a lack of my usual happiness. My spark isn’t there.

My mind was so distant yesterday and I binged. I almost didn’t realise I was bingeing. All I knew was that I wanted to purge, I wanted to throw up the pain I’m in and so I ate. And I ate a lot but when it came to purge I couldn’t.

Not that I couldn’t physically bend over in the freezing cold and put my fingers down my throat (apologies for the crudeness) but that I couldn’t purge. I was gagging and choking but nothing came up. I was so full and yet nothing. The tears were stinging as my whole body was pushing to be sick. My mind racing demanding that my stomach expel all the food. But it wouldn’t. I couldn’t understand it.

It’s bad enough this illness makes me feel disgusting let alone having to have all that food on my stomach. I’ve never been so ashamed nor felt so fat. I avoided all mirrors this morning and I know its bad when I’m not weighing myself because I’m scared (rather than because I don’t care about my weight).

No wonder my epilepsy has been so bad. That should have sent the warning signs going the other day, and it did but last night was a whole new low. A low I’ve not been at for a very long time.

Maybe the scare is worth it though. Made me realise that my body could be at a stage where it really is refusing to throw up. Immune to the gag reflex or something because its in dire need of food.

I actually googled it last night and I came across all these pro-anorexia/bulimia sites. They were horrible. Girls encouraging each other and teaching each other tricks. The thing that did shock me was that these are all tricks I’ve learnt on my own. I don’t want to be part of these sites at all, I was looking to see if the logic in my head, that my body really is refusing, is true.

It hit home a bit, I’m not the only one to experience this. Not just the inability to purge but the thoughts that these other sufferers are feeling too. I knew these types of websites existed but it still shook my system a bit but their words are so relatable.

“Fat”

“Disgusting”

“Going to gain so much weight if I can’t purge”

“Weak”

“Wish I was anorexic”

I really hate myself. I hate myself when I purge but last night, not being able to purge at all, made me feel ten times worse. My brain wants to restrict again. It doesn’t think about just small healthy portions and exercise. That’s the problem. My eating disorder does and always has hopped between anorexia and bulimia.

I want this to stop. I do so bad. But I need to deal with all this emotional stress before I embrace the practical side of it. God knows I hate myself. I hate how fat I’ve let myself become. I know I can do it. I did it before. I can do it again.

Getting out of the downward spiral is the hard bit. The hardest bit.

I know I can do it though.

I saw one of my best friends last week who’s just had a baby. It’s a bit cliche but when I was holding her I was thinking about the day I have my own and how it would kill me if they grew up and suffered in the same way I have done. I can’t let that happen. I can’t let myself be ill for the rest of my life. It’s no way to live.

I want to lose weight, yes. I want to tone up, yes. But I don’t want to live my life in the clutch of this demon.

I need to restart the clock. No matter what number it is this time. It’s okay to restart again. I don’t care if I’ve said it before, I’m saying it again. Today is going to be day one. Today is going to be the first day of my recovery. I’ve recovered before. Today is my day.

Sometimes our best success comes after our worst mistake.

It’s not how we make mistakes but how we correct them that defines us

Pain demands to be felt

I don’t quite know how I’ve ended up back here. Back at the bottom of the pit with the demon’s claws digging tighter than ever. The pain I’m feeling lately is excruciating and I don’t even remember how it got so bad.

I did so well towards the end of summer but at the end of August it all went to pot. All came crumbling down but the stone walls went up. I’ve never been so scared to tell anyone, I know I need to open up and reach out for help but I don’t know how.

I’ve never hated myself as much as I hate myself right now. Words like, weak, fat, disgusting, failure spinning round my head on a daily basis. Scared of eating out again, scared of eating in front of people again, scared of calories, trying to find opportunities to purge. Eating food I know is easier to purge.

I’m a mess. Every day I genuinely stand in front of the mirror, hands on the sink struggling to hold myself up, tears falling like rain down my cheeks and the burning in the back of my throat. I can taste it, not the aftermath of the purge but I can taste the hate I have for myself right now.

The pain is just stabbing. I loved myself over summer, I worked so hard and my blog posts show how much progress I was making. How happy I was…I mean I am happy…it’s just why the fuck did I relapse in August…I know why…but why…why was I so weak? They even said ‘you can’t let things constantly make you relapse’…which I don’t…just that one thing. Fucking idiot.

When did this darkness creep up on me again? When did it overcome me? Why was I not strong enough to stop it? Can I stop it?

I need to get rid of this pain but I don’t know how. I feel lost and confused about so many aspects of my life and the only thing keeping me going is law school. But sometimes I want more than just my friends. Sometimes I do want someone there. Just to hold me whilst I cry out all this pain.

Oh I wish I could fall into someone’s arms, even a friends arms and cry all this out. But I can’t. No one knows and I’m not strong enough to tell them right now.

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