Travel Freedom

Two weeks of qualification leave over. Two out of those exciting yet scary six weeks done and dusted. Exciting because it’s a holiday to celebrate my qualification as a solicitor and scary because of the challenge it is for my ED.

Even before I fully developed bulimia I displayed disordered behaviours which I managed to justify to my family. I lied to them and myself that taking my scales to weigh myself multiple times a day was a good thing so I wouldn’t go back to my training “heavier than I needed to be”. I was being a “good athlete” by moderating my intake on holiday. I was trying to stay active so that I’d be “ahead of my competitors who might be being lazy on their holidays”.

I loved travelling on my own but I think I avoided going away with my family or friends because I wasn’t able to break away from my ED just then. I wanted to keep as much of that false sense of control as possible by skipping meals, over exercising and purging.

So many of my solo travels were amazing but disastrous for my ED. I didn’t cope on them at all. I can’t lie to myself about that anymore.

I’m spending my first three weeks in California and Arizona. Travelling through the main Californian cities and visiting Yosemite and the Grand Canyon. Out of my qualification leave, I thought these three weeks would be easier ED-wise because I’d be very active, swimming, kayaking, hiking, walking etc on each part of my trip. It’s the second half of my leave which scares me.

However, despite three moderate panic attacks I am actually very proud of myself. Yes. I just typed out that I’m proud of myself. I don’t really know if I’ve said that before.

I’m proud that I’ve pushed to eat and have eaten three meals a day most of these days.

I’m proud I ignored my fear of “water / liquid weight” and have stayed thoroughly hydrated.

I’m proud I was able to have a spontaneous meal with a travelling couple I met and that I didn’t simply have a zero-calorie salad but food that had carbs!

I’m proud that I’ve only forced myself to do one tiny 20 minute workout. That I was strong enough to ignore my ED telling me to exercise compulsively on the other days.

I’m proud that I allowed myself to have small snacks for dinner when I wasn’t okay mentally to eat more than that. Better than nothing, right?

I’m proud that, when a colleague, who was in SF at the same time as me, invited me to dinner – that I took my time to pick between the two triggering restaurants he chose and that I fought the ED voice telling me not to go, telling me to be scared, telling me I’d gain weight.

I’m proud I happily committed to going to dinner with him. This one was my worst panic attack and I’m writing this post before I get ready to go for that dinner. I’m fighting to be strong for it.

I’ve loved every minute of these two weeks so far (except the train delays of course!). When I was in the Grand Canyon I sat down at one of the view points to reflect a little while and I cried because things felt good.

It felt good to not be negatively obsessed with food whilst on holiday.

It felt good to fuel my body to allow it to achieve what it wanted to achieve on this part of my qualification leave.

It felt good not to be hiding in my room, afraid to eat or crouched in the bathroom dealing with my emotions in the worst way.

It felt good to travel and allow myself to lose some of that constant control I have to have over my life and diet at home.

It felt good to travel a bit more freely than I ever have in the past.

Two weeks down. Four to go. Forever fighting to stay on the right and healthy track and, so far, I think I’m succeeding.

Flexible Planning

T-minus 24 hours until my qualification leave begins! (Well 24 hours if I leave work at 5pm tomorrow but my supervisor knows it’s my last day so fingers crossed he’ll let me run away as soon as it is professionally acceptable to do so).

It still hasn’t fully hit me that I’m going to be away and out of the country for 6 weeks from Saturday morning but I’m so incredibly excited.

There’s one pesky issue though…my ED.

Although I consider myself in “recovery”, the Demon doesn’t want me to enjoy my holiday. It wants me to avoid putting on weight, to limit my carbs so I don’t look as chubby on the beach and to exercise more than I should on holiday….

I’m used to doing weekly food plans – something that has thoroughly helped my recovery – but the idea of having an unpredictable and unplannable 6 weeks of eating has shook me more than a little. However, my first 3 weeks in California will be very active. The days will be full of hiking, swimming, walking, kayaking etc so I know I need to ensure I fuel my body for those activities.

But I don’t know what I’ll be eating. I don’t know where the supermarkets are or the restaurants around me and nor do I want to obsessively research that in advance but I can’t fully let go of my food planning for 6 weeks and so I came up with a more flexible way of planning.

I’ve made an itinerary for California and on the days I’m going to be super active I’ve noted in nice green writing: “very active day: higher calorie intake needed”. I toyed with the idea of writing “lower calorie intake needed” on my purely travel days (and initially I did) but I realised that could be triggering if my ED brain considers that a “rule” and then panics if I eat a bit more than anticipated.

I’ve not gone into any more detail than that and I think that’s fine. It’s not a solid food plan by any means but it allows me to recognise when I need more fuel and days where I need to prepare food for a full day’s hike the day before.

I’m far more concerned about visiting Greece with my boyfriend as I’m worried we’ll eat out and drink more on a less active holiday but we came up with a plan for that too. We’re going to rotate each night with a visit to a restaurant on one night and a gyros/cafe on the other. Also, every second restaurant visit will be one I can “splurge” at a little – a cheat meal so to speak.

(It’s been hard to re-educate my brain that eating at a restaurant doesn’t automatically mean over eating or eating unhealthily)

I’m hopeful that, in that way, I can keep one restaurant meal healthy and allow myself to enjoy holiday food a bit more on the other with much smaller gyros type meals on the other days (which are incredibly filling and only €2!)

Greece is the tough one. I’m panicking a lot about that part of the holiday because I’ve also put pressure on myself to not have ED problems as I’m concerned about them “ruining” my boyfriend’s first holiday with be and let’s be honest, I’ve not had a symptom free holiday since my ED began so 8 years plus….

But I’ve also never had a holiday with my ED where I have created a flexible eating plan…so maybe this could be a good coping mechanism going forward.

I guess there’s only one way to find out…but to begin with, here’s to me finally about to qualify as a solicitor!

Avoiding Self-Sabotage

It’s a full on summer. That’s for sure.

I’m now seven months into what I feel is “recovery”. In that seven months I’ve been sick twice. Once at the start (i.e. when the seven months began) and once when I was incredibly drunk and fell into an old habit. I’ve still experienced panic attacks, I’ve still had the demon’s voice screaming in my head but I’ve managed to get through to the other end.

I’m sticking to my food plans whilst allowing flexibility and, as far as possible, I’m exercising for fun. I’ve started to accept the numbers on the clothes I wear. I’m more understanding of my large chest and the impact it might have on those clothes sizes and all in all, I’m starting to like myself a little bit more.

Although that voice to “be better” still echoes in the back of my mind, it just feels a little bit easier to ignore it.

So, so far so good, right?

This summer is supposed to be amazing. It’s my birthday, one of my best friends is getting married, I’m moving into my boyfriends’ flat…a trainee summer party and a department summer party…I’m going to qualify and as a result of qualification I not only have a qualification party but a 6-week “qualification leave” in which I refuse to spend more time in the UK than is necessary!

I’m spending three weeks in California, two weeks on my favourite Greek island with my boyfriend and my final week with my closest work friends in Italy. And I promise I am so damn excited but I’m also damn scared.

I’m nervous to not really be planning my meals. I’m nervous to be exercising less. I’m nervous to be in swimwear with my friends who I am bigger than. I’m nervous to be out of routine for 6 whole weeks.

California will probably be okay. I’m on my own for that bit and it’s going to be quite an active break. There will be plenty of hiking in the Grand Canyon and Yosemite, walking round Balboa and the Golden Gate Parks, kayaking and snorkelling on the beaches and generally just being constantly out and about. I know I can plan healthy meals and I know I need to eat to be able to take part in those activities. I also feel like I’ll have a bit more control because I’ll be on my own.

Ironically, I’m more nervous for being away with my boyfriend or friends. They are far more likely to  be beach/relaxing/celebration type holidays. That scares me. Being around skinny girls scare me. The idea of more food and alcohol scares me. The lack of exercise scares me. Ultimately, I am petrified of a potential weight gain.

I haven’t been on holiday without any ED symptoms since my ED began and this 6 weeks is looking like my biggest challenge yet.

The problem with being scared is that you run the risk of self-sabotaging. I do believe that the more I panic the more likely I am to relapse. But that’s what the Demon wants. It wants me to relapse so it can say “I told you so. I told you you weren’t strong enough to do it. I knew you were weak”. And that’s how easy it is for it to dig its claws in to my back and drag me back into that downward spiral.

So I guess I have to keep pushing on. I have to keep eating my three meals a day and exercising for fun. It is going to be so incredibly rare for me to get these 6 weeks off work ever again so I do have to keep pushing those ED boundaries and allow myself to enjoy this break.

To make happy memories rather than moping around with the dark ones. Because giggling on rooftop bars is way more fun anyway…

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