Routine

I seem to be a bit low and preoccupied with my weight these past two weeks. I’ve come back from qualification leave and have started work as a qualified solicitor in the department/area I was desperate to work in and I’m so so so happy to be there. Everyone seems happy to have me back too and it just feels like I’m home with family.

Good right?

Sort of…

I’m a bit “off” and I’m trying to work out why.

I’m struggling to wake up in the mornings to go to the gym before work. I’m struggling to get plan weekly meal plans – something I didn’t/couldn’t do whilst away on leave. I’m struggling to find the balance with my life and my bf’s life now that I’ve just moved in (how much time is too much time to hang out?!).

I spent the past week feeling slightly low and I couldn’t work out why. I was so happy to be back, happy to be living with my boyfriend, happy to be picking up new work so why was I sad?

I think I’ve realised this morning that it’s because I don’t have routine.

It all culminated with me really struggling on the day of my bf’s birthday party (the day after he didn’t really tell me when he was coming home and I got all sorts of stressed out). I wanted to be so happy for his birthday but I was low, couldn’t find anything to wear and all I wanted to do was cry. He ended up telling me not to go to his party, which made everything flare even more, but I did go and it was all fine in the end.

I’m waking up some mornings for the gym but not even half of what I used to. I kinda fancy a run but then mentally aren’t up for it and stop after 1 Mile. I’m trying to make meal plans but then not fully committing to them.

I’ve not always worked out to lose weight or for other ED reasons but sometimes I do work out to keep myself in shape. I don’t always stick 100% to my meal plan but I always make sure I balance it out. However, this current situation all feels a bit different.

I know recovery includes becoming comfortably flexible with my choices but I think I need to enforce some structure into my life again.

I damn well know I’m a creature who thrives off structure.Who loves to wake up with purpose and goals for the day. Who really enjoys proper commitments (even if it is a specific gym class I’m trying to get better at).

I know how living a regimented life can be dangerous for someone in recovery/with an ED but I think that reintroducing the structure I had before my leave will help me leaps and bounds.

So, after this brief rant about feeling low lately I genuinely do think it’s because I don’t have routine and, ironically, falling out of that routine, especially with exercise, is making it harder to get back into that routine…so I guess I have to jump back in…

Here goes nothing

Robbed

My purse was stolen. Within a 12 hour window from me entering my hostel dorm at 7:30 pm to waking up at 7 am it was stolen.

The hostel did nothing. They stared blankly at me when I asked what the protocol was for reporting a theft. They said they had none and were confused when I asked to speak to a manger for advice and even more confused when I asked to report it to the police.

They didn’t offer sympathy or compassion. They didn’t advise me on what I should do to get money (seeing as my cash and credit cards were in my purse). They didn’t so much as blink when I said the word “stolen”.

The people in my room refused to help me look. One even said “that’s a shame it’s missing” and left. I know it’s my responsibility but I had zero compassion from anyone that day.

The police were more helpful. They listened to me, they checked I’d cancelled my cards and they checked I had enough cash to get me back to LA before I fly home in a couple of days. They filled in and gave me a report so I can at least contact my insurance company.

The purse was old and damaged but there was a lot of sentimental value to it. I’m upset the $56 I had in it was gone but more so the fact something with no financial value but lots of sentimental value is gone and I’ll never see it again.

I was always smart, I packed my bags each night and would lock them away until the morning. I know I had the purse in my room as I would keep my room key in it to avoid losing that so I needed my purse to get into my room. But these things happen and between me entering the room and waking up it went. Whether it was pinched from my bag right before I locked my bag away or it was on my bed accidentally…I don’t know…but i know it was stolen.

Two girls basically ran as soon as I announced my purse was missing. No one offered to help me look but I can’t jump to conclusions. I’ve accepted it was taken and that the roommates and staff weren’t going to help me. I dealt with it the best way I knew by reporting it to the police and contacting various banks etc.

I feel violated. I hated the rest of my time in that hostel even though I only had one more night to spend. I was lucky to have emergency cash in my rucksack (thanks Dad for sending that to me!) and I basically ran away to the airport this morning as soon as I could. Rather sit here for 6 hours then spend longer in that room with staff and travellers who have no compassion.

I’m also lucky nothing else on my travels in the USA is reliant on my credit card. I’m staying in an air b n b and when I explained the situation to them they offered to get me cash if I transferred some to them. They told me they’d cook me dinner so I don’t need to worry about food and damn that made me feel so good, made me feel cared for by strangers.

My friends, boyfriend and family are finding ways to help me get money for my European travels that start on Friday. I have 12 hours in London but my replacement credit cards won’t arrive by then and I have to go get a replacement SIM card too (I bought a US one and kept my UK one in my purse).

I’m lucky nothing else was stolen. I have my passport and my phone but regardless of whether my purse was in my bag or on my bed that doesn’t give anyone the right to pick it up and not hand it in.

In the morning I felt very unstable ED-wise. I’m proud nothing negative happened on that front although it was hard to shut down the voice telling me I was stupid, that I’d fucked up, that it was all my fault.

It’s not my fault.

It’s a really shit thing that has happened to me and I’ve been able to deal with it in the correct way so that’s all that matters.

Guess I just needed to rant to someone, anyone who would actually listen.

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!

The Almost-2-Months Stage

I haven’t been keeping track as much lately but I think that I’ve been sick 6 times in five months and I can say for certain I’m 7 weeks and 4 days since my last purge. You’ll all know that recovery isn’t about the sole symptom people think you’re recovering from. That it’s a mixture of emotions and tough decisions to battle each day but I’m proud to be approaching my first ever 2 month mark of being, at least, ‘purge-free’.

The panic attacks and battles are becoming less frequent but I feel that they are stronger when they are here. It’s almost as though the more I pull away from my eating disorder the more the Demon digs its claws in and tries to pull me back.

This truly is the first time I’ve ever felt that I am recovering. I’ve accepted that I don’t need to have no symptoms each and every day to be “in recovery” and that having a day where I suffer a symptom doesn’t mean “relapse” or that I’m no longer “recovering”. I think 2 months purge free and hardly any symptoms is a good run.

I’m having symptoms today though. I suppose that’s why I’m back here on this keyboard. I’ve had bad problems with my abdomen 4 times over the last 4 months and they think I’m having gallstones or perhaps other issues with my gallbladder.

So let’s recap. I suffer from the following: cerebral palsy, epilepsy, psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis and a Volkmann’s ischemic contracture. I have had surgery to remove my appendicitis and kidney stones as well as surgery in relation to the previous disabilities I’ve listed. I have suffered 11 broken bones, several plates and pins remain in my body, I take medication that weakens my immune system and I sometimes have to use a walking stick to get around.

Don’t forget to add the bulimia and even if my gallbladder isn’t the issue, there’s certainly something going wrong with my stomach which may require even more surgery.

I don’t usually cope well when another new illness or diagnosis is given to me. It makes me feel broken – a feeling I’ve been overly exposed to since I was a child and not just because of medical issues. However, although I’m feeling sad today I seem to be coping with this half-diagnosis much better. It hasn’t sent me into an automatic downward spiral into relapse.

I do consider I’ve overeaten slightly today and I’ve had a panic attack as a result. Not one that made me want to purge but once that made me want to keep eating which would make me want to purge…so, yeah, perhaps one that ultimately had the goal of making me purge.

Although I’m coping better than I used to, I’m hurting a bit today which is making each hour tick by so slowly and every minute hurts much more than it should. I just want today to be over. And that’s okay. It’s okay to have tougher days where all you want to do is lie in bed and cry, it’s just that I can’t actually do that today. Today is a day where I’ve had to go back and forth from the doctors and work and I have plans with my best friends tonight so I can’t just hole up in bed and cry as much as I want to.

I know it’s okay to cancel plans if I need some time but, ultimately, my ED has taken so many social experiences away from me in the past and it still does. My recovery wants me to rest but it also wants me to stand up and genuinely enjoy hanging out with my friends this evening.

Today’s just one of those slightly tougher days due to factors I, simply put, cannot control.

So what can I control? I can control how I choose to act. I can choose to continue working this afternoon and I can choose to go bowling this evening with my best friends. I can choose to eat dinner with them or choose to eat dinner later at home. I can choose to be happy this evening and to cry later if I still need to!

I can choose to deal with my emotions in whatever healthy ways I can find this evening. And a healthy way is to make sure I still eat dinner, keep hydrated and, most importantly, relax and have fun.

I’m at my almost-two-month stage. A tough milestone to have gotten to so there’s no point stopping now.

 

Here’s a picture of me at HP world last week because days like today call for happy memories

A Running Buzz

I did something completely off the bat last week. Something I’m so surprised that I did but something that I’m so incredibly pleased with myself about.

I went for a run which ended up being my first ever 10k run.

What’s more, I enjoyed it.

I came back home with such a buzz. Had I really just gone on a 63 minute run without stopping and liked it? Me? The girl who told everyone (predominantly herself) that she couldn’t run?

Earlier in the week I’d gone on a shorter run with my housemate. I was so nervous because I have “exercise-anxiety”. I know I can swim well. I know I can lift heavy weights and so I don’t feel self-conscious in the pool or gym (at least, not self-conscious when it comes to my ability, body image feels different although it’s improving!) But running? I have this fear I would look awful, that I’d be too slow, that I’d not be able to make it without stopping. These fears that inevitably result in me (1) feeling self-conscious, (2) running slower and (3) stopping.

Even though I love swimming and going to the gym, I still really don’t like working out with people I know. So running with a friend was a huge challenge but…it wasn’t that bad. I came back having run about 7k, the furthest I’d ran at that point and I hadn’t “died”. I hadn’t been “too slow”. It was all fine and I felt good.

And so on Saturday morning I went and dug out my official running trainers from my triathlon days. (As a para-athlete from a swimming background, the triathlon coaches were conscious not to injure my knees through a change in training so we focused heavily on my swim and bike and less so on the run, I’d never run more than 5k in training). I had planned to do the same run as me and my housemate did but ended up feeling really good and just kept going. Once I got to 7k I knew I had more in me I thought to myself, “how great would it be to get to 10” and somehow I managed to loop back to my house and finished bang on 10k.

I had a therapy session that morning and I cried over how happy I was with myself. I still can’t believe I cried tears of happiness after running a 10k! My therapist said it was one of the first times I’ve said nice things to myself and thinks that’s why I was crying. Afterwards, I was raging with happiness the rest of the day.

I told people that it’s the first time I’ve had that “buzz” since I was an elite athlete 4 years ago but I quickly realised that wasn’t it.

It was the first time I’ve had that “buzz” since I was a healthy elite athlete 8 years ago. It was a feeling I’ve not felt since before my ED days and I think that’s why I cried so much.

It’s been a long 8 years since I could exercise without feeling like “I have to”. A long time since I was competing in sports that I loved simply because I loved them rather than hating every aspect of competitive sport because of the constant bullying and psychological mind games. 8 years since I came home really happy with my workout rather than depressed trying to work out “what else can I do?”

I didn’t even care about the calories on the run and I automatically ate as soon as I came home. I ate a good meal and kept drinking water all day. It’s been 8 years since I didn’t automatically associate every single food with guilt. People forget that bulimia isn’t always categorised with binging and although I have had binge episodes, half the time I wasn’t purging a binge but purging every single item I ate, even fruit and water. I used to hate drinking water because it made me feel full and I had been taught to associate full with fat which meant no Paralympic Games for me which meant failure, worthlessness and more.

I then got thinking that I could do more than 10k. If that was my first run in over 4 years and I’d never even ran that distance previously then surely I could do more? I began to think I could do a half marathon and lo and behold, later that day, I saw a charity I knew advertising their last remaining spaces for the London Landmarks Half Marathon on 24 March…I contacted them and there we go, I’m doing a half-marathon in 8 weeks!

The thing is I didn’t sign up to the event in the hopes it would force me to keep running. I signed up because (1) I want to keep running, (2) I want to see what I can do and (3) it is for charity that means something to me.

I’d only ever run a charity event for a charity that has some meaning to me like, Beat, Epilepsy Action or Psoriatic Arthritis UK. None of these charities were running at or had places at this half marathon and Scope is a less-well-known charity that fights for disability equality. They campaign for the government to have better legislation and they also offer practical and emotional support to disabled people, families, carers and professionals as well as having various other campaigns. None of my friends have ever heard of Scope but I have. To be blunt, being disabled does mean I know more disabled people than most able-bodied people do and I know Scope through these friends of mine. Therefore, I felt it was appropriate for me to raise money for them.

And I really want to see what happens going forward. I just want to keep running. I want to enter so many more races (which is my “athlete” coming back!). I suppose it’s a sport that I have no background with so I can’t judge myself on times or distances etc.

I appreciate I need to be careful and ensure this new found love for running doesn’t stop my recovery but I can’t just pre-empt that that’s going to happen. I’ve already noticed I’m taking so much more care to hydrate, fuel and recover properly around these runs I’m now doing and I’ve even reduced my exercise plan by letting myself sleep more and gym less. But you know what? I’m 26 and I was an athlete for two thirds of my life. Being in sport is part of me. It was part of me before the ED, during it, and there’s nothing to say it can’t be part of me after the ED. I don’t need to be an international athlete at a Paralympic Games to be “worthy of sport”. I am worthy of enjoying sport.

I’m “worthy” in general.

I’m just so damn surprised it was a one-off run that made me realise that.

 

 

 

The “Ten-Year-Challenge”

I assumed that the very first post I saw was someone posting a ten-year progress picture because they wanted to. I didn’t realise it was a viral “challenge” sweeping over all social media platforms.

I’ve never liked these “challenges” that encourage people to essentially post a nice picture of themselves. I don’t mean to judge but I do feel like it’s a cry for attention. It’s a post that demands others to tell you how cute you looked then and how even better you look now. It’s a “challenge” that seeks self-affirmation from others.

I don’t want to judge. Everyone should be able to post whatever they want.

Thing is, I don’t think that it is a challenge for the vast majority of people.

Hence why I’ve been using quotation marks until now because it is a challenge for some.

It’s a real challenge for me and my ED to post a comparison picture but I decided to compare two pictures of myself.

In the darkest days of my ED, I deleted every single picture I was embarrassed off and if it wasn’t my picture to delete you can be sure I removed every single tag. I hated those reminders of the weight I gained when I was injured. The further weight I gained because I was burying my emotions in food every single day.

I removed every single picture which made me feel “fat” or “ugly” and as a result I have lost some physical reminders of those years. It’s like I tried to erase a part of me. I couldn’t accept that I had made myself that way and so I deleted the memories.

I’m currently trying to find any pictures of myself that survived the “Facebook purge” or ones that existed before the days of camera phones and social media. I’m going through an exercise of trying to love that girl in those pictures so I can accept my past rather than trying to erase it. That in itself is a challenge.

Anyway…

Scouring through my old albums was a very real and painful challenge. It hurt to see who I was before and during my darkest days. It pained me to face the hurt behind the photographs.

I did find one picture on Facebook from my best friend’s birthday party when I was 17. I deliberately kept it because the uncropped version was really funny and I wanted reminders of my best friend’s birthday.

I downloaded it and combined it with the most recent picture I have of myself. It was from 7 days ago and I was very drunk. It was the first time I had really let myself drink since mid-November (due to the annual “December Fears”) and I had decided to stop being scared of alcohol and parties and to “rip the band aid off” to enjoy myself. You can tell from the picture that it worked!

I haven’t been able to post it on social media though and, to be honest, I don’t need to.

Half of me doesn’t want to post it because I’m scared. My stage of recovering isn’t strong enough to let me accept that girl on the left. I still blame her for the things people did and said to her. The things that ultimately resulted in and helped the ED continue, even though I know that it isn’t her fault.

The other half of me simply doesn’t want to post it. I know I spent years seeking affirmation from others and I’d like to stop that behaviour. I still post pictures of myself but I’m no longer trying to post the most perfect picture of myself to gain likes from people I don’t even talk to. I’m posting the pictures where I feel like I look incredibly happy. Something I’ve not seen in my pictures for a while.

I’m going to post it here though. This blog has always felt safer than social media even though I know my connections have access to it.

Every day is a challenge when you are recovering from an eating disorder. Every day is a challenge to look in the mirror, to eat, to rest. Every day is a battle with my body image ; both my body image today and my body image from the past.