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.

 

 

 

Hidden

You say you don’t like to tell me you love me too often, so that when you do, it means ‘more’.

Those hidden words would mean a lot to me, if I were to hear them a little more often.

You say I’m perfect the way I am but I feel as though you keep me hidden.

You’re not hidden in my life. You are happy to be a part of my world.

You’ll come to events that my friends or I host.

But I’m never invited to yours.

19 months and I haven’t met a single person.

No work colleagues.

No friends you take part in your hobbies with.

Only your housemate but, I’m sorry, that doesn’t count.

I’m in your profile picture but you never post any other pictures of the adventures we get up to.

Yet you do with everyone else.

Family, colleagues, friends.

Just not me.

You always look so happy too. You never look that happy in any pictures I take.

Maybe I’m reading too much into it.

Maybe you’re making me feel ashamed of myself for no real reason. I know you would never mean to.

But I’ve been kept hidden before. I’ve been plenty of peoples ‘dirty little secret’. 

I’ve told you I feel hidden and yet nothing has changed.

God, how much just one introduction would mean to me.

But for now, I’m kept hidden.

 

 

Just a touch of magic…

It is impossible to visit Disneyland and not feel happiness. I challenge you to find someone who has entered one of the parks and not enjoyed it one bit…but even if you do find someone,or you are in fact someone who doesn’t like Disneyland, then that’s perfectly acceptable.

Each to their own!

My boyfriend and I went to Paris for my birthday last weekend and before you jump to the same conclusion as all my friends of OMG that’s like soooo romantic…it genuinely wasn’t intended to be some overly-romantic-whisk-me-away-trip.

We’d actually planned it far in advance but that in itself didn’t take any of the magic away.

We decided to spend my actual birthday at Disneyland itself and I knew from the moment we settled on this that I was going to have a lot of fun. However, in hindsight, I totally underestimated just how much fun I would have.

I was in such an incredibly happy place both literally and metaphorically, that I had so much fun I actually forgot it was my birthday. In fact, I didn’t even get my presents until a whole two days later because we totally forgot. But that’s by the by because I simply had a great day.

There was one thing I noticed, however, which was that for the first birthday in what feels like forever, I don’t think I panicked.

I didn’t overthink each of my three meals, I didn’t panic because we hadn’t planned them either. I didn’t try to calculate my calories or what I therefore needed to burn off. I didn’t try to justify why I either did or did not want a certain piece of food.

Most importantly, I didn’t criticise myself once. I didn’t even whisper to myself that I was fat.

That really is such a nasty sounding word.

I was simply so happy and having such a wonderful time with my other half on our first trip away together that the dark parts of my mind were silent.

That’s the best way I can describe it – they were silent.

I’m not going to pretend they were silent on the other days of our trip, because they most definitely weren’t, but it’s relieving that they are becoming lighter and quieter in their nature.

I’ve decided I’m going back to therapy to address these final dark thoughts. To tackle the last little parts I’m struggling with the most because I still have some battles to go through. That in itself was an incredibly tough decision because I feel as though I am sort of fine.

But I don’t want to be sort of fine. I want to be healthy and perhaps that does require a little bit of professional guidance.

The fact my ED was silent on that one day means it can be silent on other days too. Whilst it’s not silent right now, I’ve decided to just enjoy the fact that, for that single day, it actually was.

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Restless Rest

I had a week off work last week for no reason other than I had holiday to use and figured that back in March, a random week off in June would work well.

I struggled that week more than I ever thought I would. Between all the hospital appointments I had scheduled and the inevitable ‘house hunt’ starting I struggled to fit in an ample amount of time to simply rest. I simultaneously struggled due to the lack of structure and routine I have settled into with work.

When I could fit in that much-needed-rest, I was just exhausted. I would sit in the park with my books and my laptop, ready to enjoy the sun when, in reality, I just sat there staring into the distance completely drained.

The fact I’d also gone through a period of work where I was finishing between 11pm and 2am every single night and having to work through the occasional weekend probably didn’t help either. It just meant I was exhausted before my week off, during my week off and now? Well,  I’m exhausted after my week off.

I started a new course of treatment at the hospital. They are trying to ‘de-scale’ my head as my psoriasis is getting out of control. They call the process ‘tarring’ and yes, that’s right. I sit there in my beautiful hospital gown whilst they put tar and various other concoctions all over my head. I’m then wrapped up in cling film, a shower cap is placed onto my head and I sit there for a length of time whilst I ‘bake’. Following this, they sit with an incredibly fine comb and ‘de-scale’ my head. They literally dig and scrape at the psoriasis in the hopes of peeling it off my head whilst removing as little hair as possible.

They want to do this 2-3 times a week and I hate it already.

I hate the psoriasis on my head. It’s itchy and it hurts. It gets infected and it makes my hair fall out. I’m also constantly leaving a trail of dandruff looking flakes everywhere I go. But the thing is, it’s also the least of my worries.

Along with psoriasis I have, psoriatic arthritis, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, a Volkmann’s Ischemic Contracture, nerve damage and ruptured muscles, kidney problems, endometriosis and the list of illnesses I’ve had over the years feels endless.

Oh yeah, don’t forget the bulimia now.

I’m almost half-way through my training contract and the department I am working in now is where I want to qualify. It’s where I want to work for the rest of my life following my training which means I’m so incredibly conscious of the time these treatments are going to take up. I’m terrified of not being allowed to qualify here for whatever reason and so I’m equally desperate to not give them any stick to beat me with, so to speak.

What’s worse is the way I look after these treatments. I have bits of scale that haven’t quite made their way down my hair strands literally just sat there and my hair is the most greasiest smelliest mess you can imagine.

It is oh so easy for them or anyone reading to tell me to put up with incredibly greasy hair for a short while but when I’m already so caught up with my body image I can’t shake this feeling of ‘ugly’ that’s seething through my body lately.

Even today people have been looking at and some have even commented on my hair and I actually cried over it. I cried because I’m tired. I am tired of frequently having to go to the hospital for something or other. I am sick of all these different appointments, treatments and medications that I have. I am just sick and tired of being sick.

All my illnesses and disabilities drain me completely.

Forever wishing I could know what it felt like to be normal because I just feel broken.

I feel so damaged and that makes me feel unworthy. Unworthy of my job, unworthy of my friends….unworthy of love.

And it’s those feelings that the ED clings to. It’s those emotions that the ED thrives off. That’s when it’s at its worst but just because I know that doesn’t make fighting it off any easier.

Just Because

Just because you see the smile doesn’t mean there isn’t anything hurting behind my eyes. Just because you see the food being eaten doesn’t mean there isn’t any fear behind every mouthful that I swallow.

I’m not pretending to be okay. I’m fighting to be okay.

And each day is getting better…I think so, anyway.

In fact, I know so.

But from the moment I wake to the moment I shut my eyes my mind is plagued with fears and doubts and questions. When will I eat? What is on my meal plan? Will I be hungry at the correct times and what if I’m not hungry at the right times? Will I lose weight? Am I going to gain weight? What if I break my plan and have a biscuit in that meeting at work? What if I want to purge later? What if I end up purging? What should I do tomorrow to make up for any slip ups today?

Even if I have my three meals and my one hour of exercise my mind is plagued with these thoughts and you know what, it’s tiring as hell.

It’s been 4 months of meal plans and increasing my exercise week-by-week and a massive reduction in both my restrictive and purging habits.

And here we are, still trundling along.

After I initially stopped the purging I did gain a few pounds, but in all honesty (other than the pesky number on the scales ruining my mood) it didn’t really change me or my body that much. I didn’t instantly become fatter from stopping the purging.

But I still had hoped that 4 months down the line, that I would have physically changed.

I do know I have some body fat to lose. I just desire my stomach to be flat. My stomach is the only part of me that I am so incredibly self-conscious about. It always has been.

Even as I am in the process of writing this out I simultaneously wish I didn’t care about my weight. I’ve sometimes spoken about wishing I was the girl I used to be who didn’t care about my weight or what people said. I realise today that, that’s a lie.

I was forced to pretend everything was okay. I supressed every single one of my emotions by putting on a smile and learning how to laugh the pain away (and comfort eating in the process). I wasn’t ‘me’…I wasn’t allowed to be me.

No wonder I snapped one day.

Is it normal to miss your illness?

I don’t know if ‘miss’ is the right word.

I don’t enjoy purging. I don’t enjoy restricting. I don’t miss not being able to get out of bed for being weak. I don’t miss the burning in my throat day and night. I don’t miss the cramping in my stomach from laxative abuse but maybe I miss all the lies it was telling me. The lies I believed.

Maybe I miss the false sense of control it gave me. The reassurance that I was going to be ‘better’ if I did what it was suggesting I do.

I need to find a positive in this post and I can find a good one – yes I initially gained some weight when I started eating 3 meals a day, but I haven’t gained more than those initial 4 pounds.

I haven’t suddenly become the fat girl I was scared of becoming. The fat girl I am still scared of becoming. I’ve just sort of hovered in this middle ground…little bit heavier…but a whole lot healthier.

I’m currently maintaining.

I’m writing this because I have a little bit of free time at work and I want to purge.

I want to purge even though I had 1 sandwich for lunch because…well let’s try to be honest…because deep down I don’t think this is about weight loss…I’m a little overworked, a little tired, a little self-conscious and a friend being cruel in the way she spoke about my ED a few nights ago has left me feeling vulnerable.

If I break it down further, the ‘fight’ on Sunday night left me remembering those who have used my ED to their advantage to control me. It made me remember and feel feelings of worthlessness and being taken for granted. It made me feel uncared for and ‘dumped’.

Let’s be honest, it just made feel shit.

Well at least I can pin point what’s triggering me this week.

I’m trying to remember that I’m a whole lot healthier than I was 4 months ago….4 pounds ago…

I wish being healthier didn’t hurt as much as it does right now.

They say actions speak louder than words but, just because my actions are those of a normal person, doesn’t mean the words my brain deals with aren’t deafening.

 

Internal Criticisms

The big, dreaded, over-thought-about-before, phone call happened on Thursday. It was supposed to be Tuesday but got switched last minute. That in itself freaked me out for a good 12 hours…

But deep breaths and I got there.

I was so incredibly nervous to hear my old therapist’s voice as I sat on my bed but as I did I felt relieved and safe. I wasn’t in his big warm comfy office, but I may as well have been.

I always thought the kidney surgery was to blame for my relapse. I had this month of being unable to eat and if I did eat I would throw up involuntarily and I lost weight as a result. I remember crying to friends about how hard it was but I don’t think I quite got across  the fact I was talking about the mental pain, not the physical pain from the surgery.

He tried to get me back to basics, to talk about what happened in the months before that illness and all of a sudden, I remembered:

  • “Peru Sunday” (although all of that is more than solved right now. It was SHIT. It wasn’t fair but it is what it is)
  • My dad forced me to meet my ten year old half brother and took me round some of my most favourite places in London (some of which are now too hard for me to go to).
  • Family arguments when they asked me to give them a substantial amount of money and I ended up threatening to get lawyers involved.
  • I’ve drifted from a best friend completely. That was a painful process which I tried to repair but I genuinely think we just drifted naturally.

I cried so much. All this pain coming out. My friends and boyfriend want me to talk to them but I struggle so much due to the fact they emotionally care about me. I’m not saying my therapist doesn’t care about me but there is an element of ‘he can detach his emotions from me’. So when I tell him things, I don’t see a cringe in his face or hear pain in his voice.

It’s easier to remember everything.

We discussed how it sounds as though my ‘critical voice’ is at a whole new high and it’s suppressing any sort of ‘compassionate voice’ that would soothe my feelings. He asked me what the voice says…

No one’s ever going to love the fat girl.
You should be grateful that you have a boyfriend, that someone’s putting up with you.
No one’s ever going to understand or love the girl who makes herself sick.
No one’s ever going 
to love you.
Everyone’s going to get fed up with you if you can’t recover, they’re justified to abandon you.
You’re so fat.

….

Then he asked me, who these phrases (oh there’s more than just the above) remind me of?…

My greek family told me at 10 years old that I would never find love because I was so fat.

An ex told me that everyone else would hurt me because of the bulimia, that no one would love me, that I wouldn’t find anyone else other than him and then I’d regret leaving….that I should be grateful.

An ex told me I wasn’t trying to recover. That he knew I was restricting and purging but it was 100% up to me to recover….I remember that one the clearest. That conversation hit me so hard, it made me feel like I was alone and couldn’t ask for help. It made me feel like everything was my fault.

The reality of what me and my therapist spoke about hit me so hard. I felt this lump in my chest as though I was choking trying to get words out. I had internalised all these horrible voices and was now repeating the phrases to myself.

And as I stripped down those phrases, as I looked behind the words I repeat to myself on a daily basis, it wasn’t me saying them any more. I could visualise the situation as if I was stood in a corner watching myself.

It was my greek grandma and my dad, in her flat in Athens, at the kitchen table praising my brother for eating so much food and then criticising me for eating the same. It was them saying across the table at a 10-year-old me that they would have to find me a rich husband because no one would ever love and want to marry the Fat Roly Poly.

It was a 13-year-old-me sat in the corner of a room whilst a group of ‘friends’ played spin the bottle but I wasn’t allowed to play because I was so fat the boys might have to kiss me and that’s disgusting. 

It was a 20 year-old-me being forced to do extra cardio and when the other athletes asked the coach why that was the case he replied, because unlike you she obviously has fat to lose. 

I remember each comment clearly. I remember my age, the room we were in, the clothes I was wearing. The comments clearly hurt me so deeply but I almost forgot that it was others saying these things because I started to, and still do, say them to myself.

So that’s my new task. My homework, so to speak, to keep trundling along with this recovery but to try unpack every negative thought I have about myself. To try detach that internal voice that actually isn’t mine.

It never was.

 

 

Just say this or that

I slipped up and he told me he was ‘frustrated’.

Since admitting my relapse the other week I’ve pretty much put every practical step into motion that you can think of.

I moved into his for the week so I could have that really close support (supervision too). We sat and made a meal plan, did the food shop and helped me prepare what I needed to. We made food choices based off healthy levels of exercise throughout the week. Spoke to my therapist and even someone at work. New food diary, new journal and off to a new me(!).

But I slipped up.

I tried so hard to battle that Demon’s voice and I lost.

I had one slice of pizza and I couldn’t even cope with that.

I felt forced to eat it, pretty much. Everyone else was. It was leftovers from our department pizza party last night (a party I couldn’t stay at for more than an hour because socialising around the alcohol and pizza physically scared me).

I told myself say no. I ordered myself to refuse.

Some may tell me that it’s as simple as that.

‘You don’t have to eat it. You can say no.’

Saying no is hard though.

Why couldn’t I have said no?

A slice of pizza wasn’t on your meal plan. You’re weak for saying yes. You’re weak for diverting from the plan. You should be ashamed. You’re going to gain so much weight.

All these thoughts running through my head seconds after I finished.

I felt dissociated from my body after that. And all of a sudden it was ‘done’.

I promised to text him if I ever purged and so I did. But my text made him sad and ‘frustrated’. I don’t ever expect him to condone a purge and he refuses to say the words ‘its okay’ to get that across. But sometimes I just need that. I just need to hear the words ‘its okay, we’re going to get through it.’

I’m tired of not being okay. Tired of being up and down with this illness. I was doing quite well and I’m so disappointed I couldn’t keep it going. I’m more disappointed that I’ve made someone I care about incredibly sad.

Shaking these feelings of shame and disgust is tough. I always knew it would be.

I wish I could have said no to the slice but I’ve also been on that awful side of the spectrum where I said no to everything. Where saying yes was the hardest word to get out of my mouth.

Trying to find that balance and trust that it’s ‘safe’ to do so.

Trying to trust myself more than anything, I suppose.

 

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