The Recovery Body

I think I am in “recovery”. After suffering from bulimia with anorexic behaviours I now find myself 18 months purge-free. During those 18 months I found myself becoming less and less scared of the fear foods and I started to deal with triggering situations better every time. I found myself re-educating a love for myself and I really did progress with that self-compassion.

Long gone are the days where planning and panicking about what I would or would not eat that day plagued my mind from the moment I woke up to long after I went to bed.

Those days do exist, just shorter in duration and longer in days apart. However, it would be a lie to say that the ED does not plague my thoughts from time to time.

Does this mean I’m not in recovery? Does true recovery mean every day is a good day? I doubt that…mental health aside, not every day can be a good day. Every day has its own stressors and obstacles to overcome. Being in recovery means you fight the battles…at least that’s what I think right now.

I’m 18 months happier. 18 months healthier. I’ve learnt to value my body for what it can do and what it can achieve. I’m no longer ashamed that I never made it to the Olympics and ashamed of my achievements being (what I thought was) sub-par. Instead I’m proud of my athletic achievements. I have my trophies and medals on display instead of gathering dust in the cupboard and I even framed my World Championship sports kit to hang on the wall.

My mum asked “what if you want to wear it again?”. My initial thought was that I couldn’t fit into the tiny outfits I used to wear even if I wanted to but I said what I really thought which was, “this is me, hanging up my kit and moving onto my next chapter”.

So here I am, in my next chapter. A chapter called “I hate my recovery body”.

I follow a lot of ED-recovery accounts across a series of platforms and whilst they all share positive vibes and scream body positivity, I find myself angry that I didn’t “recover small”. That my body has become bigger in my recovery journey. I’m very short (barely 5ft) and my 34EE chest looks so big. I’ve almost come to terms with my chest though, although its difficult dressing my body in a complementary way. But I just hate my stomach. I hate the loose skin and little rolls of fat. I hate the way my appendix scar sits, a crooked 3 inch red line with loose skin hanging over it.

And I believe me, I try. I try to love my stomach. I really do but I can’t.

I think it’s made worse by the fact I eat balanced and workout daily and see no change. I ran half-marathons last year and I still gained fat (not muscle). It hurts me to see that my body isn’t as slim as I want it to be. As someone who is still very active, the problem now is that my brain is really screaming to miss a few meals, to purge every now and then. It’s blaming me for the way my stomach looks and is tempting me to slip up as a “quick fix”.

The biggest thing my ED brain is making me question though is, “does this mean I am actually in recovery?”

Does the fact I dislike my recovery body invalidate my recovery?

Do I have to love and show off every single inch of me to prove I am in recovery?

Am I allowed to feel ashamed of my recovery body?

Or does that mean I’m not recovered at all?

Instagram: elenipapa92

Out of sync

I decided to stay in Cape Verde for the week instead of going home early. I wrote a nice big list of pros and cons (don’t we love those) for staying or going home and, ultimately, I realised I wouldn’t necessarily be much happier at home and I’d still be doing very little so if I’m not going to do much I may as well not do much in the sun!

Truth be told, I realised my ED has been triggered the past month because I have been feeling insecure and vulnerable in my relationship. I am still purge free but when I say my ED has been triggered, I mean those leftover voices and urges that crop up.

It’s funny. I know my relationship is great. I know my boyfriend is wonderful and I do know that he loves me but I’ve felt a little lost the past month to 6 weeks. Kept blaming it on the new house and the adulting stress that naturally comes with that. It took me getting on a plane on Saturday morning to realise how low I was feeling towards my relationship.

That in itself felt confusing because I simultaneously knew how much we love each other and how great we are together so why could I possibly be sad?

Occasionally I’ve felt he doesn’t love me quite the same way as I love him. I’m more proactive and giving in a relationship. I like that, it’s part of my personality but it’s also a flaw because it makes me vulnerable to thinking they don’t care as much as I do when that could be completely wrong.

I’ve done the most of the house planning and organising. I sorted the mortgage, legal docs and negotiations. I’m the one who researches and makes suggestions about rooms and furnishings (more often than not to be met with a “no” yet no alternative solutions offered. I’m the one who rearranges my work days (even when I really shouldn’t) to deal with deliveries and builders. I’m the one who deals with all those phone calls and emails relating to all that. Which is fine, I promise…again, I naturally default to being the organiser…but it would be nice for a little more action on my partners half rather than me feeling like I’m always chasing and him not wanting me to…

Sex has dropped too. Dare I say it, I think good sex is super important to a great relationship. I know some might disagree and say I’m wrong to emphasise good sex but honestly, the way I see it, happy relationship = better sex = happier relationship = even better sex = happy relationship…

Obviously that’s not always true. I know that. But for me, I do feel the happier I am with my boyfriend the more I can connect with him during sex and that then makes me happier.

He’s lost some of his romantic edge too. No flowers on our anniversary this year or valentines and he didn’t even post anything about our anniversary which took me by surprise. It sounds lame to want a social media post but here’s the thing. He doesn’t post much about us, I get that. I’m not a massive social media PDA-er either but he’s always done this nice short and sweet loving post about me on our anniversary so that’s my one day he tells everyone how much he loves me and I know I won’t get it the rest of the year but I know I’ll get it that one day..except this year.

We don’t hang out as much as I thought we would either. I knew it wouldn’t be like the weekends we used to spend together but with my long hours and needing early nights and him wanting to practice his cello and play games at night there’s such limited time in between me coming home and going to sleep. He doesn’t see the need to dedicate that one hour I have to each other but I do. I see it as “okay, I’m home and I’ll be asleep in 60 mins so let’s watch TV, chat a bit and then once I’m asleep you can do whatever it is you want to do…just give me 45-60 minutes of your time.”

He’s the opposite. He doesn’t feel negative if we don’t see each other at all in an evening. I do. He’s more introverted than me…but I like my alone time too! Finding the balance is hard. Trying to sync ourselves into a routine that isn’t routine but feels natural. Knowing when I may need more attention and when he may need more space. It sounds so silly to me sometimes because honestly living together has been wonderful and I love it.

I really do.

Just the lack of productiveness towards our joint investment and new home, decrease of sex and romantic affection has left me feeling a little unloved, a little unwanted, and I’m turn, a little worthless. Unloved, unwanted and worthless…the three major emotions I’ve experienced throughout my life that culminated in my ED.

It makes me sad to feel as though he doesn’t love me as hard as I love him.

I cried and told him all of this on Sunday. He was very supportive and it felt like a huge weight of my chest. He agreed that we should work on syncing up our sex lives and acknowledged he hasn’t been as affectionate as he could have been lately. He’s making more effort on the house front too. He tried to reassure me that he does love me and he’s just a bit introverted with his evening activities – something that’s harder to see when before you lived together, you only hung out on a sat night and Sunday so you naturally dedicate all that time to one another.

Adulting, eh? Bloody hard work but I’m sure it’s all worth it.

Teardrops

For some reason, a reason I’m trying very hard to identify, I’m crying.

And I feel like I need it. Like I need these teardrops on my face to help the situation somehow.

But I wish I knew what that situation was and what these tears are needed for.

I’m on a one week holiday that started today. I’m in a nice resort on an island I’ve never visited before in temperatures that are far better than England.

I’m on my own but I have travelled alone many times before so I don’t know why that would be the reason for these teardrops.

Work has been going well (albeit tough, as always). My boyfriend and I recently celebrated our third anniversary and we’ve bought a house – I know I haven’t written a blog post for almost 6 months as the “update list” is huge. Living with my boyfriend is most definitely an upgrade from previous living arrangements but we’re still working out the kinks (like how much time is too much time together each evening and working out how to get space when you want it). My family life is far less stressful than it used to be.

Actually, and probably most importantly, I recently reached my one year purge free milestone.

It’s been more than one year since I last purged.

Doesn’t mean I’m 100% okay. I do struggle with my “recovery body”. It’s bigger than it used to be and wobbles more. I have some skin laxity too. Online platforms have aided my recovery but sometimes I find it hard to see warriors who have recovered but are much smaller than me or warriors who have recovered who are much bigger than me.

There’s no one shape fits all, I know that.

But nothing I do changes my stomach. I work out a lot but not obsessively, always for enjoyment and movement. I have learnt to eat but not restrict. I allow myself less healthy foods in moderation alongside healthy foods. I don’t drink a lot of alcohol, by choice, and I feel like my efforts are wasted.

It’s been suggested that due to my appendix surgery and the way I rapidly lost weight due to the way my ED started that I won’t be able to shift the stubborn fat, and definitely not some of the loose skin, myself.

I feel recovered but I feel like a fraud because I don’t love my recovery body.

God, this is why I used to need/love this blog, I’d start with a question and by writing I’d work it out (or at least a contributing factor to my current feelings).

I was super excited when I booked this holiday in October. I’d just come back from my qualification leave where I loved my body. I was so in love with my boyfriend (obviously still am!) and just gone back to work in the area I always wanted. I guessed I would need a break in Feb, and I do, but I half wish I was at home.

This holiday is very different than my previous ones. It’s not an active holiday, it’s purely leisure. I’m staying in an all inclusive resort and I’m starting to realise that, that, is incredibly scary.

Not loving my recovery body probably isn’t helping me put on my bikinis either.

So, I’ve at least got something to work on. The tear drops are still coming but maybe I can do something about them? Like…

  • I specifically booked a rest holiday due to the time of year (there’s only so many warm places close enough to Europe at this time of year) but I could book a couple of excursions to get me out of the resort, into nature and the local culture – things I ADORE about travelling.
  • I’m next to the beach…I could add in some nice beach walks. I love the sea so much and I’ve always been a water baby.
  • I have a notebook. I could use this current mindset as an opportunity to develop some self-awareness, dig deep into my current recovery.
  • I brought my Greek stuff. I could dedicate an hour or two each day to learn more. I’ve always been proud to be Greek and have loved starting to learn the language (finally!).
  • There’s a spa. Who doesn’t like a pamper day?

On reflection, I’ve never had many pure relaxation holidays, except for my favourite Greek island but that is just a simply wonderful place that I’m always okay relaxing there. I’ve never done all inclusive either so I should give myself some baby steps.

Even if I’ve not fully worked out why the tears are falling I can definitely say that, they were worthwhile because they brought me back to my blog, which I’ve missed.

❤️

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.

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!

Little Wins

I deliberately stayed away from writing during December even though I had plenty to write about. There was so much I wanted to say, so many emotions I wanted to get out onto paper but I always find I retreat in December. I shy away from so much because there’s so much going on.

December is already a difficult month and I found myself becoming anxious about it 2-3 weeks into November.

The battles were louder and lasted longer.

Every day I had to remind myself not to “earn” or “burn off” any celebration or socialisation that was in my diary.

I had to double check I was working out because I wanted to and not because “I had to”.

I then had to console myself for the days I couldn’t work out and the days my food plans became unpredictable.

I had to take my fitbit off and hand it over to my mum for the holiday period because I had a breakdown on a day where it wouldn’t sync to my phone and I couldn’t see what calories I had burned before a meal out with some old friends.

I had to remember to rest and relax.

But everywhere you look, every social media platform quickly becomes the “Competitive Christmas Competition” and we’re flooded with pictures of food and festivities. We’re reminded to “earn our Christmas dinner”, to “work off the Christmas parties” and to embrace a “New Year, New Body”.

Friends make harmless comments about “how much they ate over Christmas”. I had one friend tell me she ate so much that it made her throw up and all I could do was smile and nod. I didn’t know how to tell her that type of conversation makes me uncomfortable as I think of all the Christmases I have experienced relapses.

I relapsed this year and I blamed myself so hard because last year was the first year I was not sick on Christmas Day. I wanted this year to be the second year but whilst I ate breakfast and ate my Christmas Dinner, I purged when I had a snack at 8pm because it wasn’t on my food plan.

I wasn’t full at that point. I hadn’t overeaten. I had simply had an extra bite not on my plan and I went into auto-pilot. In hindsight, I put too much pressure on myself because of last year but I realised that this year was in fact better than last year.

Last year, I went home for the shortest time possible. I made sure I “worked for my Christmas Dinner” and I punished myself by over exercising and purging as soon as I got back to London on the 27th. I continued my restrict-purge cycle all the way through to February when I decided I needed help.

So I wasn’t okay last year. I was over-exercising, under-eating and purging whenever I could.

This year was different. This year, (minus my fitbit meltdown) I gave myself 2 weeks off exercising. This year, I ate breakfast, lunch and dinner every day, including Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day. I still didn’t enjoy my Christmas parties to the maximum I could but I still went and faced them.

This year, I’ve come back to London and my first instinct has not been to eat and purge. I’m still experiencing panic attacks with food. I’m still nervous around my triggers and I’m still trying not to rely mentally on my fitbit but all in all, it’s a much better Christmas period than last year.

I’ve suffered 3 purges in 15 weeks. Definitely some skipped meals in those weeks but not too many. Throw in a few good panic attacks and well, the end of 2018 wasn’t too bad recovery-wise after all.

There are going to be no resolutions this year. No promises to do X, Y or Z. No pressure on any goals. Just continuing forward each day.