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.

Stuck in a rut

“But you’re fine” that’s what they say.

That’s what they always tell you.

But I don’t feel fine.

“So what if you’ve gained weight, you’re fine”

That’s how they continue.

But I don’t think “so what?”

I see more writing in my food diary, the increased number on the scale, an unhappy girl in the mirror looking at me.

I am that unhappy girl.

I’m trying to ignore the numbers and the thoughts but I’ve, simply put, struggled this week. I’m in a bit of a rut and I’m not sure how I can get out of it.

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.

Instagram: @umbrella_adventures_

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.

 

It’s Okay

Girls Night Out had been planned for at least 2 months and, now that I think about it, I was the one who had initiated the plans in the first place. We were to go out on the Friday but as soon as the preceding Monday arrived I was filled with guilt and nerves.

I was nervous I would be the biggest. I was nervous that none of my clothes would fit. I was nervous about what the numbers were saying to me, whether it was the calories, the scales, or the dress sizes.

I then blamed myself for the fact I didn’t want to go.

I felt guilty that the thought of a night out scared me. I felt guilty that I was too petrified to try on outfits. I felt guilty that I just knew I wouldn’t be having as much fun as my friends because my thoughts were focused elsewhere.

Add on the stress of a very demanding deal at work all week with close to midnight finishes on a daily basis…before I knew it, it was Friday and I felt physically ill.

Truth be told, I was tired. I was so incredibly exhausted from my mental battles, work. gym and I was desperate to sleep. Every morning I wake up and there’s new fights in my head. The voice asking when am I going to eat? What am I going to eat? Will I purge? Will I restrict? Will I fail and do both? What are others going to eat? Am I going to gain weight? Will I go to the gym to make up for it? When should I eat? Am I strong enough today? Should I eat that? Why did I eat that?

Yadda, yadda, yadda.

Along came Friday and I was hurting, I was exhausted and I couldn’t do it.

I put a dress on and did my makeup but then told them I wasn’t going out and went and cried in my bedroom. I told myself I was weak. That I had failed because I hadn’t been strong enough to go out.

But then I tried to turn that thought around. I’ve been working my way through a Compassionate Mind Therapy workbook aimed at (as you can guess) developing my compassionate mind. Me and my old therapist used to focus on CMT and it’s actually been incredibly refreshing and enlightening to bring myself back to this form of therapy.

Long story short, we have 3 systems: threat, drive and soothing. They all interact with one another and if you imagine drawing how active they are in my life as circles on a piece of paper, my threat circle is HUGE, my drive circle quite large and my soothing circle? It’s basically non-existent.

Experiences and memories either help the circles grow or shrink and I need to focus on shrinking how big that threat voice is and allow the soothing voice to grow.

I have spoken about my past in many previous posts so there’s no need to go into too much detail but the book encouraged me to think about why my threat voice is so predominant in my everyday life.

I thought about my family  who criticised me for being overweight as a child. Instead of finding a healthy way for me to lose weight they told me that because of my weight and my disabilities that I was an embarrassment and no one would love me. I thought about the children who bullied me for being so fat and the boys who teased and taunted me. thought about the boys who had taken me for granted, used me, abused me.

I thought about the coaches who criticised every sporting achievement, telling me it was never good enough because I was fat. They put me under so much pressure to ‘make it’ and only ever talked about my weight, criticising it in front of others, embarrassing me in front of the team. They never noticed when I became a really dangerous weight, all they saw was the ‘fatter’ athlete I had been previously.

I thought about how much pain my dad’s long-term affair and money issues brought to my family. I thought about my cerebral palsy, epilepsy, Volkmann’s contracture, psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, damaged kidneys, nerve damage, ruptured muscles, slipped discs, the time I had pre-cancerous cells and how every doctor’s appointment made me feel a little bit more broken than the last.

And then I thought about me.

I thought about how the child in me only ever wanted to be loved. I only ever wanted to mean something, to be valued. I thought about how I became such an over-achiever because I thought it would get me the attention I deserved, only to be crushed when I was told I was never good enough. I thought about how the adult me is always overly-eager to help others, to be there for everyone in the hope that they not just value my presence but will be there for me in return. I thought about how I hate to consider myself needy but I admittedly crave attention, I need affirmation that I am worth something.

That I’m not worthless and there is value to who I am.

It’s easy to see why I blamed everything on being ‘overweight’. Why I convinced myself that everything would be better if I lost weight and why it gave me control over my chaotic life that was spiraling every day.

It then became easier to blame myself even less for becoming bulimic after I wrote everything down. I blame myself even less now that I’m writing it down here.

I know I had gotten myself worked up all week but I was feeling incredibly rubbish, took some time to work through a chapter in this book and realised everything was okay. It was okay to miss a night out because I wasn’t up for it. It didn’t mean I was weak. It meant I was ill at that moment in time, too ill to go out. If I had the flu, I wouldn’t have gone, so there I was not weak when I took myself out of a triggering situation, to go do some self-therapy and work through it.

I don’t need to deny that I’m ill nor do I need to justify the way my illness makes me feel. It’s okay if you’re sad one day and smiling the next. Every now and then, it’s okay to not be okay.

Instagram: @umbrella_adventures_

Number Crunching

I did that thing I wasn’t supposed to do.

I did it even though I knew it wasn’t going to do me any good.

I stepped on the scales and that pain I knew would arrive came rushing, burning through every part of my body.

I stood there, simply hurting.

8 weeks into recovery and I had gained some weight.

I could see it coming, I knew I had. I knew I felt bloated and bigger around my midriff. I mean, I’d spent hours criticising the way I looked before I even stepped onto the scales.

I ignored the fact I was now exercising 4-5 times a week. I forgot that it was the end of the day and I had been eating 3 meals a day like clockwork. I refused to accept I was wearing trainers and clothes when I took that fatal step onto the scales.

And boy, am I struggling with this weight gain?

I’m trying to reassure myself that 4 llb’s isn’t that bad but the Demon inside tells me it is. I’ve spent countless hours crying to my boyfriend because the need to restrict and the desire to purge have been at their loudest for the past 12 days.

It makes me feel embarrassed to need so much help lately.

I’m suffering from this constant fear that they’re all going to leave me.

Most of all, it hurts. Everything simply hurts and there’s no actual medication I can take that will numb the pain.

Going round in circles. Can’t face looking at my reflection but simultaneously can’t stop looking at my ‘imperfections’. Don’t want to eat my meals but fighting to make sure that I do.

At least I’m still fighting.

I’ve just spent the weekend in Manchester with my best friend. A trip we planned a while ago and if I hadn’t paid for my ticket, I may have given into the ED telling me to bail.

We did nothing. A few walks, a few movies and lots of cups of tea. But it was perfect and, as it turns out, just what I needed.

I needed nothing.

I needed time away from my place where, unfortunately, bad memories already exist.

I needed time to stop and breathe and think.

Time to just do nothing.

I feel better for it.

I’m trying to take some time to understand that just because I’ve gained weight, it doesn’t mean I’m fat. Just because the number has increased doesn’t mean I’m unworthy.

In fact, I’ve started to feel more ‘worthy’ than ever before.

And between you and me, I have learnt an incredible amount these last 8 weeks.

I’ve been using a compassionate mind work book, I’ve had 8 weeks of balanced meal plans and healthy exercise. I’ve had a few purges and hardly any binges and I’ve hardly skipped any meals.

It hurts and I constantly feel drained.

But I’m happier.

And whether or not I’ve gained 1-4 pounds…I’m definitely healthier.

And I’m sure that, one day, being skinny will not correlate to being ‘healthy’ but that, maybe those extra couple of pounds will.

Nothing like a train ride to dedicate some time to getting negative thoughts away from me ❤️

Instagram: @umbrella_adventures_