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.

 

 

 

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.

It’s Time

It’s time to stay on top of writing. It’s always proven so cathartic and plays a huge role in my recovery but lately I’ve found it hard to sit down with the keyboard and type away.

Five weeks ago I rotated departments. That’ means I’m halfway through my training contract and well on my way to becoming a qualified lawyer after all these years. Rotation is tricky. You really have to hit the ground running as the team needs you to be able to pick up the work as if you know exactly what’s been happening the 6 months before you joined.

Some rotations are easier than others. Sometimes you rotate into a department and the work is realtively easy going and “quiet” and so you can take some more time to find your feet. Sometimes you rotate and the department is going through a busy period and it really is a “all hands on deck” approach.

My recent rotation involved the latter.

I was thrown into a chaotic intertwined web of different cases, all with imminent deadlines and all on subject-matter I had no knowledge of. Even the basic admin tasks were difficult because I’d never had to do them before.

5 weeks later and I feel like I’m settling in well but my first month was tough. I (somewhat) enjoyed what I was doing but I spent a month of working close to midnight EVERY NIGHT, and that took its toll on me.

Yes, I was tired. That’s expected. But it disrupted my exercise routine, my social calendar and my eating preparations. That was what I struggled with the most.

Every Sunday I plan my meals which I no longer consider a sign of weakness (progress!!!) and essentially my dinner one night is my lunch the next day. When you’re coming home at midnight: 1 – you probably have already eaten and 2 – you’re not going to cook your lunch for the next day.

Sometimes I ate whatever the work canteen was offering for dinner. Add on the fact I barely had time to exercise…that led to a couple of purges. Sometimes I was stressed because of the food on offer and other times I was sick because I could be, like I couldn’t control it. Auto-pilot.

It was happening 1-2 times a week. That in itself is a huge step forward for me.

Another huge step I took in these past 5 weeks was finally going back to therapy.

The intial session was so hard. I think I cried the whole time and then some more when I got home. It’s the right action for me right now though and I think I need some tough love. I still panic and worry but I’m not purging as much, I’m not restricting. The problem is the thoughts that plague my mind.

I still have so much pain deep inside that I haven’t dealt with, even in my previous therapy session and I think, at 26 years of age, I’m finally ready to deal with all the pain. I think I’m ready because previously, back with my other therapist, I was so desperate to get better but I wasn’t truly around supportive people.

This time I am.

This time I’m ready to not lie to a therapist and pretend I’m okay. I’m ready to be honest and listen to any criticism that may follow. I’m ready to stop hiding from it all.

Most importantly, I think I’m ready to stop hurting myself.

My first therapy appointment came after a week of 70+ hours at work. I was physically broken as well as mentally. After my appointment I started suffering from incredibly bad stomach cramps which saw me admitted to hospital. They think it was stress related and for the first time ever, I opened up to a NHS doctor and told them I was bulimic and scared that I may be starting to really hurt myself.

My boyfriend was there and he held me really tight as I said it, whispered that he was proud of me.

The past few weeks have really been tough in my recovery. Every day is a battle. I’m tired of being ill but, finally, I’m ready to stop being tired.

It’s time to finally get better.

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.