Back to Basics

 

Apologies as there may be some triggering thoughts here.

So, I thought I was doing okay and there were times I thought I was fine. Or at least the ‘Demon’ told me I was okay. Convinced me I didn’t need help. That there wasn’t an issue because what I was doing was keeping me ‘slim’.

Well you know what, what I was doing also made me sad. It also made me cry at my best friend’s birthday party because it made me so scared to be around food, drink and others. It made me angry at myself for not losing weight and it made me so incredibly insecure that my boyfriend would leave me if he found out.

I started to notice the ‘tricks’ coming back into play. Double/triple-checking that my housemates most definitely were not going to be home that evening. Going to toilets on floors at work that I knew nobody went to. That bag that sat in my wardrobe waiting for me to sneak it to the bins outside. Telling friends I had already eaten or would be eating later when I’d already planned to skip those meals.

And nobody really knew.

That in itself made it easier but deep down I almost ached for someone to ask. For that one person to see behind my smile and recognise that I was not okay. I was generally happy but I was in so much pain over what I was yet again doing to my body.

And then it happened. I hit rock bottom just as hard as previous relapses and I picked up the phone. I sat in the corner of my room, I suppose it felt safe, and I text my boyfriend and said point blank I needed him. That I needed to go round and I needed him to help me eat and to help me ‘keep it down’.

I was so scared he would leave or refuse just like others in the past. I was simultaneously scared that he would be upset with me or that I would hurt him by admitting what horrible cycle I’d fallen into once. I felt weak. Like a let-down. A failure.

Damaged.

That’s how I felt.

Damaged goods yet again at rock bottom.

My therapist leaving London last year hit me hard. I had seen him for four years and whilst I was in a really good place the thoughts of having to see someone else and start this process yet again scared the crap out of me and so when I needed help I didn’t feel like I could arrange to go see someone new. To open up about my not-so-great life once more.

But I told my boyfriend and my friends what I needed. For the first time in our relationship I didn’t wish he would offer what I needed…I simply asked. I asked to live with him for the next week or so because I felt I needed supervision. I asked him to sit down and help me plan my meals for the week and to ensure I stick to them regardless of if I tell him ‘I’m okay to change X and happy to eat Y instead.’ I asked him to help me send an email to my old therapist to ask for advice (which was the hardest step of all) and I asked him to come along to dinner with my parents in case I couldn’t handle it on my own. I asked him to help distract me when those thoughts about purging came running.

And he did.

I was upset that he cancelled seeing his friends because I felt that made me a burden but deep down it meant so much to me to know he cared that much.

And I literally told him everything.

I told him every thought that plagued my mind before and after each meal. I told him when I was scared to eat and when I wanted to be sick. I told him every perception I had of myself throughout the day. I told him every negative thought that crossed my mind and I told him of ‘tricks’ that I was ashamed of. I told him of some of my darkest periods of this illness and he just listened.

He didn’t judge, he didn’t comment, he just listened. And I told him that was exactly what I needed.

That’s all I ever need because, in a way, it simply helps me identify what is going wrong and decide what is going to help.

So we went and planned my meals and some gym sessions. He held my hand in the supermarket and he held my hand whilst I ate. We sent those emails and we spoke about the physical implications of this illness – what worries him the most…and whilst that wasn’t a fun conversation…it helped. Each time I ‘panic’ I try to think about the following:

  • I don’t want to have a heart attack due to the stress I’m placing on my body.
  • I don’t want to further damage my liver or kidneys.
  • I don’t want to become infertile.

Each time is ‘the last time’ and each time is one step closer to being that actual last time.

Sometimes the rigid planning makes me feel weak. I criticise myself for not being ‘normal’ and not being able to ‘do this on my own’. But I think I’ve finally after all this time admitted that the practical steps are things I am going to have to apply for the rest of my life. It’s not about needing them because I’m ill but rather that it’s a way of leading a healthy lifestyle.

So here I am, day five. Almost made it to a week since my last relapse.

 

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Today

I hate days like today.

The days where I hate every reflection of myself that I glimpse. The days where I have this uncomfortable feeling of disgust about myself and my image.

I hate these days where I become so scared, yet again, that I’m never going to be ‘perfect’. These days where my biggest fear is looking ‘fat’ this weekend.

I hate having days where the Demon plagues my thoughts with negativity. Days where I feel like I’m being swallowed whole.

Questioning every decision to eat, every exercise that doesn’t seem to shift any weight. Constantly questioning when, if ever, I’m going to feel good enough.

It screams at me that I’m huge and ugly. That I’m weak and disgusting. And the worst of it is, I appreciate these words aren’t true, that I am actually worth more than I think I am but that, in turn, makes me feel ashamed and embarrassed that I even have this illness in the first place.

I have these days where I do just fine, great in fact but I really hate that days like today seem to eradicate any progress I make.

Any step I took forward seems forgotten, lost in that dark space that swallows me whole.

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Me Time

It’s easy to forget just how long it’s been since you had some ‘me time’ and even easier to forget just how much you need it. Whether its a day or a week just to sort things out or take a moment to breathe.

I was at the hospital this morning and was told it would last up to 5 hours and so I booked a sick day off work. Turns out the appointment was a mistake…yeah, I don’t know why either.

But it was 9am so I came home and got back into bed. God knows after yesterday’s tough day at work this ‘sick day’ couldn’t have been timed much better.

I finally got some more of that sleep I’ve been missing out on lately. Managed to tidy my room up a bit. Came out for coffee and a slice of cake to try get things in order for next week (I’m going to Malaysia baby!)

I forgot how much I like chilling in a coffee shop with my laptop, writing a post or reading a book. I forgot how much of my ‘me time’ took place in coffee shops all over London last year. I thought I just liked the atmosphere but now I realise that it really formed a big part of my relaxation methods to just lower all my general stress. Taking some time for me, getting my thoughts down on paper or simply loosing myself in a story.

It’s hard to get lost with work when life is just constantly moving. Getting into that working routine (if you can call it a routine as my hours are so varied) whilst fitting in friends and seeing my boyfriend because I now only really have weekends to dedicate to them…it all means I haven’t been taking any time just for me.

So, I’ve decided, albeit a slightly late new years’ resolution, I’m going to make sure I spend some time each Saturday, out of the house on my own just doing something that makes me happy. Whether that’s a gym session, or walking round the park with my camera (my new hobby), or just sitting in a coffee shop with my laptop or a book and letting my thoughts run wild.

I miss my ‘me time’ but I never really realised it had gone because I genuinely love seeing my friends. And now that I work, the weekends go all too fast.

So here’s too taking a little bit more time out. A step back every now and then to just sit, with a cuppa, and breathe.

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A Badge That Says ‘I’m Different’.


I was given this badge. This nice blue badge which, now that I mention it out loud, is appropriately coloured. On this lil blue badge is the London Underground sign with a phrase stating: ‘Please Offer Me a Seat’.

I was born looking normal, I grew up looking normal (well to the extent I hid my arm) and I definitely still look normal. No body can see the pain I’m in. Friends wouldn’t really know the extent of the pain I’m in on a daily basis.

Why? Because I don’t want to be that one who complains all the time and nor do I want to feel like a burden to anyone. So I smile and get on with my pain treating it as and when I need to.

I wish that method could apply to my mental pain, but I digress.

Standing up on a packed tube where I’m too small to reach any poles to steady myself is painful. All my effort goes into trying to balance and it hurts. My leg is throbbing from morning all the way through til that tube journey home.

And so I was given a badge. In the hope that people wouldn’t question my invisible disabilities and allow me to sit.

And most of the time they do. The rest of the time, I’m probably way too small for people to even notice me in the first place and that’s fine. What’s also fine, is those who don’t give up their seats because they could be like me.

It hurt me though, when I got it. I felt like I was given this great big blue badge that screamed ‘I’m disabled!!!’. I felt ashamed that people would look and question what could possibly be wrong with me that warrants me having such a badge.

I felt broken.

It represented this huge feeling of being broken. Of having something wrong with me. Of not being normal.

It reminded me of those feelings of shame for having physical issues growing up. The feelings of hurt when no one would believe I was couldn’t do things or was in pain. The memories of being bullied for being different.

I still get embarrassed. I see people staring but I know they’re going to. One person was cruel but that was one in god knows how many hundreds I’ve come across on my tube journeys this past month.

But being able to get a seat for most of my journey has really helped reduce the pain I get in my leg. Just like writing helps reduce the pain in my head and heart.

It’s nice to feel less pain in my legs.

It’s nice to be writing again.

I can’t believe it’s been so long since I last wrote anything and it was an unexpected message that actually got me wanting to write again.  It’s not been plain sailing since then but I’m sure I’ll start telling you all everything that’s happened soon enough!!

Thank you for that message ❤

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‘Full of Joy’


I haven’t written for almost a month, in fact, I think it’s been almost exactly a month since I last wrote. Most of the times when I go silent it means something’s up, something I’m not quite ready to tackle head on but I’m pleased to say this time it’s quite the opposite.

To the north of mainland Greece there’s a teeny tiny island called ‘Skiathos’ and it is by far my favourite. I first came here when they told me I was too fat to represent my country at a Paralympic Games and whilst I arrived all doom and gloom I definitely left, yet again, quite the opposite.

So where else would I head to when I had about a month to myself? Where else would I go where my friends are more like family than my own? So yes, you guessed it, here I am in my favourite place in the entire world. 24 days down, 2 to go.

I thought I’d get bored or lonely at least once because just under four weeks is a long time. But fact of the matter is, I simply haven’t and I’ve loved every single minute. I’ve been meaning to write but I’ve just been so distracted with sun, sea and my family that I wish was my own. The only reason I’ve finally managed to sit down and type something out is because it’s stormy and windy today that I don’t really have any other option!

The first weeks were tough. I couldn’t help but compare myself to everyone else I saw around me. How flat I perceived their stomachs to be. How I perceived myself in comparison. I restricted and I purged but I also did get it under control. 12 weeks…2 episodes of purging. I tried to deal with it healthily and I will admit I struggled but being around old friends and adoptive family filled me with so much joy – there’s a phrase Greeks use in response to the question, ‘How are you?’ – mi hara – ‘full of joy’ and I think that in itself is a beautiful response.

One day I woke up insanely happy, I felt some sort of spring in my step and I even later in the day cried over text to my bestest. I simply felt happy. I’ve tried to change how I word things – I would say ‘everyone is so much skinnier than me’ and today I noticed I wrote ‘how I perceived…’ . Trying to develop my awareness of my eating disorder symptoms. I used to write I missed who I used to be before my ED and during this trip I realised I should never have focused on becoming a past version of myself because, simply put, we all change. And, yes, I’ve experienced some horrible things but that doesn’t mean I won’t become the best version of myself as a result.

I told him I loved him. The three words slipped out after weeks of me trying to hold them back. I knew I wouldn’t hear them said to me and that was okay but naturally not the greatest feeling. It got to me a bit but now? I’m completely different. I knew I wouldn’t hear them but I still wanted to say how I felt. I didn’t need to hear them back regardless of how much I want to hear them one day. I was brave enough to put my heart on the line because I cared about being honest with my feelings – for myself as much as for him.

Working really hard to separate my inecurities from reality.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a scary sorta limbo. I know we’re pretty awesome and the fact he’s made a noticeable effort to text more as I’m more of a ‘communicator’ so to speak, the dedicated weekly face time slot and the simple fact that if I need him, really need him, he’s there…and yeah, we’re pretty awesome together…there’s no need to worry. I don’t want to reach that stage where I may have to deal with a guy who decides he’s never gonna love me but I can’t live in fear of something that’s only got a 50% chance of occurring. I’d probably self-sabotage it all that way anyway.

He does say something to me though – ‘I like you an absolute lot’

I think I like that more than ‘I love you’

Bit like how I prefer the Greek saying of ‘I’m full of joy’ rather than ‘I’m good/fine/okay’ because when I say the latter, some of it is a lie…but I’m always full of joy so to speak as I’m one of those people who finds happiness in the simplest of things, always happy even if I’m not okay with my body shape or my perception of myself.

Maybe I’ll start focusing on trying to be full of joy. Focused on the little things that bring me happiness rather than the things that make me feel okay about myself…

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Knowing a Feeling 

I learnt the hard way to not get my hopes up. Always let down, always dropped, always left a little bit more broken than before. Family, friends, coaches, GB team staff and, of course – boys, would remind me why I was ‘stupid to think that this time would be any different.’

So yes, I learnt the hard way not to get my hopes up. I learnt to not look too far into the future, to not see ‘meaning’ in anything and to expect the worst until I saw something confirmed on paper.

And yet, deep down, my hopes always remained high.

And I suppose my hopes are still high. My optimism gets commented on frequently and those who know everything will comment they can’t understand why.

Why, after everything would I still be the girl who is still so full of happiness and hope that one day, everything will be okay?

Thing is, I could easily be the cold-stone-hearted-ice-queen after everything and everyone would understand but it would be allowing those experiences to deprive myself of  potential happiness. Yes, people have hurt me in some of the worst ways imaginable but I don’t want that to prevent me from finding future happiness and inner peace.

But the beautiful paradox continues to exist. I still fear the worst. I simultaneously drag my hopes down just as I start to put my faith in them. The thing is, what I know and what I feel are unfortunately two extremely different things.

I know developing an eating disorder wasn’t ‘my fault’ but I feel ashamed and disappointed in myself for having one.
I know my friends would do anything to help me but I feel that I’m a burden they will wish they didn’t have.
I know my boyfriend wants to be with me but I feel that he’s bound to prefer someone with less issues. Less damage. Less of a past she couldn’t control.

know that three meals a day won’t make me gain weight but I feel incredibly fat for wanting to eat, let alone even eating.
know I’ve not purged for more than four weeks but I feel like that doesn’t truly mean anything.
I know in the past I have found ways to purge in secret when surrounded by others but I feel like that doesn’t mean anything regarding these last four weeks.

In his words, I’m ‘kicking ass’ and I know that I am but I feel like I’ve achieved nothing.

I’m still working on developing my self-compassion that my therapist and I worked on. Allowing myself to appreciate that there will always be days where I do get hurt and need support, or days I fall down and need people to pick me up but none of that makes me a failure. Loving myself for the things I know rather than hate myself for the things I simply feel. And of course it’s difficult to not believe the awful things people have made me feel, but if it was easy then it wouldn’t be holding me back right now…

It’s potentially the hardest part of my recovery (in the necessary circumstances) feeling what I know rather than only knowing what I let myself feel.

At least these people always help me work out the difference:

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Almost There

My 25th birthday yesterday and to celebrate my quarter-of-a-century-ness the opticians delivered my first ever pair of glasses. Seven years of reading and writing and reading and writing and reading some more at university has left my eyes a little bit worse than where they started off.

Perfectly lovely birthday even if I did panic a little bit at the restaurant we went to. More than an hour in the queue but between you and me, totally worth it. Even lucky enough to be given one of the best tables in the room. Luckier to have pretty awesome company.

I got my exam results today.

I got a distinction in my degree.

That means I’ve kept my job.

That means, after all this time, after all this hard work, after everything that could go wrong and did go wrong, I’m finally going to be a Trainee Solicitor.

At one of the top law firms in the country too.

I really messed up one of my exams, I knew I did and I was worried the mark was going to cost me my job but turns out I passed it. Only just mind; I passed the exam by 5 marks and God did it bring down my average, but, I passed.

And even though it was my lowest mark I’m incredibly proud of it because though I majorly struggled I tried my damned hardest to learn everything I needed and coming out the exam I knew I was close to the pass mark, nothing more but potentially a lot less.

But it doesn’t matter how much I got past that pass mark because I got past it. All I needed to do was get over the pass mark and I would still be employed come September. The firm could take my job away if I didn’t get a certain mark in my degree but they can’t because I did it.

I made it.

Well, almost…

I still have a week to finish the business masters the firm wants me to do and I’m half way through. The finance element has killed me mentally, I’ve never cried over work but that made me cry four times. However, I currently have 2,432 words of my education left, so I suppose I best get back to it…

For once, it’s not really been a bad week in my world.

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