Building a bridge

I don’t know when my mind changed. I can tell you the day I decided to reach out but I can’t pin point when that switch was turned on in my head.

I have written about my family problems before but I feel I need to recap for myself.

I am 28. My dad started having an affair whilst working away from home when I was 7. My dad continued this affair and when I was 15 a half-brother was born. My dad continued to continue this affair and built his new second family, moving them to the UK all whilst still married to my mum, but it all went south with my half-brother’s mum when I was 25.

I found out shortly after my half-brother was born. My mum couldn’t keep it a secret anymore and she needed to offload, which she did, onto me. However, she told me I couldn’t tell anyone. That I would ruin things. So I kept the secret. My dad didn’t even know that I knew.

My dad didn’t treat me right as a child but he’s tried to make amends the last few years. However, back then, I had so much anger and hurt and betrayal that I had to hold inside me. I couldn’t tell anyone. The only person I could speak to was my mum and, even then, only when she wanted to talk/rant to me about it.

A lot of things at home started to make sense. Especially my mum’s depressive episodes and suicidal thoughts. I know my mum needed someone and I have always wanted to help, but I now know it was wrong for her to place that type of secret and burden on a child. She told me but then wouldn’t let me express my hurt and anger because “I had to smile and pretend I was fine”.

I was so hurt and confused back then and I wasn’t allowed to process anything. I had to act like we were a big happy family. No one could know and I couldn’t understand. Dad didn’t treat me right so why would you stay with him once he gave you a ticket to leave? Why would you continue to put me through the pain he always caused me? Of course, I was told she stayed for me and my brother, but that’s not true. She stayed because she cannot leave. She cannot emotionally pull that trigger, rip that band aid off and walk.

My brother eventually found out maybe 7-8 years after I did. I was heartbroken to think I had lied to my brother for so long. But Once he found out, an unwritten rule was created – we don’t talk about it.

Dad has always wanted me to have a relationship with my half-brother. I never wanted one. I always said no. I have met him twice, once I reluctantly agreed to and once I was completely blindsided with. The child was stubborn, spoilt, and very demanding. It was hard to watch my dad fawn over this child and spoil him rotten when he had never done that for me. When I raised this point, my dad told me I was an adult now and it was ridiculous for me to be jealous of a 9 year old kid.

It wasn’t ridiculous. My feelings were and are valid.

Anyway, a couple of years have passed and around 3 weeks ago I told my Dad I wanted to speak to Jason and asked if he could give him my number and let him know he could reach out if he wanted to.

I don’t know what caused that switch but there are a few things that come to mind.

  • One of the times I met him, my half-brother told me he had no friends. I know how that feels. I know how lonely that is and I wouldn’t wish for a child to feel lonely.
  • I know what it’s like to have a dad like mine and, just as much as I’ve been hurt by my dad’s affair, so has my half-brother.
  • I grew up feeling unloved and unwanted. Even though no one actually said those words explicitly to me, it was a combination of words and actions that led me to feel two of the three major emotions that trigger my mental health. My half-brother might really feel unwanted if I reject him.
  • He’s a child. None of this is his fault.
  • I believe my mental health is strong enough to handle this.

So, I reached out. I text and I told him I’d like to get to know him better but that he also had a choice in the matter too and that if he needed more time then to take it.

He text me back instantly and we talked for quite a while. I had to remember at times I was talking to a 12 year old! But it felt nice and because my dad was not involved, there was no spoilt bratty stubborn child in front of me but a half-brother I was getting to know.

I told my mum that I wanted to explore a relationship with him. I don’t think she was happy. She’s become far more needy since I told her and I’ve spent so many years looking after her and others that now, in trying to look after myself, I tend to run away from people needing me. That’s a story for another day.

Reaching out or not. There’s no right decision. Not really. But something feels a little different. Like a switch went from “never” to “maybe” in the space of 3 seconds a few weekends ago and I guess we’ve just got to see where it goes from here.

Len x

@umbrella_adventures_

Bonfires and Brownies

Time flies and a lot changes as each second passes by.

12 months ago I had bought tickets to a Bonfire and Fireworks display at Battersea Park and, me being me, I was really excited. But me, also being me, I ended up in hospital with a kidney stone that left me bedridden and in unbelievable pain for a few weeks until they had to operate.

They kept telling me to drink. I told them I was bad at staying hydrated. I didn’t tell them that was because of my ED. I didn’t admit that I used to be so scared of drinking for fear of that ‘fullness’ feeling that I stopped drinking even water.

I didn’t admit any of that. Not even to myself.

That was the first time I thought I may have damaged my body.

6 months ago, I started getting stabbing chest pains, on the left hand side, when I was walking around. Exercise was worse. I was so scared it was my heart but I didn’t tell anyone that. I didn’t want to tell anyone I was still having issues. Ultimately, I simply didn’t want to admit it to myself.

That was the first time I thought I was heading for a heart attack.

I truly think I was heading that way.

It had been 8 years since that Demon arrived.

Time really does fly.

Now, it’s been a month.

I haven’t purged for a month.

I’ve noticed I’ve lost weight.

I almost wish I hadn’t noticed that.

I’m second-guessing if I’ve been restricting in absence of the purges.

If I think about it, I have been sticking to soup every single lunch, although I really do love that soup shop next to work. Breakfast is on and off, as always, but I have increased dinner. I’ve managed to have dinner from the work canteen and I’ve tried to make it as healthy as I can.

Does that mean I was restricting though?

Yes, I reduced my carbs and fear foods but I still had some small amounts because I knew I needed them.

Is eating in a way to reduce panic, fears and triggers, a bad thing?

Have I lost weight because I’ve restricted? Or is it because I’m finally not purging and my body isn’t in starvation mode?

I  got a fitbit. Yes, controversial for an ED sufferer, I know.

I looked at what I was burning on days with and without exercise. I then looked at my food diary for the previous month and I must have been having an incredibly substantial deficit. An unhealthy one.

Seeing that even on a non-exercise day I was burning much more than I thought I was has made me increase my intake. It’s made me realise, that on days I’m working until midnight I need X. Let alone those midnight days where I’ve managed to make it to the gym in the morning.

I don’t know why that weight has shifted. I do know my mindset has shifted a bit and I’m conscious I don’t want to restrict.

However, whether it’s because I’ve restricted inadvertently or because my body is healing…I haven’t had chest pains for a month. I haven’t felt what feels like a kidney stone for a month. I have been stronger at work and the gym for a month. I have eaten ‘fear foods’ without a second thought every now and then this past month.

It’s only my first month into what I would call ‘my recovery’ so, of course, there’s still a few bumps to smooth out. I’m still well on my way to developing a balanced life.

12 months ago I was stuck in a purge-restrict cycle and I ended up in hospital with kidney problems.

This year, I baked brownies with a glass of wine without even thinking about numbers and fears. I also went to Bonfire Night, just 1 year late.