‘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…

Raindrops



The rain was so heavy last night. It just endlessly poured and poured. It drenched me through, past skin and bones but I wasn’t ready to go home.

The voice at the other end of the phone cracked a feeble excuse of ‘hello’. I could hear her tears begin to fall before I could say my own ‘hello’.

Crying over the man she has to go home to. Crying over the situation she says didn’t want. Whilst she can’t control his actions she chose to remain and so off to home, she goes.

I needed strength from someone that wasn’t me. Support for the two feet I could barely stand on. So I leant with my back to a broken fence trying to stay tall. I tried to find that strength within but my own tears began to fall.

And the rain kept pouring. It poured and poured. It was never going to stop.

It…this…all of it. It’s never going to stop.

Every tear that falls, makes me take irrelevant things to heart. But although I know it’s different, the scars I have convince me that more are due to start.

They say I’m strong but I’ve never felt so weak and last night I just wanted some arms. To wrap around and hold me close and take away this storm.

This storm that gets so strong, it knocks me to my knees. Why can’t they see what they do to me…what they’ve done to me…

They don’t see the scars they’ve dug so deep.

My head pounds with contradictions and distortions: present, future, past. Pick them up and I carry them all, the ground cracks beneath my feet.

The rain almost started to soothe me. As if the world could feel my pain. Not alone, never have been. With my heart calmer and one deep breath I brought myself to my feet.

In that moment, I had no greater need than the FaceTime call that came barely 30 minutes later. Her face and mine connected on a screen but that’s all I ever need.

The tears came strong but so did laughter and crippling tears of joy. Get to see her in two days’ time, to celebrate all weekend long.

This post has hurt so much to write. Sat with tears burning down my cheeks. God knows what they think, the people who can see.

I’ve never been so happy either, with him, with her, with me. They say you can’t pick your family but I choose to disagree.

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Hello

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I have a weekly face time catch up with a best friend of mine. A best friend I’ve actually only known two years, a best friend who’s been a best friend possibly less than a year but, regardless, the best of the best. 

Doesn’t matter how long you’ve known someone, all that matters is that they’re there.

But when you realise they are there, even when you didn’t expect it because you hadn’t asked them to be…that’s when you know just how special they are.

I cancelled last weeks’ FaceTime because I was incredibly stressed out for reasons discussed previously and also on that day Dad decided to visit.

I half-reluctantly met him and it was perfectly pleasant but I’m purely going through the motions now (I’m so fed up with him and would be happier without a connection…but mum begs me to stay in touch). 

Anyway, a perfectly pleasant lunch ends with him saying its time I met my half-sibling. He spoke about him so casually throughout lunch, ‘oh Jason has exams soon…oh Jason’s doing this that and the other’ and it’s weird to hear my dad talk oh so normally about a half sibling he surprised us all with a few years ago. The half-sibling he dotes on so much more than he ever did me. One of the reasons I had to pick my mum up all those years ago, one of the reasons there’s no money left and mum can’t pay her bills. I wasn’t even 7 years old when dad started the affair, barely 15 when the kid came along and just 19 when I found photographs and letters and skype messages telling the truth. So much hurt from a man that never cared and yet mum asks me to ‘be nice because he’s still your father and he’s so stressed out.’

Oh yeah, let me just put the man who hurt me over the years, who hurt all of us, first. Let me put him first simply because he has the title of father when all he is in reality, is a glorified sperm donor.

I broke down when I got home after lunch – my head was all over – food was too much to contemplate and I hadn’t been sleeping due to nightmares and I simply didn’t want to be alone so I went to his house to spend the night. I text her apologising for cancelling with no other explanation other than ‘I’m really stressed out’ and she completely understood because great friends always understand. 

But you know what an even better friend does?

This…

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I got this through the post on Monday and I cried. It took me completely by surprise and I cried. I sat on the kitchen floor and cried. I cried because I was slowly realising how much support I have. I’ve never doubted her support but this simply just got me. It went straight to my heart and seemed to release all that pain.

I hadn’t even told her any of the reasons why I cancelled because I’d been so busy the entire week. But that’s the thing. She didn’t need to know the ins and outs to be able to help me. She just knew something was up and that small postcard contained more support than you can even begin to imagine. A small postcard that has pride of place on my bedroom wall. A new daily reminder I can get through all this. A daily reminder that there are people there even when I don’t expect them to be.
Especially when they realise I need them before I do.
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Wise Words

 

Words are powerful. They can crush a heart or heal it. They can shame a soul or liberate it. They can shatter dreams or energise them. They can obstruct connection or invite it. They can create defences or melt them. We have to use words wisely. 

My motivation to write can come from a variety of sources and when I get an idea or the urge to write I take a picture to include with each post. Admittedly its usually a selfie or a picture of something I’ve done that day that’s made me happy but I never post the pictures where I’m sad.

The words from the small paragraph I’ve included above could not be truer. The picture on the left is from my morning coffee in the back garden and I took the one on the right about 5 hours later. The change is staggering and the reason for the change? One small sentence said to me shortly after the first picture was taken.

I would never usually take a selfie of me crying, desperately trying to hold myself together but I decided today I would. I wanted to show the reality. I want people to see the hurt and struggles that I still go through because no matter how hard I try to ignore it, no matter how hard I pretend I’m okay, there are days where I’m still in incredible amounts of pain.

Christmas is hard, notoriously hard for any sufferers and recoverers from EDs. I don’t really need to tell you all that, you already know but to hear my brother say to me, ‘if you’re going to be sick today can you at least clean the toilet because my girlfriend is coming round today and we don’t want the toilet to be dirty.’

His words echoed in my head and the tears came running. I really struggle with my recovery when I come home at any time of the year, let alone Christmas and to hear what really was an insensitive comment cut right through me. I hadn’t been sick this visit, I hadn’t purged, I hadn’t bent over the toilet with my fingers down my throat and yet his words…the thoughts came running, the tears came burning, the storm came thundering and then the fear set in.

I’ve been trying ever so hard this year to keep purge-free. So much so I’ve been coming across angry and grumpy to my family because I’m simply so stressed out. I wish they would understand a little bit more but I don’t know how to make them understand more. He realised he had hurt me and when he tried to make it better I screamed at him to leave me alone.

I’ve not screamed at anyone like that before.

But the thought was there now. Purge. I need to purge. I stared at the girl in the mirror and couldn’t believe how fat she looked compared to a week ago when she was alone in London. I needed a shower but all I could see was the fat girl in the mirror. God I wanted to smash that mirror. The thoughts were pounding and the girl became blurry as the tears stung and I could barely stand up, holding onto the sides of the sink desperately searching for some strength. Any ounce of strength.

Come on girl. I heard myself say. Pull yourself together. Its Christmas…

Christmas.

Every year.

Something happens.

That all happened about 30 minutes after that first picture was taken.

The second picture was taken shortly after Christmas Dinner.

I feel weak. I feel disgusting. I don’t want to write this out but I know I need to. I know admitting helps me recover.

I relapsed.

But I sunk to a whole new low.

In the past I’ve done some incredible things to hide the purge from others but I did something I’ve never done before.

I knew eyes and ears would be on me at home and I went to the park. I knew that would probably be empty. I found somewhere secluded. I checked no one was around. I tied my hair up. I took a final deep breath, shut my eyes and I bent over.

I relapsed.

And the relief came rushing. I felt that instant relief that I learnt to wrongly associate with positives all those years ago but then I cried. The vicious circle had started once again. I’m home now and no body knows, that makes me feel worse. 5 years in a row that I’ve relapsed on Christmas Day. I feel like I’ve failed even though I know I haven’t. I’m just hoping I can get a firmer handle on things tomorrow. That’s all I can do, take each day as it comes, keep aiming for small steps upwards.

 

I understand I can’t let everyone’s words affect me but I don’t see why I should lower my feelings because of someone’s choice of words or their ignorance. He didn’t mean what he said but it really damn well hurt at the time. It’s hard to get out of this claustrophobic house at the best of times, let alone when the Demon’s voice starts to scream.

The second half of the day was surprisingly amazing. The family bickering had stopped and we actually ended up having a great evening as a family. There’s always silver linings I suppose. There’s always laughter in sadness and hope in darkness.

There’s always progress to be made at every hurdle.

There was a time I was purging every day. That was a long time ago. That’s the progress I’ve made.

That’s what I should be proud of today.

And the below pictures of dad dancing with me on his shoulders…that’s the memory I want to remember about Christmas Day 2016.

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Parenting the Parents

 

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16 hours. 960 minutes. 57600 seconds is all it took for him to fuck up.

Yet again. As always. Once more the man messed up.

His actions have hurt me more than ever before.

I hate how much he’s hurt my entire family. I resent the pressure I have had to cope with to hold us all together when I can barely keep it together myself. I despise what he’s done but most of all, I hurt.

I simply hurt.

There’s no more room for anger if I’m honest. The anger has gone but the hurt resonates with every breath I take when he’s in the room. I can barely look at him anymore. I simply can’t be around him. But mum doesn’t understand and true to form she keeps begging me to try be happy, to put up with it, to pretend everything is fine for her sake.

I hate that guilt trip even more. The fact I love her can’t make me love my dad. The fact I care about her more than anything can’t make me pretend to be happy. I simply cannot pretend anymore. I’m mid-20s now and I’ve learnt how all this pretence since I was a child made my mental health deteriorate so rapidly.

I’m incredibly close to my mum and I always have been but sometimes I truly resent the fact she kept this man in my life. Sometimes I wish, oh do I wish, she had taken him out of our lives because he has brought nothing but pain. She always ends up on the other end of the phone, crying, screaming about what he’s done now and sometimes about how she wants to die. So why doesn’t she leave? I want her to leave and so does my brother…my closest friend who won’t come home yet for Christmas because dad is here.

At least he can use his girlfriend as an excuse. I have no excuse not to come home for Christmas.

I do appreciate you can’t interfere with someone’s relationship but I have been coping with these breakdowns since I was I was a teenager. I have tried to hold us up for so many years. I have held it together for as long as I can but some days I simply can’t do it.

I saw my best friends today. 15 years and counting and now two have the cutest babies ever. He was only 4 days old. I held this little bundle of cuteness who was 4 days old and we all caught up. The thing about my Newcastle friends, my old school friends, is that we have all truly gone through some horrific things, somewhat similar things, and we can all relate to each other on a level that I have never had with any other friends.

Something interesting was said though when we were commenting on how surreal it feels that two are parents now:

Well, we’ve all basically been parenting our parents since we were teenagers haven’t we?

It is a sad thought though, isn’t it? I know my life has not been bad but that doesn’t mean bad things haven’t happened to me. Through all the pain caused by my dad and the accidental guilt trips by my mum, I was forced to grow up at a very young age. We all were. Other people also forced us to become adults before we were due but it’s very clear that all of us are at that stage where we can’t keep parenting our parents anymore.

Mum says she just wants a happy Christmas so why can’t I just put up with dad? My argument is, if you want a ‘happy Christmas’ why do you keep the man who just brings us sadness? I want to make her happy, but why does making her happy have to make me so sad?

Wouldn’t it be nice to look after myself?

Isn’t it sad how I cannot wait for the day I have an excuse not to be here when he is? Isn’t it sad how I was desperately searching for NYE plans, any sort of plan so I didn’t have to be here? Isn’t it sad how I’m spending the days out the house on my own, pretending I’m with other people, just so I don’t have to be around him?

I just want to look after me.

I’m looking forward to the day when someone wants to look after me.

When someone wants to make me happy.

When I can simply be happy at Christmas without having to pretend.

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Yummy Mummy #1

Twitter: @elenip92
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Making Peace With The Mirror

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It’s oh so cliched but I need to start measuring myself in strength and not pounds. But why does something so simple feel so incredibly hard?

People see my smile on a daily basis. They hear my laugh at least once an hour and that’s what I’m best known for. The girl who’s always smiling. That’s why they all notice when the smile isn’t there.

I’m doing well and visiting my cousins this weekend was so amazing. I had incredible fun but there was so much food.

So.
Much.
Food.

And drink. There was a lot to eat and more to drink and as hard as I tried I couldn’t get that Demon’s voice out of my head. I was filled with panic whenever food was brought to me. I spent hours fearing just when they’d expect me to eat or drink next.

Simply in fear of the calories.

Just say no. I hear you say.

Just say no. I kept hearing myself say.

But how do you say no to breakfast, lunch and dinner?

How do you say no to a glass of wine at a party your family is hosting?

Should you say no to three normal meals?

You might not, but I always tell myself that I have to say no. That I’ve still got fat to lose.

My perspective has always been a touch twisted. According to others, I always see myself bigger than what I am. I never seem to care about any part of my body other than my stomach. Always looking at it. Hoping it doesn’t look big. Hoping, desperate to not see a fat girl staring back at me.

Sadly, most days I still do.

I never feel good enough because I was never allowed to feel good enough.

It truly was an amazing weekend and I needed it. I loved seeing my older cousin and messing around with my younger ones in the middle of the most gorgeous countryside. A world away from the tall glass buildings I’ve gotten accustomed to in London.

There’s more to life than avoiding my reflection.

There’s more to life than letting the scales define my day.

There’s more to me than I believe.

There’s more to me.

Perhaps I still need a little bit of help truly realising that.

It sounds silly, but if I get drunk I get a little bit cocky. What I mean is, I know I’m perfect the way I am, I know I’m really quite something, that I’ve achieved things many people dream of, that my friends love me for me, that my smile can infect the whole room, that I am just fine. Drunken words are a sober man’s thoughts after all.

But when it comes to a normal day I do get riddled with self-doubt. I think that being thinner means being perfect but surely not. Surely there’s more? I get the whole, you’ve got to love yourself first and I do but I can’t help but occasionally think of the friends and boys who have used me. Taken advantage. Assaulted me. It all makes me feel that I might not be worth it.

But I know I am. We all are. Sometimes it takes a heartbreak to shake us awake and help us see we are worth so much more than we are settling for. We’re all worth so much more than we think we are.

It’s just that mirror, those scales and the Demon in my head.

At the end of the day, there is no scale that can measure just how incredibly precious we are. Long gone are the days where every single day was dependent on mirrors and scales. Just got to push through and keep going. Head up and push through these last couple of tough days.

I’ve made it through a mentally challenging weekend and I can’t ask for more than that. There is no magic cure, no making it all go away forever. There are only small steps upwards: an easier day, an unexpected laugh…a mirror that doesn’t matter anymore.

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Family

Family is more than just the blood that runs through your veins and its more than being related to those with the family name. Its hard to think about how certain people within your family aren’t actually family, whereas, some outside of the blood ties and relations are some of your closest family members.

I don’t consider myself to have grandparents. I never really have. My mum’s parents and dad’s father dead and the sole living grandparent I had left was simply not a grandparent at all. I used to get jealous when other girls would say they were going to their Gran’s. It always sounded so wonderful, away from the strict parents, being spoilt rotten like the way kids were supposed to be treated. But I got none of that. I was fat, an embarrassment to the family and stupid. First and foremost, however, I was a girl and entitled to derogatory treatment from birth.

Friends talked about their Granny taught them to bake. Mine slapped me for not stirring some Tzatiki quietly enough. Friends spoke about how their granny let them eat treats, mine poked me and grabbed my fat. She ridiculed me and would imitate chubby cheeks and a chubbier waste. Friends would speak about how they didn’t have to lift a finger at their Grandparents, all I remember was scrubbing the floors and washing the windows without being allowed any sort of break.

Friends spoke about how much they loved their Granny. I questioned how much mine actually loved me.

I wish I had that experience. I wish I had known my English Granny and Granddad because they would have treat me right. They would have told me I was beautiful and perfect and hung my pictures on their walls. They would have made visits enjoyable and taught me so many things. They would have made me feel more than accepted. I wouldn’t have ever had to question if they loved me.

But unfortunately, like many, I didn’t have that. I also had a stressed out (pretty much single) mum doing everything she could for me. An absent father who supplied the money but didn’t truly supply any love, only stigmas, and hate, and shame, and lies. Oh god there were so many lies. There still are and I don’t know whats true anymore. I don’t know who knows what or what secret is a secret between who. I just don’t know.

Me, Mum, John and the dog. Thats one reason I love animals. They don’t judge. They love unconditionally. They don’t question. They don’t care about your weight, disability, finances, or intelligence. They love you for you. And I love that.

I always thought that was all the family I needed and used to withdraw from people so much. It wasn’t until my 5th year of Uni I began to open up and it was the bravest but best decision I have ever made. My Muslim family. I’ve written about them before and I’m about to write again. They’ve truly helped me through so much and I genuinely care for them like family. I love the way they don’t once act as if there is a guest in the house. I love the way I just help with little things occasionally, like setting or clearing the table.

I love the way they seem happy to see me. I love the fact its not a lie.

I went through this weekend and two comments were made and I realised that not only do I see them like family but they see me as family and thinking about it from this two-way perspective made me unbelievably happy. I was asked to be part of a family selfie and although it seems like such a small gesture, it truly meant the world to me.

Family is where you walk through the door and you don’t panic about how you look or what’s going on in your life. Family is where you’re not judged for what food you do or don’t put on your plate. Family is when you feel so comfortable your best friend can leave the house and you’re not at all put in an awkward position. Family is when you go for a bike ride and come back to find the house empty so you just jump around on their trampoline without a care in the world. Family is where you don’t have to ask for anything because you know its going to be provided or you can get it yourself without asking permission.

Its not just them but its my friends too. I see S and E as sisters sometimes and not just my best friends. I’ve had to get used to not seeing them as much as I’d like due to third year and different lectures but when I see them and my face lights up and my heart gets all fuzzy I know I’ve missed them. Its that feeling when you’re randomly walking down the street and unexpectedly all three of you bump into one another and you scream like little kids. Its that feeling when you have no time but you see them and you make the time and in those 30 minutes you are just smiling uncontrollably.

Its that feeling of normality being restored. Happiness being restored. Nothing can bring me down when I’m with them. They make me stronger than you can imagine and I’ve learnt to truly cherish every minute I get with them now.

They’re all my family. And they all make me stronger.

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