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.

 

 

 

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.

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.

 

‘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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A Beautiful Paradox

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She was broken but never hopeless. Alone but never lonely. Her eyes reflected pain but projected courage. She was a beautiful paradox

I really like that quote and feel like I can massively relate to it. It always feels weird to have people say things to me like, ‘I love how confident you are, you don’t take crap from anyone!’ when deep down, I know I’m filled with self-doubt.

The look on people’s faces when they realise what I’ve gone through and what I’m currently going through can really say it all for me. They genuinely have no idea the happy, chatty girl with the infectious smile can be so broken inside. The problem is, I’m not pretending to be that happy person, I know that person is me. It’s just that beneath it all there is the girl struggling to glue herself back together.

All it takes is one nightmare from that night…one glance from a girl skinnier than me…one more family argument, to tear down that smile and the tears come running. I really am a confident person, definitely personality confident and definitely NOT body confident but I really am getting there with being comfortable with the way I look.

I met the other trainees this week and they were so skinny. They really were, no lumps and bumps, no chest like mine and I felt so huge. They were like sticks and there I am…most definitely not a stick. I felt so self-conscious…I’ve not felt like that since i was half-naked in a swimming costume. They were all talking about how great their lives were and are, their family background and their wonderful boyfriends. DOn’t get me wrong, every single girl would have been through similar shit like me and to be honest, they were lovely and I don’t think I met a single person I disliked. No one commented on my looks or weight, or made any hint or suggestion.

No one except me. I was so down that day and I relapsed when I got home.

The next day my latest gym delivery arrived, protein etc. and a new (complimentary) gym top. Its silly but new gym kit? That is most certainly the way to motivate you to go! I felt so good, I went and worked out for an hour, did my weights and finished with a run and I looked in the mirror and felt…proud. Staring back at me was the girl who (yes, I relapsed) but woke up today determined to continue on my journey of becoming the best possible version of myself.

And I was not skinny.

But I looked strong.

#StrongNotSkinny seems to be trending lately I suppose

And it felt good.

I want to be so skinny at times but I’m also happy to be strong.

I feel so inadequate as if I don’t deserve anything or anyone but I also believe I deserve special because I do believe I am special.

I want to be loved but I know I still don’t quite love myself so…as my favourite drag queen quotes… If you can’t love yourself how in the hell you gonna love someone else!

Haha here I am quoting Ru Paul (she is the best though).

I really am happier. I’m getting less focused on skinny and more focused on strong. My housemates seem to love me for me…I’m sure my new friends will love me for me and I’m sure that one day someone else will love me for me.

I really am a paradox. I feel simultaneously not good enough and too much. I suppose I need to keep journeying for the happy medium where the outside smiles and confidence truly reflects the inside smiles and confidence.

I’m not broken anymore, because I’ve already started to put myself back together. I am simply currently undergoing my re-construction.

The best of me is yet to come.

Working It Out

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Today’s been a bad day but on the same hand one of my better ones. It’s so contradictory, I know but I’m pleased with where I am right now in this very moment.

As usual my day started off with the standard family stress but today I couldn’t take it anymore. I’m in the middle with my mum breaking down to me on the phone and my dad pressuring me to send him all my money. We had an agreement that I would look after that money so me and my brother could have deposits for houses in the future but now he’s trying to take it and I will happily support my mum but I’m getting fed up of my dad. Strictly speaking he’s been paying for that whore for 14 years…14 years of his and mum’s money being spent elsewhere…14 years that has led to him taking mine and my brother’s savings, the inheritance meant to help us start our own families one day.

I feel like I can’t cope with it anymore. When I hung up on mum I ended up crying in the middle of the street and I couldn’t stop. I tried to find a place that was quiet so I could try hide from the masses around me but I couldn’t and I felt like I was suffocating. I couldn’t breathe in this crowd and I was fighting to keep the tears from falling but in the end I couldn’t. They burnt and they stung my cheeks as they started to come and I desperately tried to find an empty corner or side street to run to but there wasn’t anywhere, so I lowered my head and made my way home whilst the tears kept running.

I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I can’t do this anymore, I can’t cope with this stress, I want all my family to leave. I want them to stop pressuring me, I don’t want this financial stress, they can take the money and fight between themselves, I don’t want anything to do with the money anymore, its caused so many problems sitting there and I wish, oh i wish I could just fuck off and leave them all behind. That’s my inheritance…my mum’s hard-earned cash and savings that is meant for me and John but dad is trying to take it and once he takes it, it’ll go to that fucking whore.

I was sick. I didn’t even try not to be. I just went to the bathroom and put my fingers down my throat. Its so bad that its not even to be skinny…its turning into a coping mechanism again. Something to take all the pain away because its the only way I know how.

But then, I went to the gym. I went to the one a few streets down and opened a membership and after 2 hours I went for a bit. I only managed 30 minutes cardio but considering I’ve not been able to do any real exercise for a long time I think that’s alright. I do know its not the best idea seeing as I purged. But I went to the gym, made sure I drank a lot and afterwards I went for sushi. Expensive food for my bank account right now but at least I ate something. At least I exercised. At least I got the remainder of my anger and pain out on the treadmill and not down the toilet.

And I’m proud that I finally went. It’s silly but because I feel so fat most days, I’m almost embarrassed to go to the gym. It’s so contradictory, we go there to better ourselves but it also acts as such a self-conscious environment. I’m pleased with myself. I’ve drawn up an exercise plan for the rest of the month and yeah, it might be too much, but hopefully I can find where my fitness is and start building myself up again. Not just physically but mentally too.

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