Flexible Planning

T-minus 24 hours until my qualification leave begins! (Well 24 hours if I leave work at 5pm tomorrow but my supervisor knows it’s my last day so fingers crossed he’ll let me run away as soon as it is professionally acceptable to do so).

It still hasn’t fully hit me that I’m going to be away and out of the country for 6 weeks from Saturday morning but I’m so incredibly excited.

There’s one pesky issue though…my ED.

Although I consider myself in “recovery”, the Demon doesn’t want me to enjoy my holiday. It wants me to avoid putting on weight, to limit my carbs so I don’t look as chubby on the beach and to exercise more than I should on holiday….

I’m used to doing weekly food plans – something that has thoroughly helped my recovery – but the idea of having an unpredictable and unplannable 6 weeks of eating has shook me more than a little. However, my first 3 weeks in California will be very active. The days will be full of hiking, swimming, walking, kayaking etc so I know I need to ensure I fuel my body for those activities.

But I don’t know what I’ll be eating. I don’t know where the supermarkets are or the restaurants around me and nor do I want to obsessively research that in advance but I can’t fully let go of my food planning for 6 weeks and so I came up with a more flexible way of planning.

I’ve made an itinerary for California and on the days I’m going to be super active I’ve noted in nice green writing: “very active day: higher calorie intake needed”. I toyed with the idea of writing “lower calorie intake needed” on my purely travel days (and initially I did) but I realised that could be triggering if my ED brain considers that a “rule” and then panics if I eat a bit more than anticipated.

I’ve not gone into any more detail than that and I think that’s fine. It’s not a solid food plan by any means but it allows me to recognise when I need more fuel and days where I need to prepare food for a full day’s hike the day before.

I’m far more concerned about visiting Greece with my boyfriend as I’m worried we’ll eat out and drink more on a less active holiday but we came up with a plan for that too. We’re going to rotate each night with a visit to a restaurant on one night and a gyros/cafe on the other. Also, every second restaurant visit will be one I can “splurge” at a little – a cheat meal so to speak.

(It’s been hard to re-educate my brain that eating at a restaurant doesn’t automatically mean over eating or eating unhealthily)

I’m hopeful that, in that way, I can keep one restaurant meal healthy and allow myself to enjoy holiday food a bit more on the other with much smaller gyros type meals on the other days (which are incredibly filling and only €2!)

Greece is the tough one. I’m panicking a lot about that part of the holiday because I’ve also put pressure on myself to not have ED problems as I’m concerned about them “ruining” my boyfriend’s first holiday with be and let’s be honest, I’ve not had a symptom free holiday since my ED began so 8 years plus….

But I’ve also never had a holiday with my ED where I have created a flexible eating plan…so maybe this could be a good coping mechanism going forward.

I guess there’s only one way to find out…but to begin with, here’s to me finally about to qualify as a solicitor!

Avoiding Self-Sabotage

It’s a full on summer. That’s for sure.

I’m now seven months into what I feel is “recovery”. In that seven months I’ve been sick twice. Once at the start (i.e. when the seven months began) and once when I was incredibly drunk and fell into an old habit. I’ve still experienced panic attacks, I’ve still had the demon’s voice screaming in my head but I’ve managed to get through to the other end.

I’m sticking to my food plans whilst allowing flexibility and, as far as possible, I’m exercising for fun. I’ve started to accept the numbers on the clothes I wear. I’m more understanding of my large chest and the impact it might have on those clothes sizes and all in all, I’m starting to like myself a little bit more.

Although that voice to “be better” still echoes in the back of my mind, it just feels a little bit easier to ignore it.

So, so far so good, right?

This summer is supposed to be amazing. It’s my birthday, one of my best friends is getting married, I’m moving into my boyfriends’ flat…a trainee summer party and a department summer party…I’m going to qualify and as a result of qualification I not only have a qualification party but a 6-week “qualification leave” in which I refuse to spend more time in the UK than is necessary!

I’m spending three weeks in California, two weeks on my favourite Greek island with my boyfriend and my final week with my closest work friends in Italy. And I promise I am so damn excited but I’m also damn scared.

I’m nervous to not really be planning my meals. I’m nervous to be exercising less. I’m nervous to be in swimwear with my friends who I am bigger than. I’m nervous to be out of routine for 6 whole weeks.

California will probably be okay. I’m on my own for that bit and it’s going to be quite an active break. There will be plenty of hiking in the Grand Canyon and Yosemite, walking round Balboa and the Golden Gate Parks, kayaking and snorkelling on the beaches and generally just being constantly out and about. I know I can plan healthy meals and I know I need to eat to be able to take part in those activities. I also feel like I’ll have a bit more control because I’ll be on my own.

Ironically, I’m more nervous for being away with my boyfriend or friends. They are far more likely to  be beach/relaxing/celebration type holidays. That scares me. Being around skinny girls scare me. The idea of more food and alcohol scares me. The lack of exercise scares me. Ultimately, I am petrified of a potential weight gain.

I haven’t been on holiday without any ED symptoms since my ED began and this 6 weeks is looking like my biggest challenge yet.

The problem with being scared is that you run the risk of self-sabotaging. I do believe that the more I panic the more likely I am to relapse. But that’s what the Demon wants. It wants me to relapse so it can say “I told you so. I told you you weren’t strong enough to do it. I knew you were weak”. And that’s how easy it is for it to dig its claws in to my back and drag me back into that downward spiral.

So I guess I have to keep pushing on. I have to keep eating my three meals a day and exercising for fun. It is going to be so incredibly rare for me to get these 6 weeks off work ever again so I do have to keep pushing those ED boundaries and allow myself to enjoy this break.

To make happy memories rather than moping around with the dark ones. Because giggling on rooftop bars is way more fun anyway…

Instagram: @elenipapa92

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_

Seven Years


A room so hot with heat and stress. Clock ticking down, minutes if not seconds left and then it’s done. Four hours of time that passes so quick and it’s over. Paper handed in, step outside and breathe. Done. Over. Seven years of law school. Finished.

Drinks, food and laughter galore. The bank account winces with every swipe of the card but there’s no cares cos it’s done. It’s over. Seven years of law school. But it’s more than that. It’s seven years of hard work and grind. Seven years of sweat and tears. Seven years of hurt and abuse. Seven years of betrayals and let downs. Seven years…

Seven years is a long time.

It’s 3,679,200 minutes to be exact.

Seven years of pain I never saw coming.

Seven years of an illness I never thought I’d suffer from.

Seven years.

61,320 hours.

I’m basically on my own this weekend packing up my bedroom to move out and I sit on my bed in my empty room and all I can do is think. It’s hard to keep the voices quiet when you’re on your own after one of the most stressful periods of your life.

And whilst there’s pain there’s always so much happiness it’s almost unbelievable. Moving here was scary and I’m scared of more betrayal, more let downs. I don’t even know if I’m convincing myself that more is to come. It would hardly surprise me if it did. But seven years is a long time.

A lot has happened and a lot has changed.

And I am most certainly stronger for it.

Still scared that more hurt is lurking round the corner. More let downs waiting to trip me up.

But forever optimistic. Forever smiling.

And I’m one of the lucky ones with a job that waits. Ready for me after a few travels here and there, Peru, Greece, Italy with the odd week in London. Mountains, forests, beaches and architecture. Full of excitement for the fact I’m about to experience all the things I love. Even more excited for the two weeks I’ll be spending with a friend that I love. One of the two who has held my hand through the darkest of days.

Seven years.

And I’m happy.

I’ve not been this happy for as long as I can remember.

Maybe I’ve never been this happy….

Seven years.

And if that’s what had to happen to get me to today….then fuck it, every single year, month, day, hour and minute of those seven years were worth it.

But for now, less contemplating and more simply living with those upcoming summer vibes.

Instagram: umbrella_adventures.blog

Blue Sky Reflections

You can learn a lot when you’re left to your own devices – in my case 4 whole days and 5 nights. It’s oh so cliched but I found myself a bit more than I thought was possible in Tenerife. I left the country to escape but what did I learn in the process?

Day 1: Being a beach bum taught me to appreciate myself

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Sitting alone on that volcanic black sand beach with the sun shining down on me filled me with relief – a sense of relief I would usually find through purging. I turned off my music and let myself be surrounded by purely my own senses and it was wonderful. It let me consider what’s led to such a pounding in my head lately and how I can overcome it. I didn’t need to resort to a Demon-induced visit to a dark place but rather that safe space I created on the beach which was incredibly calming for me.

I appreciated what I’ve gone through and who I am as a result. There’s a difference between being egotistical and having the confidence to value your self-worth. It’s okay to take a step back to look after yourself. I can’t possibly be a bigger advocate for appreciating the small successes in life; maybe you were faced with a difficult decision but brave enough to make a choice. Maybe the fact you did better on a project than you originally thought you did. Maybe – in my case – the fact you ate dinner without purging.

Think about and appreciate what you’ve already overcome because it makes the future seem less challenging. Instead of thinking how far you need to go appreciate how far you’ve already come. No matter where you are in your recovery the simple fact you are making an effort to recover is an amazing success by each and every one of us.

Appreciating your self-worth also includes giving yourself some time and space to do what you want. Make every decision based on what you need or want to do and trust me, there’s a difference between needing to do something and wanting to! However, sometimes you need to do something simply because you want to! There are no rules, just breathe and relax that control I know we all so desperately crave. Be free in your decisions and happy by choice. We are all such beautiful people who could all with appreciating ourselves a little bit more.

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Day 2: A cloudy day of exploring let me explore my recovery

Definitely an aspect that was hard to accept was that I need to look after myself more. I was so incredibly exhausted and epilepsy flare-ups indicated just ho tired and stressed I’e been lately. A factor that triggers my epilepsy is fatigue – a factor that is all too self-induced following starvation or a purge.

There’s a major need to look after myself physically and mentally will flow naturally. I did purge once – I panicked at eating out due to a lack of control over calories and it shows that whilst I’ve made leaps and bounds I’ve still got work to do.

My last post spoke about switching off my brain for a little bit so my heart can breathe. Maybe I jump too much with the mental recovery without appreciating it goes hand in hand with physical recovery. It’s a two-way street and I need to look after my body so my mind can follow suit and that’s what I’m trying to do now. I’m letting my heart breathe by switching off my brain every now and then.

Day 3: Climbing a volcano revealed I really am the biggest nature nerd I know

I like rocks, I kinda like them a lot and I liked that volcano. Being in nature has always amazed me. Nature is the only thing that keeps my attention for longer than 5 minutes and I get so wonderfully lose in it. Nothing really gets you more than climbing a volcano sitting at the summit, looking at the wonderful landscape and just not thinking. Soak it up with all your senses. Breathe it in, feel it and let your brain switch off.

Conversely, it does make you think. There I am a world away from the tall glass buildings in London – the world truly is a beautiful place and I can’t wait to see more. It’s going to be tough to stay on top of all my work but for once I have the opportunity to explore the world a little bit.

Never forget to make time for yourself – appreciate your needs and value your self-worth. You shouldn’t have to move mountains for those who wouldn’t do the same for you.

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Day 4: Accidentally experiencing Carnavale revealed I truly am happy on my own

So I had no idea my 5 days coincided with Carnavale de Puerto de la Cruz and that was a wonderful realisation! Yes, I did access social media to upload photos and to contact my mum and best friend but I loved realising I wasn’t lonely at all – perhaps it was because the people I may need are always going to be there.

I was so content to wake up and do my own thing; I didn’t really have to contemplate much, I just fancied doing this or that and so I did. I’m a strong believer that when you’re happy on your own and no longer looking back you know you’re doing something right. It’s oh so important to be happy and able to do things on your own.

I really enjoyed not being glued to my phone; not seeing things on social media; not texting any boys; no mind games from anyone; I enjoyed the lack of 21st century ‘dating rules’.

I suppose what this means is that I’m perfectly happy on my own and it’s going to take someone damn special to convince me not to be flying solo one day. Being free from the reigns of the 21st Century World was the most liberating feeling whilst being a beach bum on this island on my own. Dancing in the street with thousands of strangers simply reinforced that I only need myself to fuel my own happiness.

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Day 5: Blue Sky Reflections taught me that I am enough

I have been told this before and I’m starting to think I don’t give myself enough credit for anything that I do. I don’t think I realise that I work just as hard as I do. I’m always questioning what else I can do, mistakenly chasing ‘perfection’ that can never be attained. Maybe I need to stop questioning what else I can do and learn that I am doing everything I can right now and that it is more than enough.

That I am enough.

I am not too much nor am I not good enough; it is simply a matter of coming across the wrong people. The fact I can still love my family and my friends and stay positive and full of hope about things like (dare I say it)…boys…despite how many of those three groups have hurt me. The fact that although I have walls, I could be completely stone cold and yet, I am not. The fact I am always smiling shows just what a strong and beautiful person I am.

And I could not ask to be more than a beautiful person.

None of us can and none of us should

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Posting this picture took a lot of effort and courage because I don’t feel ‘slim’ but I learnt to be so proud of myself and my happiness gave me the bravery to post it online.

Instagram: umbrella_adventures.blog

 

Flying Solo

t3

Guess where I’m writing this post from? Guess where I am? I’m not in London, I’m not even in the UK…I don’t actually know where I am because that’s right, you guessed it, I’m on a plane baby!

Now, before some of you hypochondriacs panic, I’m just drafting with the intention of publishing when I arrive. I’m most certainly not using any wireless connectivity or whatever it is that would cause my post to unfortunately stop mid-sentence…well, strictly speaking mid-flight (too much?).

But here’s the crux of my post. Here’s the inspiration: I’m flying solo.

If you follow my posts you’ll know that around 12 days ago I had a bit of a breakdown at Law School and 4 days afterwards I booked a week away and so here I am writing to you all, soaring above the sea at however-many-thousand-feet and I have never had a bigger smile on my face than I do right now. I am positively glowing from the inside out and hopefully in one week’s time I’ll have a natural glow on my skin to match.

I feel quite proud of myself, you know. ‘Why would someone be proud of themselves for going on holiday?’ I hear you ask. Well, the fact I took a moment to consider what I needed which was my own personal space to clear my head. The fact that for once I didn’t push through the pain and the fact I was prepared to work hard to get what I needed.

I picked up far more shifts than I should have done at the restaurant and had the holiday paid off within the 12 days. I got all my work done in advance (so far in advance that I now have time to do that optional writing competition the firm suggested we do). But most importantly, I’m doing this for myself by myself.

I’m flying solo.

And I’m crazily happy to be doing my own thing. Now, of course I love my friends, I challenge you to find a post that doesn’t show you how much they mean to me but there’s something oh so very important about being on my own right now. It’s only the end of February but it struck me how far more independent I’ve been in 2017.

I’ve always been strong on my own but there’s something different and I’m struggling to word it so here goes. Admittedly the hurt from the beginning of 2016 right through to the end got me to cage my heart up once more but I found the courage to release it again. However, I’ve not unlocked the cage because I’ve met a new guy or anything like that. I’ve let it out because of my own self-love. My own self-compassion that has finally been coaxed out of me once more because of some of the amazing people around me.

My heart is wandering freely.

It’s flying solo.

And my brain is trying to let it wander for once. Just keeping a close eye on it every now and then because, I mean, come on now, we all know I’m a walking liability at the best of times. Example! I held up the plane today because my jacket got caught in my necklace and it took 3 people to work out how to unhook it!

So here I am, sat on a plane writing from the bottom of my heart but soaring however-many-thousand-feet above the sea because I needed to do this. I’m halfway through booking a trip to Thailand in less than 6-weeks-time because I want to do that. I’ve already booked my trip to Peru to climb a super massive hill with someone who has become a best friend of mine. Already planning my August trip to Greece and all with a few exams and work shifts here and there in between.

Strong enough to take a few jumps with my arms open wide, my smile even wider because I’m doing this for myself and everyone else can wait. Especially those boys – you should have seen some reactions when I said in the middle of February that I’d randomly decided to go away and probably wouldn’t be back until the end of April…that was quite funny.

Beating this illness in my own special way because it all starts with looking after myself; letting my heart take over for a short while so my brain can rest.

Someone can have my heart when its ready to be had.

Until then me and my taped-heart aren’t just flying solo – we’re soaring.

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