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

A Reminder to Write

I need to write more. I tell myself this all the time and yet I’m always getting caught up in work, socialising or just other hobbies that I lately haven’t written for months. I reminded myself this weekend how much I enjoy writing on this blog, both therapeutically and generally and I want to commit to writing at least once a week (or fortnight if I have nothing to say!).

There’s a few reasons I want to keep writing. Predominantly though, it’s always been therapeutic for me not to just write but to read other people’s blogs. Following on from this point, I’m coming up to my final therapy session and I realised I do need to actively engage with this blog to continue my recovery going forward – if anything, it’s my way of journaling. There’s also been a lot of occasions I could have written, or wanted to write, but simply didn’t. So I guess I might backtrack to begin with.

Perhaps this is my written down promise to myself that I’m going to keep writing. A promise to myself to maximise my recovery by continuing to write.

 

Number Crunching

I did that thing I wasn’t supposed to do.

I did it even though I knew it wasn’t going to do me any good.

I stepped on the scales and that pain I knew would arrive came rushing, burning through every part of my body.

I stood there, simply hurting.

8 weeks into recovery and I had gained some weight.

I could see it coming, I knew I had. I knew I felt bloated and bigger around my midriff. I mean, I’d spent hours criticising the way I looked before I even stepped onto the scales.

I ignored the fact I was now exercising 4-5 times a week. I forgot that it was the end of the day and I had been eating 3 meals a day like clockwork. I refused to accept I was wearing trainers and clothes when I took that fatal step onto the scales.

And boy, am I struggling with this weight gain?

I’m trying to reassure myself that 4 llb’s isn’t that bad but the Demon inside tells me it is. I’ve spent countless hours crying to my boyfriend because the need to restrict and the desire to purge have been at their loudest for the past 12 days.

It makes me feel embarrassed to need so much help lately.

I’m suffering from this constant fear that they’re all going to leave me.

Most of all, it hurts. Everything simply hurts and there’s no actual medication I can take that will numb the pain.

Going round in circles. Can’t face looking at my reflection but simultaneously can’t stop looking at my ‘imperfections’. Don’t want to eat my meals but fighting to make sure that I do.

At least I’m still fighting.

I’ve just spent the weekend in Manchester with my best friend. A trip we planned a while ago and if I hadn’t paid for my ticket, I may have given into the ED telling me to bail.

We did nothing. A few walks, a few movies and lots of cups of tea. But it was perfect and, as it turns out, just what I needed.

I needed nothing.

I needed time away from my place where, unfortunately, bad memories already exist.

I needed time to stop and breathe and think.

Time to just do nothing.

I feel better for it.

I’m trying to take some time to understand that just because I’ve gained weight, it doesn’t mean I’m fat. Just because the number has increased doesn’t mean I’m unworthy.

In fact, I’ve started to feel more ‘worthy’ than ever before.

And between you and me, I have learnt an incredible amount these last 8 weeks.

I’ve been using a compassionate mind work book, I’ve had 8 weeks of balanced meal plans and healthy exercise. I’ve had a few purges and hardly any binges and I’ve hardly skipped any meals.

It hurts and I constantly feel drained.

But I’m happier.

And whether or not I’ve gained 1-4 pounds…I’m definitely healthier.

And I’m sure that, one day, being skinny will not correlate to being ‘healthy’ but that, maybe those extra couple of pounds will.

Nothing like a train ride to dedicate some time to getting negative thoughts away from me ❤️

Instagram: @umbrella_adventures_

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.

Instagram: umbrella_adventures.blog

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 ❤

Instagram: umbrella_adventures.blog

 

 

 

‘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…

Instagram: umbrella_adventures.blog