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: @elenipapa92
Twitter: @elenip92

 

 

 

‘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…

Knowing a Feeling 

I learnt the hard way to not get my hopes up. Always let down, always dropped, always left a little bit more broken than before. Family, friends, coaches, GB team staff and, of course – boys, would remind me why I was ‘stupid to think that this time would be any different.’

So yes, I learnt the hard way not to get my hopes up. I learnt to not look too far into the future, to not see ‘meaning’ in anything and to expect the worst until I saw something confirmed on paper.

And yet, deep down, my hopes always remained high.

And I suppose my hopes are still high. My optimism gets commented on frequently and those who know everything will comment they can’t understand why.

Why, after everything would I still be the girl who is still so full of happiness and hope that one day, everything will be okay?

Thing is, I could easily be the cold-stone-hearted-ice-queen after everything and everyone would understand but it would be allowing those experiences to deprive myself of  potential happiness. Yes, people have hurt me in some of the worst ways imaginable but I don’t want that to prevent me from finding future happiness and inner peace.

But the beautiful paradox continues to exist. I still fear the worst. I simultaneously drag my hopes down just as I start to put my faith in them. The thing is, what I know and what I feel are unfortunately two extremely different things.

I know developing an eating disorder wasn’t ‘my fault’ but I feel ashamed and disappointed in myself for having one.
I know my friends would do anything to help me but I feel that I’m a burden they will wish they didn’t have.
I know my boyfriend wants to be with me but I feel that he’s bound to prefer someone with less issues. Less damage. Less of a past she couldn’t control.

know that three meals a day won’t make me gain weight but I feel incredibly fat for wanting to eat, let alone even eating.
know I’ve not purged for more than four weeks but I feel like that doesn’t truly mean anything.
I know in the past I have found ways to purge in secret when surrounded by others but I feel like that doesn’t mean anything regarding these last four weeks.

In his words, I’m ‘kicking ass’ and I know that I am but I feel like I’ve achieved nothing.

I’m still working on developing my self-compassion that my therapist and I worked on. Allowing myself to appreciate that there will always be days where I do get hurt and need support, or days I fall down and need people to pick me up but none of that makes me a failure. Loving myself for the things I know rather than hate myself for the things I simply feel. And of course it’s difficult to not believe the awful things people have made me feel, but if it was easy then it wouldn’t be holding me back right now…

It’s potentially the hardest part of my recovery (in the necessary circumstances) feeling what I know rather than only knowing what I let myself feel.

At least these people always help me work out the difference:

Twitter: @elenip92

Instagram: @elenipapa92

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Almost There

My 25th birthday yesterday and to celebrate my quarter-of-a-century-ness the opticians delivered my first ever pair of glasses. Seven years of reading and writing and reading and writing and reading some more at university has left my eyes a little bit worse than where they started off.

Perfectly lovely birthday even if I did panic a little bit at the restaurant we went to. More than an hour in the queue but between you and me, totally worth it. Even lucky enough to be given one of the best tables in the room. Luckier to have pretty awesome company.

I got my exam results today.

I got a distinction in my degree.

That means I’ve kept my job.

That means, after all this time, after all this hard work, after everything that could go wrong and did go wrong, I’m finally going to be a Trainee Solicitor.

At one of the top law firms in the country too.

I really messed up one of my exams, I knew I did and I was worried the mark was going to cost me my job but turns out I passed it. Only just mind; I passed the exam by 5 marks and God did it bring down my average, but, I passed.

And even though it was my lowest mark I’m incredibly proud of it because though I majorly struggled I tried my damned hardest to learn everything I needed and coming out the exam I knew I was close to the pass mark, nothing more but potentially a lot less.

But it doesn’t matter how much I got past that pass mark because I got past it. All I needed to do was get over the pass mark and I would still be employed come September. The firm could take my job away if I didn’t get a certain mark in my degree but they can’t because I did it.

I made it.

Well, almost…

I still have a week to finish the business masters the firm wants me to do and I’m half way through. The finance element has killed me mentally, I’ve never cried over work but that made me cry four times. However, I currently have 2,432 words of my education left, so I suppose I best get back to it…

For once, it’s not really been a bad week in my world.

Twitter: @elenip92

Instagram: @elenipapa92

This is what my ED looks like

An llness that doesn’t care for age, height, gender or (rather ironically) weight.

My ED carries a smile. A smile that whispers to the world ‘I’m fine’. A smile that begs for someone to ask ‘what’s wrong?’ but knows that if anyone does, it’ll crack.

My ED walks with a head held high. One that’s determined not to fall. Held tall all day throughout the storm, pushing to make it through. But the storm just grows. Cruel voices that start out small but grow so loud. 

My ED stands on shaky ground. Legs struggle with the weight. They walk with pride but before the mirror the ground always quakes. 

My ED has hands that grip the sides of the bathroom sink or lean on the kitchen table. Everything tense, trying to pull me high. 

My ED has eyes that are tired of the tears that fall regardless of their source. Eyes so blurry once again, yet again, salty stings running down each cheek.

My ED hasn’t managed to make me purge for four weeks and it’s barely skipped a meal. My ED has only gotten the scales out once but the war rages ever on. The voice tells me it’s because I’m surrounded by people, that I would never have done this on my own. The longing for the scales is only stopped due to a fear of the number being ‘too high’.  My ED still hates the mirror and the hands still grip the sink. The legs still struggle to reach the fridge and the tears forever fall.

Forever falling. 

But my ED isn’t necessarily me. It’s a huge part and that I will never deny but it isn’t me as a whole. 4 weeks and I’ve made it through, kinda, almost, but still, 4 weeks, that much is true. I’ve not been alone but that doesn’t necessarily mean ‘I’m weak’

They see me eat and so they don’t think to ask because my ED carries a smile, the one that says that ‘I’m alright’.

The cruelest trick of all, because inside, I’m most definitely not alright. 

Welcome Home 


I’ve had this blank page staring back at me the past few days. Want to write, know that I do, but about what? I don’t know.

I just don’t know.

My head is spinning with a thousand questions, so much so I won’t allow myself to even take a step back and appreciate how well the past three weeks have gone. I’ve not weighed myself at all and I don’t feel as much of a need to. Part of me thinks that shows massive progression but the other part tells me its because I’m scared to see the number, that I’m bound to have gained weight.

Every time I think I’ve made steps forward that voice simply tells me I haven’t. It downplays my success. I’ve not purged for more than 3 weeks…but that’s probably because I’ve been with other people, not because I’ve gotten stronger…

He wants to be with me. Says that he does. Says that he really likes me. But I don’t know. What if I’m setting myself up for yet another failure. Am I weak for going back? Or am I making the right choice by trying to work through whatever happened? But what did happen? I don’t know. I still don’t get it, I still can’t process it because he hasn’t given me a reason as to why he did what he did.

And my head keeps spinning.

When I’m with him, its perfect. As though nothing happened. But when I’m alone I just think of all that pain he brought to that Sunday a few weeks ago.

He said after a really long (and I mean really long) relationship he’s scared of picking the wrong person. He described it as akin to a mental health issue, that he panicked and almost couldn’t control the things he was saying. I can half understand that, even though none of my friends do.

But surely that means I’m the wrong person? I mean, of course I am. No matter how many steps I move forward nor how many achievements I make, I have so many failures and broken pieces of me that can never be forgotten.

Failures and broken pieces that are rooted in a bastard of an eating disorder.

Of course I would never be right.

Of course, each time someone ‘genuine’ comes along, they soon enough realise I’m not right.

Why would I be?

Does this mean he’s just going to end it another day in the future? Right now, he is right for me. I don’t believe its healthy to look too far into the future regarding relationships too soon but am I just here, making him better for the next one to come along? Just like always.

Always setting them up to treat the next one better.

For once I thought I was finally getting treated better.

I just don’t know anymore.

But he does treat me right. One stupid afternoon, one epic mind fuck but everything else feels incredibly normal and perfect. I can’t spend a relationship second guessing everything…just like I can’t spend my recovery second guessing every step forward that I make.

No more second guessing, back to going with the flow, I suppose.


Twitter: @elenip92

Instagram: @elenipapa92

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.

Twitter: @elenip92

Instagram: @elenipapa92