‘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…

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. 

Fighter

fighterI am tired of trying to hold things together that cannot be held. Trying to control what cannot be controlled. I am exhausted from people playing with my heart and messing with my brain; taking advantage of the fact they just know I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. I am tired of denying myself what I want for fear of breaking things I cannot fix. For fear of not being able to fix myself.

Everything breaks no matter what we do but I’m fighting so hard to keep it all together.

I’m really grateful right now for the support network I have. These friends may not know about my previous battles, I’ve not told them anything at all but the fact they are there for me and seem to want to be there means the world. It’s so very important to notice the people who make an effort to stay in your life but it’s so very easy to not notice exactly who is making that effort.

Everybody’s damaged. I am not the only one. It’s just a question of how badly and whether you’re healing or still bleeding. Some days I feel like I’m healing but most days I feel like I’m bleeding. My eating has been all over the place and I think it’s partly just a matter of me falling into bad habits.

I’ve tried to get my days more in order. More of a routine. I’m waking up at 7 each day and getting to the library for half 8 and I work until 6. It seems to be working for me, as crazy as it sounds, I’m tired from the early starts but my body seems to be so grateful for the routine. A little bit of normality has definitely, helped my eating.

It’s hard not to judge myself against these skinny girls but I really think they’re genuine. I had a small party at mine and I don’t feel judged. I love being social and it’s not a way to ‘fit in’ but it’s nice to feel like they like me. They make me feel like I’m worth something and I think they’re being honest when they tell me I deserve so much.

The thing is, I feel like I do, but I’ve spent my life being the middle man in family arguments, holding things together when no one else was strong enough to. I’ve had my time swallowing my pride just to stop the fights. I’ve spent my years, letting people take advantage of me always thinking that they’ll realise and have some decent nature in them to make it up to me. To show me they care. To show me I’m worth it. To show me they’re not taking advantage.

But they never do and yet I always give them the benefit of the doubt.

I do see my worth though, and when you start seeing your worth, it’s harder to stay around people who don’t. Even regarding family, I just can’t be bothered with my dad and mum is basically begging me to get in touch with him but why should I? Why, after all this time, even though I expressly tell them, they don’t appreciate it’s not good for my recovery. I literally don’t care anymore.

I really feel lucky though. I have come across an amazing group of friends and every day is filled with laughter. I suppose the issue is that most of my pain has been caused by the men in my life over the years. I’m in no rush. I’m over what happened last week but I’m in no rush. Take every day as it comes. There’s a difference between someone who wants you and someone who would make the effort to keep you. I just need to get better at recognising the difference.

Sometimes, people need to be reminded of just how important we are. Words are nice, but actions are far more exquisite and I am enough. I am a thousand times enough. Maybe it’s time for the fighter to be fought for, for the holder to be held and for the lover to be loved.

 

‘Time Heals’, That’s a lie.

Right now I am a mixture of very happy and very sad and I’m trying so very hard to figure it all out. I’m trying to figure out all these feelings and emotions and words and thoughts and I can’t work out what they all mean. Everything I feel lately seems to be a contradiction of itself and I do not understand any of it.

I suppose that we will always be too much for some people, too loud, too quiet, but we’re always going to be perfect for someone. Sometimes I really do wish I had that someone. That someone to hold my hand the other day when I saw him. That someone to come with me for my biopsy results that might tear my world apart again. That someone to hold me in their arms at night. Sometimes I think that someone is never going to appear.

I’m still in so much pain, I’m still hurting and feeling so worthless. I mean, maybe I don’t deserve to feel anything but worthless…maybe I am worthless. Maybe I don’t deserve to be more or to be treated better than everyone else has treated me. Deep down I know I deserve more, I know that’s the voice of the Demon but sometimes, just sometimes, I can’t help but listen to it.

Why did he not treat me like his girlfriend? Was he embarrassed of me? Ashamed? Why did that one, tell me no one would love me because I was bulimic? Is it true? Is it impossible to love the girl who makes herself sick? Was I too fat? Am I too fat? Why did he lead me on? Why aren’t my friends speaking to me? Why did he hurt me? Why did he lie? Why did they not help me? Did they even care? Did any of them ever care?

Is anyone ever going to care?

That voice is growing louder again lately and I’m fighting so hard to keep it under lock and key. I’m walking very shaky ground every day it seems, and I can tell I’m about to lose my balance. There’s so much pain coursing through my body but at the end of the day you can either focus on what’s tearing you apart or what’s holding you together.

I used to write about how I miss the girl I used to be, the one before the Demon emerged and before all the real-life demons too. I would write about how I wanted to be her again. How I wanted to find myself again and how I just wanted to love myself. It dawned on my today that I’m never going to be that girl again. I’m never going to be unbroken but that’s also okay. I realised that loving myself is remembering that when there was no one to wipe my tears I did it myself. That I picked myself up. That I put myself back together again. The Demons tore me down but I glued myself back together.

I sincerely hope my daughter never lies in bed crying all night about a boy, wondering what she did so wrong.

People tell you that ‘time heals’. They tell you that all you need is some ‘time’ to get over things. That is a lie. What people truly mean is that you get used to the pain. You eventually forget who you were without the pain. You finally forget what you looked like without your scars. I look back and that girl I used to be is exactly that, she is the girl I used to be. She wasn’t broken and she was full of ambition and hope. The girl I see staring back at me now is broken…but she is still full of ambition and hope. Hopeful that one day it will work out. That her someone will arrive and that someone will want her to be his someone. She has ambition pumping in her veins driving her for that dream life she wants, knowing that she truly is an expert at perseverance.

Time doesn’t heal anything. You can’t go back to the person before the hurt and pain. However, you can keep moving forward and that’s what I want to do. I want to stop looking back at the past 6 years and let it make me feel worthless. I can’t help but look back but I’m starting to get used to the pain. I suppose I’ve been used to feeling this hurt for 6 years now, why am I even surprised if someone else adds to it? I just really wish they wouldn’t. I really wish they took more care with me.

I hope the next someone does.

img_2776

 

Blame

He said its not my fault. He told me over and over again that I shouldn’t blame myself for having an eating disorder. Its nothing to be ashamed of. I shouldn’t feel embarrassed. The problem is, I do, and he says that’s one of the last hurdles in my recovery and its the one I keep falling at.

Having an eating disorder makes me feel disgusting and weak and embarrassed. I can handle my disabilities, they’re physical and I can’t help having them. But my eating disorder? I can’t accept it. There has to be someone to blame and it has to be me. I can’t admit to many that I have these issues with eating because I feel that it is something to be ashamed of. There’s a stigma to mental health and I can’t admit to myself more than anyone else that I have a problem.

Its difficult because I know I have one but for years I tried to kid myself otherwise. Tried to convince myself I didn’t have an eating disorder. I mean how could I? How could the fat girl have an eating disorder? Me? The girl called Hippo at school. The girl pushed and shoved around. No way she could have an eating disorder. She was fat. She couldn’t have one.

But I did.

I thought I had accepted it but I haven’t. I realised that today. I thought I knew where I stood but I didn’t. He asked me why I blame myself. I told him that there’s no other option. I told him I’m weak and worthless for having an eating disorder. I’m an embarrassment for having these issues. For having days where deciding what to eat takes me hours on end. For having days where I don’t eat at all. For having days where I spend half my time bent over the toilet with my fingers down my throat. It sounds so bad to write it out but that’s exactly what most of my days are like.

I told him I choose to do these things so therefore its my fault. I chose to comfort eat and gain weight all those years ago just like I chose to start losing it and eventually losing it by making myself sick. I choose to eat nothing or to eat to much. I choose to exercise too much or too little. I choose to purge.

He told me to take a moment and to consider that perhaps I don’t choose at all. He referred to it as autopilot, a word I have used before myself. He told me I can’t blame myself. My eating disorder is part of me but it isn’t me. I need to start realising that I am ill. That there is a part of me that’s unwell, that tells me to do all these disordered things. The voice that overpowers all logic to the extent that logic no longer exists is the part of me thats ill. Most importantly, he told me its not my fault.

I remember when I told my boyfriend. He said to me, ‘that’s not you, that’s your eating disorder, and I like you.’

I relived that moment in therapy and couldn’t stop crying. He asked me what I was feeling and I knew it immediately. I couldn’t believe that someone could care about me in that way. From the ex refusing to help and using my disorder to manipulate me, to family who wouldn’t let me talk about it, I had experienced something completely different during that evening, and I also experienced it on Tuesday Night. Compassion. Something I don’t give myself.

I never take a step back and let me like me. He says, that’s also not my fault. He said its something that was engrained into me since being a child and I developed an eating disorder as my defence mechanism. Everything would be alright if I was slimmer. It all made sense. No more bullies. No more disapproval. No more not making GBR teams. Less weight. More happiness. But I still blame me. We briefly went over all the stuff I’ve gone through over the years. He asked me how I feel about that. I told him it hurt but I should never have let myself develop bulimia.

He got me to sit in a chair and look at the one I had sat in. He asked me to tell the empty chair, I had sat in, what I felt about myself. Fat. Disgusting. Weak. Ugly. Fat. Stupid. Fat. The words of hatred came pouring out all too easily.

He took me back to my original chair and said that the now empty chair contained a hypothetical person. He said this person had been bullied since she was a child. She had been told by her family she was useless, ugly, fat, and an embarrassment to the family name. She had been bullied physically and mentally by kids all her life and her first serious boyfriend emotionally manipulated her. She had spent years in sport only to be told she was the wrong shape and a freak because of her disabilities. She’d been called all sorts of names and had been made to feel ashamed and weak and as if everything was because she was fat. They picked on her because she was fat as that was the easy option. She had tried her best to get the highest grades but someone always beat her to it and her teachers called her stupid. She was one of the hardest working athletes but was prevented from competing at the Olympic games because she was deemed too fat even though she was British Record holder.

They used to call her Hippodopoulos.

And now she was bulimic.

He asked me what I would say to her. Would I blame her for her epilepsy? Her cerebral palsy? Would I say it was her fault the bullies chose her? Would I be cruel and call her names? Would I tell her it was her fault she inherited rheumatoid arthritis? Would I call her weak? Do I think she should be ashamed? Would I tell her she was an embarrassment?

Would I call her fat?

Would I blame her for the fact she resorted to sticking two fingers down her throat?

Would I tell her that her eating disorder was all her fault?

Or would I understand? Would I accept that her surroundings had caused her to act in ways that she felt ashamed of?

What would I say to her?

I told her she was beautiful. I told her she had gone through so much pain, had fought so many demons that she should be proud. I told her that she needed to keep going, that it would all be alright in the end because she had people who cared about her, people willing to take as much time as she needed to get better. I told her she wasn’t fat and that she could lose weight healthily. I told her she was better than what everyone had told her, that it wasn’t her fault. I told her it was a mental disorder and there was nothing to be ashamed of. That she wasn’t broken but rather a work in progress.

I told her it would get better. That she wasn’t to blame.

There was a piece of cloth behind the chair and he moved it. My eyes were so blurry, I hadn’t even seen it. The mirror behind it was revealed and I was looking right into my own eyes. Tears running down my face but there I was almost ready to crack a smile when I saw me. I would have hugged myself if I could have done. I would have picked myself up and squeezed so tight, whispering that everything was going to be alright.

That’s when I realised.

I’m not to blame.