‘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…

Resolutions

I’ve never really been one for making New Year’s Resolutions. I’ve always hated the stereotypical ‘new year, new me.’ It never works, very few people manage to stick to whatever goals they set…well, maybe it’s just me. I used to wish for things like, ‘I’m going to work so hard to make Berlin, London, Montreal, Eindhoven, Glasgow…’ Maybe I set my goals too high?

I hate the press surrounding New Year. Everywhere I look its just gym clothes, exercise programmes, diet plans everywhere. You can’t escape it. It’s that time of year again, the time where trying to get the perfect body is reinforced into our heads.

‘Eaten too much over Christmas? Join our Gym!’

‘20% off all gym clothes, get the body you’ve always wanted.’

My biggest issue is that my brains been trained to lose weight in the wrong way. I don’t like loosing it slowly, I want to see it gone immediately. I know it doesn’t work like that but the feelings seem to intensify, especially with all this media everywhere.

Don’t get me wrong, I can’t expect the media to change and, well its never going to. I just get so anxious and stressed with winter and Christmas. All the food, all the indulgence, and time off training. Then we hit January and I’m hit full force with the usual pressure to lose weight. Every year I’ve had my coach and British Swimming insinuating that pressure onto me. This is the first year I’ve not had that. The first year I’ve not had swimming over Christmas since I was maybe 8?

And it went better. I had a couple of problems when I first went home but for once I found my time enjoyable. Dad made such a big effort compared to last year and that helped me. There was less stress, tension and I think that also helped me make sure my portion sizes were correct. Even on Christmas dinner, I decided I wanted that extra chipolata as we don’t have them any other time of the year and so I put a potato back. It sounds small and perhaps simple but I prioritised what I wanted to enjoy.

And I chose what I wanted to enjoy and then I made sure I enjoyed it in moderation.

And I lost weight.

I came back half a kilo lighter after a week at home.

I was petrified of getting on the scales and so shocked when I was lighter.

A week at home on my own, I was sick once, but the other days I pushed and after my 3 meals (give or take a few breakfasts I missed)…a week later, I was half a kilo lighter again.

This time last year, I was gaining slowly and uncontrollably following my surgery. This year, I’m losing slowly. I remember last year, before the bulimia started again, when two friends came to my house and noticed there was literally no food. That I had been locking myself in the library so I wouldn’t eat. This year, I’m preparing food, and whilst I might not be eating it all because I still panic, I’m still eating more. I’ve also started going to different gym classes like boxercise and yoga just to do something.

The Greek team rang me over Christmas and said they wanted me on their Rio team…

I said no.

I said I was happy without sport, it wouldn’t be conducive to my mental health and I didn’t want it. I have so much more and things to look forward to that I don’t want elite sport. I loved swimming and that’s why i did it but they drove the love out of me and I don’t want it.

That was potentially the biggest decision I’ve made and I had to be so strong to make it. I could have gone to Rio, what I always wanted, but so much has changed in 12 years and I’m so proud of realising that going won’t make me happy. I’m really proud that I’m no longer ashamed that I’m not going and that I’m not a failure.

I don’t really have a New Years resolution as such…but if I did, it would be this…I’ve not been sick at all so far in 2016 so I’d like to keep it that way.