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!

Stuck in a rut

“But you’re fine” that’s what they say.

That’s what they always tell you.

But I don’t feel fine.

“So what if you’ve gained weight, you’re fine”

That’s how they continue.

But I don’t think “so what?”

I see more writing in my food diary, the increased number on the scale, an unhappy girl in the mirror looking at me.

I am that unhappy girl.

I’m trying to ignore the numbers and the thoughts but I’ve, simply put, struggled this week. I’m in a bit of a rut and I’m not sure how I can get out of it.

Hidden

You say you don’t like to tell me you love me too often, so that when you do, it means ‘more’.

Those hidden words would mean a lot to me, if I were to hear them a little more often.

You say I’m perfect the way I am but I feel as though you keep me hidden.

You’re not hidden in my life. You are happy to be a part of my world.

You’ll come to events that my friends or I host.

But I’m never invited to yours.

19 months and I haven’t met a single person.

No work colleagues.

No friends you take part in your hobbies with.

Only your housemate but, I’m sorry, that doesn’t count.

I’m in your profile picture but you never post any other pictures of the adventures we get up to.

Yet you do with everyone else.

Family, colleagues, friends.

Just not me.

You always look so happy too. You never look that happy in any pictures I take.

Maybe I’m reading too much into it.

Maybe you’re making me feel ashamed of myself for no real reason. I know you would never mean to.

But I’ve been kept hidden before. I’ve been plenty of peoples ‘dirty little secret’. 

I’ve told you I feel hidden and yet nothing has changed.

God, how much just one introduction would mean to me.

But for now, I’m kept hidden.

 

 

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_

Restless Rest

I had a week off work last week for no reason other than I had holiday to use and figured that back in March, a random week off in June would work well.

I struggled that week more than I ever thought I would. Between all the hospital appointments I had scheduled and the inevitable ‘house hunt’ starting I struggled to fit in an ample amount of time to simply rest. I simultaneously struggled due to the lack of structure and routine I have settled into with work.

When I could fit in that much-needed-rest, I was just exhausted. I would sit in the park with my books and my laptop, ready to enjoy the sun when, in reality, I just sat there staring into the distance completely drained.

The fact I’d also gone through a period of work where I was finishing between 11pm and 2am every single night and having to work through the occasional weekend probably didn’t help either. It just meant I was exhausted before my week off, during my week off and now? Well,  I’m exhausted after my week off.

I started a new course of treatment at the hospital. They are trying to ‘de-scale’ my head as my psoriasis is getting out of control. They call the process ‘tarring’ and yes, that’s right. I sit there in my beautiful hospital gown whilst they put tar and various other concoctions all over my head. I’m then wrapped up in cling film, a shower cap is placed onto my head and I sit there for a length of time whilst I ‘bake’. Following this, they sit with an incredibly fine comb and ‘de-scale’ my head. They literally dig and scrape at the psoriasis in the hopes of peeling it off my head whilst removing as little hair as possible.

They want to do this 2-3 times a week and I hate it already.

I hate the psoriasis on my head. It’s itchy and it hurts. It gets infected and it makes my hair fall out. I’m also constantly leaving a trail of dandruff looking flakes everywhere I go. But the thing is, it’s also the least of my worries.

Along with psoriasis I have, psoriatic arthritis, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, a Volkmann’s Ischemic Contracture, nerve damage and ruptured muscles, kidney problems, endometriosis and the list of illnesses I’ve had over the years feels endless.

Oh yeah, don’t forget the bulimia now.

I’m almost half-way through my training contract and the department I am working in now is where I want to qualify. It’s where I want to work for the rest of my life following my training which means I’m so incredibly conscious of the time these treatments are going to take up. I’m terrified of not being allowed to qualify here for whatever reason and so I’m equally desperate to not give them any stick to beat me with, so to speak.

What’s worse is the way I look after these treatments. I have bits of scale that haven’t quite made their way down my hair strands literally just sat there and my hair is the most greasiest smelliest mess you can imagine.

It is oh so easy for them or anyone reading to tell me to put up with incredibly greasy hair for a short while but when I’m already so caught up with my body image I can’t shake this feeling of ‘ugly’ that’s seething through my body lately.

Even today people have been looking at and some have even commented on my hair and I actually cried over it. I cried because I’m tired. I am tired of frequently having to go to the hospital for something or other. I am sick of all these different appointments, treatments and medications that I have. I am just sick and tired of being sick.

All my illnesses and disabilities drain me completely.

Forever wishing I could know what it felt like to be normal because I just feel broken.

I feel so damaged and that makes me feel unworthy. Unworthy of my job, unworthy of my friends….unworthy of love.

And it’s those feelings that the ED clings to. It’s those emotions that the ED thrives off. That’s when it’s at its worst but just because I know that doesn’t make fighting it off any easier.

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_

Internal Criticisms

The big, dreaded, over-thought-about-before, phone call happened on Thursday. It was supposed to be Tuesday but got switched last minute. That in itself freaked me out for a good 12 hours…

But deep breaths and I got there.

I was so incredibly nervous to hear my old therapist’s voice as I sat on my bed but as I did I felt relieved and safe. I wasn’t in his big warm comfy office, but I may as well have been.

I always thought the kidney surgery was to blame for my relapse. I had this month of being unable to eat and if I did eat I would throw up involuntarily and I lost weight as a result. I remember crying to friends about how hard it was but I don’t think I quite got across  the fact I was talking about the mental pain, not the physical pain from the surgery.

He tried to get me back to basics, to talk about what happened in the months before that illness and all of a sudden, I remembered:

  • “Peru Sunday” (although all of that is more than solved right now. It was SHIT. It wasn’t fair but it is what it is)
  • My dad forced me to meet my ten year old half brother and took me round some of my most favourite places in London (some of which are now too hard for me to go to).
  • Family arguments when they asked me to give them a substantial amount of money and I ended up threatening to get lawyers involved.
  • I’ve drifted from a best friend completely. That was a painful process which I tried to repair but I genuinely think we just drifted naturally.

I cried so much. All this pain coming out. My friends and boyfriend want me to talk to them but I struggle so much due to the fact they emotionally care about me. I’m not saying my therapist doesn’t care about me but there is an element of ‘he can detach his emotions from me’. So when I tell him things, I don’t see a cringe in his face or hear pain in his voice.

It’s easier to remember everything.

We discussed how it sounds as though my ‘critical voice’ is at a whole new high and it’s suppressing any sort of ‘compassionate voice’ that would soothe my feelings. He asked me what the voice says…

No one’s ever going to love the fat girl.
You should be grateful that you have a boyfriend, that someone’s putting up with you.
No one’s ever going to understand or love the girl who makes herself sick.
No one’s ever going 
to love you.
Everyone’s going to get fed up with you if you can’t recover, they’re justified to abandon you.
You’re so fat.

….

Then he asked me, who these phrases (oh there’s more than just the above) remind me of?…

My greek family told me at 10 years old that I would never find love because I was so fat.

An ex told me that everyone else would hurt me because of the bulimia, that no one would love me, that I wouldn’t find anyone else other than him and then I’d regret leaving….that I should be grateful.

An ex told me I wasn’t trying to recover. That he knew I was restricting and purging but it was 100% up to me to recover….I remember that one the clearest. That conversation hit me so hard, it made me feel like I was alone and couldn’t ask for help. It made me feel like everything was my fault.

The reality of what me and my therapist spoke about hit me so hard. I felt this lump in my chest as though I was choking trying to get words out. I had internalised all these horrible voices and was now repeating the phrases to myself.

And as I stripped down those phrases, as I looked behind the words I repeat to myself on a daily basis, it wasn’t me saying them any more. I could visualise the situation as if I was stood in a corner watching myself.

It was my greek grandma and my dad, in her flat in Athens, at the kitchen table praising my brother for eating so much food and then criticising me for eating the same. It was them saying across the table at a 10-year-old me that they would have to find me a rich husband because no one would ever love and want to marry the Fat Roly Poly.

It was a 13-year-old-me sat in the corner of a room whilst a group of ‘friends’ played spin the bottle but I wasn’t allowed to play because I was so fat the boys might have to kiss me and that’s disgusting. 

It was a 20 year-old-me being forced to do extra cardio and when the other athletes asked the coach why that was the case he replied, because unlike you she obviously has fat to lose. 

I remember each comment clearly. I remember my age, the room we were in, the clothes I was wearing. The comments clearly hurt me so deeply but I almost forgot that it was others saying these things because I started to, and still do, say them to myself.

So that’s my new task. My homework, so to speak, to keep trundling along with this recovery but to try unpack every negative thought I have about myself. To try detach that internal voice that actually isn’t mine.

It never was.