Self-inflicted Mind Games


I’ve been back in London a week now and straight into my new house with my new housemates – two very good friends of mine and between you and me, once we get all the boring general admin such as bills and the like sorted, we’ll be ticking over just fine.

However, I feel so incredibly nervous and scared. One friend knows I am recovering from bulimia and the other doesn’t and I have this inexplicable feeling that I’m going to be watched and monitored. Even though it would be from such a good place deep in her heart, I just don’t want pressure to eat…maybe because I still struggle to eat in front of others…because I know it’s still something I’m working through.

It’s funny because I was scared to weigh myself but this time when I plucked up the courage I was actually lighter than I thought I would be. I shook my head and thought, no, this can’t be right, I must be heavier. And so I moved the scales around…same weight…I went and grabbed my laptop…I was heavier…removed the laptop…back to the initial weight.

I was convinced the scales must be broken. Convinced there was simply no way I could have lost some weight whilst away.

Impossible.

But I just realised something this evening.

Three days ago I had to register with a new Doctor’s Surgery and they asked me to weigh myself on some special digital machine thingy-magigy. It told me I was half a kilo heavier than what my scales had told me. This was with my gorgeous baggy jeans and grey sweatshirt combo!

But the implication of this simply didn’t register with me.

But today I realised that maybe my scales are correct and my mind is wrong. Why don’t I believe the solid evidence that my regular eating has helped me lose some weight in a healthy manner? Why am I convinced I must be so much heavier than these scales are telling me?

It’s such a vicious circle. If the number was higher I’d be unhappy and yet it’s lower than expected and I’m still unhappy because I’m convinced I’m bigger than what I am?

A lower number urging me to restrict or purge because surely the number is wrong.

It’s a tough one to get past.

Then again, my friends were happily lifting me onto their shoulders last weekend so this short arse over here could actually see something! That in itself tells me that my perception is distorted. I’m not the number I think I am. Even if I was, surely I’m worth more than that anyway.

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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. 

Concrete Walls 

It’s been eleven days since you broke up with me for approximately 30 minutes. Eleven days since you spent an entire day changing your mind and messing with mine in the process. Eleven days since you planted the worlds biggest mind fuck into my head and not a single day out of those eleven has passed where I haven’t thought of what you did to me.

I’ve had a great eleven days here in Peru but they’ve been riddled with doubts and fears and tears.

My mind tells me it’s because I’m ‘too much’. With all my different illnesses, and one illness in particular, of course I would be a burden to anyone. I know it’s lying to me but my heart believes it right now. My heart believes my mind when it’s telling me that I am damaged goods once more.

Nobody wants what is broken.

I’m already second guessing your words and actions since I’ve been away. Something I never had to do because you never played games. You never messed me around or mind fucked me…not until now, anyway.

I put all my savings into this trip and my one at the end of summer because you insisted I stay with you. I can’t even afford a hostel when I come back to London because you said you wouldn’t accept rent money off me. You want me to stay but I don’t know if I’m strong enough to be there whilst my mind is already playing cruel tricks on me.

Tricks and lies that you have helped create.

I had to get weighed today because I was flying over the Nazca Lines in these tiny rickety planes and I felt unbelievably scared. I knew that knowing the number wouldn’t benefit me and so I didn’t look. You could say that’s a massive step forward for me and I wanted to talk to you about it but I can’t. 

The trust has gone.

The damage you have caused isn’t irreparable but it’s there for now.

I want to trust you but you’ve really left me a mess.

My brain and my friends think I shouldn’t go back but my heart wants to trust you. It wants to trust your words and actions these past eleven days but my brain and friends are trying to protect my heart from what happened to it 5 years, 1 year and even 9 months ago. 

I am so tired of crying.

The walls are up but that doesn’t mean they won’t be brought down once more. 

Right now, I don’t know if they should come down.

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

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Hello

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I have a weekly face time catch up with a best friend of mine. A best friend I’ve actually only known two years, a best friend who’s been a best friend possibly less than a year but, regardless, the best of the best. 

Doesn’t matter how long you’ve known someone, all that matters is that they’re there.

But when you realise they are there, even when you didn’t expect it because you hadn’t asked them to be…that’s when you know just how special they are.

I cancelled last weeks’ FaceTime because I was incredibly stressed out for reasons discussed previously and also on that day Dad decided to visit.

I half-reluctantly met him and it was perfectly pleasant but I’m purely going through the motions now (I’m so fed up with him and would be happier without a connection…but mum begs me to stay in touch). 

Anyway, a perfectly pleasant lunch ends with him saying its time I met my half-sibling. He spoke about him so casually throughout lunch, ‘oh Jason has exams soon…oh Jason’s doing this that and the other’ and it’s weird to hear my dad talk oh so normally about a half sibling he surprised us all with a few years ago. The half-sibling he dotes on so much more than he ever did me. One of the reasons I had to pick my mum up all those years ago, one of the reasons there’s no money left and mum can’t pay her bills. I wasn’t even 7 years old when dad started the affair, barely 15 when the kid came along and just 19 when I found photographs and letters and skype messages telling the truth. So much hurt from a man that never cared and yet mum asks me to ‘be nice because he’s still your father and he’s so stressed out.’

Oh yeah, let me just put the man who hurt me over the years, who hurt all of us, first. Let me put him first simply because he has the title of father when all he is in reality, is a glorified sperm donor.

I broke down when I got home after lunch – my head was all over – food was too much to contemplate and I hadn’t been sleeping due to nightmares and I simply didn’t want to be alone so I went to his house to spend the night. I text her apologising for cancelling with no other explanation other than ‘I’m really stressed out’ and she completely understood because great friends always understand. 

But you know what an even better friend does?

This…

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I got this through the post on Monday and I cried. It took me completely by surprise and I cried. I sat on the kitchen floor and cried. I cried because I was slowly realising how much support I have. I’ve never doubted her support but this simply just got me. It went straight to my heart and seemed to release all that pain.

I hadn’t even told her any of the reasons why I cancelled because I’d been so busy the entire week. But that’s the thing. She didn’t need to know the ins and outs to be able to help me. She just knew something was up and that small postcard contained more support than you can even begin to imagine. A small postcard that has pride of place on my bedroom wall. A new daily reminder I can get through all this. A daily reminder that there are people there even when I don’t expect them to be.
Especially when they realise I need them before I do.
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Strength in Trust

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Sleepless nights that aren’t so sleepless anymore.
Night time Demons visiting less and less.
Still there. Still lurking. Still creeping around but maybe I’m stronger now.

Strong enough to read my ‘recovery book’ with all the steps I know I need to follow.
The steps my therapist trusts me to follow without the need for him to tell me to.
The book with all my little tips I know help make me stronger.

But when I’m not battling the night-time-Demon I’ve got the one that visits each day.
The one that taunts and tells me one more time.

One more meal.
Miss one more meal.
Push until lunch, until dinner, until bedtime, until morning.
Push on through the hunger. 

And if I’m strong enough to ignore those demands it starts a new line of attack.

One more purge.
One more bathroom visit.
Just do it now, and do it later and once again before bed.
Push on and get rid of it.

Such a happy year so far and I’m desperate to not let anything ruin just how happy I feel right now. I want to be strong enough to stop this.

And the affliction with the scales is forever the worst. A mix of fear yet desperation to know that  irrelevant number. Thinking it’ll give me the control I crave when I know it doesn’t.

Taking myself back to basics.
The Demon says I’m weak for it but I know I’m not.
Fishing out my old flashcards I’d look at in stages of panic.
Drawing out diagrams to work through the mix of emotions to reach an action plan.
Talking.
Writing.
Allowing myself time and space to heal.

To become strong again.

Even sending pictures of my meals to him so he knows I’ve at least made food. Won’t know if I’ve eaten it but I know that he’s trusting me to. Someone genuinely caring if I’ve eaten. Wanting to know, chasing me up if I haven’t sent a picture and I simply can’t lie and tell him that I’ve eaten when I know I haven’t.

I remember a dark day where I went for help and the reply was ‘I know you’ve not been eating/purging for 4 weeks but I’m not going to come to you and ask about it, gotta do it yourself.’
That response made me feel so weak – but then again, if I knew a friend/boyfriend was in trouble, would I wait for them to come to me? No.

I wasn’t weak in that situation.
I just wasn’t supported.
And yet, I thought I was the problem. I thought things were bad because I wasn’t a good enough girl for him which made me try even harder rather than walking.
But that’s in the past.

And I’m stronger for it.
Everyone tells me how strong I am.
Yet there’s day’s I believe it and days I don’t.

And I feel stronger simply because they trust me. He’s trusting me to eat. They’re all trusting me to eat. I just need to trust myself.
Trust myself that three healthy meals won’t make me gain weight.
Trust myself to balance eating and exercise in a healthy way.
Trust myself to avoid the urges.
Trust myself to put away the scales.

Because they trust me, I start to trust myself.
Trust myself that I’m strong enough because if my entire life is anything to go by…I know I am.

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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.