The Recovery Body

I think I am in “recovery”. After suffering from bulimia with anorexic behaviours I now find myself 18 months purge-free. During those 18 months I found myself becoming less and less scared of the fear foods and I started to deal with triggering situations better every time. I found myself re-educating a love for myself and I really did progress with that self-compassion.

Long gone are the days where planning and panicking about what I would or would not eat that day plagued my mind from the moment I woke up to long after I went to bed.

Those days do exist, just shorter in duration and longer in days apart. However, it would be a lie to say that the ED does not plague my thoughts from time to time.

Does this mean I’m not in recovery? Does true recovery mean every day is a good day? I doubt that…mental health aside, not every day can be a good day. Every day has its own stressors and obstacles to overcome. Being in recovery means you fight the battles…at least that’s what I think right now.

I’m 18 months happier. 18 months healthier. I’ve learnt to value my body for what it can do and what it can achieve. I’m no longer ashamed that I never made it to the Olympics and ashamed of my achievements being (what I thought was) sub-par. Instead I’m proud of my athletic achievements. I have my trophies and medals on display instead of gathering dust in the cupboard and I even framed my World Championship sports kit to hang on the wall.

My mum asked “what if you want to wear it again?”. My initial thought was that I couldn’t fit into the tiny outfits I used to wear even if I wanted to but I said what I really thought which was, “this is me, hanging up my kit and moving onto my next chapter”.

So here I am, in my next chapter. A chapter called “I hate my recovery body”.

I follow a lot of ED-recovery accounts across a series of platforms and whilst they all share positive vibes and scream body positivity, I find myself angry that I didn’t “recover small”. That my body has become bigger in my recovery journey. I’m very short (barely 5ft) and my 34EE chest looks so big. I’ve almost come to terms with my chest though, although its difficult dressing my body in a complementary way. But I just hate my stomach. I hate the loose skin and little rolls of fat. I hate the way my appendix scar sits, a crooked 3 inch red line with loose skin hanging over it.

And I believe me, I try. I try to love my stomach. I really do but I can’t.

I think it’s made worse by the fact I eat balanced and workout daily and see no change. I ran half-marathons last year and I still gained fat (not muscle). It hurts me to see that my body isn’t as slim as I want it to be. As someone who is still very active, the problem now is that my brain is really screaming to miss a few meals, to purge every now and then. It’s blaming me for the way my stomach looks and is tempting me to slip up as a “quick fix”.

The biggest thing my ED brain is making me question though is, “does this mean I am actually in recovery?”

Does the fact I dislike my recovery body invalidate my recovery?

Do I have to love and show off every single inch of me to prove I am in recovery?

Am I allowed to feel ashamed of my recovery body?

Or does that mean I’m not recovered at all?

Instagram: elenipapa92

Teardrops

For some reason, a reason I’m trying very hard to identify, I’m crying.

And I feel like I need it. Like I need these teardrops on my face to help the situation somehow.

But I wish I knew what that situation was and what these tears are needed for.

I’m on a one week holiday that started today. I’m in a nice resort on an island I’ve never visited before in temperatures that are far better than England.

I’m on my own but I have travelled alone many times before so I don’t know why that would be the reason for these teardrops.

Work has been going well (albeit tough, as always). My boyfriend and I recently celebrated our third anniversary and we’ve bought a house – I know I haven’t written a blog post for almost 6 months as the “update list” is huge. Living with my boyfriend is most definitely an upgrade from previous living arrangements but we’re still working out the kinks (like how much time is too much time together each evening and working out how to get space when you want it). My family life is far less stressful than it used to be.

Actually, and probably most importantly, I recently reached my one year purge free milestone.

It’s been more than one year since I last purged.

Doesn’t mean I’m 100% okay. I do struggle with my “recovery body”. It’s bigger than it used to be and wobbles more. I have some skin laxity too. Online platforms have aided my recovery but sometimes I find it hard to see warriors who have recovered but are much smaller than me or warriors who have recovered who are much bigger than me.

There’s no one shape fits all, I know that.

But nothing I do changes my stomach. I work out a lot but not obsessively, always for enjoyment and movement. I have learnt to eat but not restrict. I allow myself less healthy foods in moderation alongside healthy foods. I don’t drink a lot of alcohol, by choice, and I feel like my efforts are wasted.

It’s been suggested that due to my appendix surgery and the way I rapidly lost weight due to the way my ED started that I won’t be able to shift the stubborn fat, and definitely not some of the loose skin, myself.

I feel recovered but I feel like a fraud because I don’t love my recovery body.

God, this is why I used to need/love this blog, I’d start with a question and by writing I’d work it out (or at least a contributing factor to my current feelings).

I was super excited when I booked this holiday in October. I’d just come back from my qualification leave where I loved my body. I was so in love with my boyfriend (obviously still am!) and just gone back to work in the area I always wanted. I guessed I would need a break in Feb, and I do, but I half wish I was at home.

This holiday is very different than my previous ones. It’s not an active holiday, it’s purely leisure. I’m staying in an all inclusive resort and I’m starting to realise that, that, is incredibly scary.

Not loving my recovery body probably isn’t helping me put on my bikinis either.

So, I’ve at least got something to work on. The tear drops are still coming but maybe I can do something about them? Like…

  • I specifically booked a rest holiday due to the time of year (there’s only so many warm places close enough to Europe at this time of year) but I could book a couple of excursions to get me out of the resort, into nature and the local culture – things I ADORE about travelling.
  • I’m next to the beach…I could add in some nice beach walks. I love the sea so much and I’ve always been a water baby.
  • I have a notebook. I could use this current mindset as an opportunity to develop some self-awareness, dig deep into my current recovery.
  • I brought my Greek stuff. I could dedicate an hour or two each day to learn more. I’ve always been proud to be Greek and have loved starting to learn the language (finally!).
  • There’s a spa. Who doesn’t like a pamper day?

On reflection, I’ve never had many pure relaxation holidays, except for my favourite Greek island but that is just a simply wonderful place that I’m always okay relaxing there. I’ve never done all inclusive either so I should give myself some baby steps.

Even if I’ve not fully worked out why the tears are falling I can definitely say that, they were worthwhile because they brought me back to my blog, which I’ve missed.

❤️

Little Wins

I deliberately stayed away from writing during December even though I had plenty to write about. There was so much I wanted to say, so many emotions I wanted to get out onto paper but I always find I retreat in December. I shy away from so much because there’s so much going on.

December is already a difficult month and I found myself becoming anxious about it 2-3 weeks into November.

The battles were louder and lasted longer.

Every day I had to remind myself not to “earn” or “burn off” any celebration or socialisation that was in my diary.

I had to double check I was working out because I wanted to and not because “I had to”.

I then had to console myself for the days I couldn’t work out and the days my food plans became unpredictable.

I had to take my fitbit off and hand it over to my mum for the holiday period because I had a breakdown on a day where it wouldn’t sync to my phone and I couldn’t see what calories I had burned before a meal out with some old friends.

I had to remember to rest and relax.

But everywhere you look, every social media platform quickly becomes the “Competitive Christmas Competition” and we’re flooded with pictures of food and festivities. We’re reminded to “earn our Christmas dinner”, to “work off the Christmas parties” and to embrace a “New Year, New Body”.

Friends make harmless comments about “how much they ate over Christmas”. I had one friend tell me she ate so much that it made her throw up and all I could do was smile and nod. I didn’t know how to tell her that type of conversation makes me uncomfortable as I think of all the Christmases I have experienced relapses.

I relapsed this year and I blamed myself so hard because last year was the first year I was not sick on Christmas Day. I wanted this year to be the second year but whilst I ate breakfast and ate my Christmas Dinner, I purged when I had a snack at 8pm because it wasn’t on my food plan.

I wasn’t full at that point. I hadn’t overeaten. I had simply had an extra bite not on my plan and I went into auto-pilot. In hindsight, I put too much pressure on myself because of last year but I realised that this year was in fact better than last year.

Last year, I went home for the shortest time possible. I made sure I “worked for my Christmas Dinner” and I punished myself by over exercising and purging as soon as I got back to London on the 27th. I continued my restrict-purge cycle all the way through to February when I decided I needed help.

So I wasn’t okay last year. I was over-exercising, under-eating and purging whenever I could.

This year was different. This year, (minus my fitbit meltdown) I gave myself 2 weeks off exercising. This year, I ate breakfast, lunch and dinner every day, including Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day. I still didn’t enjoy my Christmas parties to the maximum I could but I still went and faced them.

This year, I’ve come back to London and my first instinct has not been to eat and purge. I’m still experiencing panic attacks with food. I’m still nervous around my triggers and I’m still trying not to rely mentally on my fitbit but all in all, it’s a much better Christmas period than last year.

I’ve suffered 3 purges in 15 weeks. Definitely some skipped meals in those weeks but not too many. Throw in a few good panic attacks and well, the end of 2018 wasn’t too bad recovery-wise after all.

There are going to be no resolutions this year. No promises to do X, Y or Z. No pressure on any goals. Just continuing forward each day.

It’s Time

It’s time to stay on top of writing. It’s always proven so cathartic and plays a huge role in my recovery but lately I’ve found it hard to sit down with the keyboard and type away.

Five weeks ago I rotated departments. That’ means I’m halfway through my training contract and well on my way to becoming a qualified lawyer after all these years. Rotation is tricky. You really have to hit the ground running as the team needs you to be able to pick up the work as if you know exactly what’s been happening the 6 months before you joined.

Some rotations are easier than others. Sometimes you rotate into a department and the work is realtively easy going and “quiet” and so you can take some more time to find your feet. Sometimes you rotate and the department is going through a busy period and it really is a “all hands on deck” approach.

My recent rotation involved the latter.

I was thrown into a chaotic intertwined web of different cases, all with imminent deadlines and all on subject-matter I had no knowledge of. Even the basic admin tasks were difficult because I’d never had to do them before.

5 weeks later and I feel like I’m settling in well but my first month was tough. I (somewhat) enjoyed what I was doing but I spent a month of working close to midnight EVERY NIGHT, and that took its toll on me.

Yes, I was tired. That’s expected. But it disrupted my exercise routine, my social calendar and my eating preparations. That was what I struggled with the most.

Every Sunday I plan my meals which I no longer consider a sign of weakness (progress!!!) and essentially my dinner one night is my lunch the next day. When you’re coming home at midnight: 1 – you probably have already eaten and 2 – you’re not going to cook your lunch for the next day.

Sometimes I ate whatever the work canteen was offering for dinner. Add on the fact I barely had time to exercise…that led to a couple of purges. Sometimes I was stressed because of the food on offer and other times I was sick because I could be, like I couldn’t control it. Auto-pilot.

It was happening 1-2 times a week. That in itself is a huge step forward for me.

Another huge step I took in these past 5 weeks was finally going back to therapy.

The intial session was so hard. I think I cried the whole time and then some more when I got home. It’s the right action for me right now though and I think I need some tough love. I still panic and worry but I’m not purging as much, I’m not restricting. The problem is the thoughts that plague my mind.

I still have so much pain deep inside that I haven’t dealt with, even in my previous therapy session and I think, at 26 years of age, I’m finally ready to deal with all the pain. I think I’m ready because previously, back with my other therapist, I was so desperate to get better but I wasn’t truly around supportive people.

This time I am.

This time I’m ready to not lie to a therapist and pretend I’m okay. I’m ready to be honest and listen to any criticism that may follow. I’m ready to stop hiding from it all.

Most importantly, I think I’m ready to stop hurting myself.

My first therapy appointment came after a week of 70+ hours at work. I was physically broken as well as mentally. After my appointment I started suffering from incredibly bad stomach cramps which saw me admitted to hospital. They think it was stress related and for the first time ever, I opened up to a NHS doctor and told them I was bulimic and scared that I may be starting to really hurt myself.

My boyfriend was there and he held me really tight as I said it, whispered that he was proud of me.

The past few weeks have really been tough in my recovery. Every day is a battle. I’m tired of being ill but, finally, I’m ready to stop being tired.

It’s time to finally get better.

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.

 

 

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.

 

 

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 ❤

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