Reflecting upon the first blog post that I made earlier this month, i realised that what had happened to me over the later part of 2016 stands as the fourth time that I had slipped into a"relapsed" state since I started my degree at Trinity. Each one of these relapses has been marked by a return to college and a resumption of restrictive behaviour patterns; and a consequent drop in my motivation, mood, and then of course the weight.
Each of them followed what I suppose can be viewed as being a "good" period in terms of my illness - being at home, during the summer, with Mam there to keep an eye on me; with no outward pressures of essays and assignments or of just fitting in at Trinity. I say good, but really, I know it has never been exactly...ideal. My weight has dipped and gone up again more times than I care to remember; but my mind, I know, has remained entrapped, all that while, in a state of static, unchanging bondage. My weight was always changing, but my mind remained the same.
And though this year's relapse was certainly no way near as bad as previous ones, I'm aware, all too aware, that if it had not been for Mam keeping an eye on me; and for the fear of the weekly weigh ins starting again, then things might well have gone a whole lot worse. But, as it happened, me and Mam seemed to "nip it in the bud" just in time: allowing me to tentatively tread back onto that path again; a path I have been treading now, for over two years which have fleeted by like darting dragonflies.
But I mean, I know it is wrong; that it is because of other people that my relapse was not as severe as it could have been. And it is just another testifier to the extent that I am no way near recovered. As is the fact that I was feeling painfully nervous at the thought of going out last saturday night to the restaurant down in Emo. It was mam's birthday and everyone else was looking forward to the evening; everyone, that is, except for me. The only feelings that I had was fear and desperate anxiety; alongside the enormous and crippling guilt that, on Mam's special evening, all I could think about was my own terror.
Everyone else's exchanges about what to wear and what they were going to order that night floated above my head like little wispy clouds - so distant, so picture-perfect, so far, far removed, from me. How I would love to be able to chat excitedly about going out for a meal like that.
And I wonder, if..
if I ever really will.
Because I said last year that this time would be different.
But yet, ED lingered, and I remained the same.
Last Saturday night I sat with my sister and her boyfriend who had come down to stay with us for the weekend of Mam's birthday. We chatted and chatted long into the night; about a variety of things, really, including my eating disorder and countless phases of weight gain, then relapse.
Seeing them go the next day was enough to break my heart, as I know it might be some time before I see them again; though I know one thing that will remain with me today is all that we spoke of that night.
It;s me, and only me, who has the power to save myself.
Others can advise you and motivate you and guide you gently back onto the right path. But ultimately it is you who has to fight this battle. No one else can do it for you. The power, the determination, the strength and the defiance in the face of what might be the most harshest of odds. It has to come from you. You have to become your own soldier,because at the end of the day, it is your life which is at stake here. Your life, your body, your health and your future.
"Postponing" real recovery till after I have finished college is more or less pointless. Because when college is over my eating disorder will simply seek out another "reason" to put off what I have to do for another day or week or month or year. The time is now and anyway, I am more than aware that, for me, time is running out.
Here is a question for you, Em, I said to myself as I sat at the table with my fingers resting poised upon the laptop keys. What's to stop this time round from just being merely a repeat of your last failed attempt to beat this sh** once and for all??
It's blind faith. Like stumbling through a tunnel. A tunnel that winds and winds in endless spirals and disorientating loops; a tunnel lined with sharp stones which cut and shed blood. A tunnel which seems like it has no end; only a beginning, a beginning which leads back to a place in which you have stood for so many days, months , years - looking in. Looking in, yet too afraid to step forwards now and embark into that yawning chasm of darkness.
There was familiarity there, at the place before the tunnel. Comforting, safe familiarity. A familiarity as cold and as final as death.
Because that's exactly what that place was.
And like all things, that tunnel has a beginning, and an end. An end which might seem like the glistening moon of a clear night sky: so beautiful, so distant, so impossibly out of reach.
But there was someone who dreamt of reaching that moon. And he stopped at nothing till he had achieved that dream.
A beginning, and an end. I do not have much, but, I have a beginning, and a dream.
This time it has to be different...
- Continue to follow my meal plan to the letter, and consider increasing it even more if I feel that I am ready to do so. I've already made a couple of increases over the past few weeks; both of which were hard to make, but..I did it. And now I know I have to Stick to my meal plan, every hour of every day, and allow myself to eat MORE than this when I can!!
- Now, this second thing...is going to be one of the hardest. That being to reduce exercise and physical activity while regaining the weight. Just to explain: during my last relapse-recovery, I continued to walk and cycle every day. I'm not going to make speculations about how and why this happened as to be quite honest I don't know enough about all the sciency stuff and I don't want to mislead anyone. But I knew deep down that I really, shouldn't have been doing it - or at least, not quite as much as I was. My biggest difficulty is that I love it; both walking my beloved Benny (and now Daisy) and riding my bike through the sweet countryside are two things which give me so much pleasure; especially at this time of the year, on those crystal-clear days; when the leaves are crisp beneath the feet and the sun slips through the sky like a rosy pebble drifting through the still blue waters of a lagoon. They give me so much joy. But it's true to say that I do feel "compelled " to do it sometimes, even if I don't really have much time on my hands, or if the weather is more than disagreeable, or, in the past, if I had a foot injury - I would still do it. And that, I know, is because of my eating disorder, and its constant and relentless drive to make me burn as much calories as possible.I would find myself prioritising going for my walk over many other things; and that, if I did not do it, I know my anxiety levels would go through the roof. But at the same time...I know it is something that, deep down, I know that I need to do, and that I would benefit enormously from if I were to. But more on this in my next blog post.
- This past year, just as I did in 2015, I restored my weight (to a minimally acceptable bmi) only to then immediately start to restrict again by consciously reducing my food intake. Both of these times, I was led to believe by my eating disorder that my metabolism was damaged and that hence I would continue to gain weight on reaching my "target weight" if I did not revert back to restrictive amounts. And so. This time. This time I have to be wiser, smarter. Smarter than Ed. Stronger than the Voice. And on reaching that weight target I know that time time I have to keep on fighting , fighting harder than ever. It's true to say that that is quite possibly the hardest part of the path leading up that mountain; the darkest section of the long, winding tunnel. Because I know, this time, I have to continue eating, continue nourishing, continue to fight and allow my body to find its healthy set point. I don't know what this is and that in itself is terrifying. But I know, ultimately, this is what I have to do. Or I will never be able to improve my osteoporosis; or properly repair the damage that 11 years of anorexia has reaped upon my body.
- And finally, a few other practical things which I believe will help me to make this year different. These include writing a book of which I have been deliberating for some time(more on that later) and continue to blog (which I knowwill greatly assist me in keeping and staying on track through my sharing of progress with my readers - and , most importantly of all,the continuous love, support, encouragement and motivation my amazing readers they share with me every day. <3 xxxx
- And then..what I am hoping to do next year: a year out, in which I might try and get a little job, but also to set aside the time and energy that the hardest part of recovery - that being, of course, the mental part - requires. I would really like to be able to attend proper counselling and get my mind to the right place.