At first glance it might seem that I am just a happy, normal girl who loves to bake and walk her dog. However, I have suffered with an eating disorder since I was 13. It was only in May 2014 when I realised that this Voice in my head was slowly but surely trying to kill me. And so began the long, hard, and painful journey which is recovery...
I want My Cocoa Stained Apron to be a special place...a place for reflection, memories, shared stories...and of course a little bit of cocoa-staining ;) Recovery might be the hardest thing you ever choose to do in this life. But it is also the bravest and best decision you will ever make.:)
Monday, 21 August 2017
The weather this August seems to reflect my turbulent, ever-changing emotions; my tumultuous states of mind which so often drift upwards only to be tumbled about like strewn leaves in an autumn gale.
One minute, I would be as high as the soaring kite, soaring carefree across an endless summer sky, my wings outstretched to catch the winds racing behind me. I felt free. I felt like I was riding that wind. I felt higher than I ever had done so before; high enough to traverse the tallest trees, and the highest, most towering of the mountains. And there was immense joy and delight at finding this new found strength, a strength that I wanted to nourish and sustain; along with that strange new voice which had enplanted itself in my head. I'm going to do it, that voice cried in delight. I'm going to reach the mountain!!
But then the skies would darken and the wind would turn against me, forcing me down towards the awaiting ground, the darkness below me. And then that new voice would dwindle and fall away, to be replaced with the one which I've come to know so very, very well.
Weak, pathetic, good for nothing piece of sh**.
Time for me to stop just...stopping, in my tracks, every time I try to move that bit further forward.
Time for me to just stop just talking, and writing, about what I want to do, and achieve. Time for me to actually make those crucial changes. Draw my own rainbow across this raging battleground.
One of the hardest things about being in this place is that noone except me knows the ferocity of this battle inside my head. People look and me and see weight-restored. People look at me and think healthy, and recovered.
I've already mentioned the comments I've had, the ones which grate harshly upon my ears and try to make me swerve off this narrow and somewhat treacherous path. But there's also something else; the fact that others no longer think I have an eating disorder and I do not, and should not, seek help for it. At the moment, all my family's emphasis is on me making a hasty decision about what I want to do as career, and then to pursue it, at once. My original plans to have a year out, working part-time and doing therapy alongside, have been once or twice tentatively mentioned, only to be brushed hurriedly aside. Clearly, the girl who had an eating disorder doesn't really need that sort of thing, anymore.
But they can't see the inner battle ground. They don't know that this illness isn't just embedded in flesh and bone and blood. It's in the head. That's where the main battle always rages. Inside.
I've given up trying to convince them. I've recently spent most of my days inside the clouded part of the sky, wretchedly watching the blue slip away from me. Sometimes I do manage to catch it, grasp at it with desperate, yearning fingers, feeling the warmth of hope. But then the clouds gather behind me and pull me into their embrace. Clouds with ragged edges, like my fraught and jagged emotions. Clouds which envelope my heart and block out every last trace of the sun. Hope can be such a slippery, evasive thing. One minute you have it there in your hands and then it's torn away from you, borne away by the rushing tide.
My thoughts charge like running horses, crashing across a storm-ridden plane.
Their hoofbeats resonate like this Voice, deafening, refusing to be silenced. Unheard by anyone else, but me.
Thoughts as dark and as bleak as the greyest of stormclouds. And yet, somehow, I still keep my thread-thin sliver of hope, alive.
I'm at the rainbow, now. There's darkness as well as the faintest glimmer of light. It is raining but through that rain comes the sun.
I just have to keep going now, put my thoughts and plans into action. Sometimes I think I lack the bravery, the strength to do this. But yet I am still here, somehow, in this place. The torturous state of half-recovery. Where noone else sees and knows. But the inner battle is the hardest and most excruciating of all.
I have to deal with these comments and judgements. I have to ignore the fact that everyone thinks Im happy, and healthy, and capable, on my own. I have to brush aside my own doubts, my own huge, towering anxieties. I have to somehow change how I think about myself and my body.
I have to accomplish the hardest task of all. Fighting the hardest fight, alone.
Sunday, 13 August 2017
Since coming back from Mas Banyeres, the extreme hunger also returned, and in force. It was with some gloom that I duly acknowledged its presence, having naively assumed that Barcelona had seen the end of it: that niggling, yearning desire for more and more, even when I'd eaten enough to be physically stuffed. It's something I only really get in the mornings, but this is a fact that I have quickly started to hate, and deplore as much as its actual existence. Because the mornings are the one time when I like to write Morokia. Since coming home, I've barely written anything. And one of the main reasons for that is the fact that in the mornings the EH is proving slightly more than a bit of a distraction.
Take this morning for example.I woke up and then about half an hour later I had sat down to breakfast. The bowl of weetabix was quickly consumed, followed by a slice of toast and a load of peanut butter. After a portion of cheese I decided that it was time to stop and try to write for a while. Give me the next item, please, the hungry voice screamed in desperation, already eyeing the next food on the list which hangs in my mind every day, the all-too-familiar meal plan. Half a toasted bagel with seeds and spread, and then a soft boiled egg or some baked beans. No, I shouted back at it, in frustration. Just wait a couple of hours, darn you!! I want to write, I don't want to spend all of my wriitng time just eating....!!
About half an hour later - and with one sole measly paragraph done - I finally gave in, and ate. And was very quickly not just full, with food, but with self-disgust and and self-hatred, as perusual.
At the fact that I couldn't hold out and wait until everyone else ate, as a normal person would, insert quotation marks here, as that's what the voice in my head says in my brain. Not to mention at the bloating of my stomach afterward.
In Spain, the EH was still there, though, of course. Just not as sharply prominent; or rather, I was more effectively able to ignore, even defy, it. In the mornings I gladly thrust myself into jobs and tasks which would divert me from it. I did not eat as much there as I do at home at breakfast. And weirdly, by doing so, it was almost as if the EH was suppressed. Whatever the case, I was not eating as much, and didn't experience any cravings to do so, either. But now I am back home, on my meal plan again, and now this. What's going on?? How do I respond to these cravings and mental hunger?
No point trying to deny it, there's a hunger...for more.
But also there is a different sort of hunger. A hunger, a desperate need, to defeat ED once and for all.
So does that mean giving into the extreme hunger...and actually, really doing it, this time. Not just eating that wee bit extra, but actually making a conscious, concrete effort to increase amounts throughout the day.
But there's so many challenges and obstacles preventing me from doing this. People's comments spin in orbit around my head. You look well, Emmy. You look the picture of health. You look so much better now. And then, last year, one evening in my library, the stranger there. What chubby cheeks you have. That one still lingers in my memory, slowly twirling on a sharply pointed axle.
My heart's telling me I should try to gain a little more weight, to go beyond this...minimum. But doing that is so, so hard, when the world tells me that I look "healthy" as I currently do.
But can they see what's happeneing on the inside? Can they see my weakened bones and nutrient-deprived ovaries??
Having a hunger for true recovery might well mean....ignoring everyone's else's interpretations of me, the way I look, and behave. It's not about them, after all. It's about, well, myself. And my body, which I alone know more than anyone else.
But the path ahead is dark and covered in shards of ice. I step upon them, and a shiver runs through my body, at this pitiless, icy coolness. And I am afraid that that ice is going to crack, and that I will crack, along with it.
Monday, 7 August 2017
All these clouds represent different things to me. Some seem fully formed and others, not so much. They represent to me my dreams and hopes. And how I long to alight upon each one of them.
But landing upon a cloud is a very difficult thing. Some may look solid but I know that they are not. If I were to reach out with my hands to catch one of them, I am afraid it will break apart in my hands. Disperse into a million tiny pieces, leaving me with a heavy heart and the remnants of a broken dream.
Is it really worth it to chase your dreams? Will they not escape you, evade you every time?
But that's not what I am willing to allow myself to believe.
My dreams. True recovery. To free myself, wholly and completely, from the Voice inside my head. To conquer every single one of the demons which are still holding me down.
There are other dreams, dreams which I have held for a long time, but which I have never been able to catch hold of, since they are directly linked to the first one. To complete Morokia and to share my story with millions of readers worldwide. To find a job that I love and that I am good at, and to be at the healthiest that I could ever hope to be. Perhaps even to write my own story, one of recovery and strength and hope. And then there are dreams of being in a relationship and newfound love. Of places I want to go to, sights and wonders that I want to see.
But I know that to achieve these other dreams I need to seek out the first one. Because without true recovery, I know I will only ever be able to brush the mere lining of those other clouds with my fingers.
But how will I ever be able to catch that beautiful dream? It seems to always just escape me , to hang just that little bit out of reach. Sometimes, it seems so close I can almost touch it, to taste its sweet delicateness upon my tongue, to feel its soft touch against my burning, yearning skin. Other times, it seems as cold and as distant as the snow-adorned mountain, a mountain so harsh and icily hostile that I recoil from ever attempting to reach its summit.
But I know that it has been long since I started to climb that very same mountain. I may only be halfway, but I am there, instead of being at the bottom. At one time I could only stare in wretched wonder, wishing that I had the courage to begin that long ascent.
And then I did.
But now I am halfway again at the point which I as never before able to cross. Just where does the path lead from here? The clouds are still far above me, shrouding the mountain peak with their billowy, feather light forms. But it's such a long road, to keep going along. And at times it seems so relentlessly, bone-wearily hard.
Both mountain peak and dreamy white clouds are still so far away, from me.
How can I ever hope to reach them? Catching them in itself now seems like such a beautiful yet impossible dream.
But I have something now which I did not have before. A new determination to give this fight all that I have got. To go into this battle with courage and hope aflame in my heart like a flaring torch. I am going to beat you, Ed. I am going to beat you, or go down still fighting.
Recovery is my new priority, my mission. And, if I fail, then at least noone can say that I did not try.
My Barcelona experience has helped me pinpoint my course of action in a number of ways. It's helped me to realise several things: about myself, my recovery, and what steps I need to take as I strive to move forward. It's reminded me that I still have so much work to do, yet. There were countless challenges and obstacles lying in wait for the girl with anorexia there, all of which reared their ugly heads on my wary, hesitant approach. Some of these challenges I managed to beat back down, overcoming them with the strength of my own purpose, my determination. Yet there were others which I fought against and lost. There were times when my attempts at fighting back were simply just not good enough, leaving me weakened, with only enough strength to vainly bang my fist against the unyielding surface, before being knocked to the ground and cast aside. Recovery was harder, there, away from the comforting, familiar surroundings of my home. I had to constantly keep my guard up high, and there was certainly more than one time when I let it slip and fall.
But. Aside from that. There was another thing that Barcelona reminded me. A fact that somewhere sometime I had realised, before, but did not nourish enough to fully acknowledge. above all Barcelona reminded me that I truly have the power to do anything. Anything, if I set my heart and mind and soul to it.
Did I not climb the Via Ferreda, having not done anything remotely like proper rock climbing before? Did I not get thrown in at the deep end on my first day of teaching, having not been given any proper training or induction, only to walk into that classroom regardless to greet my pupils with a smile as if I had been doing this for all of my life? And did I not take the greatest leap of my life, by stepping onto that plane in the very first place? That step was so much more than a literal step, for me. It symbolised strength and resolution and enormous courage. It meant that I was facing my greatest ever fears, but yet despite my trepidation and terror, I was still going ahead and doing it, anyway.
And it is in this light I should see my recovery. My recovery, and the seizing of my dreams in trembling, exuberant hands.
I know deep down I have the power to do anything...
Anything, including this battle, and this long, long climb to reach the clouds. 💗xxx
Monday, 31 July 2017
Sunrise at Mas Banyereres
For me, that was how everything felt like, on that final evening as I gazed out of the small window of my plane with the massive engines humming and singing as we became airborne. Far below me, lay the city of Barcelona; its lights glittering like hundreds of scattered diamonds flung from the sky; its shore flanked by the ever moving sea which pulsed and ebbed as it kept its own ceaseless beat. A scene of such beauty and finality - nothing could possibly have befitted more a way to end such an unforgettable trip - that tears automatically sprang into my eyes and coursed down my cheeks, moistening the pages of my book which lay forgotten on my knee. But I did not wipe them away. I merely kept looking, absorbing every detail of that view in all its sublimity. Soon the city began to fall away, being replaced by the soaring mountains with their thick covering of shrubby trees. Two different and inevitably contrasting landscapes; both contained within Catalonia itself; a land which once had been a stranger to me, but which now had become known, and loved.
But there was another stimulant behind my tears, tears which were of both sadness and joy. Sadness, at leaving such a beautiful place; in which I had so welcome, so accepted. Joy at being able to go home; home to where my family and friends waited for me with outstretched arms. No, but there was another recognition. A recognition that this night was not the end. Not an end; but a beginning. This night was a new dawn.
A new dawn which would mean that my adventure in Catalonia was only the start of what was a whole new journey for me. A journey of discovery and acceptance; a journey of learning, and new experience. A journey which would involve doing things I had never thought possible before; a journey, in which I would find myself, and nourish the real person who I really wanted to be.
That was how it felt like; in that bittersweet moment of exquisite joy, tinged by the droplets of poignant and tangible sadness. I had realised that this end was not a night or even a sunset. On the contrary, it was a new dawn: a sunrise, to something new and even more beautiful.
My time in Barcelona has been so significant to me in many ways. But above all else it has made me realise that I can in fact do anything. There are no limits to what I can achieve; now, it is time for me to leap upwards, upwards into the sky, and to dance amongst the stars.
Saturday, 22 July 2017
But never did I once consider that upon a day in June, approximately three years since I embarked upon the journey which is recovery from an eating disorder, I would be setting off on one of the biggest adventures of my life, to exactly that place - the golden glowing jewel which is Barcelona. And I've been here for over four weeks now, and this beautiful place has already stolen a piece of my heart.
I say Barcelona but perhaps it would be more correct to say Catalonia. As I'm not based in the actual city itself; but rather, in the countryside some little way inland. I'm just outside a little town called Centelles. It's small and quaint and full of that quintessential Spanish charm, with its narrow streets and ornate, high-towered church, the many bakeries whose windows are adorned with shelf upon shelf of tantalising delights, and its scattering of ice cream parlours which the Ganache Elf has frequented quite often of late. ;)
Making the decision to come here was one of the hardest things I had ever done in my life. I had so many fears and so many insecurities. What it would be like, would the other people like and accept me, would I cope being away from home. And then of course there was Ed, hovering in the back of my mind like a malignant wasp which refuses to be swatted away.
But I took that leap and threw myself off the cliff into the deep. A deep so unknown and so terrifying in its immensity. But then I discovered that instead of being drowned by that fear, of being borne away by that rushing tide, I could learn to master it, to ride those waves. And the waves would touch my face and skin, soaking me to the bone, but that cold fear need not touch my heart and soul. I could be like the graceful silver dolphin, cutting through those waves; I could be like the shooting white star, slicing through an infinite, ink-black sky.
This trip for me has been about so many things. Pushing myself beyond my comfort zone, and learning to learn that I could cope with being away from my beloved home. It's been a learning experience and an adventure. I've done things which I've never done before, met people who I know I will remember for the rest of my life. I've taught my way through four classes of bright eyed children, each one with their own story to tell, each one with their own different personality and different smile. Faces and names which have been inscribed on my heart. I know as time passes, the concrete images now fixed in my head will begin to fade. But I know that the memory of them will be with me forever, as will the joy that I found came hand in hand with their identifying of me as their teacher.
I have discovered that it is with children I want to work with, for my future. The sense of fulfilment I have derived from this job - the way the children's faces light up when I praise them for all their hard work; that sense of pride and fondness I feel tugging at my heart when I look through their homework and marvel at the progress they have made - is something like which I have never quite felt before, and want to feel again, once I return home. I only have one week left now - I've been four weeks here since yesterday, a fact that amazes me in itself - and my time in Catalonia has almost come to an end.
It has been hard. So hard , in many ways. But one thing that I know is that I do not regret anything about my decision to come here. It has changed me in ways which I know I needed to be changed. And now my life's path will bring me back home, home to that rugged little island perched on the edge of immense Atlantic Ocean, to that cream-walled Dorma Bungalow at the island's very heart. Mid summer in that bungalow's emerald-bright garden, where the eucalyptus tree rustles its aromatic, papery skinned branches and the sweet peas flowers stir in a soft summer breeze. And it is here where my recovery journey continues on. And I know exactly what I am going to do, and how I am going to achieve it. ❤
Sunday, 2 July 2017
I was sitting in the lounge - or the "sun room", as I like to call it. My writing room. The frontermost room of the house which the sun's first light spills into every morning. As that golden orb ascends into the sky, it casts golden shafts of sunlight through the brooms' enormous east-facing window, illuminating the faces of my loved ones' pictures upon the walls, causing the polished oakwood of the little oval table to shine and gleam with an almost fairytale-like quality. It's one of my favourite rooms in the house. It's here where I retreat to every morning to immerse myself in my own little world; that being, of course, Morokia.
But on that morning I was not sitting there with such a purpose in mind.
Besides me were bundles of Morokia notes I had brought with me to look at while I waited for the Skype app to ping. Pages upon pages of dog-eared A4 sheets, covered from top to bottom in my messy, scrawly handwriting that noone can ever decipher apart from me. Truth was I was unable to really read them, of course. The words would float like thin, wispy clouds in front of my eyes, drifting away whenever I tried to grasp them tightly to my quivering, pulsating consciousness. Yet at that very moment I wanted to be like on of those clouds, in the sky. Graceful, airy, suspended in that blue infinity forever, without any duty or obligation, any pain or regret.
A few months ago I had done something which I had never, ever done before.
I had applied for a job. Not just a local parttime job in a cafe or local store, all of which I've tried to get into before. It was a summer camp job, based in the renowned city of Barcelona on the South Spanish coast. It still makes me smile at the randomness of the way in which I found out about this job. I was walking out of Trinity through Front Arch, wrapped up, as usual, in the comforting folds of my daydreams, when a sudden chilly gust of wind reminded me that I hadn't got my gloves on, so I paused, slipping out of the way of passerbys to stand directly by the Arch's Wall. As I scrabbled in my bag for the gloves that I hoped I hadn't left in some random place as I am often wont to do, I suddenly realised I was standing by a billard plastered in dozens of small, typed notices and adverts. And I don't honestly know how and why, but one particular slip of paper called out to me. Spanish summer camp seeking young English teachers for July. Apply with cv. There were other details, all of which I read and committed to memory.
The old Emmy would have just smiled, and walked on. The Old Emily would have thought to herself how wonderful that would be, but that she would never be able to do it.
But this Emmy applied for that job. And a few weeks later, she had her first Skype interview.
I remember the feelings which coursed through me while I waited for my interviewer to call. Self-doubt, and disbelief, and scorn. You honestly think that you, of all people, are going to get this? As if they'd pick you. You'd be absolutely hopeless!! And alongside that there was the slimmest glimmer of hope. Please, may it go ok. Please may I get this job.
But alongside that hope throbbed a beating vein of fear. That fear wrapped itself like a snake around that thin thread of hope, crushing it in its heavy, suffocating coils. No no. Please don't pick me. I don't want to go to Spain, on my own. I would be useless at that job. Please God may she not pick me.
And then the Skype pinged and my trembling hand went to press accept. Then I remembered. There was another time, when I accepted a phone call. One that I knew would change things, forever. The one of the day they told me my bed was ready at the hospital.
And hadn't I felt fear and trepidation that day? Hadn't I felt surrounded by vast currents of terror; currents which tore at me with the ferocity of hunting lions, ready to bore me away and tear me apart?
And yet I faced that fear and thrust myself into that current, felt it ripple and surge around me, its power. And I realised that I was stronger and more powerful than that fear, if I chose to be. I need not be anymore the girl who drowned in her fears. Rather, I could be the one who fought those tides of self-destruction.
And this time neednt be so much different.
I could learn to conquer the fear.
And yes, I was offered that job, much to my shock and disbelief. And yes, I did accept it. The months passed like young damselflies skimming on the surface of the water, and before I knew it, it was time for me to go. To leave my beautiful home, so beloved, so familiar, so precious to me.
If I had felt fear at that day of the interview, the terror I experienced that Thursday when I left for Dublin Airpot, was that multiplied tenfold. What it would be like, would the people there like me or not, how would I cope in an actual proper working environment for the first real time of my life. And then of course there were the ED fears, forcing themselves insistently to the forefront of the others to blare out at me like high-pitched, wailing sirens.
But yet this time I refused to submit to them.
2017 has been the year of the change for me. This year I have overcome more thn I could ever have thought possible, or imagined. I gained weight by myself for the second time, nd this time found a level of acceptance for my new body which I never could put claim to before. I put my recovery first even though I was at college, and struggling to get through the finl last curucial term of that degree which had caused me so much heartbreak.
And then there was this. Barcelona. Another thing I could never have thought of as being possible.
I am learning to conquer my fears, not give in to them. And I know that I can use this strength to beat every single last one of my demons and let my light rise like a diamond bright star into a ebony black sky. And one day the clouds of depression which remain wrapped around me will part and fall away, and the final few chains of ED. They will weaken and I will take them in my hands, snap them like brittle kindlewood between my now strong and capable fingers. No longer a prisoner. No longer a girl with an ED. ED will become a thing of my past, a thing that was fought against and overcome, just like those fears which I faced.
Thursday, 15 June 2017
Trees don their lush green summer foliage as the detritus from the previous year decays beneath their roots, absorbing into the forest floor to nourish the new generation of the most minute forms of animal life. Young fledglings spread their wings and take that crucial leap from nest into air, finally stretching those tender wings, feeling the wind against their feathers and learning what it is to be able to fly. And then there are the human changes; changes in the lives of human kind. A baby is born and is cradled in its mother's protective arms. The young girl grows up to be a woman and feels sensations beginning to awaken inside her; sensations which are strange and overwhelming and yet irresistible in their potency.
But for years I felt as if all these changes were set apart from me; that I occupied a world in which everything remained still and static. Yet this world in which I remained entrapped in, like a limpet in its shell, rested tantalisingly close to that other world of change and progress and maturing. Every day I would peek out of my shell and look upon it, watching, seeing, witnessing, this universe from which I had been inevitably excluded. All those changes flickered past my eyes like moonshadows upon the surface of a rippling sea: beautiful, aesthetic, almost fantastical in their exquisiteness.
I watched my friends and loved ones grow, grow like the fragile new shoot growing upwards to sprout leaves and tender buds, buds which open to reveal the most breathtaking flowers which shine and glow like scattered diamonds against black silk. And seeing these changes would always strike me to the very heart. Because everyone, everything, was changing; yet I remained the same. The only change that had happened to me seemed to be that one, long over a decade ago, when what had been a young, innocent, blissfully happy little girl left behind the untainted landscape of her childhood, entering a realm in which innocence was corrupted and which all sense of self-worth which she possessed was smashed into tiny fragments, like a delicate fluted glass being shattered upon a hard stone floor.
And in that realm a darkness awaited, to which she duly advanced, submitted, and was lost.
And for years that's how things remained. No flickering candle burning in that darkness; no glimmer of rosy pink light, paling the permanently shadowed horizon.
But then upon one day a tiny spark was alighted. A spark which tentatively, weakly, gradually became a flame.
That single flame burned steadily, diminishing and strengthening alternatively by turns.
But never once did the flame surpass a certain attained level of brightness. It was a flame, not a fire.
But then something changed.
For me, 2017 has been different. 2017 has seen, for me, some concrete, palpable, tangible changes.
But yet despite the progress that I have made, I know there are still so many things that remain unchanged, and which I want to change. And even though I yearn for this change like the flower longs for the sun's warm kiss upon its outstretched petals, I fear it, greatly, too. I am afraid of being scorched by those rays which have to power to let me grow. The cold and the damp have been all I've ever known and I'm terrified to break free from it.
I'm afraid of letting go of the compulsion to exercise the set amount.
I'm afraid to totally let go of ED.
I'm afraid to leave my home, to be an adult. Afraid to be out in the real working world and to feel the judging eyes of others upon me.
I'm afraid to eat just that little bit more, and get my bmi up to the place where I know it needs to be.
I'm afraid of the change. It looks so beautiful, like a prancing golden lion, shaking his long, flowing mane.
But that lion roars and I flee from him, shaking out of fear and terror.
How do I embrace the change, if I am so afraid of it?
In a week and a half, it is Barcelona. And already I can feel the nervousness building up inside me. Layer upon layer, like a many-ringed onion, ready to burst out at the slightest tentative prick.
Words cannot describe the elation that soared through me when I realised I had been accepted for this job. Needless to say, however, that unsurpassed feeling of pure, raw joy didn't last very long. It was soon replaced by nervousness; and fear. Real, palpable fear that rages inside me like violent ocean currents, threatening to drown me, consume me if I were to let it.
There's so many fears revolving around my fast-approaching placement. A fear of being judged; a fear of being left out, of being unaccepted. A fear of being the loner again who treads the path of solitude. A fear of the challenges which will be posed by this total change of place and routine.
Most of all I guess it's the unfamiliarity; what is will be like, what they will be like, how I will cope with ED and whether he will win out in this strange new environment.
Over the first part of this year I have overcome so, so much. But now I have reached that certain point; the point at which the flame has never burned any brighter. Can I overcome my fear of this change? Will I be able to go out there and shine in the sun; or will ED creep in again, dragging me down into his shadows?
I have to be strong.
I have to realise and acknowledge the changes that I have faced in the past, and overcome. I never once believed I'd cope with hospital, or would conquer my fears to gain weight at home all by myself. Or that I would possibly get through college while maintaining a progressive and evolving recovery.
But I did it.
In each and every one of us there is the strength of the rising sun and the courage of the golden-maned lion.We can burn as bright as any crimson flame.
And I hope that come next Thursday I will take my own words of strength to heart. I hope that I will be able to walk towards a beautiful new horizon with an open and courageous heart, instead of wrapping myself in the protective, yet suffocating covers of my own fear.
For it is time for me to change.
Over the past few months, I have changed so much and travelled so far. And I know I just can't let the fear and doubt stop me now. 💚xxx
Saturday, 10 June 2017
The day that they left, I thrust myself into my new schedule with desperate gusto. It was a carefully-planned timetable of sorts. Writing in the morning. Walk the doggies at 9.30 am. Mid-morning would be spent pegging out washing and other jobs. After lunch was designated for going into town, when I would hop on my bike and pedal into Mountmellick or Portlaoise, buying a few groceries and necessaries as required, going into my local library for a chat with the librarians and to pick out a book or two.
Then, having got home, I'd hurry out with the doggies again. On returning I'd have my snack and then sit for a bit reading over what I had written earlier that morning. Then the rest of the day would be spent doing more chores and cooking my dinner, before some knitting and then finally, bed.
It was a hard week from the point of view that I felt even lonelier than I usually would - hence my writing of my post about loneliness - but it was the being busy which essentially got me through it. And I didn't fail to notice, at the end of each of those days, the curious ecstatic buzz that I got as I sprawled on the sofa sipping a steaming mug of hot chocolate, and could feel a slight stiffness in my muscles. A feeling which I only ever recall getting, on having done a substantial quantity of exercise. It was akin to that I felt when I hiked the Wicklow Mountains in transition year. I knew it meant that I had done alot.
That buzz. There was no denying that I felt better, even uplifted by it. And I guess that's what's making defeating one of my oldest demons so very, very hard and challenging. Whereas I am fully willing to eat as well as I can - the thought of eating less actually repels me, now - I know I do not want to stop doing my set amount of exercise. The willingness is not there. I'm trying, but each day I find myself unable to do it.
And I know why I can't do it. It's because of that feeling - that feeling I get when the Voice in my head comprehends that I haven't done what he regards as "enough". I get as fidgety as I would if I were sitting on a cushion full of needles. I get as anxious as I would have if someone had just shoved an enormous 1 kg steak in front of me, tied me down and told me to eat it. I get as miserable as the dullest December day, grey clouds fogging up every piece of rational sense within my head. Oh my God, Em, you haven't done enough today. You have to do more! Now! When we get in from this walk, you have to go into your room and jog on the spot for ten minutes to make up for what you haven't done.
But I feel so agonisingly confused. What's right and what's wrong? Whats normal and what's abnormal?? It's just so hard for me, because what I learned about how I should exercise as a recovered anorexic in hospital is essentially contradicted by the world around me, from what I hear and see every day.
One thing that I know is that the secrecy feels wrong. Nothing makes me more afraid then the thought of Mam becoming angry with me, on learning that her daughter does, on that rare occasion, do bouts of jogging in her room for very short periods, all because she can't just let pass a mere ten minutes not completed on a walk. Or the fact that I cycled 30 km last week all in one single day. Having done it, I felt ecstatic, overjoyed, formidable, powerful. But simultaneously there was a tiny, tiny part of me, knowing in my heart that it was wrong. What would Mam and Dad have said if they had known? Would they have smiled at my enthusiasm; or would they have just shaken their heads in concern?
I have to ask myself. Is my body truly ready for this? Am I healthy? No, I've come to the conclusion that it is not so, just yet. I have no idea what my ideal bmi really is, but I'm inclined to wonder as it really is this "magic" number of 19 at which I currently stand.
This is one of the few last demons that remain. But this one has a hold of me and it has a hold of me fast.
I look over the comments of my readers on my last post on compulsion, and they give me a sense of some comfort and direction in this directionless, comfortless mess.
If only I could calm the raging torrents of anxiety in my head. Because God knows I don't want to live like this. I want to exercise. I want to run, I want to walk, I want to climb hills and hurtle along the country lanes on my bike with my hair streaming behind me.
But what I don't want is this constant, niggling anxiety. This Voice which plagues me like a screaming banshee, every time that - because of the weather, because life got busy, or whatever reason crops up during the day - I don't do what it grudgingly accepts as being enough.
What can I do?
Should I just go for the easier option of giving into it? Remain at this place; this place of half recovery, that little outcrop upon this huge mountain, an outcrop from which I have never been able to ascend any higher?
But this isn't the way I want things to be.
I want change and I want it now. And change is coming now. In less than two weeks I depart for Barcelona.
More than anything, I need to fight this compulsion right NOW. Otherwise my Barcelona experience might well too be marred.
Certain images often pass through my head; imagined scenarios, so jewel-vivid in my mind's eye. as if they actually happened, or are real. Of finishing work, at 5 pm on one particular day, and being asked by a co-worker to join her for a drink, perhaps.
The girl who is me, in the image, smiles and shakes her head. Her mouth forms the syllables of words which in turn formulate into some sort of excuse. She would love to, but she's ever so tired. She's going to go and have a lie down for a bit. The other worker nods and walks away, leaving the girl standing there. She watches the other go anxiously, beads of perspiration upon her forehead, her heart throbbing like a drum as the lie resonates through her blood.
And then she goes off for a...powerwalk. Because that's what the ED is telling her to do. To forget about being social and to go and do some exercise.
That's not what I want to happen. That's not what I am going to permit to happen, either.
Rather, I have to do something which at one time I never once thought I was fully capable of being.
I have to be strong.
I have to believe in myself and realise that I can do it.
I can beat the compulsion. I have all the tools that I need.
I have the bravery and I have the perseverance. I have the strength. What's stopping me? Didn't I do the unthinkable? Didn't I conquer some of my greatest fears about food and weight gain; fears which at one time, for me, seemed so powerful, so undefeatable, so infinite?
As one of my readers reminded me, I have come too far now to just stop, right here.
The road ahead is as frightening - as terrifying unknown - as the darkest corner of space. But I know I have to do it. So I lift my head up, take and deep breath and carry on.
I don't know exactly how I am going to do this. But I know I have to follow my heart; to shout louder than the demon inside my head.
They say old habits die hard.
I guess that means one has to fight harder than ever to make them die.
So today I created some new rules for myself. Rules which will defy ED's. Rules which I hope will allow me to weaken the final few clutches of his fingers across my throat.
- Until I am certain that I am at my healthiest bmi (I am going to take my old consultant's advice, and aim for 20.) , I will not allow myself to run - a form of exercise I have always longed to do, but have never been able to because of my weight - or engage in any other kinds high intensity exercises.
- I am still going to adhere to the old rule of the more I do, the more I must eat to compensate. This one actually shouldn't be too hard, as I find that the more mobile I am, the more hungrier I am anyway. 😉
- On rainy days, or when I am simply just busy. I know I need to be extra strong and ignore the voice telling me to go out and do my usual walk and get soaked, to still go and exercise despite being exhausted etc. And I know that this is going to be the hardest one. The thought of not doing my usual amount now terrifies me, but I know I am just going to have to try.
- As mentioned before I fully intend to try out therapy when I return from Barcelona. I really hope this will help me overcome exercise compulsion for good and set me well on the way to full recovery.
- To start focusing on what I really want to get from exercise and walking. To cease seeing it just as how ED sees it - a way to burn calories - and to value it for what it really, really means to me. That being a chance to be outside in the fresh air, surrounded by all the treasures of nature's rich bounty. To spend time with those I love, doing something which I love. To feel the rush of air against my bare skin and relish that feeling. That feeling of being strong and healthy again. That feeling of freedom.
I used to be the prey, the victim. And ED was the remorseless, parasitic predator.
But now the tables have been turned.
Now it's me who is the predator..
And I know that I must seek out and hunt down every last trace of ED..
I will never let him prey on me or those I love ever again.💪
Monday, 5 June 2017
These are, as outlined further in previous posts...
1. Obsession with/compulsion to exercise.
2. Loneliness and isolation leading to depression.
3. My relationship with food as it is now. Because, if I was being really, really honest. Do I eat as a normal person does? No restriction, no holding back, no food rules whatsoever?
4. Uncertainty as to how and what to eat. Being unable to distinguish what is being sensible as regard food choices and what is essentially giving in to my eating disorder. Same goes for the exercise really: I'm unable to figure out what's healthy and ok for me right now.
5. And a sneaking reluctance - yes, I am going to admit it right now, as this is a very important one. To allow my body to reach its healthy set point, whatever that is. I'm at the minimum healthy bmi now, and I am, needless to say, terrified at the thought of gaining any more weight.
6. Feeling very much at the mercy of the constant deluges of the media and the internet about on obesity and healthy eating. It's everywhere and impossible to escape, and very, very hard to ignore.
And Im not saying one should ignore it. The trick is I guess to be aware of it, but not to be so heavily influenced by it to the extent you're sent down the path of self-destruction again. But how to balance healthy eating with non-restriction? It's something I've never managed to do successfully before; everytime I tried to do so resulted in me just losing weight and restricting all over again.
So first things first..the loneliness, something I reflected on in a post from last week.
And before I begin, I just wanted to offer my sincere thanks, to everyone who posted on here and gave me advice regarding my loneliness and my struggles with extreme hunger. Your comments really meant alot to me and I am forever grateful to you💗💙💕
So this is my plan - the first, of many!! 😊- to overcome this old demon which has been haunting me for so long. And too long. I want 2017 to be the year of the change. A change in my world and a change in my life. A change in both my soul and body. The change that will allow me to reach that beautiful pinnacle of full recovery.
Because it's true to say that permanent feelings of isolation and depression served to form a most effective pithole in my struggle along the path of recovery. In a way, it all acted as a vicious cycle. Giving into ED in the first place made me isolate myself, which then in turn made me depressed, and more inclined to give into my eating disorder. This was because I convinced myself that life was not worth living, and that I might as well starve myself. Disturbingly, I know, looking back now, I also clung to ED in the hope that thinness would help me make more friends. Completely distorted thinking, yes, I know. I can see it all now, as clear and as sharp as a glassy glacier, as certainly as the firmness of the ground beneath my feet.
Why are you eating? There's no point in eating. You're a loner, Em. Noone else in the world cares about you.
But now I have the strength to shake my head, whereas before I would just have nodded in submission. I would have pushed all thoughts of eating away from me, ignoring my stomach's desperate, wretched groans.
But I ignored every signal that my body tried to give me. Back then, I was too depressed and broken to eat. I would creep away with my books and papers, staring at endless sentences and words that were as meaningless to me as the intricate patterns of a Chinese puzzle, seeing, but not reading, or understanding. All I could feel was the hunger and that cold, bitter sense of being alone.
But now it is a different picture.
I no longer see not eating as a way to comfort myself in my loneliness. Neither do I see loneliness as a reason not to recover. In fact, quite the opposite.
I know that if I recover - mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually - I will be able to bring about the change that I desire. And the change has already begun, unfolding in shimmering, golden waves around me, trickling its warmth into my heart and very soul.
So HERE is my plan - informed by my own ideas on how to tackle this loneliness, and of course those of you, my wonderful readers! 😁💚
1. One of the first things that I know I really NEED to start doing is...dispense with the whole I am going to bother her by messaging her line of thinking.
3.I know that it's also important that I work on distracting myself from the loneliness when I feel as if it has become overwhelming. Instead of sitting around letting myself be consumed by the thoughts when they creep in, I know that I'd be much better off actively doing something. Whether that be going out for a blast with my furry friends, ringing my Gran, writing notes for Morokia, or digging out my cocoa stained apron.
4.Get more involved in stuff in my community. And I'm pleased to say I've made inroads with this: a couple of weeks ago, I commenced my volunteering with my local Brownie (Girl Guides) Unit in Portlaoise. Unfortunately, they're finished for the summer now, but they start up again in September.
5.After the summer, I am hoping to be able to start doing some proper therapy, both for the anorexia and the depression. I know deep down that if I really want to achieve full and complete recovery, I am going to need to seek some professional help. Much as I hate to admit it, my consultant was right all along (as she was about everything!!😡)
6.And last, but by no means least; there is something that I really wanted to tell you about, and which might well need an entire blog post to itself so that I can give you the full details. It's something which, I know, has the potential to be something of a life-changing experience for me, and which I hope with all my heart will help me to further conquer my loneliness and change me, and my outlook on life, for the better.
Friday, 2 June 2017
I want next to address this obstacle head on and outline how I hope to fight and overcome this loneliness. But before we move on there's another issue which I wanted to post on here, and which I thought might be relevant for others.
That being the extreme hunger, again - or maybe, to put it in more precise terms, the never ending thoughts of food and constant preoccupation, even when you feel physically full. I've heard it termed before as "mental hunger". You just can't stop thinking about food.
I'm still struggling with this. Not all of the time - it's by far worse in the mornings - but every day I experience it and it's beginning to make me wonder as to whether there's something not quite right here.
Ok, here's a quick recap on where I am at in terms of the "physical" side of things. If we were to go by terms of bmis and all that, I'm weight restored. The last time I checked it - about two weeks ago, at a guess; I am trying my utmost best to avoid those hateful blue scales as much as possible - I had reached the "healthy" 19 mark.
So in the eyes of some medical professionals, I guess, I am now officially healthy. But am I?
But yet there I was this morning, sitting writing to you, and as I wrote my head had felt awash with rippling tides of anxiety. That being because it was only 10 am, and I had already eaten both breakfast and all of my morning snacks. My stomach was bloated and full; as it constantly seems to be, these days. I am forever wearing yoga pants and loose shorts so I do not have to look at it.
And yet I still -
Beside me were all the plates and bowls and spoons which had held the foods I had just consumed. Two bowls of cereal, some cheese, a boiled egg and half a bagel with seeds on it. Over two tablespoons of peanut butter, and another piece of toast, then some nuts and a banana. All in the space of three hours.
I'm not going to pretend that this doesn't bother me, because it does. Not just the quantity of food in itself; eaten so quickly, as if I have just come through a four season famine. It's the fact that I wanted - and still want - more. After finally finishing my last cashew, I had sat for ages, poking at the jar of peanut butter with a spoon, longing more than anything to just dive in and take another heavenly mouthful and relish that sweet, chewy deliciousness for yet another time. But the very thought of doing so repulsed me. How could you even consider..? The cruel voice screamed, outraged. You greedy...little...!!
Finally, frustrated and upset, I shoved the whole lot away from me and buried myself away with my laptop, desperate to ward away the thoughts which hover in the background like stubborn flies looking for a space upon which to land.
Why do I feel like this? Wasn't extreme hunger supposed to end on being weight restored?
It doesn't matter how many times I attempt to swat those thoughts away, try to escape them by taking cover. They always find me, and settle upon my shoulders, buzzing cruel laughter in my ears. I'm scared. Very scared. And confused; oh so, confused. What's going on?
Is it because I am not yet at a weight which is healthy for my body - that that "golden number" of 19 (according to them) is in fact too low for a girl who has been underweight for half her life? Could it be possible then that I have more weight to gain and that I should give into these cravings and hunger as much as possible?
Or is it more because...because, I am obsessed with food? On the brink of a binge disorder? Or is there no logical explanation? I'd do anything to have an answer.
Since reaching this "healthy " weight, I have still managed relatively well to not drastically reduce my intake. There's been a few tiny changes, of course. I knew that there would be. The two pieces of toast and half a bagel became just one piece along with the bagel half; the handfuls of nuts became that little bit smaller, the cereal bowls a kinch less generous.
But overall I have been doing ok. But still these thoughts remain. And how I long to be rid of them.
So I decided that my best option was, as it is in most instances, to reach out. 💙
I wondered if there is anyone out there who has experienced this, or is currently experiencing it. I really hope you don't mind me directly appealing for your help, but in the past your support has been indispensable to me, and I hope so much you would be able to help me out another time. Thank you so very, very much and I hope that soon I can move on to actually grappling and tackling these porblmes instead of just talking about them!!💪
And tomorrow, yes, I shall step on them scales. Only once. Just to check it and see what it is, how I am doing. Then they will be put away again for another two weeks; put under the bed with all the other trash that I don't really want; stuff that I don't have any use for, anymore. Because the day will come when those scales will be like that stuff too. Something that I no longer have any use for.
The day that I am recovered.💪
Tuesday, 30 May 2017
This is the quote that a dear friend sent me in the past, upon one of the many days upon which I was struggling, and felt like I couldn't go on.
And last Wednesday was a day which felt vaguely reminiscent of those days. A day upon which the depression came back in force, creeping into my heart and extinguishing the candles of hope which had once burned there.
Not because of food, or anorexia in itself. Rather, I suppose, one of the major aftereffects which has been brought about through my illness. That being the loneliness, the constant feeling of isolation. I guess it was naive of me to assume that, once college was over, life would suddenly be as bright and as beautiful as a summer garden alive with roses.The reality, of course, was very, very different. On returning from my Gran's, the loneliness hit me again like a cold, strong wave smashing against the delicate sands of the shore.
It all felt very familiar, that Wednesday. I guess that's because I know that I've been to this place before. I've followed the exact same pattern as I did last year, in more ways than one. Gone from underweight to weight restored again; gone from being vaguely aware of just how lonely I feel, to an intense, razor-sharp consciousness of my solitude, my isolation, and the desolation that comes along with it.
While I was gaining weight, that sense of purpose in my mind seemed to take the edges off the pain of being alone. Once again I was lured into the trap of making naive assumptions about how ideal my new life would be like. I would have tonnes of friends again, somehow. I would be confident. I would appreciate every single moment of every single day, and embrace life with all my heart, as I never have managed to before.
But now once again I feel like the girl who got left behind. The outsider. The one destined to tread her own lonely little path. Do people think that I am happy like this? My heart beats its own desolate little rhythm.
Please, no, don't leave me. I no longer want to be alone.
Every year of my illness was a lonely one, marked by tears of isolation. But it mattered less to me then than it does now. Because back then I had ED as my...soulmate. There's no denying the fact that I derived a sort of comfort from him. We danced together in what constituted a warped, twisted courtship; a relationship founded on abuse and subordination of the weaker other.
We knew each other so, so well. He knew all my strengths, all my weaknesses. In time, I learned to know his.
And it was then I began to fight back, to struggle to break free. My eyes had been opened. For the first time since the commencement of our relationship, I recognized him for what he really was. An abusive, sick partner who had broken my heart and very nearly broke my soul.
But all those years; all those years, of being alone, of declining invitations to social events, to turning down the friendly offers of former classmates to join in on nights out, to come along to the party, to pop over for pre drinks and nibbles.
Did I fear the thought of being the one left out; did I weep at the thought of being isolated? Yes, I did. But sadly, I feared the thoughts of eating, of anyone finding out my secret, even more. ED convinced me every time not to go, and that's what I always did. I would cry every time, wanting to go, but knowing I would not. And he would comfort me, telling me that whatever happened, I will still be here.
All those years sit heavily upon my shoulders now, as heavy and as crippling as shackles.
Because now I am no longer the girl who wants to be with ED. Now I want to dance upon dance floors, wear pretty dresses and eye-catching makeup, to flutter my eyelashes at boys. Now I want to love, and be loved. Now, I want to live, to grasp the quivering heartstrings of life with my bare, outstretched hands.
But now it seems to be all to late.
My college days are over and gone. I can't go back in time and relive them again; can't grab hold of those opportunities which I, back then, allowed to pass me by.
If only life could be like a dancer progressing from move to move, each one standing as a marker on her journey to success.
If you mess one particular move up, it's ok, you can go back to it. You can go back to it and do it all again. Then, when you have done it the way you really, really want, you can move on to what lies ahead. Learning, and getting better, and stronger. Working at each one until you get it just right.
But life isn't really like that, I know. I can't go back and redo it all again. I can only work with what I have.
But I have learnt. I have got stronger. And, I know, if I try really hard, I don't have to limp my way through the next few stages of my life journey. I hope that I can learn to dance. 💙
If we would only let it,
hope can spring forth, like a beautiful summer flower.💕
In my next post I will talk a little more about what I intend to do to combat this loneliness, and to further weaken the remaining bonds of ED. I hope that this will help all those who feel alone in this battle💙xxx
Tuesday, 23 May 2017
So this was it. I had done it. I weight restored by myself, despite the fact I was at college; despite the fact that the past few months was one of the most stressful and most difficult times of my life.
And here I am now at the last and final stretch of this journey. The stretch at which I need to be stronger than I ever have been before.
Because this is the place at which I always fell back down.
This is the place where the real battle is fought; the battle in which there can only ever be one winner.
Me, or ED.
Which one of us is going to lose?
Which one of us will be destroyed?
Me - two years ago and then, two weeks ago. And I'm both the same girl that I was, but, at the same time, different..
This is a place at which I've stood, a good many times before.
I stood here in the April of 2015, the year in which I was admitted to hospital. I remember the feelings of disgust and revulsion that flickered through me back then, the day I realised I was weight restored.
Weight restored. To me, those two words were synonymous with fear and dread and hatred. Weight restored. I didn't look in the mirror and see "healthy," or "better". I only saw what my eating disorder saw. which was, of course, "fat".
Fat. Repulsive. Oh how much better you looked when you were skinny, when you could feel those slender bones.
It wasn't long - a few months later, at the most - I started to restrict, again.
The months passed, flickering by me like moths across candlelight, as I sank ever deeper into the illness which had stolen my youth. Then one day, a hand reached towards me and pulled me up, up towards the surface once again. But she could not pull me the full way. I had to learn to swim again, to fight against the dark, swirling waters in which I had nearly drowned.
I fought against that ingrained belief that there was no light, that true recovery was just not possible, for me.
Slowly, ever so slowly, I inched my way up the long and lonely mountain.
But not enough had changed; not enough to keep me climbing upwards; not enough to send me toppling back down once more, as soon as I returned to college again for my final year at Trinity.
My falls were mainly caused by two common phenomena.
Those being, actually being at college - where I felt lonely, intensely stressed, and unaccepted - and my resentment of my new, healthier body. And each time I became weight restored I always did the same thing. I self-examined, I fostered hatred in my breast. I nurtured self-loathing as fiercely as a mother bird guards her nest. And every time I thought the very same thing. I hate myself. I hate my body. I am fat and repulsive and I am going to now eat less.
But this time I am determined for things to be radically, fundamentally different.
I know I cannot restrict.
But it's hard, so hard, in this diet-obsessed world in which we live.
But at least I can now say that I have two things in my favour which, at one time, I did not possess.
Those being, that I no longer despise my stronger, healthier body. Rather, I am actively working each day to accept it, to nourish it, to value it as my most treasured and most precious possession.
But there's still many so many obstacles standing in my way; obstacles which, I know, I have to overcome to be free.
My relationship with exercise probably constitutes one of the biggest of those obstacles.