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.:)

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Treading carefully...

A dainty white tablecloth had been cast over the daisy field. The sky had taken on the hue of rosy-pink peach plucked at the height of springtime.

And so the doggies and I embarked across this spotless expanse of peerless, unblemished white; an expanse which, only a few months before, had been alive with the humming of fluffy bees and gently wafting wildflowers. Nothing moved, now; everything was still and silent, save the crunching of the frost beneath our feet. The earth remained enveloped in its blanket of frost; folds of interpenetrable whiteness which the sunlight's weakly probing fingers could not break through.

Daisy loped and pranced like a deer in a spring meadow, her pink tongue darting from her mouth like a minnow, her breath rising in snowy puffs from the dainty black nose at the tip of her muzzle. Beside her, Benny - my beloved, faithful old Benny - moved somewhat less vivaciously across the frost-covered plain.

Watching them brought a smile to my face, warm prickly tears to the corners of my eyes. So happy and carefree; so blissfully unaware of all the pain and evil and suffering that lurks in a world far removed from the beauty of this isolated countryside. The Slieve Blooms rise like shields to the west; as if guarding this place in which I and my two furry friends have found our home.

Now Daisy tears after Benny as he breaks into a shambling run, probably after some disturbed mouse or wandering rabbit. I laugh as they go, and my heart feels like it is going to burst from my chest. Because it is a moment of sheer joy, and intense and bitter pain. Because I yearn more than anything to run after them, to sprint like a galloping hare. But, I cannot.

The past few weeks or so, my right foot has been bothering again. No way as bad as it was, two years ago now: that injury that compelled me to finally approach a doctor, a visit which then in turn led me to be officially diagnosed with an eating disorder. No, no way near as bad. But there is still something there that I cannot quite put my finger on.

I'm guessing that it's something to do with my osteoporosis. My fragile, brittle bones; the bones of a woman three, four times my age. Anything could break them. Even just walking along and tripping over a tree stump; or maybe just twisting something in the wrong place, at the wrong time.

Now, from what I have read (and been preached to, during my time as an inpatient in St. Pat's), exercise, no matter what type or form , is something which should NOT be engaged in during the weight restoration phase of anorexia recovery. And no, I am NOT saying that I disagree with that, at all. It makes perfect sense to me, in all honesty. And if I could make myself do it "their" way, well, I can honestly say, hand on heart, that I would.

But what I am saying right now is that I don't think people can appreciate just how difficult it is; to do just what the experts say, and eliminate physical activity during weight gain. For me, cutting out exercise has always been the hardest,toughest thing: yep, even more than eating more, increasing the meal plan and kicking long established bad eating habits. Alongside bloating, I'd say it's quite possibly one of the most difficult aspects of this phase of recovery; and one, I readily confess, I have never quite succeeded in "managing" correctly.

When I was an inpatient and confined to the ward at St. Pat's, this issue or problem or call-it-what-you-will, was automatically removed as my freedom was just taken away from me: I couldn't exercise, and we were watched all day to make sure we didn't do anything which even slightly resembled it. I'm not going to go on here about how awful it was: for someone who, even prior to the tender age at which my eating disorder initially developed, had always loved being outdoors and just being active in general, this side of inpatient treatment proved to be one of the most intensely difficult. I hated it. When I came home at the weekends, against the advice of my consultant and her team, I still would go out with my family for idyllic walks with Benny; unable to face the thought of being left behind, alone and miserable, at home.

Was I wrong in what I was doing? Quite possibly. Anyhow, about 3 months and many exerciseless days later, I was let go: away from that closeted environment where everything was, literally, handed to me on a plate.

But now, of course, things are very, very different.

I am at home, not in hospital. I am a student, trying to struggle her way through the final year of her degree. I am, in every respect, completely in control of my own recovery. I am the one who has to make the decisions; I am the one who has to tackle all the various different recovery issues, alone. And with this one, I have hit a rock hard. I don't know what to do; and it is the not knowingness of it all which is getting to me.

I guess what makes this "dilemma" of mine that bit more tricky and problematical is the fact that I am not severely underweight (I only have about 2 kg to gain before I reach a minimally acceptable" healtny bmi.) I can move freely and without pain or difficulty (for now, that is..). And then, of course, there is that one indisputable fact. To eliminate my current exercise - that being, walking the doggies, and cycling - would be equal to, essentially, eliminating something which I truly love. Walking Ben and Daisy, cycling, physical activity in general - it is something which I love, which relaxes me, which provides me - for a short space of time, at least - with a sense of well-being, joy, and pleasure.

But to say that there is not one part of me..
which recoils, with fear, at the thought of giving up, or reducing that one bit more...

would be a lie.

These thoughts.. these fears, these lingering anxieties surrounding weight gain, of letting go of this rigidness, this control over every single gram of food I eat; every single minute of exercise I take...oh, if only I could just pluck them right out of my head; toss them over my shoulder and cast them to the winds, watch them float away like grains of dust caught in a sandstorm...

Every day, the same burning question which revolves in endless spinning circles in my head.

Am I doing this right?
Is it ok just to "reduce", for now...?
I have about 2, 3 kgs to gain. Not much, it time to do this properly, seriously..?

I do not know. I do not know. And so, every day, I continue on, still wondering, f anyone has any advice on this topic, I would be so, so grateful.

I guess, for now, I just have to be as careful as I can manage. For this path of recovery is a slippery one; one upon which I know I have to tread carefully.


  1. A very tricky predicament you are in Emmy. I don't really know what the answer is but your writing reminded me of a friend and her own journey in overcoming her eating disorder. She'd been up and down with her weight and behaviours for a while but after a lot of hard work had eventually found an equillibrium which would meet the general definition of 'recovered', all the while continuing to exercise in the form of ballet. However, one day she injured her back and this eventually forced her to stop dancing, meaning for the first time in her life she was unable to exercise (she had been dancing since she was 3). Although she was 'recovered', this was the one great fear of hers that remained - she was terrified of what would happen to her body and weight if she couldn't exercise. However, she endured her sentence and found that nothing bad actually happened. She lost some of her fitness and muscle tone, but her weight didn't shoot up and she learnt that it was ok not to exercise and that not exercising didn't mean she was lazy. Her injury healed and she was eventually allowed to return to dancing. Through her return she discovered a new appreciation for her body and what it could do, as well as a much healthier relationship with exercise.
    So, as I said, I don't really have an answer to you question, but some suggestions are that perhaps you could limit your exercise to just walking the dogs, or make sure that any exercise you do is accompanied by a family member (so as not to overdo it) or if you do excercise, make a plan to have something extra in your meal plan to account for it. One day you will have to face your fear of no exercise but perhaps that is a task for a little further on in recovery??
    Sending you much love as always, Megan xx

    1. <3 Thank you so, so much Megan for your comment, and for sharing with me your insight, advice, and the story of your friend. Reading it this morning made me feel miles better, it really did. <3

      I am definitely going to follow your advice dear - I think it will definitely help me, to do what you suggest. And yes, as you say day, when I am stronger, I truly hope that I will be able to nip this one in the bud, and develop a healthier relationship with exercise, as your friend did. I can truly relate to her fears - the loss of fitness is something I am greatly afraid of, amongst other thing. As you say, it's a very difficult predicament to be in.

      I will keep on writing on here anyway as I know that in itself will motivate me to make these changes. Thank you ever so much dear again, and for your lovely email too, which I am going to answer very soon <3 all my love to you dear xxxx

  2. Doing absolutely nothing will send you stir crazy! I don`t see the harm in you taking a daily walk with your dogs, as long as that it what it is - a walk and not a ten mile hike! I think common sense is needed here - you are practically weight restored so moderate exercise shouldn't be detrimental providing you are still eating enough and take this activity into account when planning your meals.
    I personally love to walk and find it so relaxing - a time when I can gather my thoughts for the day, some me time. A couple of months ago my legs just gave up on me and I found it near impossible to walk anywhere, even moving around the house was difficult. This ED had robbed me of all my strength and muscle in my legs and for months I was housebound. My weight only increased very slightly, by about 2 pounds. But you know I didn't care about that. My body was giving up on me and that was a huge wake up call about the priorities in life. I had pushed it to its limits and it was so scary. Now - some months later and after daily bed rest my legs are recovering and I am able to leave the house to take very short walks just around the road. But I am thankful, so thankful that I am recovering. Your health is the most important thing you can ever poscess, so don`t mess with it. Know your limits and work within that. Take your doggies on their daily walk but don`t over do it. You have plenty of time for longer walks as your recovery progresses and your general health and strength returns.
    Maybe you could have a planned route that takes x amount of time?
    Take care xx

    1. <3 Thank you so so much for sharing your story and message with me. I really appreciate your advice and even more so, your perspective on things. Your story really spoke to me and I can understand just how much what happened to you must have acted as a true wake up call. What you did was so brave. I think that is often the case - we don't realise what it is we have, until it is taken away from us. I thought, two years ago when I injured my foot and realised how fragile my body was, that I would never again forget just how vulnerable the body can be if you don't treat it right. Of course, ED is very good at making us "forget" things like that, and so I am so grateful to you for helping me to remember just what is actually at stake here.

      Thank you so much again for this <3 Take care and good luck in your continuing recovery journey. You have come so far and I think you should be very proud! xxx

  3. An eating disorder can be a tricky thing. Learning how to cope with the feelings that tend to overwhelm during these moments will happen for you. I don't have an eating disorder, but I have a nervous one. I play the same game all day with the control I must maintain over my condition. It can be exhausting. Hang in there.

    1. aww thank you so much for sharing with me your insight and advice <3 we can beat it! thanks so much <3 x