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.:)

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

We are not alone. xxx

God grant me the strength to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change what I can and the wisdom to know the difference.

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.

What I had hoped was an eternal sunrise, was in fact another sunset..

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. ๐Ÿ’™

If we would only let it,
hope can spring forth, like a beautiful summer flower.๐Ÿ’•

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 battle๐Ÿ’™xxx

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

The Last and Final Stretch... which I know is the toughest of them all.

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.

My exercise compulsion-obsession is something which didn't develop as early as my eating disorder initially did. In the early days, food was the sole problem. But then, ED turned its attention to the handful of physical activities I enjoyed back then, too. These were namely walking and cycling. And it was then that what was once a beloved hobby and a pastime rapidly evolved into a compulsive addiction.

In my latest relapse-recovery, however, I conquered it  to some degree when I was regaining weight. But now, I know, that feeling of having to do a certain amount has crept slyly back in again, urging me to do more when I have already done enough. And I would be only kidding myself if I said that I don't go along with it, because that's exactly what I do do, more often than not.          

 Again, I think what makes this so, so tough, is the fact that we live in a world in which we are all encouraged and urged to do exercise, that one should exercise more and eat less, etc, etc, etc. And this makes the road all the more rocky for someone recovering from an eating disorder, whose relationship with exercise has always been far from perfect.                                                                                      

It was with some dismay that I realised that this old fear had come back, this time last week to be exact, when I was travelling home from my Granny's house in Leicester. On that particular morning I had gone for my usual wander at Gorse Hill, one which I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of. But later on, while I was travelling home, the anxiety began to kick in. It's not even exactly what you would call a particularly long journey - an hour in the car to Birmingham, an hour in the air, and then 2 and a half hours home on the air bus. But ED, needless to say, didn't warm too much to the idea of sitting down for four hours in one afternoon, with only "a few slots" of walking in between.       

The anxiety I experienced on the journey home was persistent, relentless, and excruciating. Oh, yes. That old fear is back and it's back with a bloodthirsty vengeance.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 I know that this is going to be one of the toughest legs of my journey. I know that this is probably going to be the hardest obstacle for me to overcome. Because it's so hard to ignore the exercise and diet programs which are plastered all over the internet, the telly, the magazines. It's so hard to ignore other people, to focus on myself. It's so hard to not feel I should be doing as much as possible of the one thing which I have always loved, but which has simultaneously become an obsession from which I am powerless to disentangle myself .        
It is in this one single instance that being at home has not in fact helped me, as far as exercise is concerned. My mam completes a grueling exercise program every day of every week except Sunday. When my friend came around to visit me this gone Friday, she and Mam were both discussing cardio and programs enthusiastically (my friend only just joined a gym a few weeks ago). I had hovered nearby, trying not to listen but unable to help myself. Oh God. Should  I not be doing this too? Guilt throbbed its own insistent beat in my chest. The enthusiasm in Mam's eyes made me want to cry.  I felt like running out of the room, away from those beloved voices which spoke of the thing which I longed to do, but which I knew ED wanted me to do, too. I felt confused, afraid, uncertain; pathetically and wholly vulnerable. And intensely and painfully aware of just how far I am from being completely free. 

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

From Darkness into Light..

My hands trembled as I held out the blue answer booklet. The invigilator, having not noticed my shaking fingers, took it from me with a smile, and moved on.

I sat there dazed, not quite able to comprehend the feelings that surged in my breast, crashing against one another like the white tipped waves of the ocean.

I had done it.

I was here.

My time at Trinity was finally, finally over.

And so I stepped out of the stuffy, artificially lit exam hall, stepped out from that crowded space in which the dozens upon dozens of  excited human voices intermingled and wove into one another to make one confused, violent cacophony of sound. Stepped right out of there, towards the square of yellow light which led into the outside world. 

Another world, to me. I felt as if I was making both a literal and figurative transition, from one place to another.

Into a world of sweet and beautiful freedom; a world in which my sorrows would melt away like chips of sharp ice being thawed by the delicate kiss of the spring sun. 

I was free. I had done it. I had finished my college degree.

And it did not matter that my exam hadn't gone brilliantly, and that I had ran out of time on the question involving a discussion of two of the course texts' lack of human empathy. It did not matter that, when I had entered that very same exam hall two days before to sit my first exam, it had suddenly hit me, like a stinging blow to the face, that I knew not a soul in that place. I had felt like Robert Neville at the end of the I am Legend novel, looking out at the face of the brave new world and feeling totally, utterly isolated. That was what I had felt like. I don't belong here.

But now it did not matter.

Now, I no longer cared.

For I was free. Free to be me, to forge a new and beautiful future for myself, far separated from the pain and struggles of the past. I was stepping out from the darkness of my loneliness, stepping from that crowded world - a world in which I had been surrounded by people, but had always, no matter how many faces I could see, felt so, so alone, like a lonely, plain-feathered songbird struggling to fly amongst a flock of beautiful swans.

I was leaving behind the loneliness, the sadness, the pain of unbelonging. The constant feelings of not being good enough, that my existence was worthless to everyone and everything.

I was leaving behind that world, that day.

And so I stepped into the light.

And so I ran through the streets of Dublin towards my train, my hair streaming behind like wild uncurling banner, the late afternoon sunshine casting dapples of light upon my face as I passed beneath trees laden with the sweet green foliage of May. People turned to stare at me in surprise as I ran past, their curious gazes following me as I dodged between them like a minnow between reeds.  I suppose what they saw was sort-of  young looking girl, with a full, glowing face, purple runners on her feet, a black skirt with tiny roses, a white top which left her arms and shoulders bare and exposed to the sun. 

But over the past few months, that girl became wiser.

She learned quite a few new things. Things that weren't just related to the degree she was trying so desperately to achieve.

She learned things about herself, her world. Things about life. And ultimately things about her recovery.

She learned that she did have the strength to do this.

She learned to care less about what others think, and to just be herself.

She learned that she was strong and capable. That she has what it takes to achieve her dreams and goals.

She learned to take care of herself.

She learned that she didn't have to be the thin, skinny girl, whose potential to be loved by other is wholly dependent on the severity of her illness.

She learned to be the Real, True Emmy.

She learned that she could leave the thin, scared little girl behind.

And I think it was these vital lessons which got that girl through her exams, to the light beyond. It was these lessons which filled her heart with joy as soon as she stepped into that light and felt the warmth upon her face, felt the heavy, dragging weights being  lifted from her shoulders. It was these lessons that lightened her steps, that day she ran through the streets of Dublin, towards Heuston, and home. It was these lessons which taught her that she could be free. Free to break free from the crippling fetters of loneliness, pain, self-doubt. And to render ED ever weaker.

And though she still has some way to go, she learned that she will see this battle out to the very, very end.

There can only be two possible outcomes to this fight.

I can choose to let ED destroy me...or I can choose to destroy ED, and win the pure sweet freedom that true recovery inevitably brings.

And I've learnt now that I can make the right choice.

For it is time for me to be free, in heart, body and soul.๐Ÿ’•