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.:)

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Not to run from this fear, but to fight it...

Last week, while Mam and Dad were away, I was an intensely busy girly. With both the house and the two doggies left under my charge, I had my week's work cut out. Not that this displeased me in the slightest. I wanted to keep myself busy; knowing that to dwell upon the house's silent emptiness in the absence of my loved ones would be enough to drive me insane, if I let it.

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.

Why did ED have to taint,
the one thing that gives me so much joy? 

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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. 😉
  3. 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.
  4. 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. 
  5. 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.💪


  1. Dear Emmy, I write tentatively, as I never suffered from exercise addiction. But when you say, "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" ... your situation isn't the same as that of the world around you, it's the situation of a recovered anorexic? From my experience with food, and from my observation of others' experience with exercise addiction, it *is* possible to break free and to become relaxed and essentially 'normal' in the way one feels about it. (Of course with a different -- sometimes wiser, sometimes more vulnerable -- perspective, because of one's experience.) But I think one has to work from the stage one is at. One cannot take standards that are essentially made for people in a different situation; one has to minister to one's own needs, where one is. The gap between where one is, and where one longs to be, is an ongoing source of frustration and pain, but as you've seen, as you show so beautifully, it can get better. It *is* getting better for you. I'm so glad of that. I do believe you can overcome this one too -- with all my heart I believe that. It is a double standard at the moment, isn't it -- wanting *not* to be like healthy people in not wanting to find one's healthy set point, but wanting to be like healthy people in being allowed to exercise as much as you like. I think the latter is deceptive: being like healthy people is not just being allowed to exercise as much as you like, but being allowed to stop, to rest, to not exercise when that is what *you* (the real you) need. Do you build in days of total rest? I hope so, x. I know what you mean about anxiety and its struggles -- even if I have tended to feel it in relation to different things.
    It is complicated isn't it. I think you're doing a really good job at making progress. I have a lot of hope and confidence in you!

    1. Thank you so much for your comment and for taking the time to write it. It really did mean so much <3 To me, the problem I describe above does actually constitute one of the biggest challenges for me to overcome in my recovery, so to read your advice and insight really meant an incredible amount and gave me a sense of hope and comfort that this compulsion can be beaten ! <3

      And that is exactly what I know I need to do. To focus on myself and ignore what others are doing. As what is healthy and good for them does not equal to healthy and good for me necessarily. We all have to remember that I suppose. Our needs are all different and when one has starved her/himself for any given length of time, that almost certainly causes one's needs and best interests to be different from that of someone who has never had an eating disorder.
      Thank you so much for your words and for believing in me and cheering me on - it means the world!! I KNOW this is going to be so so hard but knowing I have people who are cheering me on all the way really does make such a great difference - thank you again so very much <3 xxxx

  2. Hi Emmy - I really hope you manage to overcome your compulsion for exercise and be rid of your ED for good. Maybe going on your trip to Barcelona will help you do this, I mean a change of routine, change of surroundings - new activities will help you break this cycle. I would have thought you will be far too busy with other things to think about exercise!
    I`m so sure that you will beat this and have every faith in you that you are strong enough. You have come so far don`t let this evil voice lure you back down again. I believe you have enough common sense to out weigh this voice, no matter how loud it screams at you. You know the amount of exercise you are doing isn't right for you - listen to that voice and ignore the other.
    I wish you so much success with this and hope that you truly enjoy your time away. Have a lovely time and look forward to all the new experiences you will encounter, all the new friends you will meet and the lovely sunshine! xxx

    1. Thank you so very, very much for what you wrote above!! <3
      What you say is so so true..I really hope Barcelona will help me defeat this, too. It definitely is going to be a completely new routine..and there is a massive part of me which feels so afraid at the thought of this, but I know that I just have to be extra strong while I am there!
      Aw thank you so very much...I'm very frustrated with myself at the moment, as sadly, I am just too afraid and nervous to be excited. The thought of going away to a place I don't know and being amongst total strangers is terrifying to me. Though I hope I will be brave and strong enough to overcome my fear and anxieties. xxx

    2. I`m sure you`ll be just fine! There will be other people new to the experience as well so you won`t be alone - and just think of all the fun you are going to have! Think of it as an adventure, what attracted you to doing it in the first place and hang on to those thoughts - you are going to have agreat time. Its perfectly normal to feel anxious but sometimes we have to step out of our comfort zone to get the most out of life, and I`m sure by doing so you will emerge so much stronger and confident in your own abilities. Have belief in yourself and know you can do this!
      post when you can/if you want to about what you will be doing whilst you are there and know that there are many people on here wishing you all the best xxx

    3. Aw thank you so much again for this! And oh yes I promise that my next post after tomorrow's will be one in which I will talk about the placement in more detail. Today I wrote alot about what I have just told you - my fears about this enormous change.

      Thanks so much, reading this really made me feel a little bit better, I'm going to try very hard not to let my fear get the better of me. You're right, it is an adventure - and just like the adventures in the stories, it is going to be terrifying but exciting , too. I hope so anyway!

      And that is so true,too..and I NEED to step out of my comfort zone, I know I do. Otherwise I will never go forwards.Thank you so much again for writing this very kind and supportive message I appreciate it so much <3 ! xxx

  3. Hi Emily!

    I wanted to respond to your post about hunger a few weeks back, but wasn't sure whether you would see it so I'm replying here.

    As women we are extremely lucky, our bodies have a built in mechanism for showing us where our healthy weight is: your period! If you have maintained your current weight for a few months and you still do not have your period, then I'm sorry but this clearly isn't where your body is healthy. Unfortunately no professional can tell you what your "ideal" body weight is, only your body knows that! They can guess based on calculations from your parents' and siblings' weights/heights and based on the weight you were at when you got your last period but even that can change.

    Also, remember that our bodies are smart. When you are gaining weight, if you are choosing where you stop, then you are not gaining enough. Most people continue with their "gaining mealplan" and find that eventually their weight plateaus, they get their period back and they are stable at that weight despite still eating their gaining mealplan. I know it's super super hard, but you need to trust your body. You've deprived it for so long that it needs to learn to trust you again. Even though you state that you are "weight restored", if you still don't have your period back, then you are not really at your healthy weight yet.

    With regards to exercise, you have mentioned multiple times before that it is getting out of hand and that you were going to push back, yet each time it gets out of hand again. Unfortunately, like with addictions to smoking or drugs, the only way to curb this addiction is to stop completely (temporarily!). I know this isn't what you want to hear, but if you are at the point where you are jogging on the spot and refusing social situations, then things are getting serious. You are still very sick Emmy and I hate seeing you suffer so much. When I was told this years ago I was so angry and frustrated and argued that I needed my sports because they had always been a part of my life (waaaay before my ED started) and they were my stress relief and I enjoyed them. But the reality was that they were controlling my life and that i felt so guilty if I didn't do anything active. But only by stopping completely for a few months did I manage to overcome the addiction. Also, my parents were wonderful and also stopped exercising so I didn't have to watch them running when I couldn't. Could you have a conversation with your mum and tell her how triggering she is for you and ask her to stop while you stop? She loves and cares for you and wants you to get better, I'm sure she'll help you out!

    So I would suggest reaching out to your Mum, who you seem very close to. Tell her that you are jogging on the spot in your room. I know it seems so hard, but she will be proud of you for telling her and asking for help. Once she knows, if she sees you disappear for a while, she can come check on you. This also makes it easier for you because it removes the temptation, as you know your mum is watching you. It means you don't have to fight as hard.

    I hope you don't take this comment the wrong way. You are such a lovely, sweet, kind person and I hate seeing you suffer. I believe in you 100%. Full recovery is possible and you are going to get there girl! But remember you don't have to fight this alone. Reach out to your family and friends and doctor. Surround yourself with love and support.

    Sending you much love and virtual hugs! x

    1. Aw thank you so very much for what you wrote above! It must have taken you ages to write out - I can't even begin to describe how meaningful it is to me, thank you so much <3 !

      And your advice was amazing! You know, in a way I felt an enormous sense of relief when I read it, because deep down I think I know I am not there yet as regards the weight, and I sort of needed someone to spell it out for me. I've been weight restored for about 2 months now, but I'm getting my oestrogen levels checked soon so I'm hoping this will be able to give me further indication as to whether my body is healthy or not.
      As I've mentioned before though I'd like to be able to get to a bmi of 20...but of course, ED hates the thought of that.
      It was so reassuring to read too that eating more or less the same as my weight gain meal plan IS the right thing to I freely admit, I question myself every day as to whether I "should", but I guess that's just ED trying to creep in again. So I think it's more important than ever to stick to it now!! To be honest, I find eating alot so much easier than stopping exercise..

      You're right, in order to beat this compulsion I just need to stop, completely..and oh God, the thought of that is so very, very frightening. But I guess, in Barcelona, it might be the ideal time to do this, as I'm sure there will be days when I just have too much to do to even think about exercise. But beforehand I know I may just try really hard to reduce at the least. Or just be relaxed and "normal" about it (even though of course there's the question of what being "normal" actually is!). For example, if it were raining , not to go out as I usually would - stay inside and tidy my wardrobe instead!

      Thank you so much again - your comment meant so very much to me! And your insight and encouragement are so helpful and give me a true sense of hope <3 thank you!! xxx