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.:)
Sunday, 27 August 2017
Several months have passed since I sat my last exam and signed off on the final chapter, the chapter of what had been, for me, an exhausting and painful journey through university.
And even since then my lifepath has been far from a dreamy stroll through a garden of summer flowers. I faced the frightening unknown of what awaited me in Spain, along with the fundamental but overwhelming decision of what path I would follow now, now that my time at Trinity was over.
Because it's true to say that I was fighting my college battle, with no particular destination or purpose in mind. I just knew I had to get through it, no matter what. I wasn't entirely sure what the light at the end of the tunnel actually would mean for me; or if, there even was, a light.
At times it felt as if there was no way out of this mess that I had created for myself. For it was me, after all, who chosen to come to Trinity. It was me who had eagerly sought out, and accepted, this course. And it was me who was now paying for my mistake, and for my rash, hasty decision.
But this year - 2017 - was one in which the path up the mountain touched upon some crucial, fundamental milestones; milestones which I never before even dreamt that I would lay eyes upon, let alone reach out to with disbelieving, trembling fingers. I got my degree at Trinity. I left the comforting surroundings of my home to work in Catalonia for five weeks, thrusting myself into the unknown with both fear and enormous bravery merging themselves within my heart. And, once again, I committed myself to that gruelling, relentlessly difficult climb: the climb up the mountain, of recovery. It was January after Christmas when I took full control over my relapse again, and since then I donned the attire of the recovery warrior, bravely approaching food and eating every day with bravery and determination and persistence.
But now it seems like I am on auto-pilot; that my progress, having reached a certain point, is just continuing on, without the slightest incline or decrease. I eat every day but my eating has become very rigid. I eat the same good amounts every day but I never once even contemplate increasing them. I do the same exercise, eat the same foods, at the same exact times. I feel like a computer programmed to do the exact same thing without the slightest alteration or adjustment.
The reason I don't change my current course of actions is, of course, the uncertainty. I don't know whether I should really try to put on a bit more weight. I don't know what my natural body realy looks like, what other people will say and think, and, of course, how I will deal with it. I don't know what I want to do with my life, what course, what job, what career, what future. And most of all I don't know if I will cope. Cope with that body, that life, that work schedule. Cope with anything.
But now I realise it's time to stop, and take a deep breath.
Auto-pilot mode has been beneficial to me, up to this very point, when all was required of me was to keep on eating the set amounts which I knew were enabling me to gain weight and restore my health. But now, it's time to readdress and rethink. To reflect on now exactly where I stand. And to put into practice all the plans and goals which I set for myself, but did not manage to achieve.
But it is, as with many things in life, the beginning of doing just that, which is the hardest part.
Take breakfast this morning for example. As I sat there at the table I thought to myself, well, Em. Are you going to do it? Eat even MORE than you usually would? And so filled with resolve I went to the bread packet and took out the very top slice, the crust - thicker than any other piece of that loaf - and put it into the toaster, pressing it firmly down with determination propelling my fingers. But then as I waited, the Voice began to murmur, again. It whispered about the profile picture that I had just uploaded to Facebook, exactly a week ago this day. You looked ok in that. your stomach was not so bloated as it is now. And you know Em what will happen if you were to eat that extra bit of bread. You know how fat and ugly it will look, and you know just as well how I'm going to give you a hard time over it.
I thought about the resultant disgust, the resultant anxiety, which I would inevitably come up against if I were to do the thing that minutes ago I had felt so resolute about. How I would spend the entire morning being preooccupied with my tummy, convinced - regardless of whether it was actually true or not - that my tummy had suddenly ballooned up more than ever, all because I ate just that one bit more of toast. (Out of all the foods I eat it's true to say that bread products make me the most bloated.) I shook my head, angrily trying to push away the doubt which was clutching to me tight. But Ed had forced open a crack in my resolve, a crack which was now widening to form a chasm, a chasm which I knew I was going to fall into. And once down there, he would have won. And won he did.
I found myself cutting up that lovely thick crust into about eight different pieces, three or two of which I put miserably to one side. I did not want to do it, but ED forced my hand.And wedged so tightly in that stifling chasm I didn't have the means to resist him.
So auto pilot Emily walks on with a heavy heart. Walks on in a steady straight line which is as flat and as featureless as the dullest, most unbroken landscape. The landscape of half recovery, I guess. I could wander and wander and wander forever here, always going along that same old line.
Or I could choose...to go up, to go forwards. Starting right here, right now. Today. And I suppose a start would be for me to press publish on this post, now, and go and do the thing I've been avoiding now for a couple of months at least. That being to go and check the weight on my scales, and face up to the reality of whether or not I am still underweight.
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