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Happy Chrimbo

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I have not logged onto my blog since August – my life has become so incredibly busy, that I just don’t seem to have the time to sit down and write something I feel would be meaningful and helpful. This is such a stark contrast to twelve months ago when I was preparing for Christmas in a clinic, the otherside of the world.

As we speak I am getting ready to head to my mum’s for a few days break and I can’t wait, so I will keep this short and sweet until the New Year when I will give a more comprehensive update.

I am doing well in so many areas of my life these days. My battle with the ‘terrorist’ is not as exhausting as it once was, for which I am truly grateful. My challenge for the weeks ahead is to learn, and more importantly, allow myself to adjust my intake to keep up with my now – very full life. My anorexia still wins on too many occassions, so I am hoping some peace and rest with my family will help me to focus on what I need to do.

I want to thank each every person who gave me the strength to keep going last year – I will never forget all the love and kindness I was shown. I wish you all a wonderful Christmas and a very Happy New Year xxx

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear” Nelson Mandela

 

 

 

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One Year On. “Keep Doing The Harder Thing”

12th August.
It’s been a while since I sat down and had the time to think about where I am at. I need peace and quiet to write and I have been so busy that I just haven’t managed to sit down and hit the keyboard. Being busy is a new phenonemon for me, and a welcomed one at that. In my anorexic cage, I so rarely ventured out into the amazing world we live in. My life was somewhat limited to a small, dull brown box…BUT not anymore! I have been socialising more and more and meeting some wonderful people along the way. I am experiencing what life has to offer, and feeling a sense of excitement at what is waiting for me around the corner.
This week has been significant in several ways. The 11th of August was the day I left for California. This time last year I was in my first week of treatment hell. Terrified at every meal I was confronted with, sobbing my way through it, or not as the case often was. Pleading with the therapists to go easy on me and only give me half a portion. It was tough there, and sometimes I forget just how tough. It was by no means the easy option to take, but I now look back on my time there with fond memories. It’s the people I remember not the food. Their love and compassion and dedication to the cause that I admire. It’s not an easy task to take on the might of an eating disorder. It’s a stubborn thing and needs relentless attacking. I don’t think I realised just how hard it would be when I walked through the gates at Heathrow. I have been back six months now – as long as I was in California. I re-read my first post that I wrote when I arrived. It made me sad to reflect on just how hideous life was not so long ago, that the most normal and natural thing – to eat was such a traumatic experience for me.
Life is pretty good right now. I am feeling more peaceful inside and, I feel as though my personality is finally surfacing. I have had more good times in the past two months than I have had in the past two years. I feel present when I am with people and able to fully engage, but I often ask myself, do I still have one foot in my anorexia? If I am honest, probably. You might, as I do feel frustrated that I haven’t fully let go, that after six months intensive in-patient, my eating disorder is not a thing of the past. Well, for someone who has existed with it for twelve years, I remind myself that six months is a drop in the ocean.
I was sent a message today from one of the girls I was in treatment with – she reminded me about ‘Andrew the Angel’. What an amazing day that was, when I met a young boy who I will never forget. As I was struggling to eat my lunch in a restaurant, I sat outside and met Andrew, a thirteen-year-old-boy who said this to me…
“No matter what is happening to you right now and no matter what you are feeling, it will get better. I am thirteen years old and have been suicidal. I am on medication and see three therapists, but I am OK. I saw you upset and I couldn’t walk by without saying something to you”.
Sometimes people walk into your life unexpectedly, but leave a profound effect upon you – Andrew was one of those. Fortunately I can say that a year later, I no longer dread going to eat in a restaurant. In fact I quite enjoy it, something that my wonderful step-father Michael who died fifteen years ago this week, would be thrilled to hear.
I think about the girls I was in treatment with everyday. I was so fortunate to share what was a unique experience with such wonderful people. It was at times hard living with five other eating disorders. Anorexia is a highly competitive illness that can feel threatned, something that happened to me last weekend. I was invited to a hen-do and was so excited to be with all my friends. The group of girls I was going with all know about my struggles, and are incredibly supportive towards me. We arrived in Oxford and made our way to the river to collect our picnics and embark on an hour of punting. I was feeling good, until I turned around and saw an incredibly thin girl. I had totally forgot that she was coming. The hen had warned me months back, but it had slipped my mind. I suddenly felt an immense sense of anger that came from nowhere. I hated looking at her. I had to get on with the afternoon though and decided that the best thing to do would be to avoid her and stick with the girls who were a healthy size. I spent the afternoon wondering why I felt angry towards her, and I realised that I had always been the thinnest person among my friends and this time I wasn’t – my anorexia felt threatened. I took a few minutes to comprehend my insane thoughts before I realised that not being the thinnest is something to celebrate not languish after. Her thinness did not attract me to her – infact the opposite it made me want to distance myself. All I saw was her illness, not her personality or character. I wonder if that is what people thought of me when I was so underweight? I would hate that to be the case, but the reality is I suspect that was very much the truth.
3rd of September.
So I wrote the above a few weeks ago and meant to finish it but didn’t get round to it, which is an achievement in itself , I am living life! I have been in my new apartment for a month now and I love it so much. Having my own space has given me a sense of peace that I have not experienced before. I finally feel like I am growing into an adult woman and not lingering after the child that my anorexia harbours me in. I am developing a sense of style and confidence that is really very welcomed. I have realised that the most important thing for me right now is to surround myself with people who are positive influences on me and to not get so hung up those who bring me down.  I have known for a long time that my eating disorder is linked to my emotional well-being, but it is also something that I have even on days when I am feeling good. What was my coping mechanism in the early days, has become part of my make-up, that takes more than soap and water to remove. These are actually the days when the fight is harder, as I have no excuse to restrict. The last few days though have been quite significant to me in terms of thinking that some situations are just not worth my tears. Over the years certain people and circumstances have become excuses for my eating disorder to keep me hostage, but even I have to admit that these excuses are running a bit thin now and banging my head against a brick wall, just hurts too much.
I am loving my life in London. Summer is still here and everyone is in a jubilant mood, which makes it hard to be glum. The remarkable thing is though, I don’t really feel that glum much anymore. In my day to day life, I feel much more at peace with myself. There are still aspects within my family that are deep-rooted and get to me, but I am working on walking away from these areas that cause me pain. I can’t change others, but I can change myself and my behaviour.
One big bonus that has had a substantial impact on me, is my relationship with my younger sister. We have been getting closer over the past few months and I love having her in my life now. She is a breath of fresh air and even though there were many years where we had little contact, it doesn’t feel that way at all. It’s as if she has always been part of my life. Her confidence and outlook is refreshing to me – she is mature beyond her twenty-two years.
The way I feel about my body and myself has improved too. I no longer want to hide myself away in dull jumpers. On Sunday I went out to lunch and wore something that made me feel really good. Something feminine but comfortable, and the confidence that came with feeling good was a celebration. It’s amazing what nice clothes can do for you!
This evening I met up with a friend from the clinic. She is such an inspiration. In the six months that I have known her she has come on leaps and bounds and even sends me pictures of her food accomplishments! She knows what she wants, and is determined to get it. She knows that her new life is not possible by surviving on a yoghurt a day. She says that I am an encouragement to her which is humbling, but I have to admit that I don’t always feel I live up to her vision of me. Consistency is the key word for me right now. I am pretty good the majority of the time, but I dabble in my eating disorder too frequently and allow too many ‘issues’ become fuel for restriction. I need to keep focused on the future and my goals. I am still working these out slowly, but they sure as hell don’t include being known as the anorexic. One of the biggest themes that ran through the clinic in America was “Do the harder thing”.  I was reminded of this today by one of the girls I was in treatment with.  She’s a teacher and made some signs to go up in her classroom, one with this message on it. I think I have been far too complacent at times and forgotten the roots and foundation that I built there. It was a welcomed reminder to keep pushing myself that bit harder.
“Don`t aim for success if you want it; just do what you love and believe in, and it will come naturally.” Sir David Frost.
Oh and this is a picture of me and my special spotty boy. Last night I had the most perfect ride on him through the fields in the warm summer sunshine. I breathed in life and was reminded of all the reasons as to why I keep fighting, and all the reasons as to why I need to fight harder.
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“I got all my sisters with me”

A sister is a gift to the heart, a friend to the spirit, a golden thread to the meaning of life.
~ Isadora James
Things have been a bit up and down this last month or so. The beginning began rather gloomy, but things are beginning to feel a little brighter. This weekend just gone though has been a definite high – more on that later.
I have been feeling as though I have been swirling around in a bit of a dark hole. Not really able to climb out and reach the opening. My therapist said that I am a bit of a spectator at the moment. Looking in on the world, but not really connecting and being a part of it. I am in a weird transition period. Still adjusting to my new body is a daily battle. I went home to my mum’s a few weekends ago and cleared out my wardrobe. Nothing fitted – three bags of clothes for the charity shop. I am doing my best to be pleased that I am no longer an unhealthy size, but on occasions the desire to be tiny creeps back in.
Perhaps the saddest part of my return back to the UK came when I had to clear out three boxes full of journals and folders. For the entire twelve years of my anorexia I have documented every single thought and feeling about food and my body. I described each unsatisfying meal, each morsel that passed my lips. It was career entirely dedicated to self-deprivation and punishment. It was to put it quite blankly, same s***, different day for twelve long years. It bought up so many feelings. Sadness mostly, but also anger. Anger that this cruel illness robbed me of my twenties. Time that I will never be able to get back again. I stood there in the garage reading journal entry after journal entry and they all said the same thing. “Eaten xxx today – feel rubbish. Must try better tomorrow.” BORING. Since being back I have barely written in my diary and I am seeing this as a positive. I no longer need to document every minute of my life, every thought and feeling that arises. I don’t have the time or inclination. I left the journals in a pile to be burned. What it did make me realise is, how much better I am than I thought. I get frustrated with myself that I am not ‘cured’ or ‘fixed’, but when I read back my journals, I can see just how sick I really was. Just how insane I have been and the crazy lengths my eating disorder would push me to – just to have it’s wicked way.
So this weekend just gone was one to go down in history. For the first time EVER, I spent Father’s day with my dad and two sisters. For many reasons (I will leave out all the minutiae as to why it has taken more than twenty years to happen) but it finally did, and what a splendid day it was. Dad, both sisters, brother-in-law, two scrummy nephews and step-mum all together at last. I could see the look on Dad’s face when he saw his three daughters standing together. It had been a long time coming and whilst I feel sad that it has taken so long, I feel sure that we are now united. I coped well with my food and was determined to show that my time in America had not been in vain. I was present and engaged and did not feel intimidated or lost for words. I really did enjoy myself and I hope that there are many more good times to come in the future. There is something about having a sister that makes me feel complete. I know that there is always someone there for me to talk to and to listen. I have had the luxury of having my sister all my life, but up until recently my half-sister has not had this privilege. Well we can not undo history or get back all the years that have gone, we can only look to the future and build on our relationships and I am looking forward to spending time together as a threesome.
What else have I been upto? Well I have gone back to work and that feels good. Being surrounded by lovely people and where I have a sense of purpose and belonging really helps to take myself out of my head. We have a new computer system since arriving in our new shiny offices and it is a little testing. I used to know my way around the system fairly well, but have been feeling as though I am the new kid on the block. Fortunately I have been reassured that it has taken everyone a little while to get their heads around it, so I am trying to be patient with myself. A few weeks in now and I’m feeling a bit more at home which is nice.
I have been thinking lately about where I am at in my recovery and the word ‘stuck’ keeps springing to mind. Neither going backwards massively nor moving forwards. These past few weeks I have been treading water and on the verge of sipping back into the grips of the terrorist. I get weighed each week at the clinic and my weight has dropped. I had a few stressful weeks with a few changes which unsettled me and I didn’t cope very well. That is my downfall. My eating disorder takes it’s comfy familiar position whenever life gets a bit tricky. It’s ugly head raises again and takes hold and this is something I must endeavour to stop. Life will be full of lots of ups and downs and I must not allow the downs to dictate my food intake. I think I thought that dropping a bit was ok, but when a bit became a bit more, I realised that it wouldn’t take long to be back in it’s tight grip. That is the difference between someone with an eating disorder and someone who embarks on a diet. Someone with anorexia can’t stop the diet – they just plummet further and further. It began with having a smaller snack here and there – missing one, missing two and you know the rest. I gave the monster and inch and it took a mile. I have had numerous lectures from loved ones. “How could I go backwards after all that time you had in America, surely you don’t want to get ill again?” I have heard it all. The answer. Of course I don’t want to be ill again. I do not wish to spend my thirties as I did my twenties, living a miserable existence. SO I have been reigning it back in again – fighting back and remembering the bigger picture. All the things I want in my life, and all of which are only possible if I stay firmly in recovery. This week I can report that my weight has stabilised.
Being stuck is a horrid place to be, but it represents so many people living out there ‘managing’ their illness. Millions are struggling and are left untreated. They appear ‘normal’ both physically and mentally. They do not look skeletal, yet they are battling abusive and disturbing thoughts and feelings. The media doesn’t help with it’s constant need to criticise and analyse women’s bodies. When did it become acceptable to despise our bodies and punish and deny ourselves of pleasure? ME- I got complacent and lost motivation to push on that bit further to the next level. I accepted second best. A ‘better adapted’ life. Anorexia takes a lot of energy but so does fighting it and you can loose the spark inside of you when you feel as though you are getting nowhere. Battling an eating disorder is like falling down a well. It’s pretty easy to fall down, but damn hard to pull yourself up and out. The more you try the harder it gets because exhaustion sets in. Being stuck can feel safe – you follow a food plan. People can see you eating, so what is the problem? The problem lies in the fact that you are always one bite away from relapse. You are never fully embracing life, merely existing – plodding on. Afraid to take a risk, to let go that bit more. While I know longer feel as though I am ‘existing’ but I do feel as though I am hovering in a murky grey area – so close to the rainbow, yet so close to the storm too. There isn’t really anything anyone can say to me anymore. I have heard it all and more. The choice lies within me. Am I prepared to accept a life functioning on two cylinders or am I going to push on ahead at full throttle?
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“You look so well”

If one more person says to me “You look so well” I might just scream at them! The simple fact is I feel pretty rubbish at the moment. I have thought long and hard about writing this and being honest, but I have always been authentic in my blog and in what I write, so I do not want to pretend or be a fraud.
I have been home for almost 3 months and I can honestly say I have not felt this low in a long time. I don’t know what is wrong with me and that in itself is getting me down. I feel physically weak and mentally low. I have been to the doctors twice now to test my bloods and all is fine so I am left without an explanation as to why it is a mission at times to put one foot in front of the other. I had more energy when I was underweight! My nutritionist came up with a plausible explanation. For the 12 years in which I had my eating disorder my body was in fight or flight mode. I kept it running on adrenalin. I used to push it hard; swimming, walking, yoga, horses, work – now I am positively lazy in comparison. I never gave my body time to come down and so now I have stopped, it’s in ‘crash mode’. I have quit the punishing regime and finally my body is repairing and recovering from all the years of abuse I put it through. The hormones that I had numbed for so many years are going nine to the dozen. They have to be, for that is my only explanation for feeling so utterly lost and hopeless. With my anorexia, I shut down everything – not just the physical, but also the mental and spiritual. In some respects I feel as though I went away to America and returned in a body that I am none to happy with and a mind that has not caught up with the physical changes.Part of me feels totally selfish and self-centred for feeling this way considering the huge sacrifices that were made for my treatment, but I really feel as though my spirit is being suffocated at the moment. I have lost my zest for life and am frustrated to be feeling like this. When I was underweight, I felt lost and alone and thought all my problems would go away if I could just gain the weight and loose the rigidity. I was, as I have written about before in a prison. I guess I and everyone else had high expectations upon my return. I thought I would come back from America with all the answers, but I am really struggling to find the door, let alone the key.
Whilst this may be one of my more negative posts, I believe it to be an important one. This is the reality of an eating disorder and the reality of recovery. I am hopeful that this low, is a blip in what will be a much brighter outlook for me. I am praying that this is all down to hormones and that my body is repairing and adjusting to being at a healthy weight. I am holding onto this thought and am doing my best to keep in recovery and not slip back into the dark, as my eating disorder so desperately wants. Yesterday I went through my wardrobe and the reality of my new shape cut me like a knife. I tried on dresses and trousers and the majority of them did not fit me. I have gone up two bra sizes and two dress sizes. It was hard, but I guess I am not meant to be a size 6 or an ‘extra small’ at my height. Some of the clothes I had never even worn – but as tempting as it was to hold onto them, thinking that one day I might fit into them again, I bagged them up and put them out of my sight. The day I can fit into them again is the day I have let the terrorist back in. It is shouting at me now – trying to convince me that life was better when it was my friend. I am doing my best to remember how hideous it was to be in it’s grip – how deadly and deceiving it was.
One of the things I am finding most difficult is people’s reaction to me. The hidden truth behind an eating disorder is that it takes more than just weight restoration to proclaim recovery. I may now not be at a dangerously low weight but have my behaviours and attitudes towards food changed? This is something that I have been pondering on myself the last few days. Am I actually much better? Well I must be to some extent as I have managed to maintain my weight since coming home. I am eating and allowing myself to enjoy food, but am I still controlling around it – yes. Do I still have thoughts about what I am eating and where I am eating – yes. Do I act on them or allow them to dictate my life – NO. I can now go out for dinner and not stress about it days – even weeks in advance. I can allow myself to enjoy culinary delights and that is a huge improvement so all is not lost!
Amongst all the dark there is some light and that comes in the name of some lovely friends and my wonderful mum who is always there to listen and to support me unconditionally. So for that reason I will keep on the big fight.
“A difficult journey is often a worth while one – and, especially it is often darkest before dawn”.
 
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We are family…I got all my sisters with me!

Forgiveness does not excuse anything………You may have to declare your forgiveness a hundred times the first day and the second day, but the third day will be less and each day after, until one day you will realize that you have forgiven completely. And then one day you will pray for his wholeness……”  William P Young

What a weekend! Twenty odd years in the making, but the day finally arrived. For the best part of my life I had wished for this – hoped and prayed that one day the dysfunctional family that I had inherited could be a little more normal. My sister and I had fought for so long to be accepted into my Dad’s world, but barriers had been firmly in place for so long, I had come to accept that they could never be broken down. The pavement had been laid last November whilst I was in treatment when my sister told me that my Stepmum had agreed to meet up. I couldn’t quite believe it, but apparently both had decided to try and move forward. The second meeting was this weekend just gone – my Dad, Stepmum and half-sister came. It was also the first time Dad had seen me since he came out to California. I was apprehensive – what would they all think of my new shape? I was worried I wouldn’t be able to contain the feelings that arise when I see my Dad and Stepmum. I was also acutely aware that I needed to eat and not engage in my eating disorder. I needed to show that six months in treatment had payed off.

I had a mini breakdown before they arrived. My head played tricks on me and I started to remember the sadness and misery that had gone on over the years. Feelings of anger and resentment boiled to the top and choked me. I went silent, unable to speak. Fortunately I had my sister to open the lid and let the steam out. She helped me to realise that it is time to move forward. I can’t change the past and what has gone on. I can’t change people, places or things – all I can do is be responsible for my behaviour – that is one thing that I am in control of.

Dinner on Saturday night was the main event and I had begun to work myself up into a bit of stew – pardon the pun! My eating disorder was shouting pretty loudly… what shall I eat? How much shall I eat? The usual rubbish it suffocates me with. I have used my anorexia in the past as a way to get attention. Unable to adequately use my words, I indulged in the language of food. It was the only way I knew how to communicate what I was really feeling. Whilst being in treatment I learnt that there was another way. I can now ask for what I need and want without playing around with my food. So dinner came and I was concious not to choose ‘lame’ choices as my therapist in America says. I did good – I ordered the most delicious steak and allowed myself to enjoy it. I didn’t feel the need to manipulate my food infront of my dad – in fact the opposite. I wanted to show him that I could go out to a restaurant, eat and be present. There were a few strained moments, but for the most part it was an enjoyable evening with a few laughs thrown in. My half-sister is a blast – a lot like my real sister in her confidence and ability to cut through the crap. Me on the other hand sits and observes – happy – sometimes too happy to take the back seat. I need to practice taking up more space – speaking up and being assertive doesn’t come easily to me. When my anorexia is present it drowns me out and I retreat into my shell of safety and comfort.

What touched me the most about the weekend was watching my Dad interact with my two nephews. They are besotted with  him and it is clear just how much he loves them. It was also evident just how much he loved seeing all his three daughters together again. It had been ten years since we had all stood together. To document that it really did happen…here we all are freezing our n*** off on the beachfront!
Sussex March 004

So I started a new program this week – and it’s much more up my street. For starters it is solely for people with eating disorders, so of course they speak my language. I really struggled with the last one. I don’t have a problem with drugs or alcohol, and am not a fan of the 12 step program that the last placed followed. Despite the never ending grey skies, I have been feeling more positive and hopeful this past week. I still miss my Californian home desperately, I miss the blue skies and the constant reminders from the team of what I stand to loose if I choose to indulge in my behaviours. I try to read the book from the founder of the clinic to keep me connected and grounded. It’s my new step-dad’s birthday today (Mum and Roger got married a few weeks back). I sent a card and gave him a call to wish him a happy day. As we said goodbye – he said “love you”. I  was really touched. I feel very lucky to not only have a Dad who I love a lot, but to be fortunate enough to have had two wonderful step-fathers. My amazing mum is a lucky lady to have found Michael, and now Roger.

I went to church on Sunday – I don’t go very often, but I had a want to go this week and listen to the message. The words that resonated the most were the last ones that were said…”God bless you and those you love… and those you ought to love.” It’s hard to feel love for those that have hurt or wronged us in the past, but it is exactly those people who we ought to rise above, and dig deep. If we don’t, and choose to stay in our place of hurt and anger, it is only ourselves that we end up destroying.

With regards to the past twenty years, I am sure that it is not easy for all parties involved and I am grateful that my Step-mum is seemingly trying to move on. I don’t know if I will ever be able to forgive and forget what has gone before. I am sure that if I could I would feel more at ease within myself, but twenty years of hurt and angst is a lot to erase. They are two words that are a easier said than done. For now though I am willing to accept the past – not to ignore it, but to walk forwards and embrace this new chapter which may just shine a little more brightly on all of us.

“If there is righteousness (goodness/kindness) in the heart, there will be beauty in the character

If there is beauty in the character, there will be harmony in the home

If there is harmony in the home, there will be order in the nation.

If there is order in the nation, there will be peace in the world.

So…………..if we all try to be good/kind, we might just achieve peace in our world.”

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Eat your damn food!

So I have been back for two weeks now and it has flown by. Back into the swing of London life where everything and everyone moves at 100mph. I am keeping myself grounded and in the slow lane. I used to rush around like it was my last day on the planet, but I am managing to go slow and take my time. I am now in a day programme – I have been going everyday since I got back, and to be honest I am struggling with the difference in approach. Us Brits have a lot to learn from the yanks in the world of eating disorders. At my treatment centre in America I found inspiration all around. Whether it was from the beautiful scenery that surrounded me, the recovered therapists or the kicks up the backsides I used to get – I was always doing something that was progressing me in my journey towards recovery.

Here I feel stuck in a world of analysis. I have 4 x 4 and half hr sessions everyday and quite frankly it is exhausting. I don’t even know what we talk about half the time! The programme is based heavily on the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous which is frustrating at times. In my 12 years of anorexia, I tried every type of treatment model going. I dabbled in the 12 steps looking for the magic wand that would make me better. I never found it to be of any real sustained use to me. Alcohol and drugs are quite different to an eating disorder. For one – I can’t abstain from eating like you can from alcohol and drugs. I have to eat to live. I tried going to Overeaters anonymous and Anorexics and Bullmics anonymous, but I found that I was replacing one set of rules with another. I got sick and tired of hearing people abstaining from white flour and sugar. Hearing that as anorexic who cut out everything other than fruit or veg was not remotely helpful. I can gladly say that today I eat everything. I love a good chocolate bar or packet of crisps – who doesn’t?! Being at this treatment place has made me realise just what little knowledge there is here in this country for eating disorders. How can it be right to apply the 12 steps to an eating disorder where you introduce yourself as anorexic. I refuse to do this… I like to say I am in recovery from anorexia. To say that I am anorexic means that I am nothing other than my disorder which is so far from the truth. I am so much more. I was also tired of hearing people say that they could never fully recover – the message delivered was that you could be ‘in recovery’, but would always live with it sitting on your shoulder. I don’t believe this to be true. I was surrounded by fully recovered people in America – I know it to be different. In America they aim for the long-term goal of being fully recovered. The use of the terms “recovery” and “recovering” are ambiguous. Someone could use either of these terms and be abstinent from all eating disorder behaviors, but another person might say she is in recovery or recovering yet still be underweight, restricting calories or even still binging and purging. For me I want the gold medal – the bronze and silver are not good enough. I am aiming for a life fully recovered, where I am not tempted into relapsing back into the illness.

I met a girl today who has been following my blog since I began writing it. Meeting her and sharing my experience really made me realise how far I have come. I am now in a position to help others – never did I think that would be the case for me. It was so nice to sit and chat and share my story and all that I learnt from my time in America. It has only been since I returned that I have realised just how much I internalised. I found myself quoting the therapists and the nuggets of gold that I was taught; “Do the harder thing, do what makes you feel uncomfortable, practice truth without judgement and don’t be attached to the results.” As long as I hold onto all that I learnt I can’t fail. I have seen it work with my own eyes, so what should be different for me – I am not special and indifferent. We talked about how our eating disorders were an avenue for punishment. It was so refreshing for me to be able to say that I no longer believe that I need to punish myself. I care about myself today. To say this is massive for me. My eating disorder was all about hurting myself and making amends to Michael my step-dad. I believed it would get me attention from my dad and those around me, when in reality it just pushed people away. I was asked today what motivates me and the answer is simple; relationships. I want to have meaningful relationships in my life and they are only possible if I am in recovery. There is little time for anyone else when I am starving myself. As we chatted, I recognised her fragility – the same vulnerability I used to have. It made me sad to think of her hurting herself. Seeing someone visibly thinner than me used to trigger my head into all sorts of dark places, but today it didn’t. Whilst I struggle to adjust to my new body, I never want to go back to how I was. It is a dark dark place full of hopelessness and misery. I will be thinking of my new friend this week as she continues to challenge her eating disorder. You will be in my thoughts.

Apart from the day programme I have been enjoying catching up with friends and family. It is so nice to feel more alive – more grateful for life. I have engaged in many more activities that involve food. Tonight I am going for dinner at a friends. She sent me a message to say that her mum was going to cook a risotto. She asked me if that was OK and if I would mind eating with her family. Whilst it was really kind of her to ask, it made me realise just how rigid I was in my eating disorder. People used to check with me if I was OK to eat something, because I was so controlling around it. I also hated eating with others, now I love eating in company. Food is a social forum and is a gift to share. I replied “risotto sounds yum, yes please!”

This week I will do my utmost to continue to challenge myself in my recovery and to look for the similarities not the differences in treatment. I knew coming back and adjusting to a different approach would be difficult, but I must start the week with a positive step and do as my therapist in America says, “Eat your damn food!”

“You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection.” Buddha

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It’s a choice, not chance.

I can’t believe it – one more sleep and I will be on that plane home. I am so excited yet bubbling with nerves at the same time. This sunny shoreline has been my safe haven for the past six months and has become a protective bubble for me. I feel such warmth and love here with my Mountain Nest family. I have learnt so much about who I am, I can barely recognise the person that arrived here many moons ago. I was not even alive when I touched down – I had let myself get so dangerously low. When I think back to how I was, I feel so sad I tortured my soul for so long. I can say that I no longer wish to abuse myself anymore. I feel compassion and gratitude towards my body these days. I allow my emotions to be present – all of them and most importantly, I no longer wish to deny myself pleasure.

I went to my last family group on Saturday and I talked about my feelings about coming home. I have quite a few fears running around in my head. The biggy is my appearance. I look different to when I left, I have gained weight of course. I’m still not sure what to make of my new body. It varies from hour to hour. Sometimes I think I look OK – healthier, but then other times I am grossed out by the extra flesh. They say that body image is the last thing to go – the final nail in the coffin. I am particularly nervous about going back to my clothes in London. I expect a lot of them won’t fit me anymore – the temptation to try my jeans on and squeeze into them is huge. My therapist told me that the day I can fit into them, is the day that I need to be back in treatment!

I am nervous that although my body may now be physically well, my head hasn’t quite caught up. I worry that the expectation for me to return ‘cured’ is high. I by no means want this to be an excuse to stay sick, but I need to express that the hard work has only just begun. I have healed my physical self and am now working hard to heal my mental self. It requires a great deal of healthy self vs eating disorder dialogue to shout down the thoughts that still enter my mind. The gift that this place has given me though is the power of choice. I never thought that I had a choice before, but that has been given back to me and as long as I remember that, I always have the opportunity to stay well. I said to my therapist today that I was scared that my eating disorder is still waiting for me – just around the corner. She said that recovery is a choice, not chance – it is so true. I can do this. She believes I can, so I must too.

I am excited to have a future now. I used to walk around the city with a chip on my shoulder, resenting life and the pack of cards that I was dealt. I no longer feel this way. I am grateful for my life. I am thankful that my body has healed and has not been permanently damaged after all the years of abuse I put it through. Life is peachy when you look at it through rose-tinted glasses. I am going to miss this place so so much. The people that I have met on my journey have been remarkable and have helped shape the person that I have grown in to. I was asked the other day what I had learnt in my time here. It’s hard to put into words, there has been so much. Fundamentally I have learnt to express my needs and wants through the language of words and not food. Before I came, I used to think that the only way I could get what I wanted – attention, love, validation, approval, acceptance – was to play around with my food and to show the outside world how much I was suffering. Through my relationships here, I have learnt that my eating disorder only pushes people away – sobbing through half a salad as I was reminded, gets me nowhere. People just don’t want to be around it and I now realise why. The hard part is breaking the habit. Whilst I no longer have the ‘stories’ my eating disorder created to enable me to stay sick, I do have a mother-f***** of a habit to break. After twelve years of controlling my food and manipulating my body, it has been etched into my being. BUT it is possible to get well, as I have said before – I have seen it with my own eyes. The pack of cards is in my hands now.

I have had a lot of farewells to say, the first came yesterday when I said goodbye to my four-legged friends, Bodhi and Oria. From the day I first saw them, when I used to pass them on my cold frosty walks, they have been a source of strength and motivation for me. I have always managed to find my furry friends wherever I have gone and in the past six months I have gotten to know the boys well. It has only been this past month that I could actually ride them and I have got some wonderful memories to take home with me. I have also found a long-life friend in their owner Jill, who has shown me such kindness and generosity. I am forever grateful to her for allowing me to be a part of her world and for trusting me with her boys. I welled up when I had to say goodbye to her, but I know that we will stay in touch and that we will meet again. I had my last session with my therapist today who quite frankly saved my life. She told me that I am a different person – unrecognisable from the walking zombie that arrived. She has taught me so much about the sort of person I want, and can be in this world. She told me she was proud of me and that meant such a lot. I am proud of me and the work that I have done. It has been rocky at times, but I stuck it out and took on board all their advice. I want to thank the team for pushing me, for never giving up on me, and for beating my eating disorder down.

On my morning walk yesterday, I was listening to my ipod on shuffle and Michael Jackson’s ‘Man in the Mirror’ came on. I haven’t listened to it for ages – the words this time as cheesy as they are really struck a chord.

“I’m gonna make a change, for once in my life. It’s gonna feel real good, gonna make a difference, gonna make it right. No message could’ve been any clearer. If you wanna make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and then make that change.”

I am nervous that as soon as I land on home soil, the voices, the old behaviours will come flooding back in. I am under no doubt that the transition back to my life after being here wrapped up in a cocoon will be challenging, but I hope that I can be brave enough to tell the truth and reach out. I can make the changes if I do the work. I don’t have the luxury of repeating these past six months, and neither do I want to. This was my one shot at a life. I was blessed to of been given this chance by my family. I intend to keep on developing and learning new things about myself. It is only me that can ultimately determine my future. I just hope I have the strength to continue what I have started. So onto the next chapter – thank you all for being a tower of strength for me. I can’t wait to see you all on the other side.

“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.” Oprah Winfrey

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Eat the F****** marshmallow!

“Never take someone for granted. Hold every person close to your heart, because you might wake up one day and realise that you’ve lost a diamond while you were too busy collecting stones.”
I have been a little quiet of late. I guess I should begin with how things are going across the pond. I’ve been here in the transition house for three weeks now. I’ve been doing well, and by that I mean I’ve followed my food and exercise plan, which as I was told the other day is nothing short of remarkable! I was not the most solid of clients and even my dietician expected me to slip up somewhere, so I am proud to say I have eaten all my food. What I am still struggling with is ‘balancing on the pin’. I have become a little too afraid to eat outside of my meal plan, and that is bugging the hell out of me. I’m glad it’s frustrating me, as it means I am willing to change it. As my therapist and I discussed, it could be so easy to live a life as I am now… following my food plan and maintaining my weight. Whilst I have significantly improved from when I arrived in August, it doesn’t seem enough – I want more. If I’m going to put all my time and energy, and my family’s money into this recovery nonsense, then I want it all, not some half-hearted attempt at it.A situation came up on Saturday that illustrates my rigidity. I was having my dinner when a couple of girls came over to see one of my housemates. She offered them hot chocolate and marshmallows. As I finished my dinner, I sat there and had a dialogue in my head that went as follows.

Eating Disorder: Do you want a hot choc? I think you do, but you have just had your dinner and you have to have snack in a bit. Don’t have one.
Healthy Self: What difference would one hot choc make? Maybe you could be brave and have it – you want to be a part of the experience with everyone else don’t you?
Eating Disorder: If you have extra outside of your plan then you are probably going to gain weight, and you are already worried about your weight going over it’s maintain band.
Healthy Self: You don’t even know your weight, so why does it matter. This is not how you want your life to look like – too afraid to have a bit extra. What happens if you go out with your friends back home and they go out for a hot choc – what you going to say? Oh sorry I can’t I have already had dinner. At least you could eat a marshmallow.
Eating Disorder: This chat in my head is driving me crazy – it is best to be safe and not have anything. Stick to your plan and what you were already going to have.

Alas I ended my dialogue with the eating disorder shouting at me and didn’t have the hot chocolate or the marshmallow. Since Saturday I have been beating myself up and questioning my progress. You might think that after five months of treatment I could of been a bit braver. I can hear you all now, saying “what difference would a marshmallow of made?” The truth is, it would of made no difference whatsoever to my weight, but it was my head that was in control. I talked about it last night in our group session and explained to the girls the crazy banter that went on in my head. It was good to get it out and it was also reassuring to hear that two of the other girls who have been here for six months also had the same thoughts, they just were able to put their foot in and do it anyway. I have decided to cut myself some slack. The reason it frustrated me was not so much that I wanted the hot chocolate or marshmallows, it was that I wanted to be part of the shared experience with my friends. Food is so much about sharing and that is something I have denied myself incessantly over my twelve year career as an anorexic. There is nothing I can do about Saturday now, all I can do is appreciate just how much it annoyed me and do something different next time – eat the f****** marshmallow!

Aside from this, life on the outside is pretty good. I now wonder how I spent so long in 24 hour care. I guess at the time it was what I needed, but my work from here on in, is practicing all that I learnt in treatment. I am back in the saddle which feels really good. I am so lucky in that I have become friends with a lady with two horses – Bodhi and Oria who have become my Californian companions. We go for rides through the hills and it feels wonderful to be free again. Another positive is being more social. Last week I went out with a group of girls for pizza which was really nice. Marshmallows aside – this was an area that I had progressed in. I would never of done that before I arrived here, but again it wasn’t about the food, it was about the company and experience. It is something I look forward to doing with my friends when I get home.

Today in group we had a past client come talk to us about her recovery. It was so wonderful to hear someone who is doing well. It gave me hope. She is happy and healthy and living her life without her eating disorder. She said that her recovery has been a journey and not something that happened overnight. She said that it’s not like the flu, in that you get better in a few days, she said it has taken her a couple of years to get to where she is now and that her work is still continuing. I have had my eating disorder for twelve years and have had six months of treatment, I need to be patient. My head wants to be cured, but my actions are not quite there yet. I realised today that the only way to get them working on a parallel is to do the action. If I wait until the day I wake up without an eating disorder, I maybe waiting a long long time. As the weeks to my return edge closer, I have been increasingly concerned about the expectation for me to land on home soil cured and eating disorder free. I don’t want to use this as an excuse for me to keep hold of my eating disorder, but I also hope that I can be accepted as I am, wherever that may be on my path. I see my recovery as similar to building a house. You start of with nothing, you then lay the foundation and build it up brick by brick until it is secure and air tight. I have laid the foundation and am now building it up brick by brick. So my mantra for the weeks ahead is to be more care-free, less rigid and more of a risk-taker.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” Mark Twain

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Graduation!

So the day finally arrived. I graduated! Whatever level you leave on, you have a graduation – a sacred ceremony in recognition of far you have come. It’s a space that holds real meaning for the staff. We each write an ‘Eaters agreement’ that we read out during the ceremony. It’s a bit like a contract between my body and soul to abide by from this day forward.I would like to share mine….

I hearby from this day forward agree to accept my body and to love it for giving me back my life. I agree to inhabit this suitcase for my soul and to treat it with the utmost respect. As an eater I agree to hunger. I agree to live in this body that I have been given and to nourish it with the appropriate amount of food to help it function at full capacity. I recognise that as I feed my body and my soul – the benefits of my well-being will increase. I acknowledge that to ignore my natural appetite has monumental consequences in all areas of my life.

The essence of my participation in life is one of learning and exploration. I agree to to recognise that there are a variety of foods to choose from and to deny my natural needs and wants surrounding food is to deny myself pleasure. I deserve pleasure and agree to give it to myself in all aspects of my life and to allow myself to enjoy food and the memories that it can create. I am worthy of nourishment and joy. My relationship with food will be a learning process and I may make mistakes along the way. Those mistakes are not a reason to slip down the path into the dark, they are merely nuggets of information from which to learn from. I agree to accept my mistakes, my humanness, and learn as I go along.

I acknowledge that as my daily life changes, so may my eating process and diet. I must learn to recognise that no meal plan is rigid and that I must grow and adapt accordingly. I understand that my body may need and or call for different foods as the days, seasons and years progress. My dietary needs will also shift in accordance to my lifestyle and my environment and I agree to listen and adapt to fulfill my bodies needs and wants. I agree to let go of manipulating my body to look a certain shape, size or to weigh a specific number. My weight is none of my business, all I need to know and do is to feed it appropriately. I must let go of controlling it and trust that if I look after it, it will take care of me.

As a human being I accept pain. I recognise that life will be full of ups and downs, but it is the downs that make the ups worthwhile. I will no longer use restricting as a way to numb pain and block out my feelings. I will keep food in it’s rightful place – a tool for enjoyment and for creating memories. My days of using food as punishment are no more. I, as a human being on this earth give myself permission to enjoy food. I forgive myself. I further agree to accept a body that is imperfectly perfect and one that is vulnerable and naturally decays over time. I recognise that there may be times when I am incapable of caring for myself. I agree then to live in a body that may need the support of others. I therefore agree to be nourished by others if need be. Eating is an activity that binds me with all humanity.

I recognise that at its deepest level eating is an affirmation of life. Each time I eat I agree somewhere inside to continue to life on earth. I acknowledge that this choice to eat is a fundamental act of love and nourishment – a true celebration of my existence. As a human being, I agree to take up space, to love and be loved and above all else to be an eater. I choose life over and over.  I choose relationships. When I am in my eating disorder there is no room for anyone or anything. This is not how I want my life to be. I want to be a participant in life – a contributor. I will not merely exist or balance on the pin. I will breathe in life. Food is my tool to the outside world – I will not neglect it.

I then got to say a few words about each of the clients and staff before I received feedback from them. It was really very special and made me feel hopeful about the ending of this chapter and beginning of the next. I know that I still have a long way to go, but I have also come on leaps and bounds from the ‘homeless child’ that stepped off the plane many moons ago.I have moved to the transition house now and am loving my new found independence. It’s the small things that I am finding the most pleasure in… being able to get a glass of water when I want one! I have been here a week now and although I still go back to the treatment centre every day there is a lot more opportunity to cut corners if I so choose. I am pleased to say that so far so good. I have had lots of thoughts to restrict or skip something, but I have not acted on them. I think one of the biggest things I have learnt from my time here is that I always have a choice. When I was ‘starved stupid’ I felt as though that choice had been taken away from me, but now that I’ve been restored to humanity, I can see that I am responsible for choosing what action I take.
 
The best years of your life are the ones in which you decide your problems are your own. You do not blame them on your mother, the ecology, or the president, you realize you that you control your own destiny. Albert Ellis.
 
 
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Festive cheer :-)

What a wonderful Christmas I have had. So different from past ones where I mostly dreaded it – largely wrought with fear at what I would have to eat. Despite missing my family a lot, this year was one to remember. The alarm sang at 6:30am and I sprang into gear. A special breakfast was laid out – the best cinnamon rolls with a colourful fruit salad. Then off for a hike to a beautiful waterfall. On the way up to the waterfall we walked in silence. It was a surreal experience. I noticed so much more around me – my senses were alert. The sounds and smells were heightened so much more by not talking. It was peaceful – I felt peaceful. Then we went back to the house and opened our stockings and pressies, and then out for lunch. I would of normally dreaded lunch – not this time though. We went to the coolest Jewish deli, where I reckon you could eat something different every day of the year. The menu was extensive to say the least. I was amazed that I was able to order what I wanted and let go of the fear at what was coming. I ordered the biggest Belgium waffle with maple syrup and whipped cream, as my dad calls it “going large”! It was awesome. Not a turkey sandwich or sprout in sight! Then off to the movies. We went to see my favourite musical of all time – Les Mis. It was fantastic apart from Russel Crowe who can’t sing for toffee. Today we have had a relaxed day and I have just opened the biggest box of goodies from my sister and brother-in-law. They are amazing. I had the biggest smile on my face. Out of all the many parcels I unwrapped – my favourite was a picture of my two scrummy nephews. I have denied myself the opportunity to have children for the past twelve years. I hope that by continuing to heal my body, I maybe granted the chance in the future.

Despite a having a happy Christmas – this week has been a tough one. Definitely one of the toughest, but I feel as though I have finally turned the corner. Last week I found out that I went over my ‘maintenance’ weight. I totally freaked out and couldn’t think of anything else for two days. I wasted 48 hrs in my life stressing about a number on a scale. I went into a complete spin – the terrorist completely took me over for the first time in a while. I had to dig deep and choose whether I wanted to continue a life that would be an existence – a life balancing on the pin or whether I wanted to let go and live life at full throttle. After some strong words from both myself and my therapist I pulled myself out of the trenches and got back on track. I have screwed my body over for twelve years. I can’t suddenly expect it to ping back and spring into action because I have decided to feed it regularly. I now have to sit tight and hope that if I keep on giving it what it needs, it will settle and sort itself out. It’s a bit like having blind faith in something. I have no proof, I just have to trust.

A couple of new girls have come in the last week. There have been so many changes in the house since I first arrived, but each person has taught me something new. I really do feel very blessed to have had the opportunity to meet some wonderful people. One of the new girls who arrived last week has perhaps taught me the most about myself. She is a young girl in college with all to live for, yet she too has the terrorist attacking her on minute by minute. Her eating disorder is so similar to mine, that it is like looking at a mirror image of myself a few months ago. I feel quite protective over her healthy-self and am doing my best to tease it out. Christmas day was a nightmare for her. While I tucked into my belgium waffle, she ordered the most disordered meal on the menu – a combination of things that she felt safe with. Foods the cult told her was just about OK to eat. Her face as she read the menu was panic-striken. I leant over to her and said “just give yourself a day off and tell it to get lost”. I just wanted her eating disorder to leave her alone for one second – for her to be able to enjoy Christmas day. Having her here has made me realise just how far I have come and reminded me just how far I have to go. I am glad that I have stuck it out to be able to see my progress and to edge that bit nearer to freedom.

This is my last week here. I can’t quite believe it. I will be off in a few days – ready to start the next chapter in my recovery. I am excited but incredibly apprehensive at the same time. The biggest test of my life is on it’s way. I keep asking myself if I will be able to continue along the right path when noone is watching me. I wonder if I am strong enough to tell my eating disorder to f*** off when it begins to nag away at me. Right now I feel as though I am winning the battle. I feel ready to move on and get back to life. I have been here a long time and have learnt a great deal about myself. Every hurdle that has crossed my path in these past five months has taught me something new. It has shown me that I am resilient and that I really do want to recover. Whenever I question whether I want this or not, all I need to do is remind myself, that I never gave up…I kept on fighting. It is time for me to take my bag of tools with me and prove to myself that I can do it. This place has given me hope and inspired me to do the harder thing and that I will.

“I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.’ Muhammad Ali

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