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Balancing on the Pin

on November 19, 2012
“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company…a church…a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past…we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10 percent what happens to you and 90 percent how I react to it. And so it is with you…we are in charge of our attitudes.” Charles Swindoll.
It has been family weekend here where clients invite members of their family to participate in group therapy. Although I haven’t had any family visiting I took part in a group which made me realize just what a nightmare my illness is to be around. Both parents and clients were given a piece of paper and we each wrote down a question or statement anonymously that we would like to be answered or read out loud. One of them was “my eating disorder is sneaky and manipulative – how can I let my parents help me?” At it’s worst my illness turned me into a compulsive liar. I would do and say anything in order to engage in the cult that was my eating disorder. I don’t think that it’s helpful to list the endless tricks that I would pull off, but lets say it is exhaustive. As I was sharing yesterday, it dawned on me just how much I have manipulated my dear Mum. The amount of times I have hovered over my plate of food and given her agro at what was on it. I either hide some or got angry when she dared to stand up to my eating disorder. Anyone else reading this who suffers knows that the illness can turn you into a green-eyed monster. I feel as though I have an endless amount of apologies to say to people who have dared to hold the boundaries and confront my eating disorder. My sister (who is actually able to stand up to my eating disorder the most), my dad, my friends (who have had to experience many dinners with me on planet lala), and my step-mum. As hard as it is for me to say, I have to admit that my illness did get in the way of our relationship last year. It was an added dimension that ultimately made an already uncomfortable environment, excruciating.
This week I have had to use my attitude to keep my head above the water as I go through a transition. I may have reached level 3, but some situations have made me re-think my attitude towards recovery. I have been here for three months now, and whilst I feel as though I have made lots of progress, I am beginning to question what level of recovery I truly want to have. I gain more clarity as each day passes. Do I want a level 3 recovery and stop where I am now, or do I want to push on and keep going further up the path. I know it’s going to take years to have sustained recovery behind me, but I can utilise my time here, in this safe bubble to do the harder thing. One of my challenges this week was to have a no fruit or vegetables day. The team here felt that I had too much dependency on leafy colours in my food. This enraged my eating disorder – I need my 8 or 10 a day! Whilst my food did look a little on the anaemic side, I realised I needed to take on the challenge and know that nothing bad was going to happen to me, and of course the world didn’t stop.
There is a phrase here that is often used to describe recovery. ‘Balancing on the pin’. It refers to the level of recovery where one maintains their weight while still being incredibly rigid in an eating disorder. For example, going to the cinema and choosing to bring out a bag of 6 almonds instead of having some popcorn. I may be calorifically eating my food plan and consuming enough to maintain my weight, but I’m too scared to move outside my comfort zone. I’m still living inside my own prison. Today I got to decide what sort of recovery I wanted. We planned to go the cinema and instead of taking my snack with me from home, I made the decision to have popcorn. I wanted to be ‘normal’ and enjoy the whole american movie experience. When we arrived, to our dismay, the film had been sold out. My head went into an immediate spin…”I haven’t bought a back-up snack with me and now I can’t get popcorn, what am I going to to eat.” Most of the other girls had bought their snacks with them, so I panicked. My therapist gave me the option to get something from McDonalds or have something at home. I stood in the que twice, I even sat down and said I’d have something when I got back, before realising how stupid that would be. That would of been the safe, easy way out. It didn’t help matters that I had just come out of the toilet and caught a glimpse of myself in a long mirror and also scanned the entire McDonalds menu that now has the calorie content printed next to everything. I just couldn’t make a decision based on what I wanted. All I was worried about was getting something that would be more calories than my food plan required. I was trying to ‘balance on the pin’. After a quick reality check I got back in the que for the third time and ordered myself an appropriate snack. It was possibly more than my food plan, but who cares. I do not want to live my life inside a cage with no room for flexibility. I think this where the detail of an eating disorder can be missed. I could very well leave here and maintain my target weight. To the outside world, I would look healthy and seemingly ‘cured’. Only I would know that the reality of balancing on the pin, would mean that I was only fractionally better than the day I arrived here. To me there seems little point in going through all of this only to leave and still be fixated on calories, too afraid to step outside my comfort zone.
The house is all change again. Tomorrow we have two clients leaving and two new ones arriving. I have been through this quite a few times now as I become an old-timer! One of the girls doesn’t want to leave and is not ready, but her insurance has cut her time short. It is so sad to see someone who wants recovery so badly, yet has no control over the amount of time she gets here. It made me feel really angry and also really lucky that I am still able to stay. It was a reality check to never take a minute of my time here for granted. This world is so disproportionate at times. Some people come here with all the money time can buy and others are waiting breath by breath to see if their insurance will pay for the next week. Don’t they know that an eating disorder can’t be cured in a matter of days.
Finally I opened my emails this morning to receive a wonderful letter from a colleague at work. It was a real surprise as the person is not someone I have a close relationship with. I feel really grateful that you reached out, and thank you for sharing your experience with me.

2 responses to “Balancing on the Pin

  1. Muriel says:

    Laura you are doing so well. We all appreciate how difficult this journey is for you but so proud at what you are achieving. Love muriel

  2. Spooks1979 says:

    Your blog has really made me think about where I am in my recovery and you said it all. I have ‘balanced on a pin’ for many years able to function but not really able to make choices for myself my ED still dictates what I can and eat / do. Thank you because of your strength and insight I am going to try to step off my pin and challenge the voice in my head.

    It is time to do something different…

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