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One Year On. “Keep Doing The Harder Thing”

on September 3, 2013
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.

3 responses to “One Year On. “Keep Doing The Harder Thing”

  1. Muriel says:

    What a way to start my day reading your blog. Well done does not seem adequate as your recovery is amazing. It sounds as though the Laura I know is living a life. To know that you are enjoying the normal things in life means so much to the people who know you. I have followed your blog from day one and realise the dreadful struggle you have experienced.each day. just continue to remember Laura that today is the first day of the rest of your life, so embracing it with open arms.
    I know Nanny and Michael are so proud of you.they have always been there with you, and continual to do so.
    Carry on Laura and enjoy life to the full. You deserve it. Love Muriel x

  2. Maureen says:

    Well done lovely girl. We think of you often and always ask after you. We are so pleased you have come through this darkness and back into the light. We look forward to seeing you again. Lots of love, as always
    Maureen and Alanxx

  3. edresolution says:

    Hi Laura it is Amy Collier, did you get my text the other day, so sorry I took so long to reply! I am so pleased to read this positive blog and u should be so proud of how far you have come. Of course there are still going to be tough moments and the anorexia will try to claw it’s way back but it sounds as though you can recognise this more now and they are now only moments whereas before they were all-consuming. You deserve to have fun and enjoy life, enjoy ur new flat and remember that u never wanna go back to how things were before. I always remember our meet up and you telling me to do the harder thing, I try as much as I can to follow that:)

    Lots of love,
    amy x x x

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