7 April 2018

“You’re better off alone...” said anorexia

Anorexia thrives off us most when we’re alone with our thoughts. That’s the reality. No doubt about it.

It’s like I’ve said before, the illness is like the most abusive best friend, who in reality is a bully, that you will ever meet. It’s when you’re feeling tired or lonely that her voice and those thoughts feel so comforting. When everything else feels out of control, it’s like that is the voice that can comfort you, and give you a little bit of control back, is a trusted confidant, the one who understands.

Of course those of us who’s quietened our illnesses know that that control isn’t real, it’s an illusion but when you’re in the grips of the illness you don’t realise that this is what is really happening. It’s only through therapy and distancing yourself from the illness that you realise where that comfort is coming from.

I’ve described having anorexia before as being in a relationship where you’re living with domestic abuse every single day. Being absolutely devoted to somebody who can make you feel like absolute goddess one moment, and then with the click of a finger make you feel like absolute shit, worthless.

It’s that moment when you’re alone and the atmosphere flips that you feel most worthless. It’s because anorexia is really good at convincing you that you are better off alone, but nobody is coming to speak to you because you’re not worth it, that you need to sit be quiet and not speak to really think about what you’re doing ‘wrong’, to make sure that you’ve added up all the totals, to make sure you found a plan or a plot to lose weight, what to restrict to gain back control. And that’s the problem it’s at flip between wanting to be alone and then being terrified that you are alone and you can’t cope with those thoughts.

These feelings, and subsequently when you’re ill, the actions that come with them, feel so real. Even after recovery they are there for me. I guess it’s like an alcoholic not being able to forget the way that a bottle of vodka used to make them feel, longing after it, even if you stick to having a lemonade.

The way that manifests nowadays for me is my mind is convinces me that I need time alone, I need to just do nothing and sit. Have no plans, see nobody. Yes, that is just general tiredness every person gets, but some of it is to make sure that my life is in the order that anorexia can deal with. It’s to make sure that I can eat at specific times though, and it’s to make sure that I’m not distracted from eating disordered thoughts, by actually living a life. I challenge myself on a daily basis to not cancel plans or indeed to make plans and find a way of doing them. Yes that pisses off anorexia, I crave a routine that some people would consider still disordered and Yes, I hear about it later, but I’ve learnt a way of coping with that.

Early in recovery that’s not so easy. Almost impossible. You can’t shut it up. You don’t have the tools to be able to stop that train of thought, or counteract what the voice is telling you, to the person stuck with anorexia it’s as real as the bed you’re lying in. This is why people need to be around the people that are in the grips of an eating disorder. Don’t let them be alone with her.

Don’t allow them to sit alone with those thoughts because We all know the more times you hear lies the more they seem like truth. Especially when you’re vulnerable and you want to hear things that make you feel better, not things that make you anxious. The more Ana can get someone alone and isolate them, the stronger the grip gets and the harder it is to shake it. I remember my family saying to me when I locked myself away when I was ill that I was just ‘festering in my thoughts’ and I used to get angry with them thinking that, they just didn’t understand those thoughts were making me feel better. Now, looking back they were right. All those days and nights I spent alone not talking to people not able to connect with people or concentrate on anything else just strengthened the grip the anorexia had over me.

I was convinced it was my only companion, and always would be my only companion. To me, Ana was the only person I could trust and the only person if you want to say like that that ‘who was watching out for me.’

This week I’ve been reminded of how this felt, and seen it happening for myself with somebody else battling their eating disorder. No one around them for hours at a time. Those who are meant to be caring for her, don’t seem to understand that isolation, boredom, lack of conversation or stimulation isn’t helping recovery, isn’t helping them see the other side of their illness. What they don’t seem to grasp is it is actually helping anorexia strengthen.

I just hope that people who don’t know what it’s like to be in a bit abusive relationship, either with physical person or a mental illness like anorexia, wake up and realise that all the protesting of company, The slamming of doors and the cries of wanting to be alone, is all the abuser speaking. What that person really needs time to build trust, open up, and realise that there are other people in this world they can trust, and the person they trust the most right now, is the one that wants to tear them apart.

Nowadays for me, this is reminding myself to not say no to my boyfriend coming round, not saying I need to be on my own and my head hurts, but actually except that having the company, even if I’m quiet, is better than sitting alone. I know that it is a trap to believe she’s the only one that can make me feel better, because ultimately it doesn’t.

Fortunately through recovery I know her tricks, so this is a reminder to others that this is one trick the illness WILL use on everyone. Don’t let it.

2 January 2018

Let’s just look at where we are!

As much as I try not to look back, reflect and look forward and set myself so many resolutions at this time of year,  truth is I like doing it and I actually find it quite helpful (as long as I don’t beat myself up about not sticking to it midyear and at this time next year!)

In terms of 2017 I guess I achieved quite a lot. I really got into my allotment and feel like I made a success of it, which I am really proud of, and miss it now it’s winter! I finally got my staff contract at the BBC which I’ve been aiming for since I got back to work, I took on more responsibility at work and challenge myself things I couldn’t do which includes taking a radio show to Belgium and going on tour for a week, which challenged me professionally and personally. It’s hard not to see the win in that isn’t it? I challenged myself to make plans and keep the more in 2017 and to not get freaked out about being out of routine. I’m not gonna lie this is not come easy at all and it’s caused me internal anxiety but I feel that this can only get better? I know I have a long way to go and half the stuff that goes on in my head especially last year isn’t healthy and it’s holding me back but it’s all about progress not perfection right?

At the very end of 2017 I went on an unplanned date and it seems to have been the right choice!? It was totally unplanned as I’ve maintained for a long time that I was happy single. But in the last six weeks I have eaten out, I have seen him unexpectedly, I have cooked for him and eating at a restaurant that he chose and I had no idea where I was going all the food I was eating. For those who know what I was like with my ex, after even a year I haven’t cooked for him or let him choose a restaurant. Let’s see how this goes in 2018!

Honestly, I’m not sure how much progress I have made in recovery in 2017, because it all seems very different to how I did in previous years. I know I struggled a lot With the guilt of not running and pulling out of races and doing less exercise. This has meant that I have gained weight and I can see it in my body shape and I’m not gonna lie the end of 2017 has been hard to except my changing body. The beginning of 2018 has not made this any easier. I still feel better when I am exercising and running but I’m not sure why I feel better? So I need to sit with this thought and work out what is going on. I feel like I should be running but I also like running will leave that there for now! I have gone back to yoga and about with is expensive and I feel guilty about spending money on it it’s really bloody good for me.

I am not going to sit here and make recovery resolutions about gaining weight, making progress in mental recovery, or pledge to let anorexia have less control over me, and so on. Because I don’t know where to start!

Mainly because recovery is not that structured any more. I don’t actually think I can plan that any more. I know what I need to work on and I’m very aware of how I still let my eating disorder control me and the bits I think I like. It’s probably going to be a case of riding the waves of 2018 and seeing which ones wash up those habits on different shores. A long time ago I wrote a blog on just keeping swimming and I guess as 2018 starts that’s all I can do.

22 December 2017

What I've learnt about recovery at Christmas

"It's the most wonderful time of the year...."

But it can also be one of the hardest if you're recovering from an eating disorder. The types of food around us, the amount of food around us, the talk of 'Christmas binges' and gaining weight seems to be constant. Then, even before Boxing Day is out, people turn their attention to diets. 

I love Christmas but I hate it too, so these might not work for everyone, but they help me. 

1) Write a festive food plan

Even six years into my own recovery, I dread the 'unorganised' and out of routine eating. So, to combat that I write a special Christmas meal plan for the 24th - 26th December when I am around people and eating at parties when I am not in control or in my usual routine. Of course, ideally I would be okay with food and going with the flow, but I am not. I am also sure I am not alone in this. I try to stick to my usual pattern of eating - Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner with 2 or 3 snacks. I find that helps me not spin 'what have I eaten...have I over eaten.." around my head and allows me to relax more. I do this for Xmas eve, the big day and Boxing Day. 

My plan looks a little like this; In our family the big Christmas dinner is at 1pm. So, I have my breakfast as usual and add some fruit and nuts from around the house to it. I usually see my starter at dinner as my Mid Morning snack, my main meal is my Christmas dinner and the Christmas pudding is my afternoon snack. Then we have a 'tea time' buffet - which generally I add a vegan option to for myself - and some salad. Then for supper, if I can, I let myself have something sweet. I struggle with 'unhealthy' in my head still, so I take it as it comes. Of course , I DO eat more on Christmas Day, than usual...but...


2) Remind yourself it's just a day (or two) 

...that leads me on to this. It is JUST A DAY or I am not going to lie though, I look forward to the 27th and getting back to a stable eating routine. This is how I cope, not necessarily the 'right or wrong' way. Keep it in perspective, and breathe. I repeat to myself, one day eating more than usual will NOT make me fat or greedy, that it is okay. 

3) Pace and portion for yourself

I try whatever I do to not compare my eating to other people around Christmas. Being vegan means I eat differently anyway but also my eating disorder makes me feel different too.  But also, because I am sticking to a plan and NOT overeating beyond comfort I need to remind myself that getting hungry at teatime dosen't make me greedy, it is just because I am eating regularly. If it helps, serve your own food, we do this anyway and I only put what I usually eat on my plate.  

4) Take some timeout 

I find the whole Yule a little overwhelming with people and food, so don't feel bad for needing some space. I used to journal a lot, and found some Christmas Days I wrote pages and pages to calm down and put things in to perspective. If you need to, go find a quiet space and read a new book or old favorite. You don't need to be 24/7 party mode, if you need a break from the festivities, then have one. I have recently taken up yoga again, so I am going to make sure I get to a class between Xmas and New Year.


5) Phone a friend (or helpline)

Even if it is a text message or quick SOS call, just knowing someone else 'gets it' and knows what you're dealing with, it'll help off load (and maybe approach the next tip!) For me, it's my best friend who also has mental health problems. We know we can text each other what we're faced with. If I am sick of getting offered food I don't want for the 100th time - and she's struggling with socializing, I KNOW she's there.

If you haven't got someone close to you there IS someone to talk to the Samaritans are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week over the Christmas period. You can call them on 08457 90 90 90 or email jo@samaritans.org

6) Try to use your voice

Tensions can be fraught at Christmas, aren't they? Most families will have a debate or bicker or two. It's tempting just to sit and suck it up - to hear lots of uncomfortable conversations and not tell people how unhelpful they are. But if you can, and it won't cause WW3 to break out, just politely say that you don't find it helpful to hear here about the calories in foods, or to listen to how people are going to drop the weight in the new year. I know I am one who CAN speak up, and does. 

7) It doesn't have to be perfect.

I am guilty of wanting Christmas to be 'just so', for everyone to be happy, for things to go to plan and for everyone to have a good time. But that just isn't the case. In 2011 I had the WORST Christmas ever, I was dying, I was in crisis and I had arguments about food and threw my Fortisip at my Mum. I've seen this since as the 'reset' button and since then I have just tried to enjoy moments and appreciate little things. 

8) Be a big kid

I am lucky to be an Aunty so I take the chance to play with their new toys, spend QT with the little ones and have lots of cuddles. How about picking up a game and getting the family to play? It's the little things that make Christmas after all....


YOU CAN DO THIS! Merry Christmas! 

*** GET SUPPORT FROM BEAT ***

Helpline opening times
1 December - 24 December: 3-10pm
Christmas Day: 6-10pm
Boxing Day: 6-10pm
27 December - 2 January: 3-10pm

During this time you can contact our Helpline Advisors by:

Picking up the phone and calling 0808 801 0611 for the Adult Helpline, 0808 801 0711 for the Youthline
Sending an email to help@beateatingdisorders.org.uk or the Youthline fyp@beateatingdisorders.org.uk
Accessing our one-to-one chat service
Sending a direct message on Twitter to @BeatEDSupport

https://www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk/support-services/christmas-services-2018


16 November 2017

Recovery Journals Throwback (16th November)


Wednesday 16th November 2011

I still keep getting these pangs of panic in the pit of my stomach when I think about the amount of calories I am consuming. I have this anxiety that might only take over me for a minute or even a second but it bothers me that it feels like I am out of control. It makes me feel like I am on a one track mission to being fat. I am getting better at noticing these thoughts and trying to switch my thinking and be realistic when I notice, but it is too late once I have thought it and have already panicked. I am trying hard to keep thinking positive and to remember that gaining weight and improving health is good, weight gain at the moment is good, and no matter HOW scary it is, it is needed and vital for my life to move on.

I am excited about seeing XXX tomorrow, but I am also nervous, because it throws my usual routine out because someone will be here. I also feel like I am hard work to be with. I struggle to relax still and just be me, and sit back and talk freely and enjoy my time with friends. I think it hurts so much and I find it so hard to do because it is a clear reminder of the ‘face’ I put on and the act I put on for so long to convince people I am okay. When I do relax or at least make myself make conversation and be sociable, I feel weird, pretending again and that scares me because when everything is ‘okay’, when I manage to keep a lid on my anorexic thoughts and problems and talk about other stuff, and push ana to the back of my mind I feel like I am faking it again when I think about it, talk about it or acknowledge my ED behaviors again. I am worried about going to the cinema, about feeling like I can’t have sweets or just let myself have popcorn from the cinema and I am worried I won’t relax. I am hoping I can, I am hoping that watching the film will help me forget about my ED for a minute.

I want to be me again, I want to be warm (why is it SO cold!) and I REALLY hope the next two days will help not hinder me. I am scared I’ll go into super defensive mode and make a point of negatives not positives to remind people how shit I feel. I don’t WANT to do this. I want to be positive about the future, not negative. I want to NOT feel jealous when she talks about her new job etc. because I need to be happy for her and NOT compare my life. Fingers crossed.


Friday 16th November 2012 

I WISH I COULD SAY I GAVE A SHIT BUT I feel so tired slash drunk that I really don’t care.

I really can't  even be bothered to write in my journal.

All I will say is that I messed up, I thought id kicked ass, I thought id nail something, I believed for a second that Id done something really good, I totally let myself believe I’d done well, and guess what? I FUCKING DIDN’T. I screwed it – like that helped matters? Like that helps me disprove my own theory of being SHIT. It really didn’t.

I really can't  be bothered to explain, like its relevant to anyone but me anyway, but this is WHY I should not care and should not believe that I am ok or that I will do ok. I won’t. I can't  be arsed to get in to details. I know what I did. But I am not happy tonight and thanks to my own incompetence I probably feel like shit tomorrow as well as feeling guilty for the 100 extra (minimum) calories that my rum has in it. I am fat anyway.

I don’t care if people tell me ‘it’s ok, everyone makes mistakes’ they don’t realise how much of a set back this is, I DARED to believe for a MOMENT I had done well, and I fucked it up.  So I needed the rum, and to throw a knife across my flat, 

I need to not give a shit – I wish I didn’t give a shit but its just THERE in my head making me feel HORRIBLE. JUST GOING ROUND AND ROUND all the time. Every time I think about something -  I go back to not being able to change the fact I messed up.





12 November 2017

Recovery Journals Throwbacks (11th & 12th Nov)

I am starting to sort through journals I kept through recovery and these are extracts from this weekend in 2011 and 2012. This was around 3 months then a year into treatment, it highlights the underlying thoughts that carried through and some of which remain 6 years on. 


Friday 11th November 2011 

When will this stop? When will I get a firm grasp on what the HELL is going on in my head and with my body?

I know I felt like this last week to, like there was NO CHANCE I could have LOST weight, but I have. It is yet again more proof that my feelings and anorexic thoughts are pretty much the complete opposite of fact. I don’t understand how I can feel SO certain that I will have gained, or at the very least maintained and then be half a kilo lighter. How can I feel so much fatter and not BE so much fatter? It just mixes up my emotions even more than they were already. I am going to focus on keeping Ana quiet about this loss and really try and use it as ammunition AGAINST her games. I have to, because like Wendy explained, the LOWER MY WEIGHT DROPS, THE WEAKER I BECOME, THE STRONGER ANA’S THOUGHTS AND CONTROL BECOMES. This means that no matter what I do and how much I am trying to eat and recover, Ana is there, creeping up on my, pound by pound.

It was a bit of a wakeup call that Wendy mentioned that both her and Fiona thought I looked thinner and not very well at the moment – because I get conflicting messages from different people saying I look ill, tired or some saying that I look really well and much better. But I suppose I have chosen the pictures people see on FB, to present a Sarah that is okay, coping and getting better, when reality might be very different. There is no hiding from W or F though, and I don’t want to hide either, but it is so much harder than I thought to give over EVERYTHING and bare all too. I do trust that they don’t judge me, but opening up about all the thoughts feel so alien sometimes. It also feels fake sometimes too, because it doesn’t feel like me or my thoughts because I’ve never said them out loud or thought of them in certain ways. But it is me and it is real isn’t it?

WHEN I RELAX ABOUT FOOD, WHEN IT FEELS EASIER TO EAT, WHEN I AM HUNGRY AND NOTICE I IS NOT ME LOSING CONTROL….IT’S ME WINNING

AND MY GOD I need to remember this. I need to remember that it is okay to enjoy food and for it to be easier and less scary to eat. That is a snippet of how people function WITHOUT Ana controlling them. Yes, these moments are still rare for me, but I continue to make myself feel bad and guilty about them when they happened anyway, so they feel like bad feelings and thoughts, not positive ones. Ana has convinced me for so long that these are WEAK feelings, like being hungry. Really, I know I should be embracing these new feelings, I should be glad I am starting to feel them and I should be AIMING to feel them all the time.

Sunday 11th November 2012

I looked chunky and fat next to her, but she said she thought I looked small, thin, underweight, I can't  remember which word she used, and I can't actually say that I believe her at all? I don’t understand why she’s say that when I don’t look thin – when I am NOT underweight anymore. I don’t believe it at all, but she did say it. I like the honesty she has like, that she still thinks certain ways that could be anorexia talking but she KNOWS that and is aware and deals with it, but realistically isn’t a denial frame of mind that she’s ‘perfectly recovered’ but more that she lives life but knows when thoughts aren't helpful – which is sort of inspiring really.

I guess that acts as a reminder that it is ok to struggle sometimes or look back as long as you don’t GO BACK – and struggles mean you just need to be more aware – NOT That everything is going wrong.

I am really trying NOT to focus on bad bits things that could have been better or on trying to work out how much I have eaten. But I do feel tired and LOW tonight – the Sunday blues, I don’t know – maybe it’s a reminder that I don’t have a social life and that I have work to do.


Saturday 12th November 2011

I hate that some mornings, like now, I wake up mega early when I really need the sleep. No matter how hard I try and relax I can’t go back to sleep. What I hate EVEN more is that my thoughts are instantly consumed by food. Today I KNEW I’d be having a sandwich and THEN halloumi cheese later too, food was the first thing I thought about, followed quickly about what time I would ‘allow’ myself to have breakfast. Apparently Ana says 8am! It’s ridiculous and I hate it. I hate that my ED makes food the central focus of my thoughts, but it’s always been that way I think. I don’t remember a time ever when I didn’t worry about the ‘consequences’ of eating something or a time when I didn’t make the food I was going to or the food I just consumed the focal point on my mind. The fear has shifted over time, from sick, to fat, to sick, to greedy. But now, as well as worrying about calorie content and the ‘effect’ the food will have on my weight, my body shape, on the way I appear to others, I still worry about food making me sick. Like I didn’t trust xxx to make my dinner last night, like he wouldn’t do it right because of contamination, the kitchen wasn’t clean enough AND he couldn’t make the correct amount of food. The internal monologue from morning to the moment I fall asleep at night REALLY does my head in.

I keep thinking about calories today too, anything I eat I am thinking about how much more I am eating than before, I keep going over and over the rest of the day, thinking about how much I have left to eat and panicking about it.

In my head I need to realise that me going ‘tomorrow’ will be a ‘better’ day is Ana thinking that tomorrow she’ll get away with sneaking in restricting more, making me eat less because I ‘picked’ today at cake. She convinces me that I can ‘make up for’ being ‘bad’ today \and eating too much. But I know I need to just stick to my meal plan tomorrow. I am worried that tomorrow is the most ‘open’ day on my plan thought and how AN thoughts could take over. But now I have made myself aware of this I NEED to fight it and if I want to get better, that’s my only option.

I just want a new day now please…

Monday 12th November 2012

I feel like I have SO much going on – that I don’t have time or energy to do things I need to – like there aren’t enough hours in the day and that I am going to forget things – and miss things and annoy people and I just feel – a bit all over the place and like I am so busy at signal that I can’t do things – like sort out my doctors note – my benefits and everything. I don’t know how to deal with the stress of all that.

I keep feeling guilty about having two hot chocolates and that’s on my mind now –and just having some cereal with my custard, while I was waiting for it to cook  WHY DID I EAT IT? I don’t understand. It’s so much easier when I don’t – it hurts my head less. I keep thinking when I walk to the station too – to keep myself going and not feel emotional that I feel in a total rush the whole time – I just keep hoping and thinking about burning the calories by walking fast. That’s not good is it? I just don’t want to gain weight and I feel all these things are really important in that.

It’s like loads of plates are spinning and I don’t know which to stop first. Or which to fight and which are ok.