13 September 2013

My 'I have a dream...' moment

Recovery seems to take me on a roller coaster ride of experiences in my own personal therapy and more so as I share my journey so publicly. I guess I couldn't get much more public than public speaking, right?

It was my own little Martin Luther King moment, sharing my thoughts and I guess, I do have a 'recovery dream' for everyone else too,  don't I? 

So public speaking is what I did yesterday. I spoke in front of a lecture theatre, about speaking about my recovery. I shared my experience of treatment at my EDU at South Staffordshire and Shropshire NHS Healthcare Trust.'s AGM.

Smiling but feeling sick after my talk

It's another snowball from my epic journalling, setting up this blog and from my 38,000 Tweets that have evolved from moans about Fortisip and meal plan increases, to raising awareness of mental health and moaning about meal plans. Dream, Recover, Live even made it to the ED service display, using my 'Keep Swimming' and 'Recovery Shark' posts as analogies of recovery... (Take that Ana) It still blows my mind that what I write makes any sense, as I just remember in a confused, mixed up state starting this blog to check I was 'recovering' okay and as a space to rant and spill out all my anorexic thoughts back in 2011. 

But back to yesterday. I was TERRIFIED of confusing myself and them. Of messing up, not looking anorexic enough, not having clarity, of saying the right thing, annoying or upsetting my therapists (who were there and Dr B was in the front row!) but, like I said to a room of hundreds of people, if it doesn't scare me, why bother? 

Dr B and me in front row waiting for my talk.

What I couldn't communicate to the professionals and other service users in that room is that Ana was still there with me yesterday, even if they couldn't see it. Even if I seemed confident, that's the point huh?

She was still loud and clear to me. 

Shouting that "I wasn't ever ill enough to have an opinion, that people thought I was too fat, that I needed to prove my eating disorder some how...." I thought it was best to NOT let her speak - practice what I preached and to just smile and say 'thank you' when people said lovely things. (NB. I need to deal with her later!)

But, for those of you that weren't there, but wondered what I might have said about the journey (so far) to freedom from anorexia and my experiences, this is what I said: 

 "The reason I am stood in front of you, sharing my battles with mental health and talk about my recovery from anorexia today is because early on in my recovery this time around I realised that one of the reasons I got as ill as I did, is because I ALLOWED ANOREXIA TO SILENCE ME – I allowed my illness to convince me I wasn’t being HEARD – so I figured out the best antidote to that would probably be SHARING and TALKING about my recovery journey.

Anorexia is such a complicated illness, lots still doesn’t make sense – even to me and it’s my MIND doing the thinking, but I guess all the ‘ingredients’ that lie behind my eating disorder and fuel it are battles I’ve faced most of my life.  The issues I still have to fight now, today, even preparing this talk – I worry it’s not good enough, that I’ll mess it up, I will say the wrong thing, I don’t look anorexic  enough anymore, that it hasn’t REALLY happened to me, I don’t KNOW ENOUGH about anorexia and recovery to stand up here and talk. It scares me….

But that EXACTLY is WHY I AM DOING IT because believing these thoughts for the last 20 years is how I got to crisis point in 2011, it’s why I’ve spent my life ‘looking’ for what would fix me and it’s why my therapists here have the lovely job of helping me UNTANGLE all these issues.

I’m not sure where to start with the underlying issues of my eating disorder – like I said – they’re rather entwined. I’ve suffered from emetaphobia, anxiety and obsessions, restrictions and fears with food since I was 7 years old. Add to that a need for control, perfectionism, competitiveness from being a gymnast, low self-esteem, drive to exercise, poor body image…the list goes on, but I can't remember NOT thinking these things.  I’m surprised I wasn’t diagnosed with anorexia back in 1992, especially as it was clear my diet was highly restrictive, and I was terrified of eating. but because my BMI was never low enough through my childhood, teens and early 20s – I wasn’t diagnosed with anorexia until I was 26.

NO ONE HEARD ME……..Not at CAHMS, not when my GP referred me here at 14 and then at 17. Not at uni – and not at an NHS Trust in London 5 years ago when I actually told my doctor I hated my weight and body so much I couldn’t think of anything else.

Not once did anyone tell me losing weight wouldn’t solve my problems – no one ever really mentioned anorexia. I ate. I was a healthy weight, I was repeatedly told ‘I just had low self-esteem and a fear of sick and terrified of some foods.’ I WAS FINE. Wrong. Huh?

Despite all this somehow my motto of ‘hope being stronger than fear’ has got me through. I went to Bournemouth University and graduated with a degree in journalism, went on to live and work as a journalist in London, had relationships, survived Glastonbury, been on holiday….in recovery I’ve returned to journalism. I’ve developed ways of coping with life, getting though but always WONDERED if that voice was right – I just needed to be thinner, better, more in control of my life, of something.

So maybe it was the food I had been doing wrong? I thought maybe if I change the food I would change how I felt about myself? That is when I thought I’d found the magic after all. Finally - no one else mattered -  I was focused determined, finally it was working, I was losing weight. It was the food all along I knew it. That was in December 2010. But I wasn't ill – I had just found something that made me feel good enough and great. It was my secret. What I didn't realise is that niggling voice tarnishing the good times I've had in my life and then consuming the low times was actually anorexia all along. I just could see or believe this then.

The honeymoon period didn’t last long to be honest– my world began to crumble around me – I scared myself – I couldn’t cope with the secrets and lies and I definitely couldn’t keep up with work in London. I started to notice as the weight on the scales got less. So did my life.  I needed to speak and I needed someone to finally HEAR me.

That’s where this service finally HEARD ME. They listened to the screams from behind the cracks in the walls anorexia had built around me. I literally screamed down the phone that I needed help and if I didn’t get help now I’d not bother. I’d die….Luckily for me, they listened and they acted.

Since August 2011, my team here have kept the window of opportunity wedged open – despite anorexia trying to slam it shut along the way. But finally they HEARD ME, so I knew I had to KEEP TALKING and revealing the lies and secrets of anorexia to Wendy Bell,  Fiona Preston and David Bishop. Even at times when I’ve not felt ill enough for their help – I have learnt to TRUST that I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t, they believe me.

It's a constant battle to out-scream the voice that’s screaming I’m not good enough or ill enough. But that's where I found the best antidote to anorexia - However loud she wants to be I'm determined to be louder. This is why I talk about my recovery, this is why talk about eating disorders.  I tell people, I speak about it and I expose the lies. It’s why I keep fighting.

It hasn’t always been easy to SHARE what’s going on my head – but there is real truth In the quote about ‘speaking the truth, even if your voice shakes’ because the more I wrote, spoke or shared, the more sense things made. I have found my voice, so I better keep using it.

I started sharing my journal with my therapist, when Wendy left, the word count was actually more than 500,000.  I then started reading other peoples recovery blogs, and was inspired enough to start turning my own journal entries into a blog, and then I began tweeting about my battles, thoughts and recovery – outing anorexia’s lies to the world tweet by tweet. Even the rants or moans or complaints that I was having. It was amazing and empowering and inspiring to find so many other people saying ME TOO about eating disorders online and I started to realise how anorexia and I weren’t in an ‘exclusive’ relationship.

I want to understand my illness.  I want to outsmart it and to explain it. I hope that by exposing the debates and lies in as many ways I can, I will help other people realise they are under the same anorexic spell.

I hope that sharing my story shows people how I was seduced by anorexia’s promises of perfecting my life – of fixing me. How the promise were built on lies – and seriously flawed. I also hope it will enable people to be HEARD before anorexia’s walls are too high. I hope by speaking about my battles I’m able to remind professionals, teachers, friends and parents to really LISTEN to people who are trying to whisper over anorexia’s screams, even if they look okay on the outside.

I'm not sure sometimes how long a full recovery will take, or whether I’ll ever really understand it or be able to explain it all without tying myself up in knots. BUT what I am sure of is that I will keep shouting as loud as I can, in my own therapy, through my writing or in 140 characters on Twitter. If nothing else, it makes more sense out in the open than it does in my head.

I’m sure that with the help of my team at the eating disorder here, I can write a positive final chapter to my own story and complete my recovery. That my competitive spirit will pull through, and I will win.

Then, I hope I’ll move on to a brand new book encouraging and inspiring others to TALK, BEFORE an eating disorder ties them up in knots and silences them too.  Not only that, I want to help to make sure that when they are brave enough to out-shout anorexia, they’re HEARD.

…..Please, can you all play your part and make sure you re-tweet me when I get there!

Thank you."

My blog on the service display


No comments :

Post a Comment