26 September 2019

Bump, Breasts and Bread

I've only spent 21 weeks and four days out of my 34 years and six months on the planet pregnant so far, but I can tell you, it’s changed me more than just physically, already!

I’d always been anxious about maybe one day having a baby, but never thought it would be something I’d be capable of. Firstly, emetophobia (fear of vomit) pushed the notion out - morning sickness, being sick in labour, then baby sick - not for me thanks! Thankfully, I’ve not suffered so far in pregnancy with sickness at all, the first trimester was quite breezy compared to some people’s experience. (*plenty of ginger did the trick!) 

Then there was the lack of menstruation for seven years at the worst my eating disorder. I was aware from the start of the crisis that every month I didn’t have a period I was eroding my chance of being fertile. Yet that didn’t persuade me to turn my back on anorexia at the time. Fast forward to 2019, lots of self care I mentioned in my first pregnancy post, and we conceived in May! 

Now the changes to my body. We hear the same old rhetoric from women about how ‘babies ruined their bodies’, society is obsessed with people losing ‘baby bellies’ and dropping the baby weight before they leave the maternity unit. As someone who’s recovered from anorexia - they all set off the alarm bells, everytime. Why on EARTH would I ‘ruin’ my controlled and monitored body? Give it up for 9 months and leave myself with a horror show? Nah! 

But you know what, I’ve been working hard to re frame all that now it's happening. It's part of what my doula is helping with, and why I am going to Positive Birth Groups and embracing positive pregnancy stories.

I am looking at my growing bump in excitement. I’m actually loving having bigger breasts and a big bump is a reminder that Baby Brown is doing well growing in there. Of course That doesn’t come naturally to me, a lifetime of craving no curves and ‘flatness’ takes some undoing, but I’m probably less self conscious of my body than at any time since I was about 10! I’d go as far to say as I’m proud of it. 

What I am more conscious of, and the part of the second trimester playing on my mind is eating and hunger. It’s constant. I am no longer setting the food rules by the clock or just for me. We know anorexia prides itself on the ability to control time and hunger - but no more. I’ve always told myself the story that I’m ‘greedy’, ‘glutinous’ and ‘piggy’ with no self control (despite never suffering with actual binging) but snacking more or adding more to plate bothered me. It still does, making this part of being pregnant harder to deal with right now. 

I am dealing with it, I have no choice - and secretly it is liberating to eat previously ‘banned’ foods - the ones I still banned until May this year! But it’s a work in progress. I’m staying away from counting calories as much as humanly possible and I’m eating when my body tells me I need to (music to my former dietitian’s ears!) intuitive eating, me? I know I’ll gain weight, I have to. I know I’m needing more fuel to grow a human and keep me energized for work. It needs to be a varied diet - with carbs and fats top of the list. I am doing that, eating more - but it doesn’t come naturally. 

Those greed thoughts are there, as are the ones I put into other peoples minds, assuming they’re agreeing. I still hate people commenting on my food and what I am eating, it really does get to me. (Please, don't do it, I am eating more, and differently, I am aware!)

It’s also my changing tastes, I’m going off my usual favourite lunch and dinners and craving more comforting meals, smaller volume, higher calories, like spaghetti hoops on toast and vegan fish fingers and mash. Woah, that's a lot for my head to take some nights, and even if it's tasty, it makes me want to cry when M asks me if I'm enjoying it! 

Yes I am scared about when my midwife next wants to weigh me, I worry about non-bump weight gain, like my bum and thighs, and who knows how I'll feel in February when he's here. But for now,  there’s never been a more crucial time for me to tune into my body and just bloody listen and trust it! I’m giving it the benefit of the doubt for the next 18 weeks and 3 days, because it’s doing something quite marvelous right now. Growing my little man.

2 August 2019

Hello, Mamma

During my recovery from anorexia I was asked what a full, recovered life would look like. Who I'd be, what I'd be doing, whether I'd get married or be a mother or not. Big life questions, right?

It was something that felt so far-stretched as I sat in my therapist's office, that I couldn't even comprehend having my periods again, let alone meeting someone and having a baby. Who cared? What I cared about was controlling my diet and not gaining weight.

I didn't realise how much I had got used to seven years without menstruating, it was my new norm. Not normal, I get that. But to me, I guess it was some sort of reassurance I wasn't fat.

Fast forward to the end of 2018, a year of connecting to my body, my sacral chakra and of accepting as a 30-something year old woman most definitely should be bleeding every month. I've gradually, through self-care work, have ended up in a place where I celebrate this, I track my cycle, noticing small changes during each season of my cycle and embracing them.

Reflexology has helped too. Not only to work on my connection to me, but also there's research into the benefits of it on fertility, and many use it to bring on labour when they're ready to burst with baby.

Well, that's going to be me in about five months time. Yes. I am pregnant.

Big news huh?

Marc and I found out around the 6/7 week mark, a home pregnancy test. I decided to do one after a couple of weeks of sore boobs and missed bleed. And there is was. A positive.

We weren't NOT trying, but I have believed since 2011 that children would be out of the picture. Something I had traded with the devil (anorexia) for thinness and lightness. But it seems a little bit of self-care and being with someone who's going to be an amazing Daddy can work it's magic.

It's going to be one hell of a journey. I'm 14/15 weeks, it's already been a whirlwind of appointments. Starting with coming off my meds immediately (citalapram isn't recommended when pregnant), stopping drinking, cutting out caffeine, taking folic acid, and most importantly EATING. Eating well, better that I have in a longtime. I have the support of some amazing friends, family and my doula, Tor, and lots of really wonderful members of my tribe too. I am focusing on a 'me' pregancy and birth, with yoga, hynobirthing, affirmations and keeping calm. 

Over dinner a while ago M asked me if I'd be okay when pregnant with the increased need to ALL food types, as well as the vital weight gain to make a baby and carry it for 9 months. Don't get me wrong, I am scared of ending up a bloated whale by Christmas, I am anxious that having a child will make me a chubby mamma forever, but I know these are lies. Everyday I will face new challenges I am sure, but for now, it's all-go for the baby brain. It seems to overide anorexia, I know I need fats and carbs to grow a bubba, and that's what it's going to get. I don't expect to be scoffing cakes and dark chocolate or bowls of chips for the next 25-odd weeks, but I will be increasing my varieties and cooking up balanced meals to grow a little genius as well as I can.

I can't quite believe that come January/February we'll have (all being well) a baby to care for, feed and bring up. A little human we'll help to navigate the world. But we will have. That's my new reality. Something I dreamed of and recovered for.

I will try to share my journey on this blog, because I want it to have an outcome that gives other's hope that aims in recovery can seem so pointless and far-fetched but trust me, those dreams CAN become realities. I am about to find that out over the next few months.

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! 


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