Blog 7

anorexia, recovery

To eat or not to eat, that is the question.

Throughout recovery that is the question always on my mind. When something goes wrong, when my stomach feels sick or when my weight shoots up unexpectedly, my first thought is to not eat. My second is self-harm. Currently I’m in a constant state of frustration; outside I hide it well, but I’m like a volcano ready to erupt and one false move can lead to a massive global wipe-out explosion for me.
Thus far, this year – a whole 2 months, I’ve not not eaten. Through my knocks and hiccups, I’ve powered through, kept eating and stuck to my meal plan. It’s been excruciatingly difficult. The overwhelming voice in my mind screams at me to not eat, so that when things go wrong or I feel bad, I don’t have the energy to feel worse about it.
I was told this journey would be difficult but I didn’t expect to get so hard and difficult that I felt I couldn’t take it and then it get even worse. When I thought it had reached the hardest point it got harder. As I’m writing this I’m at the hardest point yet, I’m told it’ll get easier, but right now I’m preparing for it to get worse.
I hurt myself regularly and experience daily suicidal thoughts. In rationality and sympathy for myself I guess it isn’t entirely over dramatic to think and feel this way given what I’m trying to attempt. I’m trying to change my entire life, everything about it. Anorexia was and is still a big part of my life. When I’m recovered I hope to continue having Anorexia in my life but for the RIGHT reasons; such as to raise awareness and help others. Not as an illness.
Trying to get rid of Anorexia is very difficult; old habits die hard. My parents were hard-core, long-term smokers and after the death of a few family members, they decided to quit. One thing I always remember my Mam relaying to me is how she always craved a cigarette even years after giving up. Old habits die so hard.
As I eat more, and my hormones come back I find I’m so emotional. I cried a lot anyway but now it seems the smallest things prove the biggest mountains and my eyes just do not want to stay dry. In contrast I can also laugh now. Like properly laugh, and that’s something I haven’t genuinely done in years. The other week my boyfriend come home after a few nights away from work and I showed him a picture of our dog. I couldn’t stop laughing. There was nothing particularly funny about the picture. I was just happy, I guess. And I laughed, and I laughed, and I laughed. I couldn’t stop. Tears formed in my eyes! If my boyfriend hasn’t already thought I’d lost the plot, I’d be sure he thought it then.

For me personally, I’ve found solace in certain foods. Those foods being, Mini Cheddars, Cereal and Soya Milk. These are my golden 3 Recovery Foods.
I eat these foods as part of my daily calorie intake, but I try and strive to eat more of them and not to count them as part of that intake. It’s trying to do stuff like this that will aid in my recovery. Recovery is about freeing myself from the ties of numbers; whether on the scales or exercise minutes or in calories. That’s where the restriction begins. I was never taught mindful eating – keeping track for good and healthy purposes and allowing numbers to change on their own accord and having less control. Instead I taught myself conscious eating – I was aware of EVERYTHING and tried to CONTROL and RESTRICT everything.
So, I want my recovery to challenge that; my recovery is challenging that.

I long to be able to just for dinner. Go somewhere, grab some food, and eat. I still can’t. I may be fighting and trying my hardest in recovery but the thought of food I can’t track or food I haven’t planned, sends me into a frantic pit of despair. My control is still very strict, I am learning to loosen it though.

The number on the scales can’t be controlled. It simply can’t. Our bodies work in weird and wonderful ways, and If one week its chosen to be a higher or lower weight for no reason, then so be it. It’s all in the way it works. There’s nothing to be done.

I struggled to finish writing this post, as it’s my last post of Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2018 but also the last post in my story that I’m sharing with you.
I hate to be cheesy and cliché, but I’ve struggled to end it because my story isn’t over yet.
I’m a few pounds off being the minimum for healthy weight and I still want to gain another half a stone after that to try and reach the best BMI. I still have until May/June with my psychologist and I wonder everyday if that’s enough time for me to get my mind in a good place to be discharged from. In reality, It might not be, but I’m hoping to learn and harness the tools I need to fight off Anorexia and divide her from me. To learn when she’s speaking and when I need to silence her or argue. Anorexia is a life-altering illness. It’s invisible and its excruciating. There’s been so many posts this week about how invisible it is and how it doesn’t discriminate against age, gender, weight or height or ANYTHING. And when you read this post I want you to remember that. Because even I thought, up and till a few months ago, that Anorexia was just for really skinny and emaciated looking people. I was wrong, and my mistake has cost me so many years of my life. Whilst, yes, to get where I am today my BMI had to be under a certain number that isn’t to say there’s help for those who BMI isn’t low. It just requires asking for. Sometimes these assumptions hold us back. It doesn’t help the way the media and society stereotype and stigmatise mental illness. Yes, it IS ok to not be ok, but also ok to look ok and NOT be ok – in fact, it’s a lot more common than not looking ok.
Whilst I’m writing this I don’t want to sound preachy, my generation seems to feel we need to be though, SO WHY NOT; be yourself, if you get ill, you get ill, BUT FIGHT IT. If you feel an illness coming PREVENT IT. Prevention is the best method of recovery.
If you had a lump in your arm would you wait years to get it checked out? Chances are you wouldn’t. So why would you with any mental health illness? The mind is just as important as the body – and in my personal opinion I think it’s much more important than the body. If I could be happy in my mind I believe that looking after and being healthy in my body would come quite naturally; almost second nature.
Only time will tell for me though.
I aim to come back to this blog, next year (maybe sooner for updates), and reflect on where I was to where I am. I’m hoping to be detached from Anorexia and have her locked up in a box covered in chains and all sorts of unbreakable seals. I don’t believe she will fully leave me, not at this point in my recovery anyway, so that’s just how I see it.
I’m going to keep trying though.
Food is life.
Food is my life.
Food isn’t the enemy.
My body isn’t the enemy.
Self-care is crucial and to love oneself even more so.
It’s just learning how to do it that’s the hard part.

I hope you’ve found my blog posts over this last week interesting, informative and awareness raising. I’m a very open and honest individual and I will talk about anything to do with my experience if I think it will help others or widen their knowledge. Please, speak up if you need.
If you need help and don’t know what to do, please ask me. I’ll help.
I’ve always longed to make the world a better fed and happier place, and I guess this is just another way that I can do it.

Thanks for reading xo.

BEAT

whywait-info-4.jpg

Advertisements

Blog 6

anorexia, recovery

Having had many a conversation pertaining to how to motivate myself to overcome Anorexia when she shouts really rather loudly in my ears, I finally took the advice of the experienced and made this list.
It was recommended to me to make a list of things that could be possible only when recovery had been reached. Once life had cut ties with Anorexia.

I sought out help so that I could recover for a life worth living.

Some of the reasons I want to recover are:

So my life isn’t ruled by restrictions and calculations.
So my life isn’t only being half lived.
So I don’t have major distress over food or exercise.
So my life is more flexible and I’m able to do more things.
So that I can be happy.
To feel pretty.
So that I can get rid of the Anorexia demon.
So that I can have a baby. Or two.
So that I can walk my dog and give them both the mother they want.
To be the best girlfriend I can be.
So that I can exercise productively.
So I can gain back a life.
So I can sleep on a night without worrying about the next day or food or exercise.
So I can have a proper period.
TO BE A BRIDESMAID IN 2020 AND ENJOY IT.
So that I can maybe have some boobs.
So my bloods become better and healthier.
So that IBS is less of a hindrance.
So that I can be more healthy.
To be the best sister I can be.
So I can be happy.
To be the best daughter I can be.
So that I can bring up a child with no form of food issues in my life that could potentially spill into theirs.
So I could travel.
So that I can be happy
So I could be more spontaneous.
To let my scars heal.
So that I can be me.
So that I can be warmer.
To be more of a genuine inspiration for others.
So that I can eat more and exercise less.
To be a better friend.
So that numbers become less important, almost redundant and not ruin my life.
So I can be more carefree.
So that I can be stronger.
So I can overcome the most difficult and challenging part of my life.
So, I cannot be afraid
So that I can be happy.

As you can see, this list is extensive and not entirely personal. If there’s anyone reading this, who needs a reason, pick one, or two, or twelve and work towards them. We all deserve recovery and we all deserve to get better and away from any mental illness that disconnects us from living.

BEAT

edaw-sticker-6.jpg

Blog 5

anorexia, recovery

Since I’ve been undergoing the recovery process I faced a lot of challenges and hard work. I work with a team of 3; a psychologist, dietician and a support worker.
Our first aims were to stabilise my blood sugars so that I could drive again and that meant eating more regularly. Before this I wouldn’t eat during the day. I’d have breakfast and then nothing in between until teatime. But that came to wreck my metabolism, which Is why (on top of being on anti-depressants) my low-calorie diet wasn’t making me lose any more weight. Which frustrated me greatly.
When I first started to try and eat during the day I didn’t increase my daily intake, I just shifted things around. I started with a few grapes on the hour, and a yoghurt the next hour and some jelly the next.
Our next aim was to increase my vitamin D levels, which would help repair my metabolism and help me get the right nutrients from the food I was eating. I originally did this with one half of a small Petit Filous yogurt.
I took each of these steps very slowly, I’d been going to the clinic for 3 months before I even attempted to make any increases to my diet; I actually ended up losing weight and getting back down to a lower BMI than when I started – a sign my metabolism had started working.
Over Christmas I made a small promise to myself to change things, so I bought a tin of mini cheddars and a box of Christmas chocolates. Having extra food like this, specifically for Christmas, reminds me of when I was younger and around Christmas we’d have LOADS of nice food around to pick at. To begin with I didn’t open either of them. Then one day, I did it. I tried my hardest to not count the mini cheddars in with my daily intake. I managed it. Over Christmas I was able to increase my calories by around 200 without counting them and I think this really helped me make progress in my recovery. I hadn’t started restoring weight at this point, though and the aim of my team was to get me to a healthy BMI, somewhere above 18.5 but ideally 20.
Each week I increase my calories by 70 and have a day where I eat around 200-300 calories more overall. With every increase I’m faced with stomach pain and discomfort. My stomach isn’t used to having such a constant amount of food.
I see my psychologist every week to discuss my feelings toward food and restoring weight. It’s never a positive feeling on my part. Recently, as I have now begun to restore weight, when I weighed myself at home the number had gone up – as I’d expected, but it was too much for me. Even though I was underweight, I felt too heavy, too out of control and too overwhelmed. I began crying hysterically and went into my dressing room, I grabbed all of the pills in my pill box and poured them all out in front of me. This was it. I was sick to death of my life. If I couldn’t keep a low weight, I couldn’t keep anything in my life. I didn’t want my life. I was ready to overdose.
My attempt was cut short.
My boyfriend found me and threw all the tablets down the toilet. I’d gone to a newer place of self-harm or suicidal thoughts; this place was a lot more real. Whilst throughout this recovery process I have self-harmed a lot – I cut my arms frequently, smash my head of the walls and doors and scratch my face and pull my hair out, this was the first proper attempt at ending my life. I didn’t succeed. Whilst I’m going through this recovery there are more times than not where I wish my boyfriend hadn’t found me and that I’d gone through with it.
My psychologist is actually referring me to additional help for those behaviours and thoughts and that just reinforces the amount of help on offer to me.

One of the other things I have to challenge in my recovery is my relationship with exercise. When I first started going to the clinic I was trying to burn 1200 calories a day and was spending 3-4 hours inside my house, stepping on the spot to ensure I’d hit 34k + steps a day. My psychologist has described my relationship with exercise as a form of OCD; it’s so imperative to my daily routine and it keeps my head safe. Along with the steps I was also jogging for 1 hour and a half a day, if not more.
I’ve taken months to get to where I am now but I only jog for 73 minutes (yes, nice and odd number) and I don’t go over 30k steps. My exercise is more purposeful now, too, as I walk to and from work instead of walking on the spot at home.

Anorexia recovery is by far the hardest thing I’ve endured in my life. My feelings about restoring weight are constantly conflicting; I need to restore to be healthy and able to live a longer, fuller life. But Anorexia tells me to stay light and in control and that food isn’t necessary for a good life.
Exercising and challenging OCD is bloody, bloody hard. I can’t begin to describe how imperative my routine is to my life. It would probably be better to ask my boyfriend or my mam about it and what happens if anything gets in the way of my routine. It can bring about self-harm, crying or lashing out. It can ruin a whole day.
I’ve learned that I need to be selfish. I need to eat every 2-3 hours, and if that means saying ‘stop. I need to eat’ then so be it.

In the last week alone, I feel like my diet has improved dramatically – for me anyway. I had a sandwich for lunch yesterday; proper bread, egg mayo, no calorie cuts and it was hard for me to do. I always have a fear of ‘I’d enjoy something else more’ or if it makes me feel too full. I hate that feeling of fullness because of how my IBS makes my tummy sometimes.
I now have pasta with my tea too, whereas this time 6 months ago my tea was a plate of veg. That was it. Now it has carbs, protein and fats on it and looks almost like a normal tea. It hasn’t been so balanced in years.
I get extra and uncounted calories from my mini cheddars and cereal – something I’ve never really done before in my life. I used to be so strict that I wouldn’t even accept 1g more of cereal or something else that I’d weighed out – because I weigh out most of my food.
Even more odd for me is that I drink milk now, albeit soya milk light, but still I’m drinking milk. Never before would I ever dream of drinking something that has proper calories in it, but the protein content and vitamins level in Soya Milk are quite beneficial for me.
Also, I now eat a FULL bagel thin as a ‘snack’ and part of my daily intake; originally, I’d never have gone near bread during the day, or at all, so I started slowly with half a bagel a day and now I’ve managed to get it to a full bagel. It was difficult. It really was, I didn’t want to start eating more carbs or fuelling my body, I wanted to starve and stay as I was. Challenging the change is an awful difficulty that can only get easier with each day, but I don’t believe that challenge or difficulty will ever go away. Food will always be the angel on one shoulder and devil on the other.

I’m nowhere near finished my recovery, my weight is slowly restoring, and my energy levels are slightly better, but I’m still very fatigued and I still have awful stomach cramps. All the while my head just feels very conflicted over it all. There’s certain things I won’t allow myself to do still – like go out for a meal or eat with others in a new environment and don’t even think about giving me something without nutritional information on it. I’m working on it though. I still weigh out my morning porridge, the filling of my newest addition to my diet – a sandwich, and anything else that I can weigh. It might fall into a scope of OCD, but I know it does and I know it’s a way of making things less stressful for me but it’s still a form of restriction. I hope one day I can eat a bowl of pasta or porridge and not weigh it out, but for now that one is firmly stuck and cemented in my head.

BEAT

whywait-info-1

Blog 4

anorexia, recovery

I was diagnosed with Anorexia in September 2017. It slapped me right in the face. It told me I’d been lying to myself for the last 8 years and it scared me for my future. I got the phone call in my car, outside my mam’s house, and I just broke down into tears. It’s not something I ever expected to hear; I knew that my thoughts and behaviours with exercise and food were a little quirky, and that I was underweight and always longed to weigh less, but I thought that was just me being me. I didn’t think it was a serious issue or an illness and its only in recent months that I’ve seen and realised that it is an illness and its one that I’ve unfortunately been able to mould my life around and play to its every tune.

I’ll be honest, I struggled to get help. I told my GP I had a problem with undereating, over exercising and a constant worry and obsession over food. He didn’t refer me to any eating disorder service or access team, he simply sent me to an NHS standard dietician.
At the same time I was seeing my last therapist, and she agree I definitely had an eating disorder however was very clear that she couldn’t diagnose nor suggest that she thought I had a problem as it was ‘unethical’. Thankfully, as she agreed and also thought it was my main, underlying problem, she fought hard for me to get the help I needed. She had to speak to my GP numerous times in a bid to get him to refer me to an access team. As soon as I saw the access team they said yes, I definitely had an eating disorder and that I’d be able to get a proper diagnosis when I went to the Eating Disorder Clinic that they would pass me along to.
It’s a great shame and travesty that my GP was so reluctant to help me when I finally wanted help. I was there fully submitting to the fact I had an illness and needed help with it, but he made it awfully difficult there and then and, in the past, too. I really feel a great upset when I think about how many others could be prevented from this illness if GP’s just stepped up and didn’t turn a blind eye.

There was no doubt about it once I got to the clinic, I was ill. My bloods showed it, my mental assessments showed it and my words showed it. After seeing 9 therapists for anxiety, depression and low self-esteem over the last 8 years and getting next to nowhere (and hiding my relationship with food from all but 2 of them) I was ready to talk and get help. I was willing.

Now I see my psychologist once a week, my dietician once a week and my support worker once a week. The amount of support is brilliant, I really think that having 3 different people in my care team is a good way to recover.

At the minute, as far as I’m aware, the easiest way to get help for an eating disorder is to be referred to a mental health access team, which can only happen through your GP. I really believe that if you’re willing to prevent and eating disorder from spiralling out of control you should speak to your GP and be assertive and adamant. Also, currently the Eating Disorder Clinic only accepts patients under a current BMI, which can be a setback but if your GP can refer you to another mental health service at least you won’t be alone.
I was told recently that now GP’s can’t use a person BMI in diagnosis for an eating disorder, but I still see that being put into practise.

When I was 20 I did try to gain weight on my own accord, I got fed up of the people I worked with commenting on me being thin and I was tired of being cold. I managed to gain weight and I even recall being slightly happier in my general mood, however I quickly relapsed within 6 months and was back to my former weight before I knew it. Restricting and controlling my diet was the only thing I could ever hold on to in my life and the only thing I felt I could bend to my own will (in hindsight, I bent to Anorexia’s will not vice versa). I didn’t have anyone to talk to when I tried to change and maybe if I did things could’ve been different and this story cut 5 years short, but I didn’t.
As I’ve said, I’ve always tried to look healthy, but I’ve never actually been healthy, and this is where I believe the healthcare professionals need to step in. Just before I got diagnosed I was eating so little and exercising so much that I could’ve gone to the extreme. Doctors, family members, anyone, should try to step in regardless of how ok someone looks. Everyone fights invisible battles and Anorexia only has physical symptoms when it’s starts to destroy a life, and doctors only seem to step in when it goes much further.

I just want to stress how much I feel early acknowledgement of an eating disorder can be so beneficial. The sufferer may never have to lose a period or a chance to have kids if that could be stopped. They might never have a severely low white blood cell count leaving them unable to fight off illnesses. It could be stopped before it goes far.
Currently I feel that eating disorders are allowed to go too far before help is received and I know that BEAT, the eating disorder charity, is trying to raise awareness and funding for that. I think if a sufferer can be admitted to any form of care sooner rather than later it could save lives. On average the wait is 3 years,
I’ve lost a good 8 years to be perfectly honest.
I’ve stressed over many, many, many meals. I’ve tried to stay at home as much as I can and exercise as much as I can too. It’s a full-time job having an eating disorder. It’s hard work.
I hate the thought that others suffer worse and perhaps longer before help happens.

Talking is always the best method to overcoming anything. Communication and not doing it
alone. Family, friends, dogs and pets all can help. Even work colleagues and bosses.

edaw-sticker-2

BEAT

Blog 3

anorexia, recovery

Anorexia comes with all sorts of physical and mental hang ups. Throughout my time suffering I’ve encountered several difficulties. Most of which only being brought to my attention when I got admitted to the Eating Disorder Clinic in Norton as an outpatient. My heart rate is slow; bradycardia. My vitamin levels were low; deficient in vitamins B, C and D and potassium. My blood sugar was also very low, which meant I was told I shouldn’t drive until I’d learned to eat more regularly and stabilise my blood sugar levels. I went just over 3 months without driving. My blood showed ‘clear evidence of starvation’. Words which will stay with me till the grave. I haven’t had a proper period in my 20’s, only one induced by the contraceptive pill. I get regular blood tests to see how I’m doing now and keep an eye on things. The one issue that doesn’t show up on any tests or scan though is the one that’s been my main problem and that’s IBS. IBS is an illness pertaining to stomach pains and issues that can’t really be diagnosed. What I found that was after I’d lost my weight and I was under a certain underweight amount, my stomach would often be quite painful. I had tests, I had tests, and I had tests. There was never any conclusion made so it was always put down to IBS. I’d honestly suggest googling it if knowledge is lacking, there are so many sufferers and it’s so widespread. My symptoms sometimes simply pick and choose whether to flare up or not. Due to my Anorexia I eat the same things everyday, at the same time. I always have. Even when I starved myself. Some days my stomach would be fine and then others not. Having IBS as well as Anorexia, and its recovery, makes my life so much more difficult. Not only do I have to learn to manage Anorexia by eating more and becoming a healthy weight, but I have to do so in a manner that isn’t going to aggravate my stomach even further. There are good days and there are bad days. The likelihood is though that it’ll never show on my face.

Previously with Anorexia, whilst I still ate, my eating pattern was often extremely controlled, limited and included many, many hours of not eating. None of this was helpful for IBS, more often than not due to my lack of regular eating when I finally ate my stomach would bludgeon me for it and give me excruciating cramps. The recovery process I’m going through now is a little similar, as my stomach isn’t used to eating regularly nor used to having this number of calories to run on it frequently hurts and many of my evenings are spent in pain. Its unfortunately all about pain management at the moment.

I’m cold. All the time. Unless I’m wrapping up in my jumper, dressing gown and hot water bottle, then I’m cold. After I’ve eaten I’m especially cold. My body goes into overdrive trying to digest food and all the blood rushing to my stomach and leaves the rest of me stone cold. I’ve struggled with this so much over the last few years. I’ve been reduced to tears on more than one occasion because I’ve struggled to maintain any body heat at work and found it painful to get on with my job. During one job, in a bid to get some body heat, I used to jog on the spot and in the disabled toilet; and in another I would do steps on the spot constantly. Although I say that I did this to gain some warmth I also did it for exercise, my thought process was always that ‘every little helps’ but in hindsight I went too far, and my attempts at what I thought was to keep myself warm quickly turned into an imperative need of my day to day exercise routine. Jogging in the toilets at work is weird, its wrong, and it’s a part of Anorexia. At the time I didn’t realise that the behaviour was odd, I just focused on getting in more exercise and hitting my daily step count.  No illness has ever stopped me hitting my step count or jogging. Not even fainting or being bed ridden. My Anorexia has always won and always made me exercise. There is no stopping. With this constant never stopping exercise and mental strain there was a point in my life where I had to nap every day and I even recall factoring it in to my Christmas Day plans one year, I’m always tired.

Throughout these ailments and pains I’ve been to the doctors and walk in centres numerous times. When I was in my earlier 20s I even had two procedures to look inside my stomach and bowels to see if there was anything gruesome going on. For both of these procedures I was weighed, I was always underweight, nothing was ever said.
But I know why.
When I visited my GP once, I found that it had changed to a new female doctor, she told me she was originally from the Netherlands and that English wasn’t her first language. She used this as an excuse to say what she wanted as she wasn’t brought up with the typical British politeness of people over here. All of these words came from her mouth. She then proceeded to tell me I was skinny, in the wrong way. She said I was skinny in a way that looked as if I wasn’t getting the correct vitamins and minerals I needed. She didn’t want to weigh me though. Her next words have stayed with me forever; the NHS is geared more towards helping overweight people than underweight, the UK is in an obesity crisis and the NHS would rather focus on those overweight than under. Essentially, she was telling me I could get away with it. Or even if she wasn’t that’s how I took it. I could carry on with my unhealthy behaviours, unhealthy weight and unhealthy mind-set and it would all be ok.
More recently my support worker backed up what my GP had told me, she said that the NHS gets more money and funding for helping the overweight patients. She also said that in the GP office’s they often adjust the scales to make a person weigh more so they’re more likely to fall into the overweight BMI category. There was actually a time, a year or so ago, when I went to the GP’s and they weighed me, and I was half a stone heavier than I was. My mind exploded to be honest, and right there and then in the GP’s room I was filled with anger, and an enormous desire to smash my head off a wall or carve a nice scar into my wrists. I was adamant I was going to come home and do that.  Instead I came home and weighed myself. Those scales at the GP’s were wrong. There was literally no way I could’ve weighed that much. As someone who self-harms; whether it be smashing my head off a wall, ripping my hair out or taking a sharp object to my wrists, this was quite the detrimental move from my GPs. They put me in danger. Albeit my own danger, but I’m mentally ill, I’m trying to work through that. I now refuse to get weighed at the doctors and only get weighed at the Eating Disorder Clinic or at home – where both scales give me the same number as each other, which is further proof in my eyes that the GP scales had been altered.

Prevention is one of the best remedies. Nipping it in the bud before it can blossom into something nasty and have its ugly head rear up is the best ways to avoid life threatening forms of Anorexia. Have a look back on yesterday’s tips to refresh yourself on the first signs – it’s so important!

https://www.justgiving.com/campaigns/charity/beat/sockit18

BEAT – Advice for Supporters

Screen Shot 2018-02-27 at 21.08.32

Blog 2

anorexia, recovery

Where did I go from here? I admitted I had a problem. I knew I had an issue with food and exercise.
I’d lost two bra cup sizes, my period and most the vital vitamins and minerals that were needed to keep my body running and warm. I’d lost a lot more than just what met the eye.

As I entered recovery this year, my dietician gave me a leaflet about Nutrition and Metabolism. Inside it reads,

“Calorie intake is reduced which results in your body initially losing weight and your metabolic rate slow down. This ends in a stability of weight with added symptoms appearing, such as feeling tired, feeling cold and having poor concentration.”

I was given this leaflet when I was 25; I’ve had those symptoms since I was 17.
I mentioned being cold a lot. I was always cold. Even in the summer I was cold. So cold that I had an extra radiator in my bedroom that I’d put on full blast even in the summer.
I remember in the January, after beginning my maintenance of a Anorexia, walking home in the pelting hailstones and my head was in excruciating pain. It started with the coldness from being outside in the hail and developed into something more. I had to ring my Mam to come and pick me up, in my eyes I’d failed – I hadn’t managed to walk all the way home, and I always thought you burned more calories in the cold, so it would have been a massive bonus. However I was in pain. I think my Mam was worried so she took me to the walk-in centre. They didn’t weigh me, and both me and my mam were too scared to say anything, we didn’t understand a thing about Mental Health, let alone Anorexia. They doctor gave me an ECG and said I had a very low heart rate. That was it. I wasn’t given any advice, medication, nor care.
I got away with it.
Anorexia went to the doctors and won.
Was it really going to be this easy to restrict my food, over exercise and live this way forever?
Essentially, yes.
That’s what my trips to the doctors over the next 8 years told me. I don’t want to get ahead of myself in my story and mess up the chronological order, but SPOILER ALERT, my GP told me that they don’t bother much with underweight patients – until its gone really far, as they get more revenue for tending to the obesity crisis the country is in. I had the same thing told me again this year by my support worker.
I never ever wanted to look too thin, too bony or too ill. I wanted to always keep my head just above the water. I knew how low my weight could go without it looking too alarming, whilst all the while that number on the scale actually being really quite alarming and a massive cause for concern.

Front of House is my expertise. Looking the part, talking the part and playing the part. I can be funny, happy, healthy, anything. And yeah, it’s all fake. I haven’t been healthy over the last 8 years, I haven’t been truly happy. As I strived to hide my Anorexia, I learned that the sunbeds and lipstick were my best friends – and layering up was a god send. People could still see I was skinny and working in Topshop for 6 years meant I’d gotten my fair share of “You’re too skinny, Sandi” or ‘This would DROWN you”. But they never said or went any further. This fuelled further that I could be at the weight I was, and maybe lower, and everyone would think I was fine.

Perhaps my biggest cover up was my love for food. I’ve always loved food, baking, eating. Food. Food. Food. Not only is it my biggest cover up, but it’s my biggest heartbreak and biggest motivation. Everyone knew I was a good baker, I’d auditioned for the Bake Off when I was 19, just a year after we knew I had an eating disorder. That day required the utmost planning, I had to research where to eat, what to eat, how many calories I could burn and how much I could hide and brush off if anyone noticed.
That day Mary Berry further ruined my life. She really did. She took away my motivation to do something that kept my mind occupied, and something that I excelled at. Mary Berry tasted my baked goods, praised them, praised me, shook my god damn hand, and then said I was too young and inexperienced for the Bake Off. My heart broke. I’d put myself through a crazy stress of food and exercise and planning to get here. I’d been up at 4 just to get in my morning jog before catching the bus to London! In my mind she told me I wasn’t good enough. She was just another person who didn’t want me.
In hindsight, I always think that if I got through and if I ended up competing, that I’d have been cured from Anorexia. I’d have been in a situation I couldn’t control, around food that I couldn’t avoid or control. But, y’know. Hindsight, like comparisons, is often a thief of joy.
The two friends I’d taken down to London with me didn’t at all seem sympathetic that I hadn’t gotten through, nor did they ask if I was okay. Instead they let me sit on a 6-hour bus journey home next to a stranger. It was just salt in the wound. They didn’t care.
I was very, very susceptible to my friends making me feel this way especially through the first few years of Anorexia. When I was 18, I felt so alone. I felt I hadn’t really a true friend in the world. I had all these feelings and the only thing I found comfort in were my disordered ways with food and exercise. My parents were busy with the shop, my younger sister had a hobby a night and my older brother had a lovely (not) girlfriend to be spending time with. At home I was alone as well. When I mustered up the energy or courage to try and go out with my friends they’d more often than not let me down. And these are feelings I’ve had all my life. And Anorexia loved it.
Stay home. Avoid Food. Exercise.
But then that Sensible Sandi kicked in. I decided I wanted a dog. Still to this day I have no idea why. I was always petrified of dogs. If one ever came into my shop I’d run upstairs and hide un my duvet. It was an irrational fear. But I did it. I bought a dog, I’d had money saved up from working at Topshop and I did it. I bought Kizzie. My little girl. It was the oddest sensation bringing her home. It was like I’d invited a friend to stay over for the night for the first time – which never happened because I lived in a shop, so I couldn’t have friends stay over. Except this guest didn’t leave.
I knew from the moment she was in my life that I loved her. She was my friend, forever. She was my walking companion and she got me through that year. She loved me for me and looked at me with sad eyes when she saw me crying over a salad having 10 more calories than I’d planned in it, or when we’d ran out of carrots or some other frivolity.
I had a reliable relationship in my life. She literally could not let me down or leave me or be too busy. It was great.
The day we bought her was the first time I’d had a McDonald’s in over a year, I had a Chicken Mayo sandwich without the mayo and that was it. Not even 350 calories. Probably less without mayo. What I dislike about Anorexia is how she makes me remember the food related stuff in my good memories. I spent HOURS, trawling over the McDonalds’ website to see if I could actually eat something and look semi -normal. It was hours of agony for me trying to decide. It was more anxiety inducing  and painful than actually buying an animal I was petrified of.
Possibly in one sense of my life I must have been getting stronger; I was seeking out my own friend, and facing up to a lifelong fear. Its these small and unconscious efforts of, what is essentially, self-care, that have kept my head above water.

****my boyfriend would like to apologise to Mary Berry on my behalf in case she ever hears of this unfortunate case. I would simply only like to say please help me write a baking bible of my own and publish it. Plz thanks xo

TIP
https://www.justgiving.com/campaigns/charity/beat/sockit18

BEAT

The First

anorexia, recovery

I’m writing this blog post, and a few more over the course of this week, to raise awareness for Anorexia Nervosa and how each sufferer is different.

I’m also writing it to share my experience. It has span almost 10 years, starting briefly when I was 15. I had a short lived, irrational desire to lose weight before I went on my first holiday. This is where my first anxieties around food developed – what would I eat there? Would I gain everything I’d lost already?
During this short phase, a comment was made to me, it was powerful, impactful and has resounded forever – ‘‘No daughter of mine will be Anorexic.’’
Around this time Anorexia was slowly starting to build its way up to taking over my life, and love for it, away from me. It just wasn’t quite ready yet.

I’d like to point out that when I was 15 and 17, there was still a massive stigma around Anorexia, and even up until 6 or 7 months ago I wouldn’t even have contemplated that’s what I was dealing with. I don’t resent the people in my life for anything they said previously regarding the illness, as none of us really knew what it was or what mental health was. However, times have changed.

Anyway.

My break out phase of anorexia reared its head in 2009, when I was 17. Before then, I ate what I wanted, when I wanted, as I wanted. I exercised as little as I wanted, got up when I wanted, and I went out with friends.
In 2009, I got braces. My teeth were just less than perfect and that needed fixing. I was no heavier than 8 and a half stone (although I’m not 100% sure; I didn’t weigh myself in those days) and as soon as I got the braces, everyone commented on how much weight I’d lose and how good braces were for weight loss and health.
I already ate healthy. Naturally my diet didn’t change, fizzy drinks weren’t replaced with water and chocolate bars weren’t replaced with fruit. I had a good and balanced diet.
When the weight didn’t drop off, I was disappointed. But why would it, nothing had changed.
When I returned to college after the summer my timetable had gone from being social and able to interact with my peers to the complete opposite. I saw no one. It was around this time in my life that I began to attract a lot of flaky friends, they’d let me down last minute and promise me things they couldn’t pull through with.  Both of these things play on the chords of myself self-worth, esteem and thoughts that no-one cares about me.
From a young age, I’ve conditioned my mind to naturally think those I love don’t care about me. It comes from living in a shop and assuming that the shop came first in everyone’s lives. I was always second best.
Prior to the summer I’d already started eating more ‘healthy’, swapping sugary cereal for plain and eating more fruit and less carbs. But once I’d gone back to college, I began walking to and from college, a good two hours walk a day, and jogging inside my house, or in my bedroom – hidden. I started to throw away food and pretend Id eaten it. I’d make a huge bowl of porridge for breakfast and throw it all away.  I quickly became obsessed with a self-competition. The more I could throw away, the more hidden exercise, the better. It felt good.
And then it happened. Quickly. I lost weight.
I became pale, gaunt, permanently cold and my lips always blue, as well as my nails. I weighed myself as often as I could – avoiding night times and clothing.
I had no idea what I was doing was ‘wrong’. It felt good, it was mine and it was my control. Oh, the control.

In the November of 2009, I went to Rome. I spent the days leading up to it researching ‘how to get away with not eating’ and ‘low calorie Italian food’. I had a list of ‘what to do to not gain weight’ on my phone. The list included telling everyone I couldn’t eat past 5pm due to stomach issues and that repeating ‘I was full’ or ‘already ate’. I even managed to manipulate my friend to eat at a different time to the whole group with me so I could say we’d already eaten and avoid confrontation. Even then, I was throwing most of it away and surviving simply on fruit, vegetables and yogurt (half of, if that).
This trip to Rome was the turning point, and perhaps the first time in my life where I’ve asserted my self-awareness.
My teacher, who I’d coerced into going for a morning jog with me, had noticed how bony my collar bones had become and much they protruded – something which I’m very conscious about to this day; they gave the game away. She said I looked gaunt and awful and that she’d cornered my friend in the lift and asked if she’d noticed if I’d actually eaten anything that week. As far as I’m aware my friend hadn’t a clue of my intake.
My teacher’s daughter had recently been hospitalized due to Anorexia and she saw the same signs and behaviours in me.
I couldn’t believe what she was saying, I was fuming, LIVID.
Why would she think that? I couldn’t be Anorexic, I wasn’t skinny enough. Yeah, I lost about a stone and half within a few weeks but that meant nothing. My mother would be furious that a teacher, someone we are meant to trust, would suggest such a thing.
Fortunately for me, and probably my saving grace through my life, my self-awareness kicked in.
What was I doing? This behaviour wasn’t rational, where had my love for life gone? My love for food?
Food wasn’t a pleasure anymore, it wasn’t an excitement nor a means for survival. It was a difficulty a frustration and an anxiety.
As we boarded the train in England toward home, I reflected back on the week. I’d spent it freezing, exhausted and in pain.  I’d began to develop bruising where my bones protruded and hadn’t lay comfortably on an unknown hotel bed. I’d exercised in secret, I’d thrown away food. I’d also fallen asleep during and audience with The Pope.
Something was wrong. I wasn’t well. But I didn’t know what to do.

As I arrived home, I’m not sure if I spoke to my mother about it straight away. But the most heart-breaking moment of this phase happened. My mam made a ‘welcome home’ dinner for me. We didn’t all eat together as we lived in a Newsagents and that wasn’t easy to do. She’d made Pasta with sugo and had bought steak specially for the sugo.
I was absolutely fuming. PASTA?! I couldn’t eat that. Not only was it pasta, for god sake, but it was after 5. And I didn’t eat after 5.
I can’t imagine how awful that moment must’ve been for my mother, she tried to do something so nice for me, and I threw it back in her face. I’d become terrified of food. The thought of it sent me into straight, cold, hard frozen fear. I went to bed in anger and on an empty stomach.

The next day my routine of waking up, jogging, preparing breakfast and then throwing it away resumed. But this day I felt different, I had an awful anxiety that wouldn’t go away, an awful worry and concern that I needed to get off my chest. But no, it was my friends 18th birthday party tonight and I was going.
I’d already arranged with my other friends that I wasn’t going to go for the birthday meal they’d planned for her, and I’d already planned to turn up late and go home early. I was home before my shop shut – 9pm. I was knackered. Completely and thoroughly exhausted. It was this night I remember talking to my mother about it all.
She didn’t know anything about mental health, nor did I. I just felt lost, confused and helpless. Something I still feel very regularly to this day.
My mother tried to threaten me with empty threats like –if my weight goes any lower than 7st I’d be taken to the doctors.
But it did.
And then it got lower, and lower.
I was never taken to the doctors, nor did I ever send myself there.
I remember having a conversation with my mother about what we could do, and I can’t remember the details of it, but I know that this again is where my self-awareness kicked in. I couldn’t be hospitalized or be labelled Anorexic. I couldn’t and I wouldn’t. From the next day I started to try to eat more, on my own, through my own initiative. And I did. But then this is where I started to calorie count, exercise more, and cut myself off from friends.
In reflection, it wasn’t a recovery method, it was just another way of maintaining Anorexia. This way I could do it and no-one would know because I was still eating.
At first, I set my target at 1700 calories a day. I don’t think I’ve hit that, on a daily basis, since I was 18. Asides from a 6 months exception when I was 20; more on that later.
With every year of my life, that number of calories I’ve consumed on a daily basis has gotten lower and lower. Whilst the exercise burn amount has gotten higher.
Furthermore, in a bid to hide my Anorexia, I wore lipstick every day, all day and painted my nails. And. The best trick in the book, I started using the sunbeds. I’m half Italian, so naturally tanned, but Anorexia strips me of that; low blood sugars give you an awful and unnatural paleness. But my sunbeds helped stop that.

From that moment on, I started to maintain my Anorexia. She’s been in my life ever since. I’ve hidden her well, I think. I rarely spent full days with anyone and when I did, I’d either avoid food altogether or incorporate exercise into our routine and plans.
For me, in my life, Anorexia is like a hairline crack in the ceiling of a living room. It starts out small, it’s there, always has potential to be dangerous. As time goes on, the crack gets bigger, and bigger and gets out of hand. Without looking closely, it never gets noticed and especially not fixed.  Eventually it gets so bad that the ceiling begins to collapse, break and can’t put up with the pressure anymore.
Suddenly its gone from bad to worse.

https://www.justgiving.com/campaigns/charity/beat/sockit18

BEAT

edaw-sticker-5.jpg