Build a bridge and get over it.
Really, it is that simple.
And by simple I mean extremely difficult and awfully painful. But in essence, its that simple.
This last week I appear to have had a slight epiphany. No-one can change me except for me.
Whilst with my weight and physical anorexia I was always aware this was something I had control over, my mental angst, anxiety and suffering was always something I relied heavily on others to soothe.
And well to be fair, that was bullshit.
I woke on Monday, emotionally hungover from another weekend of suicide threats, emotional distress and constant crying. And something I guess clicked. I needed to try to change myself. Thus far I hadn’t really tried that hard to maintain any of the techniques any therapist had taught me. So from Monday I decided to try.
I’m good at reflecting back on situations now and analysing them, so now I try to look into the situation at the time and see things in a different light. I’m in a fortunate position where I’m quite privileged, I have unconditional love around me and a family that bend over backwards to ensure my head doesn’t get as messy as it has done.
Whilst Monday was my ‘new year, new me’ day, I could feel all my emotions just there bubbling away under the surface and a few times tears ran down my face without warning. But it appears to have gotten a bit easier.
So point number one; only you can change you.
Point number two; fake it till you god damn make it.
My home life isn’t something I ever tried to hide my true feelings and thoughts from, so thus I fell prey to my own mind. Its a tricky little web to get tangled with but ultimately I can only blame myself for not acting against these thoughts. I’m now learning that its practise that makes perfect and that challenging those bad thoughts is really whats needed to prevail. It was very easy for my illness to become me, I stopped leaving the house, stopped travelling places, stopped allowing myself to eat different things and I lived by my routine. I fell victim even more to ill mental health. No matter how much psychological help there is available the only person who can change me, is me.
Perseverance is key: point number three.
Don’t half arse things. No-one wants half a meal, half a hair cut or half a conversation. So put the effort it. I’d be cliche and say ‘reap the rewards’ but i’m yet to reap any rewards yet. Half arsedness won’t work.
It was only today at work I finally said it out loud: ‘build a bridge and get over it’. If I spend all my time dwelling on my ill feelings and thoughts I won’t change them, so now its time to act.
I do think that I needed a good reason to try to do this and I found it. No longer do I want any of my relationships to suffer, or for my dog to have to console me on a Friday, Saturday AND Sunday night. Its not healthy for either parties, and whilst I understand this is an illness, its one I can try to manage and stamp out on my own.
In reality you can only get better if you want to get better, as I said if you half arse things it just doesn’t work. And thats only something the sufferer can act on. Up and till the last couple of weeks I wonder if I actually ever wanted to get better. Its only in the last few weeks have I become hyper aware of how I may or may not affect others with my illness and actually wanted to change to protect them.
I started writing this post around three weeks ago when I decided to change. And I can report back now, that whilst its not been as difficult as I thought, that it has been tiring and theres still a lot of things that bother me but I’m trying to react in different and more healthy ways. By keeping busy and distracted I’ve managed to silence suicidal thoughts and tried to be a bit more positive. Its a massive task but slowly who knows where I may end up.
We all have weight, it’s inevitable. It’s like having eyes and a nose. We have it. Some of us differ to others and we’re all different in our own ways. Something similar amongst us though is how we use weight to define our worth.
For me, up and til this year, I weighed myself almost daily. And whilst my weight was low and I was able to control It to a degree – and my fluctuations not able to range as much as a healthy weight, it still changed as it pleased.
Would you try to control your heart rate?
And weight, to some level, is the same as this. Our bodies are, pardon my French, weird as fuck. I went to see Michael McIntyre recently and he pointed this out – yawning? Weird AF.
Our bodies will do what they do. It’s just a part of them working and doing their job.
I can understand why we try control it, to me control feels GOOOD. Decreasing the number on the scales always felt GOOOD. With multiple O’s. But that was never helpful. Defining ourselves through weight is really just bullshit.
Post weight restoration im more of myself, personality wise, than ever.
There’s a movement going about on instagram orchestrated by Jameela Jamil, it’s called the #iweigh movement. And in it people post how much they weigh. Not in pounds, stones or kilos. But in realness, characteristics and positivities. It’s really a good movement to get behind and I’m heavily contemplating, the next time I’m asked what I weigh, to say 2 dogs, a 3 bedroom house, AMAZING pastry chef and chocolate adventurer. We’ll see how that one goes down though.
I gusss one of the points of the movement is that weight does not define our worth – WE define our worth. We define it through our trials and triumphs. Our life experiences and our ways of handling them and ourselves.
As i come to the end of my time at the Eating Disorder Clinic, my weight plays a lot on my mind.
I’m actually just under a healthy weight for where the clinic want me to be, much to my mistake. And whilst I’m allowed to go to the gym and try to tone up and gain muscle, I’m aware I need to gain weight to do that.
Am I comfortable with that? No.
But to think of it rationally, if it’s how I want my body to look then I have to look at the scales from a different perspective and realise the number doesn’t define my worth. It shows of my efforts and bids to get better, but it doesn’t define my worth.
I lived so many years having my days depend on the number on the scale. If it went up, it was a VERY bad day. And if it went down. It was an ok day. I wasn’t ever fully happy when it went down as I was scared it would go so low there was no turning back.
My question is why do we abide by scales and weight when it doesn’t really define our worth?
What do you weigh in worth, what are your triumphs and tribulations, what are your accomplishments and skills?
Truth is, I don’t care what other people weigh. I never have done. So I assume it’s quite the same for most other people.
We can’t tell how much a person weighs from looking at them, so why does the number matter?
And that’s something, after 8 years of being in a toxic relationship with, I’m ready to break up and start afresh. But just like real toxic relationships, it’s one that just won’t let go of me so easily.
***it kind of matters for health purposes but that’s it, NOTHING more.
I never really wanted to do a before and after photo, but I’m doing this for myself and to raise awareness. I guess I would say this is a before and RIGHT NOW photo. There aren’t major differences between myself then, and myself now. I still have the same struggles I just manage them differently and use different coping mechanisms. I’ve learned how to EAT and LIVE as opposed to starve and survive.
I am still 5 feet small. On the left I am very underweight, malnourished, starved and over exercised (and drunk). The right is now. Same dress, different mentality. Not much difference, ey? Actually, if anything, I look better now, I GUESS.
Many people believe Anorexia to be an extreme physical illness. It’s not. It’s an extreme mental one that has physical symptoms. Whilst I hit the criteria for the physical side, others do not. You can’t tell by looking at someone if they have an Eating Disorder or not. As can you not tell if someone has any other Mental Health illness or not. Many times, like others I know, I’ve been told ‘oh but you wouldn’t think it to look at you.’ Well no, you wouldn’t think it, because I don’t eat in front of people nor do I, or did I, walk around with my body on full show. So how could anyone diagnose something that’s going on beneath the surface? You can’t, that’s how. There’s an assumption with mental health illness that It brings about a certain appearance and certain personality traits and actions, these assumptions make an ASS out of YOU and ME, never assume, everyone is a fighting a battle that we can’t see – whether it physical, emotional or mental. It is always important to try an approach people with an open mind in a bid to reduce stigma and break down barriers and walls. It might be difficult as the society and media around us has grown to teach us automatic stereotyping of one another, but if we all try, we can do it.
But now, I write to myself;
HEY SANDI. Your cheeks may be fuller, (a small bit), and your tummy not hollow and concave. But your collar bones still stick out. You still have absolutely no boobs and your legs are still short AF. Whilst your thighs may be acquainted and try to become friends with one another (something I knows serves you great distress and dismay) it’s a sign of ‘recovery’. The picture on the right is a girl who isn’t starved and isn’t undernourished. It’s a healthy girl. If we remember the girl on the right, in constant stomach pain from malnutrition, eating less than 500 calories a day and exercising in secret, is that really living life? It might feel comfortable and safe but that’s Anorexia, again, making you feel like you need to restrict, and you need to control. But remember that brings pain. The reality of this photo is that weight has been gained but you need to see it more importantly as HEALTH and LIFE have been gained. Every one of those pounds from then until now (let’s be honest Sandi it isn’t THAT much) is trying to provide and work toward a better future. So, let it. As your good friend has told you ‘don’t look back’. When you look at old photos of yourself, remember the constant stomach pain, the tiredness, the lack of emotion, the lack of food, the overpowering COLD of simply surviving and be thankful you aren’t that girl anymore. Be thankful that you chose the recovery path, thankful that you tried to eat and thankful that you DO eat. Be thankful that your body can now handle doing a gym class and manage to keep itself a little bit warmer – you know you hate the coldness of starvation and malnutrition. It hurts. What you need to realise is that you haven’t changed all that much, whilst the scale has gone up it hasn’t gone up all that much – be honest, it hasn’t. And you can still wear some of your old clothes. Look forward, not back.
This is a before and RIGHT NOW photo because I don’t know if I’ll ever truly recover. Right now, every day, every thought, wants me to go back to starvation. It wants me to eat the bare minimum and go hours without any food. Right now, I’m more scared of restoring a few more pounds than ever. BUT I know that if I ever want to have a life, have children, I have to maintain this weight. A body any lesser than what I have isn’t fit for creating life and that’s a sad reality I live in fear of everyday, too.
The only choice I have through all of this is whether to fight or surrender. And I swear, it’s the battle of all battles. Every day is a war and no day can pass without me scrutinising my body or my food. Recovery is relentless, it’s an angel on one shoulder and a devil on another, its left and its right, up and down. The line isn’t straight, nor is it always forward. I’ve said it before, but Anorexia recovery really is like quitting smoking or another life consuming addiction, Anorexia is every day, every moment and every breath. It’s a friend and an enemy and an entire society. For someone who is now managing their Anorexia, I can say that It feels like I’m piling loads of heavy car and trucks onto a frail and fragile bridge and just waiting for the bridge to collapse under the immense pressure of all the vehicles its upholding. I’m always ready to snap and always ready to break, I wonder if this will now be my life forever more; having Anorexia just waiting in the wings and ready to come back and take centre stage at any moment.
I’m hyper aware the recovery I’ve made thus far is only a partial one. My physical ailments have eased up, my weight has been somewhat restored, and I’m no longer permanently cold and tired.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it so many times again. My Anorexia still weighs heavily on my mind. This recovery process, for me, is still very much part of the illness. There are constant setbacks, constant worry, never-ending self-abuse, harm and doubt. It’s an endless circle of vicious, dangerous thoughts.
I write this as I close on a particularly difficult day for me. It’s sunny outside, the sun is high and hot in the sky and bodies are on show and skin is on display. I’m in possession of a ‘new’ body and so in need of newer, better fitting, summer clothes. Whilst all my tops and dresses still fit me, I feel uncomfortable in my old shorts and jeans. I replaced my jeans a while ago, however the shorts I haven’t managed to.
Stupidly enough, I choose a hot, sticky and sweaty day to buy and try new shorts. I bought two pairs in the sale section of H&M, just before I got to work. Long story short, the shorts were actually smaller than the jeans that I was wearing however their size bigger. Naturally, my anorexic mind took straight over. I was fat. My thighs must have BALLOONED. I must have become a whale. That is seriously what I think everyday. My clothes don’t hang off me anymore – they fit, so I must be huge. As soon as I got to work, I sat down and didn’t move for 20 minutes. Normally I would sit down, have my morning bagel, yogurt and fruit and then go down to work. But not today. I was overcome with a sickness, I could feel it in my stomach. I felt disgusting. I felt huge. My mind and feelings make me think and feel that I’m about 70 stone and a half, as opposed to what I actually weigh.
I am not used to this body, I am not used to a not underweight figure. I’m not used to clothes fitting or not being freezing in the sweltering heat. Previously on days like today, I would have still felt that chill from within. Today was the first day I’ve noticed I haven’t felt just so cold in a while, but instead of that being a good thing and a sign of my partial recovery, it reminded me that I was fat.
I really never wanted to be ‘one of those’ women who thinks they’re fat when they’re still wearing small sized clothing, or when they aren’t even fat at all. Unfortunately, I am. Even when I was properly underweight, when the scale number got less and less I still felt like I weighed more and more. What’s more challenging in a partial recovery is knowing that I am only managing my Anorexia and not recovered from it, it’s harder to explain to people why I don’t look so ill/so bony/like I’m about to collapse. It’s a challenge I do like to accept, however. I feel by doing so it is raising in a better understanding and awareness that Eating Disorders affect any size, and its simply only when it’s gone too far that the physical symptoms start to appear.
I joined the gym a couple of weeks ago, and whilst my going has been sporadic at times I’ve managed a few classes with a bit of routine. Immediately it showed up in my blood tests; I’d been over exercising. To the naked eye there’s no tell-tale sign for this, again another proof that Eating Disorders are invisible. Every day is a challenge, and every day is a struggle. Today I struggled.
After I sought to not eat my morning bagel and snacks, I decided that was it. It was back to my Anorexic ways. Id deleted food from my food diary that I’d planned today, and I increased my already high level of exercise. I let both my mother and boyfriend know. In my mind it was a decision that needed to be made. At the time I felt neither my boyfriend nor mother really understood or helped the situation. They didn’t make me feel better or worse, I was rekindling back with the extreme restriction and starvation of Anorexia. But as time went on, my decision began to bring me anxiety and unfortunately, I could feel my concentration at work falter and I’m really trying my hardest at work at the moment, so I felt disappointed in myself. I felt less than myself. I knew what I had to do and who I had to speak to. There’s been several setbacks before this one where I haven’t spoken to who I needed to and just continued to lower my calories in preparation for an extreme restriction, but this time, I called them. I rang Julia, my psychologist and asked to be called back after work.
As I walked home, I tried to put my mind into a rational sense; I’ve not even gained a stone, the weight I’ve restored is necessary, my hair is stronger, my body is warmer, my bum no longer is flat, the shorts I bought today were SMALLER than the jeans I was wearing today which were a size smaller than the shorts anyway. I tried to fight back. And so, I did. Fast forward to after speaking to Julia, I managed to turn my thoughts around and eat what I’d planned previously for the day. Being proactive in recovery is important and it isn’t something that I usually participate too much in, but I won’t get anywhere if I keep allowing setbacks and irrational thoughts to sink in.
When I got home, I put on a playsuit that my mum bought me last year. It still fit. It fit pretty much the same as it did the last time I wore it. I even did a ‘comparison’ photo, of then and now. And the difference was actually minimal. Even though the picture shows me little difference, I still doubt that what it shows me is true. This is the reality of anorexia. It won’t ever let me feel thin or skinny, it won’t ever be happy with the number on the scales. The only number it would be happy with is the number DEATH. The only way to live is to try fight it and continue to try and have days like today where I challenge myself and Anorexia. Its bloody awful, and excruciatingly difficult. Maybe one day I’ll be fully recovered, but for now I guess I’m learning to live my life with a partial recovery and accept my feelings and emotions and challenge the negativity.
I end the day having spent some time in the sun, something which I truly love, doing a 30 minutes beginners yoga class and eating that bagel I missed earlier with a slathering of chocolate peanut butter. My struggles are still here, and I still restrict and control every day, but I’m hoping the future is bright and the future is coming.
I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I’ve injured my knee to the point I’m struggling to walk and I’m in constant pain – and it’s my fault. I can only assume, but I’m more than certain, its due to over exercising and over exerting myself in my daily jog. The last few days I’ve had to change my exercise and daily routine without my full consent. As stated before I would usually jog through the pain or just get on with it, but this time I physically can’t.
To me, especially through my recovery, exercise was my safety blanket. It was a means to eat more and a reason I was looking to increase and expand as my calorie intake and weight reach normal numbers. It’s all been thrown right up in the air now and the distress is something really unimaginable. These last few days have felt like a relationship break up or a death. I’ve been through both of those situations before and there’s really nothing else I can compare it to. I’ve spent the last few afternoons and nights crying inconsolably. The mental distress hurts so much and there’s a constant physical pain to go along with it.
I don’t hate to say I was right, so I can quite happily state it; I was right. I said I was preparing myself for the hardships to get harder and they bloody well did. I have been stripped of my obsessive compulsive daily exercise routine and my disordered ways and mind are so lost and in a state of grief and loss right now. The pain seems never ending. Typically, and wrongly, when people imagine OCD they assume it’s an obsessive compulsion to clean – it’s actually so much more and comes in so many forms. Here that assumption can help you understand my pain. Imagine how that stereotypical OCD sufferer would feel if they entered a room and are unable to tidy the mess, or unable to put anything in order – or worse yet, their tidiness and order had been deliberately messed up and made untidy. The distress is overwhelming. That is me right now. I could scream.
I tried to give up exercise completely and maybe have ONE day off but even in the pain I’m not allowed. I’ve cut down, but I feel more disgusting and hate myself even more for just doing that. I cannot stop.
This might be Gods way of trying to catapult me away from Anorexia and all the ties and restrictions that come with it, but I can’t comprehend why he couldn’t come up with a more subtle and gentle way. Thus far through my recovery I’ve been ill more times than I have in the entire 8 years this has gone on for. Perhaps another means of testing me and my life after recovery – I don’t know, but I do know that this ride and experience has been incredibly difficult and trying. I’m frequently told nowadays that I’m brave for going through this – maybe I am, but I certainly don’t feel it. Anorexia wouldn’t let me feel it. It feels like I’m abandoning a sick puppy or something equally as sweet and sour. It shouldn’t be done. Anorexia is part of me right now and its struggling to leave. With a decrease in my exercise routine Anorexia SCREAMS at me to decrease my intake – but I’m finally (give or take 300g) not in the ‘underweight; category anymore, and yeah, I guess it took some bloody hard work. It took me at least 4 months to even begin to make any small increases in my diet and now I’m struggling again to maintain that. I unfortunately adhered to Anorexia and did make a small decrease in my intake this week – but it shouldn’t make a massive difference (hopefully). It also shows me that Anorexia is still very much present and waiting for the right moment to come back fighting with all guns blazing. I’m not yet strong enough to fight off 100% of these thoughts, at the moment I’ve done well (I guess. Be realistic, Alessandra). I haven’t stopped eating, I haven’t skipped any meals. I’ve carried on. I’m still going to work. I’m still trying. That’s the important part. I’m still trying through all the distress and anxiety and pain. I’m still trying and I’m still here.
I may have cut myself, but I’ve not hit my head or tried to take my life. I suppose the fact I’m still here and haven’t done those things speaks volumes in their own ways.
For me, my anorexia is confusing. I love food. My main craft, passion and driving force is baking and patisserie. My whole life is about a love of food.
Naturally in a bid to harm and punish myself I deprived myself of this love. As I go through recovery I’m trying to learn how to build that love back up to a genuine love, a love that I can interact with again and go deeper. I do love to eat, I love to see a full plate and I enjoy sitting there and taking my time. I also hate to eat, I hate seeing a full plate and I hate having to sit there and spend my time on it. My relationship with food is benevolent. Like a see-saw that I can’t quite get to stop and balance. One day I’m all for eating a bit more and trying to loosen my restrictions. Then the next day my boyfriend will have to pick me up, put me over his shoulders and sit me down in front of my supper and tell me to eat until I do.
I’m trying to change my whole life. My head is really struggling to catch up. In fact, it’s not even so much it’s MY head but more Anorexia’s mind-set worming its way back to being loud and proud and the over bearing force upon my mind.
I started writing this because I wanted to convey my current feelings about gaining weight and struggling to understand how people won’t change their opinions on me or think I’m ugly and fat, basically.
My boyfriend met me and was attracted to me whilst I was underweight. My parents have told me over the last 8 years how beautiful and pretty and GREAT I am. I’ve met a lot of people over the last 8 years who met me whilst I was underweight.
My Anorexia tells me that they’re all going to think that once I’ve got to the weight I need to be at they’ll think I’m fat. Or what if my boyfriend doesn’t find me attractive anymore? Or what if I’m not ‘beautiful’ or ‘pretty’ anymore? What if because I look different that I’m not the person everyone expects me to be?
The answer here, Sensible Alessandra speaks up, is ‘SO WHAT!?’. My boyfriend and parents have to love me. They have no choice. Some of you may read this and think ‘Well your boyfriend could leave you if he wanted.’ Well, no. Sorry, he can’t. And he won’t. Because, like my parents, he wants me to gain weight and get better. And to be perfectly honest, if any of you have met me, I’m quite the force to be reckoned with and he’d have no chance.
As I wrote that tears filled my eyes. It’s hard for me to accept that those most important in my life want me to get better and the means to get there is gaining weight and they won’t abandon me for getting better. Anorexia doesn’t want that, but Alessandra does. These thoughts don’t just come and go, they’re ever present. Every day, all day, every interaction and its extremely tiring.
I’m learning a new life and it’s been the most difficult craft to master yet.
As I struggle with this new way of life and trying to adhere to it, I’m still bound by Anorexia – so I know I’m not quite there yet as I’m very aware of my daily struggles. Recently I gained an injury to my foot and the knee of my other leg. Normally, I assume, any sound of mind person would ease off putting strain and pressure on those points, but no, not me. I’ve never ever missed a day of exercise and it’s this little hiccup that has made me realise just how warped my relationship with it is. I’ve carried on doing my jog, and walking, and stepping. Nothing stops. The overwhelming dread of not being able to walk consumes me, but the dread of gaining too much weight through lack of exercise consumes me more. Whilst yes, I accept that I need to gain weight – and am doing so, the other hand deals me that I can’t exercise less. It’s a rule that I’ve yet to learn to break. I’m sure normal people have days where they don’t jog, don’t do a sit up, don’t go for a walk and generally don’t do much moving at all. Even the vaguest hint of this happening or being thought of sends me into an anxious pit of despair. I spent the night prior to writing this unable to sleep and when I did I dreamt of becoming paralysed and not being able to jog. This dream frequents quite often in different ways – usually the dream is about me struggling to get time to myself to get in that jog, and the distress it brings me is unimaginable.
With any form of anxiety or OCD I’m told its better to challenge it, and I know it’s true. Throughout my battles with anxiety I’ve learned not to avoid situations if I want to be able to have them become normalised in the future. It’s the same with exercise but right now I’m petrified to lessen the amount – even if the current amount brings me pain or injury.
This warped relationship with exercise has plagued me for years, as one may have guessed given the length of my anorexia battle. I used to jog upstairs, through my parent’s bedroom and back around and on to the landing and then go back around again. This meant I needed my parents’ bedroom to be free. Typically, this would be fine and easy as they both got up before the sun to tend to the newsagents and sort out the papers. On the odd occasion it didn’t, I would wake my Mam up and tell her I needed to jog. That poor woman. Imagine the only time you get to have a lie in that your daughter is telling you to get up and get out because she needs to jog. It’s almost as ludicrous as said daughter telling you she’s hurt her foot and her knee and is struggling to walk but won’t stop exercising. Crazy. I suppose this shows how Anorexia doesn’t just affect the suffer it affects the lives of those surrounding and also impacts on their lives too.
As I wrote this, I was sat with a pain in my knee and an ache In my foot wondering if this will continue to go on, and pray it goes away. However, I know it won’t stop me. I’m not well enough for it to stop me yet. There’s still a way to go and I long for that future bit currently I’m in a situation I know all too well and can’t understand how to get out of it.
As quite obvious, and stated above, my Anorexia is confusion. Knowing one thing and acting another. Feeling one thing and acting another. It’s all very confusing and conflicting and its never ending. I’m told there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, and there might be. I’m just not sure If I’m even in a tunnel, it feels like I’m just trapped underneath the tunnel right now.