Archive for the ‘Getting Better’ Category

Recovery: Some of the things we talked about…

Thursday, September 16th, 2010

I did a recovery vodcast earlier this week. Because my recovery was so internalised and over-analysed, I forget that there are useful things that could be said. This is a recovery dump. It’s some of the things that we talked about that I had only talked to myself about. I don’t know whether they’ll be helpful. I’ve been so aware that my recovery has been different from his recovery – which is different from her recovery – that I’d forgotten the points where experiences collide, and that the more weapons you can rally up, the better.

It is not an easy battle, nor fought on a single front…

So, in no particular order, these are some of the things that we discussed.


Available to Life

Thursday, August 12th, 2010

I bumped into a friend on Clapham High Street last night. Mid flat-hunting panic, when it felt like the city might swallow me and I was feeling scarily alone, she walked past and invited me to come along for dinner.

I hesitated (because I had planned my supper already) and scrabbled around for an excuse (because they were going for pizza, and I haven’t faced that challenge yet); and then realised that it was more important – given the loneliness – that I was fully available to life.


Sunday, June 13th, 2010

I have heard the word “intention” mentioned in three different contexts over the past few days. This can’t be coincidence. There’s clearly something I’m meant to explore. It’s another one of those occasions where I have taken a rather long and protracted route to arrive at a common psychological concept, this being we are more likely to do that which we intend to do –

And that stating it makes it real.

From Talking to Walking…

Sunday, May 30th, 2010

Things feel a hundred times better now that I have finally started moving. The anticipation is always far worse than the action – and yet each time, I seem to forget.

Change often happens this way for me. The fear paralyses. Then comes the frustration. And, finally, the elastic-band-snap of emancipation and whoosh, I’m free

Come what will.

I went through the same process in my recovery. The same wheel-spinning-yet-not-going-anywhere, until it felt like a miracle that I didn’t implode. All talk, I seemed – and no action. All words – and nothing behind them but fear.

Doing Things Differently

Friday, May 28th, 2010

I am a great believer in the value of doing something differently. With a track record of making the same mistakes, over and over again, I also know that doing things differently is, for me, incredibly and infuriatingly hard. Einstein hits the nail on the head, so I expect that I am not alone:

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

Since going to see Alice in Wonderland, I have been completely taken by the idea of believing in “6 impossible things before breakfast”.

I have also realised that even getting to one is quite a challenge for me.

Despite my best attempts, a rather annoying voice chimes in and points out the irrationality of my thinking – and that’s before we’ve got anywhere near to blue caterpillars and talking cats.

“Today will be a great day” is countered by “you’re setting yourself up for a fall.” “Anything’s possible” is “provided” that things like rain, and ironing, and traffic jams, don’t get in the way. And, “crazy” ideas are negated with a “but”, or abandoned, mid creation, “because that would be ridiculous” –

Alice would disapprove. This is not at all what Lewis Carroll was talking about and my current approach is fundamentally flawed. I am vetting what’s possible – or not – before it even becomes a thought, let alone something I’d consider believing in.

So, in order to meet the target, I’m putting in a little preparation and trying to….

1. Create some space.

Recovery In Context

Friday, March 26th, 2010

A couple of weeks ago, I had a spot of writers block.

In one of the few weeks that I had lots of time to write, nothing was coming out.

This was incredibly frustrating. Every evening after work, I’d turn on the computer; lock my front door; give my head permission to run wild – and come up with nothing. And, the longer I came up with nothing, the harder it became to access what I was thinking and to imagine ever having anything to write.

It took me a week of staring at a blank screen to realise why I kept coming up with nothing. In the pursuit of thinking about something to write, I had pressed pause on the thing that normally gets me going –


In this instance, removing the context definitely didn’t help.

I approached recovery in a similar way; and, unfortunately, it took a bit longer for the penny to drop.

The Yes Once Rule

Friday, March 12th, 2010

I have just said yes to something that I would normally say no to.

You have to do this rather a lot in recovery; otherwise things just stay the same.

You have to start saying “yes”, even if your head is saying “no”; because you don’t find out what you’re capable of unless you take a little risk and give something new a go.

It has taken me a while to realise this. In the absence of a Jim Carey film which manages to make the point in about 90 minutes, I didn’t automatically see the connection between my constricting life and the frequency with which I said no…

I just started feeling a little trapped.

Given that my eating disorder had a zillion rules and assumed the majority of my time, this was probably unsurprising, only –

Small Steps

Monday, March 8th, 2010

I noticed, this morning, as my sleepy eyes slowly sharpened on the drizzling rain, that I hadn’t checked the forecast for a while.

This is progress.

The need to know – or control – or anticipate the future seems to have loosened; and, instead of checking in to BBC weather at hourly intervals, I have obviously found more interesting things to do, or just realised that I can manage, come rain or shine.

How to make friends…

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

….is a question that I have been asking myself rather a lot recently.

Now that I’ve realised that people are preferable to an eating disorder, I’m eager to make up for lost ground and appreciating just how much we’ve got to offer each other –

Only, it’s a little harder now that I’m nearing 30 and most people seem to be settled; and, I’ve hit a few unanticipated questions – like where do I go, and what do I say? – and some overlooked assumptions – like what do I have to offer? – that have put a few barriers in my way.

Making friends is far more complicated then I remember.

Given that the last time I tried to make friends, the other 30 people in the classroom shared my sentiments, this is, perhaps, unsurprising. However, after doing lots of things that I thought I couldn’t do, and as I’ve already come this far, there’s no points in shying away from a challenge – and this is what I’ve started to learn:

1. Being my own friend

The to-Temazepam or not-to-Temazepam Debate

Friday, January 29th, 2010

I have been prescribed some Temazepam, to help me sleep.

It sits, alongside all the other well-intended treatment, in my kitchen cupboard, whilst I toss, and turn, and wait for the panic to wear itself out–

I have never been very good with medication.

Art as Therapy

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

Last night, I was painting plates.

Art wasn’t this therapeutic when I was painting feelings.

I think I might have been missing the point – or just getting too hung up on it. When you’re trying to draw the perfect tragedy, it doesn’t really work; and, if you’re doing something because it’s ‘part of the programme’, it can feel a little bit like you’re back at school –

Painting plates, however, is a whole different ball game to psychiatric ward Blue Peter or the hardcore art therapy that, along with the plastic chairs and patronisation, was hard to take seriously. It is, instead, about having fun and being creative and doing something different – which is a therapy in itself.

The Self Help Sceptic

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

As a self help sceptic (reformed), the irony inherent in my blog has not been missed.

If you’d given me a web address or a self help book a few years back, I’d have turned my nose straight up.

There was a certain arrogance to my eating disorder (what would they know?) that sneered at self help (like it’s that easy) and people who claimed to “understand”; an automatic scepticism towards shop brought solutions and the hollowness of a few positive words that couldn’t possibly appreciate my pain –

I might have been wrong.

(How not to do) Family Therapy

Friday, January 15th, 2010

I have stayed away from mentioning my family on this blog. This is, possibly, a lingering lesson from family therapy. There is little value in throwing around recriminations and blame and hurt. Family therapy’s a good tool but it comes with a few words of caution: get a good therapist; work together; and, remember that you can only ever change yourself.

The trick to effective family therapy is in the “family”. For some reason, it can be hard for the word – and the people – to stick. In the first few attempts, we fell at this crucial hurdle; and, what began as a group affair, quickly reverted back to the therapist and me.

This kind of defeats the object, although it’s relatively easy to see where it all went wrong…

The Importance of a Good GP

Monday, January 4th, 2010

Because an eating disorder does not like to be challenged; and, because it prefers to live in shrouded denial, rather than open discussion, it took me a while to recognise the importance of a good GP.

The first few said the wrong things. The next few just didn’t get me. And the one I have now is a total godsend. It is possible to work with, rather than against, the health profession.

Whilst my eating disorder was punctuated by long GP-less spells and a general wariness of anyone whose name happened to be preceded by DR; my current GP is dispelling a lot of my assumptions; and, a more objective me is recognising just how important it is to get a little support in place, particularly when you’re playing Russian Roulette with your health –

Saturday Nights

Saturday, December 5th, 2009

Now that I’ve made some space for a life, I am enjoying the Saturday night experience.

After the loneliness of an eating disorder, you don’t take anything for granted: a night in with friends may be commonplace – but after years of me and my food, even the mundane is strangely precious; even the smallest of pleasures is noted as an achievement –

Because Saturday nights still feel like a novelty – and friends are proving far better company than food.

A little social re-positionning

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

I am having to undertake a little social re-positioning now that I am emerging as a person – and not an illness.

The parameters have shifted somewhat; and, there has been a little lag in the transition – which is only to be expected after 17 years of living within the clearly defined cage of an eating disorder.

So, I am having to re-navigate relationships and re-set the expectations. I am learning to show that the things that weren’t possible before are now okay; that the concerns that were so palpable are no longer overwhelming; and, that the hope that was previously cloaked behind self protection and past disappointment, can finally be enjoyed –

After a lot of pain, the best way to do this is by example.

A Good Dentist…

Sunday, October 25th, 2009

I don’t have much of my real teeth left.

If you’ve got bulimia, get yourself a good dentist – there’s stuff that they can do.

Pick and Mix Treatment

Saturday, October 10th, 2009

Treatment is a subjective experience. It may be dictated by prescription – but its success is down to how it works in relation to you.

I’m sure that an official spiel for each specialism is readily available; so, to try and be a little useful in my own special way, the following section looks at the different treatments I’ve had – conventional, unconventional and things that aren’t “treatment” but seem to help – and how they’ve made a difference.

It also comes with a few very big and very painfully learnt lessons…

Honesty is paramount – if you’re not being truthful, you can’t treat the real problem.

Time heals – don’t give up if the impact’s not immediate.

The Risk of Relationships –

Friday, October 2nd, 2009

I had forgotten that there was an element of risk involved in any relationship.

Writing a blog has heightened the experience.

Start an interaction and you’ve got to be able to handle the response –

An eating disorder protects you, to some extent. It’s a risk reduction when the social interactions decrease; a comfort when they go wrong.

The real world does not operate on these terms and self protection comes at a cost. You do, quite possibly, lose far more than you gain –


Wednesday, August 12th, 2009

I wasn’t a great fan of CBT – until I looked back at my recovery and realised that I’d been using the techniques all the way along.

The diarising and emotional detecting and practical planning have obviously been worth the effort because the moment I wobble, the positive voice kicks back in; and, whenever I take the next step, I go back to the tools and tips that have got me this far.

Unlike traditional therapy, you don’t have to keep paying out every time you need to sort a few things out. Once you’ve mastered the techniques, you’re equipped for life.

Feeling the Fear – and Getting Better

Wednesday, August 5th, 2009

Sometimes, getting better is far scarier than staying ill.

Sometimes, the apprehension and the expectation and the uncertainty can stop you from changing your life. We’re far more comfortable with what we know –

It will be okay.

It might feel scary, but you’ll be okay.

There are no certainties – but it will not be as bad as you expect.

It just takes a little courage and a few deep breaths; and, when you’ve got through the first challenges, you’ll be looking back and wondering what took you so long –

Getting Better

Monday, August 3rd, 2009

I have wasted a lot of time searching for a magic cure for eating disorders.

If this existed, I’m sure that a scientist or doctor would have already made the breakthrough.

There is no one-fix-wonder for anorexia-bulimia; no magic pill to change your head overnight and make it better; no one size fits all answer to explain why it happens and how to make it stop happening.

There’s just lots of different and difficult ways of recovering.

It’s simply a case of finding what works for you.

Building Bridges

Monday, August 3rd, 2009

As twee as it sounds, there’s lots of bridges to be built when you’re getting better.

Recovery may be a personal thing but humans are inherently social. It’s the connections and the interactions and the relationships that provide the context – and make the real difference.

Having created quite an impressive gulf between me – and the rest of the world – this bit’s about some of the things that I’ve been doing to start, tentatively, re-making those connections:

Working Nine to Five

Saturday, August 1st, 2009

Who’d have thought that stuffing envelopes could be an aid for recovery? I wouldn’t recommend it as a lifetime career; but, as a stepping stone to the real world, the value far exceeded the income.

At first, it just gave my head a break from tying itself in anorexic knots.

Then, it gave me a reason to eat.

Eventually, it gave me the motivation to get better – and, a context to get better within.

All the way along, it helped me build up a little faith in myself.


Unspeakable to spoken

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

There are strict rules of etiquette around what you do and what you don’t talk about; socially acceptable themes of conversation – and those that should be kept behind closed doors or under a stiff upper lip.

We’re scared of giving too much away, of putting ourselves in the firing line of judgement or criticism or idle chitchat – self-editing’s an easy habit to slip in to.

Most people aren’t that bad. Most people appreciate a little honesty. Most people are willing to listen –

- if you’re able to talk.


A Reason to Recover

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

Getting better is not always the easiest option – so you’ve got to have a reason to break through the pain barrier. A little personal pep talk to keep you going when the going gets tough.

I’d love to write the script, to provide a nice neat comprehensive list of reasons that will keep you on the straight and narrow -

- but my reasons belongs to me and your reasons have to belong to you.

My personal pep talk will never sound like your personal pep talk – because, the key to getting through recovery is working out what makes the difference for you. It’s identifying that elusive – and all important – touchstone that gives recovery a context for you.

Getting Help

Saturday, July 11th, 2009

A few years ago, I would have slammed the treatment for eating disorders. I would have blamed my failed attempts at recovery on professional incompetence, medical ignorance – and the government’s failure to provide an adequate national health service.

A few years ago, I would have said that nobody could help me. When you’ve tried everything from inpatient to outpatient – via day therapy and 24 hour guard – within private, public and locked facilities; delivered by doctors, therapists, psychiatrists, specialists, hypnotherapists …well, you start to feel that all the options have been exhausted.

Today, I can say that the latter’s not true – and that I’m probably not milky white in relation to the former.

The treatment for eating disorders is not, as I’d liked to have believed, fundamentally flawed -

I didn’t really help myself.

Medicines and Medication

Thursday, July 9th, 2009

I am not a doctor, as you may have gathered.

I am completely unqualified to advise anyone on the pros and cons of anti-depressants, or the chemical constitution of psychiatric drugs, or whether Prozac will make you better or Paroxetine screw with your head –

I just come with two pieces of advice:

Talk to your GP because everyone’s different.

If you can, make your own mind up about using medication. It’s important to feel that you’re in control of the decision and that you’re making it for the right reasons.

Inpatient Units

Thursday, July 9th, 2009

Inpatient units are slightly different to other forms of treatment. Chances are, if you’ve reached this point, the choices have been reduced – in which case, inpatient treatment can save your life – but, if you’re just considering options –

Inpatient treatment made me do things that I wanted to do on my own but couldn’t quite manage.

It forced me to change – in the hope that, once I’d gone through the process, the outcome would speak for itself.

Plus, it kept me alive; and, somewhat perversely, the desire not to go back had a huge impact on my recovery.

Going Under – Hypnotherapy and NLP

Thursday, July 9th, 2009

If you’re hoping for Paul McKenna style puppetry, you might be a little disappointed. Hypnotherapy didn’t re-wire my brain or miraculously uncover the ‘big reason’, as I’d kind of been hoping for.

It did, however, shake things up.

A compete re-wire was not on the cards – but some subtle re-programming helped.

Hypnotherapy may not provide all the answers – but it shows you that they’re already in there.

And it helps you to decipher the code.


Monday, July 6th, 2009

You can’t beat a BT slogan: it is, most definitely, good to talk.

Being heard is equally important; being understood, a winning formula.

When you start putting things into words, you can deal with them.

When you start addressing difficult situations, you can talk through the confusion.

If you’re looking for a ‘get it off your chest’ space to say what you really think and feel – rather than what you should think and feel – then counselling’s great: but, a good counsellor is more than just a sympathetic ear; and, a good counselling section is as much about armchair detection and psychological sleuthing as it is about verbal venting.

Taking Responsibility

Friday, June 19th, 2009

I thought that I’d have to be absolutely certain that I wanted to get better before I could make the leap.

I waited, and waited … and waited, to reach a head space where all the big changes felt better; where recovery felt easy and exciting and a little less daunting.

It didn’t happen.

I thought that someone or something could make it easier. That this EDU or that psychiatrist or that day and this outfit would change everything, it was just a case of finding the right someone something….


Because only I had the answer.

And the realisation hit me like a sledge-hammer.


Social Re-integration

Friday, June 19th, 2009

I’m going to be practical here.

I think I’ve dwelt on the ache of isolation enough; I’m starting to depress myself.

It’s not an easy ride; but I’m beginning to see a way out. I’m beginning to see where the cracks in the glass door between me and the rest of the world are.

The first step – recognising the loneliness – was the most painful. And now I’ve taken my head out of the sand: it’s plain sailing from here onwards – with an eye out for pitfalls, of course.

Lesson 1: Don’t expect the world to come to you. It’s easy to get caught up in the misery of loneliness: this will make it worse. Accept it, take a bit of responsibility (you did start the brick wall) – but don’t get hung up on your mistakes (the eating disorder’s probably punished you more than enough already).

Lesson 2: Try and fix it. It’s tiring and a little scary and potentially disheartening – but take the initiative. Start with a smile – they do smile back – and go from there.

Lesson 3: Learn a little patience. Rome wasn’t built in a day. It’s the small connections that lead to the big ones in the end.

“Always, Mrs Ramsay felt, one helped oneself out of solitude reluctantly by laying hold of some little odd or end, some sound, some sight.”

To The Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf

As I said, you’ve got to take the initiative.

First Steps

Thursday, June 18th, 2009

People often say that acknowledgement is the first step to recovery. It means you’re half way there.

I beg to disagree.

Admitting that you’ve got an eating disorder is a step on the way to recovery. Admitting that you’re ill is a turning point. And there’s a difference.

I owned up to my eating disorder pretty early on. I didn’t get the illness bit quite so quickly. For a while, the eating disorder was a big character flaw; then, a badge of pride; for many years, my identity – but rarely an illness.

You don’t catch an eating disorder like you catch the flu. There’s an element of choice, however subconscious, that complicates everything. That makes it harder to consider an eating disorder as an illness – and not a lifestyle choice or a fad or a prolonged and painful suicide.

You could argue any of the latter quite easily – but they’re irrelevant. If you want to get better, you’ve got to realise that you’re ill.

You’ve got to move beyond the blame and the embarrassment and the guilt – and realise that, when you’re ill, you need to get better.

Saying Goodbye

Wednesday, June 17th, 2009

Piece by piece, I am slowly letting go.

Step by slow step, I am gradually saying goodbye.

It is a long and painful process. I have been here before, but not this far down the road, not this close to freedom, not this scared and strangely empty.



Wednesday, June 10th, 2009

“It’s all right. Tomorrow I’ll be pretty again, tomorrow I’ll be happy again, tomorrow, tomorrow…..”

Jean Rhys, ‘Good Morning, Midnight’

If you’re a member of the tomorrow brigade, stop now.

Tomorrow will never come.

It took me fifteen years of waiting for tomorrow to learn this.

Tomorrow, I won’t throw up. Tomorrow, it will be okay to eat. Tomorrow, I’ll start again. Tomorrow, I’ll feel different….


The Blame Game

Thursday, June 4th, 2009

This is a quick word of warning.

I played the blame game for years. You always lose.

I don’t know whether it’s different for people who are genuinely the victims of wrong doing and I wouldn’t like to speak for them – but, mostly, you don’t get anything back from blame. You certainly never get what you want back: any satisfaction always comes at a cost.


Sections and Secure Units

Monday, June 1st, 2009

I get that I might not be here today if it wasn’t for a few well timed hospital admissions but you’ve got to be a bit careful with the inpatient option: anorexia can be a little devil when it’s cornered.