Posts Tagged ‘change’

If it doesn’t work, try something else, and other lessons…

Friday, January 14th, 2011

I have been quiet over here recently.

It’s partly because I haven’t been able to find the words to say what I am feeling; and partly because I’ve had to change my get-back-on-track strategy. I am trying to squeeze the eating disorder out with activity, this time; and have learnt that, without flexibility, I just keep going round and round –

It has been a case of the doing the same thing and expecting different results phenomenon.

What helped me the first time I stopped the bulimia doesn’t quite fit with where I now am. The feelings and challenges are similar – but the context is totally different; and so, as a very wise friend pointed out, the solution I had proposed no longer matches up.

It has taken a while for the penny to drop.

I have moved through frustration (“why can’t I do what I need to do?”) to fear (“I don’t know how to change things”) to acknowledgement (“I am still not moving in the right direction”) –

I can hold onto the fact that I’ve done it before – I just might need to do it differently this time round.

This is a both liberating and terrifying realisation. It has also taught me a few things about the recovery process that I did not fully appreciate before….

Adaptability is fundamental. If the first approach isn’t working, then it’s not a matter of failing – it’s about trying other things until you find a way that works.

The slip-ups are not, as I had positioned them, gaps that will become openings for the eating disorder. They are, instead, opportunities to spot the weak points and make sure they don’t trip me up again.

I have known that recovery is a dynamic process, but never seen it so clearly, nor managed to step away from the disappointment when it does not go to plan. This is the other lesson in there.

Recover a bit – more forward – slip a little – learn something new and recover a bit more – move forward –

I am growing stronger, I think, although it has felt like I have been getting lost.

Adventure, authenticity and 2011.

Saturday, January 1st, 2011

Last night I went to a 1930s ball. I wore a long black dress, red lipstick and a furry shrug. There was laughter and music and dancing and human slinkies and it was exactly what I want 2011 to be like. Unexpected. Alive. Fun. Vibrant. Full of people.

One door closes – and another one opens

Tuesday, December 28th, 2010

I have nearly finished packing up my flat now.

There’s maybe a few more boxes and then it’s good to go.

I was asked, on one of my posts, if I knew the reasons for my current relapse. This separation is one of them. I am bad at goodbyes at the best of time but this farewell feels particularly challenging. It is entangled with my eating disorder and my recovery; and, even though the move is something I desperately wanted, I am still experiencing the wrench.

The elusive “last time”…

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

A few days ago, LH left this question on my blog:

“I was wondering if you could share any tips on how you just quit bulimia cold turkey? Everytime I tell myself that this b/p is going to be the LAST, but it never is. “

I was going to link her back to a post that I actually entitled ‘Cold Turkey’, and then I realised that, actually, it didn’t happen like that.

Yes, once I’d made the ‘real real’ decision to stop, I did, and I haven’t been back since then….but the ‘real real’ decision was preceded by lots of real decisions, and decisions, and new starts, and special dates when I was adamant that I wouldn’t purge or binge –

And each of those failed attempts filled me with terror – and helped me to succeed in the end. It is a paradox but one that I’ll try and explain…

Thoughts from the NEDA conference …

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

I wanted to write an eloquent and insightful post about the NEDA conference that I went to in New York, but I fear that I will be waiting a long time. Words are not stringing themselves together in the way that I’d like them to at the moment (which is a whole ‘nother post) and I am beginning to suspect that I may be over-complicating some of the relatively clear messages that I took from the conference. I have a habit of doing this.

Before I rip them – and myself – to shreds, I’m going to write down a few of the things that particularly stood out for me in two days that were full of information, and sharing, and caring, and all the things that I isolated myself from, both during my illness and, during my equally stubborn and internalised recovery –

1. You don’t have to do it alone

I had my first treatment for anorexia in 1993. Things were very different then. With limited understanding and some practices that wouldn’t stand up now, the ‘me Vs them’ model that eating disorders (EDs) are great at creating was given a good dose of unnecessary ammunition that took a long time to shift…

The NEDA conference, like the Beat ceremony the week before, was full of professionals, and carers, and those directly and indirectly affected by EDs, all coming together to help raise awareness and support people in their fight to get well. It was a joint event, on an equal footing, characterised by empathy and compassion rather than anger or blame.

I know that things are complicated. That there are financial considerations, and some outdated assumptions, and a huge deficit in support for men – but I got a real sense of collaboration that has to come to a more positive end.

2. Patience

A lot of this joint effort seemed to hinge on the recognition that recovering from an eating disorder is a slow process. That it doesn’t happen overnight, nor come immediately when the symptoms change or weight is restored. It requires, instead, a level of patience, a word that doesn’t roll particularly easily off my tongue -

Patience in waiting for the discomfort of change to gradually lessen.

Patience in learning that you can overcome challenges which seem insurmountable and innumerable.

Patience in catching up with experience and emotions and relationships and all the corners of a life that an eating disorder manages to get stuck in.

Patience in starting to trust others again –

Patience in them trusting you –

3. The other people

NEDA was honest and open, and it really made me consider how difficult it is for all those who are impacted by EDs; the family, friends and even professionals who also come to live under the shadow of an ED.

When you’re immersed, it’s impossible to realise the impact you are having on those around you or it was for me, anyway. Yes, I knew that I was causing worry; I felt terrible about pulling other people into the ED’s games and, yes, it certainly impacted on my home life and environment…but, I wasn’t quite able to translate this awareness into action, and I prized the eating disorder above everything else.

During the conference, I heard parents speak about their children; siblings, about the pain of not being able to save a sister or brother; and partners talk about how devastating the eating disorder was to watch -

It is hard seeing it from the other perspectives and difficult to resist the temptation to slide into guilt….but this is why the joint effort is so incredibly important; and why it makes knowing what we’re dealing with so key.

4. The science

I am not scientifically minded. I kind of see how it all fits together, but I have to concentrate very very hard. There’s lots of research coming out at the moment which even non-scientifically minded people like me can’t miss. It’s about understanding some of the neurological research and patterns; and also exploring how people are affected by eating disorder behaviours in cognition and things other than weight.

It sounds like we’re getting nearer to gaining a more comprehensive (body, brain, mind, context) take on what goes on.

I don’t think there was one cause for my eating disorder, nor that it will be possible to understand fully why I became so ill – but each little piece helps to make a bit more sense of the experience and the understanding helps me to move on.

5. Moving on

The ‘in recovery’ or ‘recovered’ question also came up a lot for me at the conference. I don’t know whether there’s an answer for this one: whether being ‘in recovery’ drags it out and keeps it present; or if it’s a realistic description given how quickly an ED can reassert itself, and how hard it is to transform some of the traits that can impact on its development.

For me, the conference was about recognising how far I have come – but also noticing the areas where my sensitivity is still high and acknowledging that I haven’t quite reached a resolution on some of the themes that were raised –

Like body image and self acceptance (because it’s not all about that, but the culture we live in makes the context hard) -

And relationships and emotional maturity (because I’m still catching up there).

It was also about acknowledging that I have moved on in relation to my own self perception. That, increasingly, I am able to separate myself out from the ED that I once saw as my character and identity; that I was attending the conference, not just as a recovering sufferer, but as a person.

This might not make sense, but it’s a mammoth move for me.

It’s a mammoth move for me, and one that wouldn’t have happened without all the treatment and support I received. This was my other message: the work that still needs to go on.

6. The reality

The NEDA conference was the second time in the space of a month that I have realised how lucky I was to survive and how fatal eating disorders are. I don’t know the exact figures, but every time I hear them, they seem to get worse; and every wasted life winds me.

I think things are moving in the right direction, but I hope they’re moving fast enough.

I also hope that some of the barriers that still exist (healthcare costs or insufficient treatment provision; a lack of awareness around different types of eating disorders), and the things that make it harder (the complexity of the body image / media / ED / self esteem relationships; the female focused language) start to shift – because fighting an eating disorder is not an easy battle for anyone to win.

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.


Alright with being okay (the bit I forgot to mention)

Friday, September 10th, 2010

When I was 17, I nearly got well. After the initial plummet and once I’d got over the shock of treatment, I started, gradually, to build myself up again. I gained a bit of weight. I experimented with clothes. I had moments when life seemed a lot brighter. I flirted and giggled and did normal teenagery type things. The eating disorder remained – just not as much as before.

I’m not sure why and I can’t work out what happened; but, at some point, I got scared about being okay. I worried that I’d be nothing if I was ‘normal”, that I was letting myself go because I was letting myself enjoy life.

And so, I put the brakes down. Hard. I re-erected the walls and re-instated the rules. It was not okay to be okay.

We know what happened.

I ended my last post before I reached the end. The moment of insight that had been eluding me has finally clicked into place. This re-animation is the same as I felt at 17 – only this time I’m not afraid of it. It is alright to be okay.

I’m Okay

Thursday, September 9th, 2010

I got home last night and scrawled three words on the back of an envelope. They said: “I am okay”.

The inspiration that I have been waiting for has stalled and is yet to catch up with me. Any insights that might prompt a blog post are suspended, somewhere, far above me; so, for the moment, all I can say is, “I am okay”.

I think this is enough.


Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

I wanted to write something this evening. Not out of a sense of obligation or because a blog “should” be updated regularly, but because I have missed writing and I wanted the sense of comfort of coming home. It is interesting, upon reflection, that a blog or the act of writing can feel like coming home. It has only been a few days since I last wrote, but the changes have been immense and so they’ve distorted the sense of distance. I feel like I have travelled a million miles and been gone for a mini lifetime. In reality, it has been 48 or so hours, and 9 junctions around the M25…

All Change?

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

I have gotten myself in a state over the past few days. My six weeks off miraculously accelerated in the last quarter, and I found myself going round in circles – and then burying my head in the sand. Because fear has this terrible habit of growing, the more you give into it, I nearly forgot that I was excited before I got scared. And, because I’ve been concentrating on all the momentous things that I haven’t achieved in the past month, I’ve overlooked the million smaller things that have shifted, and sparkled, and probably had a much greater impact on where I currently am…

So this is a reminder.

Food and the Move

Sunday, August 29th, 2010

I haven’t written about food for a while. Partly because I’ve been doing really well with relaxing around it; and partly because my mind has been addled by other things. Food is, however, back on the agenda at the moment, and yet again, it’s linked to ‘the move’. I think this move might throw up a lot of skeletons in the next few weeks, so I apologise in advance…

Significance and Stuff

Sunday, August 22nd, 2010

I have just come back from yet another trip to the dump. I am finding this clearing out my flat thing hard. It’s not just the slight OCD-tinged tendencies towards hoarding that are so difficult to deal with; it’s the fact that so many of my possessions have been coloured by my past. They are throbbing with association and each wrench aches.

I guess this is normal.

Letting go of the edge

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

I have a desktop of half-finished blog posts. They are driving me insane. I am not sure that they will ever be completed because at the moment I seem to be in a state of constant change. Things are moving so quickly that each post is elbowed aside mid-flow, and I rarely reach a clear conclusion before the next thing comes along. It is quite disorientating.

Bright Lights

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

We walked through the West End at the weekend. The streets were heaving. Tourists, undeterred by the shiny pavements and spitting skies, were out in force, and the atmosphere was Theatreland electric, the excitement irresistible. The sky had cleared by the time the performance had finished, and we made our way down to Trafalgar Square, past buildings that I’d seen a thousand times and never noticed. There were people scrabbling over the lions and magical fountains and statues gleaming against the dark backdrop; then Whitehall glowing a rich historic cream.

The Flipside of Fear

Wednesday, August 11th, 2010

This is a blurt post.

There’s stuff going on in my head that I can’t quite seem to work out. Passing snippets that have paired themselves off without quite explaining the pairing, and insights that still remain partially hidden. There is one common thread. It is the word fear.


I’m scared.

Belly scared. Paralysed scared. Scared silly….yet not quite sure of the source (there’s so many); nor, if I’m honest, of the emotion (it’s just what I always feel).

Girl Stuff. Again. (Last time).

Friday, August 6th, 2010

I haven’t written much this week because I’ve been incredibly tired. My body doesn’t quite feel like my body at the moment; and, whilst I’m delighted that it’s clearly recovering, the whole hormonal re-start has caught me left wing. It has been a little scary, to be honest, which sounds pathetic now that I’m 30, rather than 13.

When I Stop Wobbling…

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

I whinged on Twitter all weekend. After a fortnight of heady excitement followed by a colossal nosedive, I think I might have been driving my poor followers mad. I got myself stuck in a bit of a vicious circle: feel bad – complain about feeling bad – feel bad about complaining that I feel bad – feel even worse – complain about feeling even worse…. and so it went on.

The truth is, I’m feeling a little overwhelmed; and, because I’m overwhelmed, I’ve been temporarily blinded by a kind of white blanket of fear. It has seeped everywhere. In the cracks between waking and sleeping; when I step through the door after being out with friends; in the moments when I am waiting for the kettle to boil…

Two Days

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

I wobbled last weekend. Amidst all the pride at reaching my second year anniversary and after the giddiness of a jam-packed-life-changing week, I had a sudden panic, standing on the beach at Brighton, that the gap between the world and I is still too chasmic to bridge….

It is not the food that has turned out to be the hardest part of my recovery – it’s discovering how far I have removed myself from life.

Second Chances

Friday, July 23rd, 2010

On Sunday, it will be two years since I last binged and two years since I last threw up.

When I stopped, it felt as though I was wrenching out my heart. Now, it feels like I unclamped it.

I do not miss it at all. It does not cross my mind, apart from when some small, unpleasant reminder, like a shattered tooth or an unexpected flashback, make an unexpected appearance – and these certainly don’t tempt me back.

The first year was about existing through the days and the evenings; this year, it’s been about life. I do not need the film subscriptions and elaborately planned meals and scheduled phone calls to distract me any more; in fact, I rarely have enough time.

Even in my wildest imagination, I did not think it could be like this…

And so, I’m celebrating the occasion – as I did last year, and will do next year – as my unofficial birthday or the date that I allowed myself to come back to life.

It is, inevitably, tinged with sadness and a strange dusting of betrayal, though I could not say who betrayed who –

It does not matter.

The point is that I have had a second chance and I am starting, finally, to feel alive.

The Transition

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

I am leaving my job tomorrow.

I’ve been harping on about it for ages, but I’m now feeling rather scared.

There’s lots of stuff about bad employers and discrimination. Mine have always looked after me rather well.

Heading For a Fall…

Sunday, July 18th, 2010

There is a little voice at the back of my head that thinks I’m heading for a fall. I have been feeling quite happy recently, so it’s tugging on my elbow, desperate to be heard. It has been clinging on for years, like a leech, and I think it’s time we parted. I will never be able to feel pleasure, or enjoyment, or pride, whilst it’s still hanging around.

This morning, when I was swimming, I imagined it hurtling through space, cartoon-like.

Trusting the process

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

A while ago, I wrote a post called Clinging on to the Past. It was a difficult post to write as I had to acknowledge that I might be holding onto my eating disorder; and also, because I couldn’t see how the situation would be resolved.

At the time, a comment was left suggesting that I would know when the time was right to move on. It was a comment that touched me deeply, and has stayed, therefore, alive in my head. I couldn’t see how the miraculous transformation would materialise – but the hope made me feel warm and that was almost enough.

The Then – Now Continuum

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

I flip-switched myself into the past yesterday morning. The side streets of West London and places that I didn’t think I’d been.

I had.

About ten years ago.

I got off the train and was giddy-kneed with the memories. Things that I wish I hadn’t done and the horrible weight of wasted potential. Youth and possibility, yet I had my finger firmly pressing the self destruct.

It was not the best way to begin a few days that were all about laying the foundations for the next steps in my life, and I nearly turned around and gave up then… but, as I made my way home on the sweaty train this evening, I realised that this is probably how it is going to be. Shadows that try and pull me down; and a battle between then – and now – that I’m going to have to engage in, in order to win.

It has been an amazing few days, on reflection.

As part of my plans to change my life, I’ve decided on a new career; and the past few days have been spent at an exhibition trying to find out more about what’s going on. I have learnt a heap of things and my head is still buzzing; but it is the internal shifts that have made the biggest impression on me.

I noticed, yesterday, that I didn’t think about food. That I ate, because I needed some energy; but the worry was lessened by the excitement about what was going on around me; and, the obsession was softened by the other ideas and thoughts sparking around.

Today, I realised that, for the first time since year one in secondary school, I have been in a new learning environment and my whole brain has been totally engaged. That during school, and university, and my working career, the ‘activity’ has always come second to the food; and, suddenly, it’s the other way round instead.

My friend joked, last night, that this was “normal”, and this has been the third revelation that I’m still trying to digest. “Normal”, now that I’m actually doing it, is not quite as terrifying as it had come to mean in my head.

I have been distinctly “normal” over the past few days. Have been a virtual nobody. Have worn the same clothes as a lot of the other attendees; eaten the same food; made the same small talk….and I’m happy, for the moment, to disappear into the crowd.

Three lessons in two days is not bad going for anyone, but I have another message that is echoing around. It is something about getting the balance between the shadowy regret and the excited progression; about pacing, and not going with my tendency to leap, absolutely, from one thing to the next.

I am writing tonight for this reason. To join the dots up between where I have been – and where I am – and where I am heading. To break the pattern of separating my life into discreet chunks and then burying them away until a random memory winds me. To keep myself grounded, and whole, and coherent, so that I don’t knock out the scaffold and find myself crashing, alone, again.

I’m not going to dwell in the stabs of regret that I experienced on Tuesday morning, nor let them stop me from fighting, now, to move on. I’m just going to try and hold the two parts together, because they’re both part of who I’m starting to become.

p.s. This, as you can tell, is part of my ongoing blog bit! The re-structuring has been temporarily waylaid by the above and my inability to differentiate between blog / web. This weekend is set aside!…

A Backbone of Steel

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

I have a fractured tooth. It is a front one, which I’m finding quite hard. They have bonded it, for the moment, but it’s only a matter of time. The others are likely to go in the same direction.

It has been 23 months, almost to the day, since I last threw up; but the damage has been done. There is a little network of cracks spiderwebbing from my teeth to my ankle

But I do appear to have developed a backbone of steel.


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.


Thursday, June 10th, 2010

Sometimes I will do something little – like flip the lid off a glass bottle – and the ‘pop’ will send me catapulting back, again; to nights standing in the kitchen, screaming with frustration, because I’m desperate desperate desperate to binge.

And sometimes, when I have to go back to the places that it has dominated – like stations, and supermarkets, and hospital waiting rooms – then a smell or a sound can leave me winded, because it carries, still, the panic and chaos and ice cold despair.

Sometimes, an innocent action – like a friend adding an extra splash of oil – will trip the switch into the old ways of thinking; and my stomach will twist and my head close in and I won’t be able to what am I going to do don’t make me


And then again.

It is as impossible to run away from the flashes of memory as it is to run away from ourselves.

We can only notice them, from the safety of distance, and thank God that things are no longer the same.

Over the Hill?

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010

I am currently surfing the next wave of social angst. The first one related to size; this time, the culprit is age – with the shadow of the former still remaining.

At 30, I feel over the hill.

I have not achieved what I should have achieved and it feels, horribly, like it’s too late.

I have been trying to pinpoint the source of this impression. It is more illusive than I would have supposed. It would be easy to point an accusatory finger at the media but I think it’s more subtle than that. To be honest, I rarely watch TV, venture less to the cinema, and most of the magazine I read are about empowering all women, rather than just those under 21…

Finding the Spark

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010

I have been on a mission for the past few days. Been fired up and propelled forward on a burst of energy that has added a spark to my eyes and a new sense of purpose to my thoughts.

I think this is called ambition.

And I am trying not to be scared.

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.”

Dwelling in Uncertainty

Monday, May 24th, 2010

I went to a School of Life Sunday Sermon, and heard a neuroscientist, called David Eagleman, speak. If I’d got round to any pre-event research, I would have gained a little insight into the stuff he’d be talking about; but I was, instead, hooked by a one word title.


Anything that might illuminate a concept I grapple with, on a daily basis, is guaranteed to grab my attention.

“Am I Still the Same?”

Thursday, May 20th, 2010

Last night, I bumped into someone from my past; and I shocked myself, when it came to saying goodbye, by nearly asking a question I’ve been grappling with for years: “am I still the same?

Am I still the same” is my “do I look fat in this?” question. The reassurance seeker that I continually seem to ask. “Do I look the same?”, and “Am I still the same”, or “How am I different?”. And please answer that I am not.

I have resisted, more recently, from externalising the discussion, but the variants have been tingling, slightly unpleasantly, on the tip of the tongue

Up until now, I haven’t bothered to unpick why this staying the same has been so important. What, exactly, I am staying the “same” as; and why it matters if I am “different”. There is a vague link to weight in there, and an outdated attempt at subtly asking the “do I look bigger?” question – but it is the underlying implication that has left me slightly more disturbed.

If it matters that I do not look different and is important to remain the same, then I am pretty much destined for failure; because if there’s one thing we can all be certain of, it’s change.

Re Dis-covery

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

I started to write an eloquent post about the semantics of the word “recovery”.

It has stuttered and spluttered, for the past few weeks, and I have made myself feel misunderstood. I do not want to write about it nicely, at the moment. I don’t want to phrase how I’m feeling in pleasantries or flowery terms.

To be honest, I’d rather just sit and cry.

One Life

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010

Last week, I was asked what the key turning points in my recovery were.

There were quite a few – my teeth, another close call, the isolation, the increasing social disconnection, my brother, despair – but one powerful motivation which seems so obvious (now) that I rarely reflect on it, and seldom give it much space –

We have – that I know of – only one life.

“I am an engineer and an artist”

Friday, April 30th, 2010

“i am an engineer and an artist. #iamnotmyweight” (@thisisMEssy)

I have favourited this tweet. It couldn’t be a more timely reminder, as I am struggling to figure out how life without an eating disorder works, that the words we use to define ourselves might help to change the positioning.

Given the name of my blog and the reason I started it (“this is the story of finding an identity and giving an eating disorder up”), you’d have thought I already appreciated this; but I have focussed so hard on what I’m giving up that I have neglected what I am finding. (more…)

A Few of the Lies My Eating Disorder Liked Me To Believe

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

My eating disorder was a consummate liar. It had a few lines that always kept me stuck. I tried, (when I was feeling brave enough), to argue the point; but there was always an element of “what if I’m wrong” that made me play along.

It is hard to challenge something when you’re cowering under its threats. These ones stick out.

Stepping Out –

Monday, April 26th, 2010

I have stepped out of my comfort zone. I didn’t realise what a leap it was, until I reached for cover – and it had disappeared. I am still, it seems, hiding under my eating disorder; and not quite sure whether without it, I am enough.

This time it was my writing, which shows just how far the illnesses’ influence extends.

Who’d Have Thought?

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

Who’d have thought, a few years ago, that I’d be doing the things that I’m doing now.

It is important, every now and then, to stop and reflect on the progress, even if the process remains hard.

We forget, sometimes, just how far we’ve come, because we’re worrying so much about how far’s left to go.

It is limitless.

So, I’m taking a pit stop and coming up for air –

Because, who’d have thought, a few years ago, when it felt like I was “all talk”, that I’d be sitting here writing stuff down for people to read? And who’d have guessed, if they saw me frantically dashing between food shops, swollen cheeked and skeletal handed, that it was the same person calmly sitting here today.

Beyond the M25

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

I am going to Vienna for two days on Friday.

The excitement is bristled through with anxiety, or maybe it’s the other way around.

I am still getting used to the fact that I can leave the 30 mile radius that my eating disorder deemed comfortable, let alone the country. There were too many variables in travelling to make it feasible. The anxiety of the unknown and the uncontrollable, compacted by the need to be within arms-length of my doctor / dentist / therapist, meant that I spent ten years or so within the confines of the M25* – and I’m still getting used to being free.

There is a whole wide world out there to explore.

The Frontiers

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

Blogging has been a step out of my comfort zone for me. Not all the time, I hasten to add; but sometimes, when I’ve hit on something critical, or written a piece that’s a bit more open to contention, I can feel myself pushing a little – and then waiting for the backlash. It is something like putting your finger near an electric fence and seeing how close you get before the shock burns.

I was describing this to a friend last week, when she was trying to help me make sense of how I move forwards now, and she had a slightly different take on the experience. For her, the shock was electrifying, not an electrocution. It was about energy and finding my frontiers and sparky positive things.

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 In-Betweener

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

My sister has just informed me that the little package I didn’t recognise at the bottom of her bag is a tampon.  Things must have changed a bit since 1996, which is the last date that I remember having a period; or maybe I’ve just forgotten. I’m not even sure that we made it to first name terms.

It is embarrassing, at 30, to be informed of what a tampon looks like; and I am beginning to get a bit concerned now, that even though I’m weighing in near normal, they have not made a reappearance. It feels like a kick in the teeth. After I have done so much hard work and changed myself, beyond all recognition, my body still won’t play ball.


Friday, March 19th, 2010

I know that England’s got into the habit of snowing in March and there is still a chill in the air, but it is starting to feel like spring.

Winter always seems to last an eternity; but, as the days grow longer and the warmth slowly creeps back in, something starts to lift and it all begins to seem a bit brighter.

It has reminded me, this unthawing, of a bus journey that I took, several years ago. It was September, so it must have been nearing Autumn; but, because it felt like an awakening, or the dewy freshness of a new beginning, the memory has become intrinsically associated with spring.

Life is full of these stops – and starts – I think. Wintery deaths and then the ridiculously unexpected arrival of spring.

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.

The If-Then Voice

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

There is a little voice in my head that likes to make connections between totally unrelated things. I call it the if-then voice, because this is its favourite line.

If you don’t do that – then this will happen, OR, if you do that – then this will be the result.

It likes to predict the outcome, does the if-then voice. It likes to consider any action – or non action – in terms of what will come next and in line with its own, mysterious, agenda, which is mostly around controlling me.

Maintaining Factors

Monday, February 1st, 2010

I have been asked to talk about the things that kept my eating disorder going for so long. The ‘maintaining factors’, in medical speak.

It is difficult to answer this now, when the reality of so many lost years feels like an open wound, and, if I could go back and violently shake my previous selves, I would.

It is hard not to turn to myself and say, yes, Melissa, what exactly did you think you were gaining from choosing an eating disorder over the things that most people aspire to, like jobs and husbands and families and friends…

Maintaining factor 1: Oblivion

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.

Leaving Behind in 2009

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

There are a few things that I would like to take the opportunity to leave behind in 2009, starting with a strange little habit that I have of separating each meal into its constituent food group and then knocking them off, one at a time, in the prescribed order: green (vegetable), orange (carbohydrate), red (protein).

Whilst New Years is traditionally about making new resolutions, I’ve decided that breaking old ones is equally acceptable; and, there are a few lurking habits that I’d like to shrug off as the clock strikes midnight –

December 28 th (Part II) – Stopping Smoking

Monday, December 28th, 2009

As I may have mentioned (!), it has been a year today since my last cigarette; and, whilst, I may not have uncovered the secrets of nicotine abstention, I’ve done a pretty good job of keeping myself on the straight and narrow.

A year ago, life without cigarettes felt unimaginable and totally unappealing; so, if you’re going through the same struggle, here’s a few things that made the impossible, possible –