Posts Tagged ‘recovery’

Finding Melissa. Again.

Saturday, April 16th, 2011

It has been 15 days since I last threw up.

I think I have broken the cycle.

This is the longest I’ve managed since my relapse started, and I have no intention of going back.

I didn’t know if I’d be able to write this post. When the switch would occur, if at all. The thought of leaving the blog that I started in hope with an unhappy ending hung heavily for a while –

And yet, I have now been through the first few sticky days, where the discomfort of change was preoccupying and the belief that I could turn promises into action, at its lowest ebb. I have felt the panic of saying goodbye, even though goodbye is indeed welcome; and resisted the dangerous seduction of “one last time”. There have been sleepless nights, and stomach cramps, and a slight friction as my body veers back towards health –

But now, the glands which were swelling are beginning to shrink and the blood in the basin, when I brush my teeth, decrease. My hands and my attention are no longer shaking; and I have felt my shoulders lighten and my head lift. I have noticed that I am back in the conversations, rather than floating around the edge. Am smiling and laughing and living far more than I have for a while –

And so, I wanted to share this here, even though it has been hard to pinpoint the turning point or uncover the exact combination of fear – and hope – and motivation – and support – that has stopped me from losing myself.

I am under no illusion that there will be ups and downs in the future; but for the moment, I am winning and, actually, it doesn’t even feel like a fight.


Sunday, March 13th, 2011

I need to check in over here. I wondered whether this belonged on Finding Melissa or my new blog. If I was splintering off from myself again by reverting back. I don’t think I am. This post is very much part of my eating disorder journey, though the learning of course extends through my life.

I have been struggling to get back to where I need to be with food. The struggle has taken the form of bulimia (and naming it still remains hard). It had been scarily easy to revert to old forms of behaviour (2 years of recovery have very little on 17 years of illness) and scarily easy for the damage to re-emerge. A bloody mouth and shaking hands are worrying but not quite enough.

For the first few months, I tried to return to the strategies that helped me recover the first time round. Planning, preparation, distraction, pick a date, share your intention, put things in place. The strategies didn’t seem to work this time; and, more worryingly, I seemed to kick back against my attempts to enforce a structure. It has taken me a while to realise what this backlash was about.

The first phase of my recovery bound me in structure and routine; and, whilst this swaddling kept me alive, it did not let me fully live.

So this is the tension and the question. How to find recovery in the real world. How to regain control of the food without relinquishing the delight I have experienced in going with the flow. In loosening the rules and routines. In moving away from breakfast at 6:45, lunch at 1:15; bed at 10:37; and next days’ clothes laid out before dinner. Don’t rock the boat with anything too emotional; pick to pieces every decision; kid glove treatment; no rather than yes – and sometimes the other way around.

My life is heading in the right direction; it is only the eating disorder that is trying to yank it back.

And so I think that this is the next phase of recovery, although it is painful and not wholly certain, yet, which way I will tip. It has been suggested that I’m nearly ready to let go and jump in the world – and that it is the snagging of the last remaining traces of eating disorder that are holding me back. I think that this is accurate, given that the immersion does not feel as deep nor as depressing as it has in the past…but as behaviours can quickly suck you downwards, I still need to watch out.

And so I am writing this post as an acknowledgement of where I am, and because I wondered whether this was a common experience for anyone else. Whether after the first part of recovery when you’ve got back to health, there is a wobble as the scaffolding comes down; and, if this is the case, what’s the best thing to do next? I am working along the lines of balance (hooks to hold onto rather than ropes to bind me down) and also refusing to go back (because if I have fought tooth and nail for the life I have built), but this is all new territory and I’d love a little extra support.

Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2011

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

I started writing a post about Eating Disorder Awareness Week.

I stopped because I am not sure, yet, what I’d like to say.

That, of all psychiatric disorders, Anorexia Nervosa has the highest premature mortality rate. That the mortality rates for Bulimia and eating disorders not otherwise specified (EDNOS) are equally terrifying.

That part of the complexity of eating disorders lies in the fact that no experience is exactly the same. That there are resonances and similarities, but each person’s experience is unique.

That I am deeply worried by the closures of units that I keep hearing about, especially those that I have known. That I am also scared by the growing number of sufferers and, particularly, of younger – and older – and male sufferers.

That it is as important to focus on awareness of recovery as it is to focus on awareness of being ill.

I don’t know.

All of these – and nothing. A large part of my life has been stolen by an eating disorder and I do not want to give it anymore time –

No. This is not quite true. Part of the taking back is choosing to give it time. It’s just that the time is spent in a different way.

I have had a rough few months. I try and skim over it because it is easier that way. Because there is less room, now, between me and my blog, and it is therefore much harder to hide. Because the time has been golden, too, and it’s hard to reconcile the magic and the struggle. Because even with 18 years of experience and a good whack of intensive treatment, an eating disorder can still ambush, ensnare and baffle. Can re-emerge, when you think you’re on the straight and narrow; or slip in when the routines that you’ve built to keep it out get perturbed –

And so this is my message.

Not that an eating disorder haunts forever – but that it is a difficult battle to win.

That it needs to be talked about for these reasons. Because it is a difficult battle to win and a difficult experience to talk about; and because the complexity of eating disorders means that they are difficult to understand. Because we’re not winning yet and we need to work together. Because recovery is very possible, and it’s important to tell that story as well.

There’s lots of stuff going on this week. beat have released a much needed report on the use of images in the reporting of eating disorders; there’s a busy schedule of online and offline events; Men Get Eating Disorders Too have launched a new membership scheme; we’ve got a cool Facebook page focusing on the positives of recovery –

And I’m using the time to touch base with myself and think a little bit about how I’m going to move things forward in the coming months. How I can make sure that I win my battle, and continue enjoying the amazing things that recovery can bring.

Checking In

Saturday, January 22nd, 2011

I am just checking in.

It feels important to do this, although it has been less than a week.

I am aware that I have a tendency for flitting between things. For jumping so quickly that I cut myself off from where I have come from and end up, ultimately, feeling a bit lost.

I don’t want this to happen. I want the journey to be exciting and unpredictable – but not fractured or divorced.

And so, this is a little update. A kind of check in with myself to see how the past week has been and whether I’m as okay as I seem. That amongst the excitement of my new blog and some fun nights out, I haven’t skimmed over the other stuff or buried my head in the sand about what else might be going on –

And I don’t think I have. I think I’m coming out of the other side, and that having something new and exciting to focus on has really helped.

So, in comparison to last month, things are much improved. The gaps between binges and purges are getting longer, and most days the thought doesn’t even cross my head. It certainly lacks the intensity of a few weeks ago where I wasn’t sure how I would turn it around. My mouth is slowly healing. Not quite back to normal but feeling a little less painful every day –

And I can’t work out how the transition happened. I can’t quite describe the steps that moved me from there to here. Keeping busy helped; other people helped; talking helped; going back to three structured meals and a few snacks a day helped; work helped –

And feeling the grip loosen is giving me the courage and hope to keep moving on.

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.

Day One

Thursday, December 30th, 2010

A friend mentioned that the eating disorder is back in my eyes. She didn’t need to tell me. I can feel the glazing over, even if I can’t see it.

I am stopping today.

I decided, a few weeks ago, that I needed a date because that was how I did it last time. I know that it doesn’t work like that for everyone; but for me, bulimia has always been all or nothing. I need clear rules and high boundaries or I spiral quickly out of control.

And so, I am writing this to mark the moment and capture the learning. There has been some, even though the lesson was hard.

I have learnt that…

The actions that go with the words

Sunday, December 19th, 2010

Tonight, I am painting my nails red and wrapping myself in blankets. I wrote a post, this morning, and disregarded it immediately because I did not work out what giving myself a chance actually meant.

Giving myself a chance

Sunday, December 19th, 2010

There are two sides to this post.

I considered splitting it down the middle – a post for each – because the one seemed so disparate from the other – but they seem to go hand in hand.

It has been that kind of month. Half shot through with a dizzying energy and an indescribable sense of awe; half like a nightmare that I didn’t ever expect to find myself in.

I have struggled to reconcile the differences. To have these sudden moments when I step out of myself and realise that, shit, I actually feel hug-the-world happy; and then a few days later, wake up with aching post binge limbs and the sense that I’m sinking.


Or not.

There is a tug of war in the middle. A part of me that doesn’t trust I deserve this kind of happiness and therefore pushes me towards self destruct. That expects rejection and acts out the expectation until it eventually takes place…


This is the relationship between the two sides. How they co-exist despite the seeming contradiction. I have been playing out old patterns, without even realising it, and in the process, got myself stuck.

And so, I can keep the circle going, which is what the eating disorder is trying it’s damndest to achieve; or, I can step out of the loop and ask myself whether I really want to keep going round and round and round –

Or if I’m prepared to give myself a chance

A reminder

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

Every hour that I spend, crouched over bowls of food, is an hour away from the people that I care about and the things I love. 

I know the exchange is not that simple; but I have become acutely aware that

Every minute spent dashing between shops and every moment spent slumped over a toilet bowl is time, stolen, from the life that I am building for myself. 

It is tempting, at this point, to let the guilt and the taunts of “wrong choice” imprison me, but - 

Every wall that is created when I creep around or attempt to disguise what is going on; and every inch of self respect that is snatched when I find myself wearily cleaning up the aftermath is a direct result of the thing that is trying to convince me that I would like it back in my life again. 


I understand that it is not a simple this or that decision; but sometimes the complexity blurs the fact that I am clinging onto something that is responsible for every crumbled tooth and swelling gland and aching rib. That will steal, without a backwards glance, time and money and thoughts; consuming energy and confidence and the headspace that I’d much rather devote to far more important things - 

And this is a reminder, not a self attack. 

This is my ammunition, not its. 

That every hour it claims belongs, in fact, to me. Every minute it negates has a value that I don’t want to give up. And every promise it makes is exposed when I consider the reality of its price. 

Doing it until it feels like normal …

Saturday, November 27th, 2010

Is an old cliché, but one that I have re-discovered in the past few days.

This week has felt better. Not perfect, but a marked improvement – and it’s because I’ve focused on doing it through the discomfort, rather than waiting for the feelings to go away.


Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010

This is not then, although it feels like it.

It is like putting on an old jumper and suddenly being flung back –

At first, it feels a little peculiar; and then, gradually, the familiarity diffuses through the peculiarity and you can’t quite work out where you are.

Here, then, now.

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.

Wallowing. And flat hunting.

Monday, September 20th, 2010

I have been flat hunting this weekend.

It has sapped my energy leaving me deflated and overwhelmed.

It’s not the 100 people that are vying for each room that’s got me worried; it’s the revival of a few deep seated insecurities and the sense that I am floundering out of my depth. Yet again. I have caught up, in some respects, but scratch the surface and there is a great big hole –

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.


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.

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.

Girl Stuff

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010

I developed anorexia before I really went through puberty. On the edge of womanhood, I sunk just before the major changes kicked in. This meant that, aside from a brief spell post my first inpatient treatment and a few months when things seemed to be on the up, I haven’t had periods. My last one was in 1996 or 97. As regular readers of my blog will know, I’ve been quite upset about this (here and here).

I’ve been at a normal BMI for nearly a year now; and, as I’ve watched my peers begin families and enter the next stage of their life, I’ve been left wondering whether I really have closed some doors that might have been open and if I will ever be able to repair the damage that I might have done.

There doesn’t seem a huge amount of research in this area. It has been hard to find any answers.

This isn’t the kind of thing I’d normally announce online, but my periods came back yesterday. I don’t know much about the medical stuff, but I think that this means I will be okay. I guess it proves that there’s always hope. It would, at least, explain why I have been such so hormonal and stressy over the past few days. ..

I don’t know what this means for my fertility. My GP has always been wildly optimistic, so maybe it’s time I started trusting his “the body will repair itself” mentality. That is, however, all some time off, so I’m just going to focus on the fact that I appear, finally, to be on my way.

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.

Without Which I Would Not Be Me

Friday, June 11th, 2010

I have been re-writing my CV recently. It is clean, sparse, and formulaic. I have done a lot, in a relatively short space of time, but the lot feels overshadowed by the glaring delay. Plus, my biggest achievement remains unsaid.

I’m not too sure how well my background would go down. Whether it would be considered a liability or, as I’m beginning to view it, a difficult journey, without which I would not be who I am.

Without which I would not be me.


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.

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.

Self Talking

Saturday, May 29th, 2010

Thanks to some intensive therapy, I am now queen of self-talk; and, whilst I don’t always feel like “being positive” or “having an internal conversation”, an article last week got me thinking about just how valuable this is.

To emphasise the point, the ‘fact’ on my shampoo bottles (shampoo: “who is the person you talk to most?” / conditioner: “yourself”) have concurred to make the message heard. This is clearly a subject that I am meant to be writing about –

Self-talking is something I now do on a regular basis. It kicks in, the moment my head kicks off – and seems to work through a few key themes:


Eating Disorders: The Bottom Line

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

I have been intellectualising and analysing my eating disorder a lot recently. Scrutinising it under my mental magnifying lens. Looking at it from this angle – and that one. Trying to order the complexity into some semblance of sense.

I have wanted to unpick each sordid secret and expose every unspoken rule. To break down the perceptions. To write myself into recovery. To say the things I shouldn’t say because maybe, together, we can help to make things change…

It is important, I think, to talk about these things.

But it is even more important to remember that eating disorders kill.

It is even more important to remember that eating disorders kill.

I am worried that I have diluted this message. That in the to-ing and fro-ing, I have blurred over this one, crucial point. That in the detail, and the dissection, I have forgotten to re-iterate the terrifying bottom line –

Eating disorders kill.

So, this is a reality check and a reminder. An acknowledgement of the cruel truth about eating disorders – but also, that recovery is possible and that there are people out there who can help.

There are people out there that can help.

It is a message that makes my eyes watery and my stomach, clench –

But it comes, along with the experience and hope of recovery, as the most important thing that I can write.

What Helps?

Sunday, May 16th, 2010

On Monday, I did a question and answer session with a load of health care professionals based in the East of England. There were (I think) a good mixture of nurses, GPs, psychologists, CAMHS, crisis teams, treatment centre managers…That kind of thing.

Because the week was rapidly sucked into a whirlpool and I have spent most of it trying to catch up with myself, I have only just started to process what we said; and, interestingly – although probably unsurprisingly – the question that arose in each of the groups I talked with was: “what are the things that really helped?”

I have talked, extensively, about what doesn’t help.

Alarm Bells

Monday, May 3rd, 2010

After a talk that I did in January, one of the attending psychiatrists asked me whether I was worried about relapse. I answered, without hesitation, that “no, I wouldn’t be going back there again, because my body won’t take anymore” –

There have been a few too many close calls in the past few years.

My recovery may have been a series of fits and starts; but, ultimately, I’m a bit of an all or nothing person; and, despite my behaviour, I certainly don’t want to die –

I am shocked by the ease with which the net can constrict again.

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.

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.

Dealing With Things That Don’t Help

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

Yesterday I wrote about things that don’t help.

It was one of the hardest posts that I have written. It sent me straight back to some places that I have forced myself not to dwell on; and reminded me of how hard it is to have a voice. Particularly when you’re up against a system and not feeling that great about your own state of mind.

Today, I have been attempting – and failing – to advise other people how to handle these feelings.

Things That Don’t Help

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

I have always been against lists saying what you should – or shouldn’t – say to someone with an eating disorder. Mine was manipulative enough, without trying to control what other people said.

I have been careful, as I’ve moved through my recovery, to ensure that I take responsibility for my behaviour (whilst appreciating that it was an illness); and that blame is left behind (because it doesn’t do anyone that much good).

Today I was reminded, in an email, of how harmful it can be when your treatment team say the wrong thing.

This confuses my line.

I can understand it when ‘normal people’ muddle along and put their foot in it; but people that are meant to be trained? I thought that the few negative experiences I’d had were unusual, or because eating disorders were newer, at the time, and professionals still had a lot to learn.


1. Weight gain can be hard to handle, even though it seems (to an outsider) to be a positive thing

The Killer Dress

Monday, April 5th, 2010

For my 30th Birthday, I brought a killer dress.

I know that taste is subjective; but there’s no other way to describe it. This dress totally rocks.

It might not be bang on trend as I couldn’t tell you what’s strutting along the catwalk and have never quite got into Vogue; but, it makes me feel a million dollars, and has reminded me of something that gets lost behind the catwalk debate and the size zero phenomenon

In my recovery, fashion and fabrics were an unexpected friend; even when I wasn’t that comfortable in my own skin.

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.

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.

Making a Difference

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

The 22nd-28th of February is Eating Disorder Awareness week.

This is an important focus for anyone who’s been directly – or indirectly – touched by an eating disorder; and, for those who spend the remainder of the year campaigning, tirelessly, to change the misconceptions and put a few constraints on the terrifying spread.

There have been, therefore, some stories on the news; and some articles in magazines; and a scurry of activity, online, amongst the organisations and individuals out there who want to make a difference.

There are conferences going on; and new campaigns being started; and I have selected my five favourite recovery posts to highlight that it is possible –


Friday, February 19th, 2010

“Do you actually want to get better?” was the question she asked me, when I had been caught, yet again, “bucking the system”. “And did I know”, she continued, “that the prognosis wasn’t good, for people like me?”

Well, no, actually, at fourteen I hadn’t stumbled over those particular statistics; and, no, since you’ve asked, I didn’t want to get better, if 5000 Kcal diet; pure terror; and you getting your way, were part of the plan.

The Aftermath

Friday, February 12th, 2010

Now that the worst is over, it feels, sometimes, like I’m left to pick up the pieces of a life or clearing up after a party that has gone horribly wrong.

In the moments of quiet, when I’m trudging up the stairs to my lonely flat or clutching my stomach in the middle of the night whilst it spasms, backwards and forwards, then I wish that I could reclaim a little of what I have lost –

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.

My Guardian Angel and the First Binge-Free Month

Sunday, January 17th, 2010

If they ever develop a way to clone humans, I’ll be recommending my brother. I’m not sure I would have got through my first binge-free night without him, and I’m certain I wouldn’t have made it through my first binge-free month.

Whilst he probably doesn’t want to repeat the experience and I don’t think he’s available on loan, I’ve been trying to identify what really made the difference – because, whether he admits it or not, he helped me turn my life around.

So, in the absence of cloning and a sibling loan provision, I’ve tried to break-down my brother and pinpoint the things that helped; because, there might be some other guardian angels flying around out there, or you might have wings yourself….

Clouds Clearing

Friday, January 1st, 2010

After going to hell – and back, a strange thing seems to have happened; and, like a lens that has been unexpectedly clicked into focus, things suddenly look a lot brighter.

You don’t take anything for granted when you have come so close to losing it all.

As the shadows shift and the clouds begin to drift away, even the ordinary seems tinged with gold; and the mundane, something to be treasured.

They said that this would happen when I got better. That it would be like soaring above a shiny new world; like the clearing of the clouds. They predicted that, one day, things would be different, and I’d look back and wonder how I could have turned my back on life so completely –

Resisting Relapse

Saturday, December 26th, 2009

Sometimes, when I’ve had a bad day or I’m tired of fighting, then the temptation to go back is hard to resist and I can feel myself digging my heels in, childlike, and throwing a bit of a mental tantrum, because it’s not fair that I can’t have the thing that will make me feel better and it’s so much easier for everyone else –

And, when this happens, I have to take myself in hand, like you would with a petulant teenager, and explain that life isn’t always fair, and that the things that we want are not always the things that are good for us.

A Little Hope –

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

When I was walking back through Kings Cross station with the world on my shoulders and my eyes on the floor, I suddenly remembered a good idea that I’d almost forgotten; and, all at once, the weight was lifted and the bounce in my step returned –

There is nothing more important than a little hope.

It is that small glimmer of possibility, that makes the unbearable, bearable; and, changes the frustration of ‘can’t’ to ‘might’.

Without possibility, there is no hope; and, without hope – well, what’s the point?

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.

Filled Pasta (and life after an eating disorder)

Sunday, November 22nd, 2009

Filled pasta is my proof that there’s life after an eating disorder –

And that you can do things that you didn’t think that you would be able to do.


Monday, October 26th, 2009

Today, I was discharged from mental health services.

It is a little scary. They have been looking after me for rather a long time.

This is the first time we’ve done it properly. No fizzling out or abrupt terminations or running from the radar. We have, instead, reached a nice ending and said goodbye as people.

I will be looking after myself from this point on -

Which is a little scary (after being looked after for so long) and feels a little vulnerable (although it’s cause for celebration) and has been a tad unsettling (even though I’ve been on track for a while now) –

- and strangely quiet because I am on my own again –

Weight Gains

Tuesday, October 6th, 2009

I seem to have stopped being invisible now that I’ve put on a little weight.

People are no longer looking through me or averting their eyes.

I didn’t realise that they were doing this until I had a comparison – but now that there’s a little more skin on my bones, the reaction is a whole lot more positive…

I actually feel quite good.

Self Management

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009

I am currently in the self management phase: I am managing myself, by my self.

It’s a good place to be, although it sounds quite serious.

It means that I am keeping a vigilant eye out for potential pitfalls and I am avoiding any routes that will end up leading backwards. That I am being a little cautious with myself and am on the alert while I make sure that I’ve regained my balance –

I don’t know whether an eating disorder ever disappears totally – but I’m making damn sure that it doesn’t come back.

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 –

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.