Posts Tagged ‘relapse’

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.

Unbinding

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.

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…
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A reality check

Friday, December 24th, 2010

I am devastated by what has happened over the past few months.

The dam broke, earlier this evening, and the magnitude of my devastation has finally come out.
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Food and what I forgot

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

I re-discovered a half finished post in my drafts box. I wrote it, a month or so ago, in response to an email asking how I dealt with the sense of deprivation from giving up bingeing. I decided to reply with a post because it was a fear that I remembered particularly well.

* * *

This is a secret. It is a secret that I also keep from myself. I like food. I particularly like food that I don’t feel comfortable eating. One of the reasons why I found it so hard to challenge my bulimia was that it seemed the only way I could imagine allowing myself to eat. I thought I’d miss the pleasure that I got (albeit on a decreasing basis) from the bingeing, and that, after gorging myself so regularly, it would be impossible for ‘normal’ to feel like enough.

The body is a miraculous thing. I found that, as my body got used to eating regularly and as I slowly gained the weight back, the cravings started to lessen and I was able to feel satisfied eating the things that would have been a starter for my binge.

It is impossible to realise this when your body is starving – sated – starving – sated and your mind is craving food, and emotion, and relief. It is impossible to disprove the fear when you give up bulimia without making sure that you are eating enough. It is impossible to maintain the stability if you don’t deal with whatever’s going on underneath.

* * *

Shortly after writing this, I slipped, and I am now experiencing the same fear that I was trying to placate. I am back in “just one more time” territory, and had forgotten how difficult it is to face this challenge when the trust has gone and food has become divided into safe – and unsafe – again. It is hard to disentangle yourself when the physical effects of bingeing, the chemical highs and lows, really take hold –

Because there is nothing to hang onto. Nothing to suggest that the experience of food might be anything else.

A few weeks ago, I read an article that relates to this chicken and egg situation. The interplay between the physical and the emotional that I sometimes lose when I am busy being analytical or trying to think myself out of the situation.

The article was about the need to gain weight in order to recover fully from anorexia, and it reminds me of the leap of faith that you have to take around stopping bingeing. The knowledge that it is impossible to see the wood from the trees when you are submerged and trapped in the behaviour, and your mind is so consumed by the physical effects of the food.

This passage, particularly, struck me –

“for the anorexic, gaining weight is the prerequisite for mental recovery, rather than vice versa. Put another way: you can’t make an anorexic want to put on weight until he or she has begun to do so. Put yet another way: the mind may make the body sick, but only the body can help the mind be well again”.

- and, whilst there are differences in the processes of weight restoration and stopping bingeing, the initial step into the dark is not dissimilar.

And so, I am reminding myself now of the words that I was writing to someone else. That even though I can not imagine it being okay, it’s hard for me to see clearly at the moment. And even though I am hoping for the lightbulb moment, it is unlikely to come.

But if I give myself a chance, it will.

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. 

No. 

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.
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Echoes

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.
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Eggshells

Sunday, June 6th, 2010

I can not miss my snack, because it will be impossible tomorrow – and then the next day – to eat it again.

And I can not throw up what I have eaten, because it has taken 2 years (nearly) for the swelling to go down and my teeth still wobble.

I can not have a cigarette, because it might hurt the graft they performed to try and repair the damage I had caused; and, I have removed the razors from the bathroom, because long sleeves in summer provokes too many questions.

I do not drink, because I am scared of the calories; and I don’t do drugs, because I’m afraid of death.

I don’t take medication, because I’m frightened of not being in control; and I can’t sleep, because my head won’t stop –

Which means that I just have to sit, for the moment, with the feelings; and ride out the discomfort –

because there’s no where left for me to hide.

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.
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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.
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No Going Back.

Monday, December 14th, 2009

Flashing lights and ambulance sirens and the mutterings of paramedics and this is the break point. This is the moment when I’m scared that I might have gone too far.

Hospital beds at three in the morning with a wired up heart and an alarm that keeps beeping and this is the life change. This is the instant when I can see what I’m about to lose.

And, in that precariously balanced moment, when I’m not sure which side of the fine line I’ll end up on, and I’m terrified that it will be the wrong one; this is the promise that I make to myself –

No going back.
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Self talking – instead of self harming

Monday, December 7th, 2009

I had a sudden urge to cut my wrists on the way to work this morning.

It caught me, unawares, when I thought that things were on the straight and even, and I was better now thank you very much.

No trigger.

No warning.

Just a sudden, violent, surge of desperation that over-powered me –

Nearly.
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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.
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