we’ll be counting stars

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i like numbers. i’ve always liked numbers. i liked maths at school and, although i didn’t end up studying it at university, i chose a subject with a similar set of rules. you either get numbers or you don’t. there’s no judgement either way as far as i’m concerned but i’ve always considered myself lucky to be firmly in the numerical camp.

i like baking because i like numbers. again, i know this isn’t the same for everyone. but i love the precision and the rules (there they are again) and the magic that can be created from some simple ratios. the most traditional, of course, is the old favourite of the 4-4-4-2 sponge which i don’t think can ever really be beaten for pure magic. but there are hundreds of other ratios that i use every time that i bake and a little too much one way or the other will normally result in catastrophe (or, at least, a slightly flat cake which, depending on how dramatic i’m feeling, might well be a catastrophe).

my anorexia (i’m still trying to get used to calling it that) is dominated by numbers too.

  1. how much do i weigh?
  2. how many times have i weighed myself that day?
  3. how much weight have i gained or lost since the day before?
  4. since the week before?
  5. since the month before?
  6. how much does each ingredient of my dinner weight?
  7. how many calories have i consumed in total?
  8. how many calories have i burnt through exercise?
  9. how many glasses of water have i drunk?
  10. how often have i been to the loo?

there are many, many more numbers that i track on a daily basis, even if just subconsciously. in order to recover, some of these need to go up and some of these need to go down.

letting go of the numbers is going to be one of the hardest parts for me i think.

i tried to explain to my therapist this morning that my issues around needing to control my weight are far more about having control of that number than about my size or how i look. the latter two concepts are so fluid and nebulous. my weight is piece of hard evidence that i can use to demonstrate that i’m in charge of my life. i don’t think he really got it.

on the way home, i spent a long time wondering around waitrose, trying to decide what to have for lunch and was uninspired. i’ve never really been very good at working out what to cook when it’s just me at home. for that very reason, i’d bought signe johansen’s book ‘solo: the joy of cooking for one‘ on a whim the other day.  before anorexia, i would default to a bowl of pasta. these days, i’m lucky if it’s anything. the first recipe that i’ve tried isn’t technically a recipe for one i guess but it’s one that i hope will form the basis of many more solo meals to come; a simple seeded multigrain soda bread. it couldn’t really be easier – a mix of spelt, wholewheat flour, oats and seeds all squished together with buttermilk and a little treacle. cocoa powder gives it a beautiful brown colour and trusty bicarbonate of soda gives it a rise. i threw in double the amount of salt required and a handful of chopped rosemary from our just-about-surviving plant. i topped my first slice with some roasted cherry tomatoes, a few crumbles of goat’s cheese and a sprinkling of fresh basil. utterly delicious.

my doctor says i need to be eating at least 500 calories a day (although, it goes without saying that the more the better at the moment). i’m hoping today i’ll get there.

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the beginning is always today

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i’ve just eaten lunch.

i can count on one hand the number of times i’ve eaten lunch in the last six months. the last time i ate lunch was on 1 january when we went to visit some friends and i couldn’t really think of an excuse not to go (not least as i’ve been so self involved recently that i’ve been a terrible friend).

a lot has happened this week. on tuesday, i agreed with my therapist that the advice from the nutritionist i saw was both unhelpful and dangerous. he also was happy for me to not go back to the psychiatrist i’ve been seeing since september so long as i found an alternative and, preferably, one that had a slightly more than basic understanding of eating disorders. i emailed both the nutritionist and psychiatrist later that day. my psychiatrist’s pa confirmed that my next appointment had been cancelled and that’s the only follow up i’ve had from either of them. i’m slightly staggered that, given the psychiatrist claimed to be very concerned about me a few weeks ago, she hasn’t bothered to get in touch. at least it allows me to draw a line under both of them and move forward.

by thursday, i’d found a new psychiatrist and had an initial appointment. he changed some of the aspsects of my diagnosis (it’s now formally anorexia nervosa rather than the hodge podge it was before), tweaked some of my medications and, before my session had even finished, emailed me a ‘day 1’ plan.

yesterday was day 1.

day 1 involved eating breakfast which i haven’t done for a very long time. it was a struggle but i managed to eat some plain yoghurt. it also involved telling my husband the truth about my diagnosis which i somehow managed to do. and there, in black and white, is my acklowledgement that ivf and having a baby is more important to me than having an eating disorder. i’m still trying to make myself believe that this is true.

day 1 also involved telling my boss at work what was going on. i thought it would be a shock to him. unfortunately, it wasn’t and before i even said anything about eating disorders, he told me that a number of people had expressed concerns to him about my weight loss.

having it out there in the open does feel better. the more people that know, the more people there are to let down and the more i have to recover.  having a definitive plan with targets and all the support i could want to get there feels better. my psychiatrist has said he will be in daily contact with me for the moment while we get through this ‘crisis’ (ie that i’m steadily losing weight). at the end of every day, i have to email him with my weight, what i’ve eaten and how i’ve felt throughout the day. it’s so far removed from the ‘help’ i’ve had previously (“go and see this quack nutritionist and then we’ll consider if you need to go to a residential clinic thousands of miles away which will pay me a nice referral bonus”).

it’s so unbelievably hard though and i really don’t think i can do it.

i left my session on thursday feeling really positive and strong but that’s waning, minute by minute. last night, i saw my dad who commented on my weight loss and ‘how well i was looking’. he doesn’t know about the eating disorder (still can’t bring myself to call it anorexia; i feel such a fraud having that diagnosis when i’m still so fat) and i’m sure he wouldn’t have said anything if he did. but all i can think about is how i have to keep losing weight and how great it felt this morning when i saw a more than acceptable drop on the scales from yesterday. and now i feel so full and bloated because i’ve already eaten twice today even though it amounts to <250 calories and was nothing more than yoghurt, a piece of sourdough bread and some fruit/veggies. the actual eating was less of a struggle than i anticipated. but just knowing how much i’ve eaten and seeing it written down and feeling it just sitting in my stomach is so much worse. the anxiety and panic is slowly rising up and threatening to consume me.

i bought this bracelet a few days ago. the rings represent my husband, me and the reason that i’m doing this. i need to focus on that with all my strength if the beginning really is going to be today.

{title quotation attributed to mary shelley}