every morning, for every human being, is in some sort a morning after the night before

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last night was not a whole lot of fun. for the first time in my life, i ended up eating so much that i was sick. not deliberately sick but self-induced all the same. i ended up going to bed at 7.30pm leaving my husband to fend for himself all evening. this meant that i woke up at 4am this morning so now my body clock is totally confused and doesn’t really have a clue what’s going on. i feel like i’ve got a hangover despite not having had a drink for a long time. i’m still feeling quite nauseous (did a quick 10 minute yoga flow and thought i might vom during a downward dog) and uncomfortably bloated. more than that, it feels like my whole body hurts and i’ve actually just emailed my doctor to ask if i’m okay to take some codeine for the pain or whether that’s a bad combo with the sertraline / diazepam / olanzapine because the naproxen that i’ve already taken isn’t touching it. mentally, i’m all over the place, my thoughts jumping around trying desperately to avoid thinking about the things that i don’t want to think about. and i’m feeling pretty sorry for myself.

but today is a new day.

it’s saturday and i can hear my husband moving around. although it’s raining, the temperature is mild enough that i need the balcony door open and all i can hear is birdsong. it’s starting to feel like spring is in the air although i mainly say that because my hayfever seems to have started up. our plans for the day include sorting out the little garden we’ve been trying to cultivate and painting one of the walls in our bedroom which has remained unpainted since we moved in 5 years ago. tomorrow my parents are coming for lunch and i’ve planned an ottolenghi feast from the nopi cookbook. on monday, we’re getting a new floor in our bedroom to replace the cheap carpet that was only ever meant to be there for a few months and on tuesday we’re getting a new bed with a super comfortable mattress delivered.

last night was a new low for me and the thought of feeling like that/this again is terrifying. bouncing between starvation and bingeing for the last couple of weeks has taken its toll. it isn’t the way that i want to live my life. if i thought anorexia was all consuming, this form of ‘recovery’ (which i know isn’t really any kind of recovery) is a hundred times worse. i’ll be honest and say that, for the immediate future, i think that i will be clinging even more strongly to the restrictive eating habits which make me feel safest: i’ve cleared the fridge, freezer and cupboards of the foods i’ve been hoarding to binge on (not that there was a huge amount left) and although i generally think that our bodies are perfectly able to detox themselves without any help, i’m definitely going to make sure i consume a lot of water today so that i can feel like i’m flushing out all the crap that’s floating around inside me (even if all it is really doing is making me wee a lot).

when i was in the throes of bingeing last night, i couldn’t see a future. today, i can. for the moment, that may involve making my peace with anorexia and letting it have its way but i’m hoping that, eventually, last night will be a turning point.

{title quotation from the slaves of solitude by patrick hamilton}

even the dust would be running away

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today i really want to run away from my life.

i had a challenging session with my psychiatrist today. i think, ultimately, it will be challenging in a good way but the fall out has been pretty intense.

after a rough few days of bingeing, laxative abuse (the glamour) and self-harm, i’d found a little bit of relief in my familiar patterns of restriction. my weight – the number which dominates my thoughts from the moment that i wake up to the moment i go to sleep – had been settling after yo-yo-ing around by half a stone or more.

and so, i was feeling more like myself. or, at least, more at peace with myself.

and then my psychiatrist asked me today what i think the future holds with and without anorexia and, fundamentally, which future i’d prefer. and i honestly couldn’t answer. i can recite the reasons why i should want to get better without pause but i can’t picture what that life looks like. i know it’s not sustainable to keep losing weight and that the only place that leads is a hospital but the idea of a ‘normal’ life that’s not dominated by my relationship with food feels further away than ever at the moment. even though i had many years of just that before this relapse.

so i came home and i binged. it’s over 5,000 calories so far and i’m not sure it’s finished even though i’m in so much pain that i can barely move.

i think we have broadly come to the conclusion that i’m not really ready to recover yet. or at least i don’t want it enough to change. all i want to do is to see that number on the scales go down and therefore not to feel like my entire world is crumbling around me; which it does at the moment.

i’m just so tired of this constant battle though. there aren’t even good days and bad days really anymore. they’re just days and each one seems like such a struggle.

{title quotation by ali smith}

that happy-go-lucky wandering life

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i saw this t-shirt in new look a couple of weeks ago and had to buy it. not only was it black and white striped (and you can never have too many black and white striped t shirts in your wardrobe) but i felt like ‘happy go lucky’ summed up my approach to life.

as much as i am fully aware of everything that anorexia has taken / is taking from me, it made / makes me pretty happy most of the time. i probably shouldn’t say that. even though it’s true.

i’m happy because i have (the illusion of) control. it’s my safety blanket allowing me to focus on other areas of my life – work, my marriage, all the life admin that comes with being a grown up. it manages the feelings of instability and anxiety that otherwise cripple me. it gives me something that i can feel successful and, for want of a better word, ‘good’ at. i feel like it allows me to be the best version of me.

the last few days have been hard. harder than i even know how to put into words. harder than i found the weekend when i was only really at the start of my spiral downwards.

yesterday, having already eaten whatever i could find in the cupboards, i purposefully went out and spent over £50 on food that i then binged on, possessed by a force far stronger than anything i’ve ever had to fight before. within such a short space of time – a week maybe, no more than that – the foundations on which i’ve built my recovery from the rape, from the long, emotionally draining and ultimately unsuccessful battle i had to try and get justice, from the ptsd that made me feel like i was losing my mind, have crumbled.

my psychiatrist’s answer is to eat three normal meals a day. the rational part of me knows that he is right and that will help to prevent the bingeing. the anorexic part of me just desperately wants to get back to the restriction which gives me the strength to fight everything else.

{title quotation from guy de maupassant}

you truly belong here among the clouds

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i saw this quotation written on a wall when i was in oxford a few weeks ago. i liked it until i realised it was a slight mis-quotation from star wars which is something that is totally lost on me. it doesn’t really have anything to do with this post but i still like it, i think.

the last few days have been a bit of a shit show really. my psychiatrist said to me last night that he’s not sure i’m ready for recovery yet. on some level, i think he’s right. i don’t have the resilience and skills to deal with this emotional maelstrom that has been unleashed. i’ve spent hours this weekend eating. eating anything and everything that i can get my hands on. the list is endless; the calorie count horrendous.

as a result, i feel absolutely disgusted with myself. that disgust then translates into self-harm and a flare up of other ptsd symptoms (primarily intrusive thoughts and flashbacks). honestly, i haven’t felt this bad for seven or eight months. and this is after i took a diazepam this afternoon to try and make it through the day.

the only way that i can describe anorexia – or restriction in general because i certainly don’t feel justified in calling it anorexia at the moment – is that it makes me feel safe. the impact of my rape and the subsequent ptsd symptoms took away my sense of security. anorexia gave it back. now that i’m fighting the anorexia, i’m not safe again.

at the moment i’m curled up in bed writing this in between reading chapters of the woman in the window which the blurb on the cover told me would be unputdownable (sadly, not true). bed is where i feel safe. when i was off work last year, there were days when i wouldn’t get out of bed because everywhere else felt too dangerous and unstable. in the immediate aftermath of my rape (which happened in my flat although not, thankfully, in my bed or even in my bedroom), my clearest memory is hiding under the duvet, burrowing down to try and block out the fact that my rapist was snoring away just the other side of the wall. even now, i don’t want to move from my bed to the sofa (although my laptop battery is just about to run out so sometimes practical requirements take priority).

i’m seeing my therapist on wednesday and my psychiatrist on friday. this has all the makings of one of the toughest weeks of my life.

 

 

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life itself is the proper binge

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i had a dream last night that my husband and i argued over what type of waffles we should have for breakfast today. not only is every waking thought about food at the moment but it’s clearly started to invade my sleep as well.

the picture above isn’t today’s breakfast, needless to say, but a picture of some spectacular chicken and waffles that i ate at poppy and rose when we were in la for our honeymoon a couple of years ago. the buttermilk waffles were crisp and tender. the coating on the chicken was heady with seasoning and the meat was juicy and lucious. the smoked honey butter that it came with had just the right balance of sweet and savoury. god, it was bloody delicious.

i put on a fair amount of weight on our honeymoon (which was a slightly extravagant five week jaunt). it wasn’t a huge surprise really given that we ate out at least once, if not two or three times a day. i even ate foie gras carbonara (twice); surely that is the height of excess? there was no bingeing or restricting though, just a real and thorough appreciation of the good food that i was eating.

it’s just under two years since we went on our honeymoon. it was, without a doubt, one of the best experiences of my life. it came after a stressful few months filled with our wedding, a major operation for me and a long wait for the outcome of the police investigation into a historic allegation of rape that i’d made. we finished our trip staying in an apartment a few blocks from venice beach. on the last day, i went for a walk by myself and stood at the edge of the pacific ocean with my toes in the still-freezing water and realised that everything was going to be okay.

for most of the last two years – and the last year in particular – it hasn’t felt that way. i’ve never had to battle so hard and so constantly. and in that fight, i feel like i’ve totally lost myself.

twice in the last week, i’ve binged. i’ve not really binged since october so it’s been a shock to the system to say the very least. my doctor has said that it’s totally normal and part of the recovery process; my body is screaming out for calories and it will do anything to get them. last night i binged until the early hours of the morning, clearing out the fridge of anything that i could eat quickly and mindlessly. as a result, the number on the scales has risen hugely and my breakfast this morning has consisted of 200mg of sertraline and a laxative. i know this is wrong on all sorts of levels but i’m powerless to stop it.

of all the disordered activities that i partake in, i find bingeing the most shameful. our society does not look kindly upon those people who just can’t stop eating. they’re greedy and fat and unable to control themselves. i feel all of those things about myself when i binge and it just reinforces every negative self-belief that i have. but, just as restriction serves a purpose, bingeing also serves a purpose for me.

after i went to the police to report my rape, i had to give a video statement. if needed, this video could then be used in court in lieu of me giving evidence. the process lasted for two hours and went into all sorts of intimate detail that i never expected to have to tell anyone, let alone a police officer that i’d only met ten minutes before. my video interview was at 11am and i was too nervous to eat anything beforehand. after it was finished, i was supposed to go back to work. i didn’t (at least not immediately). instead, i went to buy as much chocolate as i could afford at hotel chocolate and gorged myself until i could think of nothing more than how sick i felt. only then was i able to force myself back into the present. that pattern continued throughout the two years that it took the for the cps to finally come to the decision not to press charges.

last night’s binge wasn’t related to the rape or any of the ptsd symptoms that characterised my long period of binge eating last year. but i felt anxious and sad and defeated by the thought of the fight ahead of me and so i binged. and today i know i’ll restrict.

and so the cycle goes on.

{title quotation from julia child}

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i read the news today, oh boy

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another blogger who i follow posted ‘a day in the life of anorexic me‘ yesterday as part of #edaw2018 and i found it incredibly helpful to read of someone else’s day-to-day experience of living with anorexia so decided to do the same for today. i should caveat this with the fact that i am not really doing anything more than flirting with recovery at the moment therefore this post might contain examples of disordered behaviour. as ever, i’ll try not to get into any real specifics but please don’t think this is how anyone else should or does behave. eating disorders are different for everyone. 

7am – my alarm goes off. normally i get up at 6am, do a yoga workout and then aim to leave for work by about 7.30am. today, however, i’m working from home as i have an appointment with my psychiatrist later so i take advantage of the opportunity to have a lie in. i’m so tired all the time at the moment although the combination of my evening medication (diazepam and olanzapine) means that i sleep really heavily.

i lie in bed for a while trying to put off the moment when i have to get up because then i’ll have to weigh myself and, based on my weight before i went to bed last night, i’m expecting to have gained from yesterday. my first weight is always my ‘official’ weight and the weight that gets logged in my fitness pal. it sets the tone for the rest of the day.

eventually i get up, take my daily dose of sertraline and, most importantly, go to the loo. i can’t get on the scale until after i’ve been to the loo. i weigh myself in stones and lbs with my pyjamas on and am relieved to actually see a small drop from the previous day. my doctor will be less happy but it makes me feel safer and more secure to know that i have ultimate control over that number. my routine is then to take my pyjamas off and weigh myself in kgs which, unsurprisingly, also shows a drop from the day before. i have no idea why i do this, it makes absolutely no sense.

9am – yesterday was a bad day and i didn’t manage to eat either breakfast or lunch. february was a bad month really. i’m supposed to be aiming for three meals a day and i am just finding it too hard at the moment. but today is the 1st of march and i’m determined this will be a better month.

because i’ve seen a small drop in the scales this morning and i know that i’m seeing my psychiatrist later, i know force myself to have breakfast. the only way i can do this is to have a set routine. so i take my usual bowl out of the cupboard and weigh out exactly the right number of grams of plain yoghurt. i debate having some fruit with it but decide in the end that anything sweet will set me off on a binge so just eat it plain and as quickly as humanly possible. which is pretty quick as it’s still a relatively small portion.

i email my psychiatrist with my weight for the day. his reply is fairly terse but that’s to be expected; i know that he thinks that i’m not fighting very hard at the moment and i’m terrified as to what he’s going to say when i see him later. before i settle down to work, i do a 30 minute yoga with adriene video. my doctor is happy for me to keep up with the yoga for the moment but i’ve been banned from anything more strenuous (not that it matters hugely to me as i’m fundamentally lazy).

12pm – i’ve been relegated to the third bedroom/study as our cleaner is here. it’s the only room in our flat without a radiator and i’m swathed in blankets to try and keep warm. it’s a battle i’m currently losing. i have a long to do list but all i can think about is what i’m going to eat for lunch or, more accurately, if i’m going to eat lunch.

1pm – once the cleaner has gone, i can come out of hiding and can curl up on the sofa with my laptop. i default to my standard meal when i can’t think of anything else to have; roasted cherry tomatoes on a slice of homemade rosemary soda bread from the freezer. this time, i manage to sprinkle some feta on top which is a step forward. i eat quickly again, trying to distract myself by flicking through pinterest so that i don’t really have time to think about the fact that i’m eating lunch. the food weighs heavily in my stomach which registers its surprise at having to digest something at this time of the day with some painful and uncomfortable cramping.

i dutifully log the details of my lunch into the app that my psychiatrist uses to track my progress and i notice that i’ve missed a message from him saying that i need to eat a proper lunch before my appointment with him this afternoon (my brain automatically adds ‘otherwise don’t bother to show up’ to this although i know that’s not what he means). i don’t know if what i ate counts as a proper lunch but i can’t contemplate eating any more right now.

2pm – i have a deadline of 4pm to get something finished for my boss but i’m consumed by the thoughts of what i’ve just eaten, whether my psychiatrist will consider it sufficient and what else i am going to eat today. i was supposed to be meeting a friend after my appointment tonight but i’ve just cancelled as i can’t face being somewhere surrounded by people eating and drinking, even if i’m not doing either of these things. but cancelling tonight also means that i haven’t planned out what i’m going to have for dinner and i can feel my levels of anxiety rising at the prospect of having to make (yet another) food-based decision. in an attempt to focus on something else, i decide to hop back on the yoga mat for a quick 20 minute workout (my second of the day). i’m starting to worry that i’m using yoga as a compensatory behaviour for when i feel like i’ve eaten too much (or just eaten full stop) but i’m trying to balance that against the good that i feel it does both my physical and mental health.

4pm – i’ve done what i needed to do work-wise so now i have to get ready to go to my psychiatrist appointment. which means have to get changed out of the only clothes i feel comfortable in – my yoga leggings and an oversized jumper. i have hardly any clothes that fit me any more and i’m full aware that i look ridiculous in most things, like a child playing dress up. plus it’s bloody freezing out, just in case you hadn’t noticed. i’m trying to decide whether to walk to my appointment or get the tube. tube obviously seems the most logical option and i know my psychiatrist will be cross if i tell him that i walked there (it’s about a 45 minute walk). but i really want to walk because i feel like i’ve eaten so much today.

7pm – my psychiatrist was probably a lot nicer to me than i deserve (especially as i walked there and back. i haven’t told him that part yet). he’s still referring to me as being in crisis but he seems marginally less worried than he did a couple of weeks ago. the rational part of me thinks that’s a good thing. the anorexic part of me is screaming that i’m just not sick enough (yet). every conversation, every thought is a battle. even him telling me that i’m doing well feels less like a victory and more like an abject failure.

we talked a bit about what my life was like before the ptsd, and then the eating disorder, took hold. i feel so sad and nostalgic for my former life. i used to live in colour, now it’s just black and white. we planned out what i was going to eat tonight. the cold and the unbearable ache for my past have led me down the route of spaghetti bolognese; not an authentic slow-cooked melting ragu but the quick sauce my mum used to make sometimes when she got home from work and that tastes like my childhood.

8pm – we tend to eat dinner around this time. as usual, it’s in front of the tv (masterchef tonight; it goes without saying that our television viewing is dominated by food). in order to manage my anxiety around eating (and in particular, how i feel after i’ve eaten), i take some diazepam with my meal. i’ve weighed out the exact quantity of pasta, sauce and salad that i’m going to eat and already calculated the calories. i also throw down a cocktail of pre-conception vitamins on the very off chance that this is the month we get lucky (26’s the charm and all that). two-thirds of my plate is taken up with salad (no dressing, of course). the remainder is what seems to me to be an excessively large portion of pasta. it is, though, no more than i would serve to a child and the entire meal comes in under 200 calories. i desperately want to stop eating halfway through – partly just to show that i can – but i have promised to eat it all so i manage to clear my plate

9.30pm – the diazepam has taken the edge off the usual post-dinner anxiety that i feel although i’m having to fight a strong urge to binge (or self harm) because i don’t know how else to deal both with the physical feeling of being full and the waves of sadness and regret that keep washing over me. i’m in my pyjamas now though and i’ve taken my olanzapine so i’m fully expecting to fall asleep in front of the tv within the next half hour. and so ends another day of anorexic me.

this post has turned into something of an epic. if nothing else, it’s been a very useful exercise for me. one thing that came up today with my psychiatrist was the extent to which i was in denial about the anorexia. i said it was about 50:50. ironically it’s the anorexic part of me that is most in denial. how can my therapist be talking about weight gain when i’m still so fat? i’m functioning perfectly normally – able to hold down a stressful job, have a good relationship with my husband, spend time with my family – so how can i be sick?

but i need to accept that whilst i can do all of those things and whilst i can appear from the outside to have my shit together, it doesn’t change the fact that anorexia is slowly consuming me, little by little. and the longer that it goes on, the less of me there will be left.

as a little ps, i also wrote a short blog for beat about being diagnosed with anorexia in my mid-thirties after a lifetime of disordered eating as part of their #whywait campaign.

{title quotation from a day in the life by the beatles}

it takes a village

20180212-IMG_1268normally i work from home on a tuesday because i have therapy first thing in the morning and i generally need a bit of solo time after my sessions. apart from when i’ve run away, this has been the pattern for the last nine months or so.

today, however, i’m in the office because not only do i now have a new psychiatrist but i also will have a new therapist after tomorrow.

i’m very grateful to my now ex-therapist. without him, i wouldn’t have got through the crippling ptsd that i suffered for most of last year. but there were also things that frustrated me about him and i felt that our sessions – or at least the overarching theme of our sessions rather than the individual sessions themselves – lacked a structure or focus. and in the short time that i’ve been under my new psychiatrist’s care (is it really less than three weeks?!), i think it’s become clear that i need more intensive treatment than i’m currently getting.

i’ve had some success with bringing my calorie intake up but that has resulted in some other unhealthy behaviours rearing up. behaviours that i thought i had well and truly left behind including, but not limited to, one of the biggest and most shameful binges i’ve ever had last night. my new psychiatrist said that he’s still happy that i can be treated on an outpatient basis (even that sounds so serious) and i’m not at the stage of needing day patient / inpatient care. but he’s also made it clear that it’s probably only a matter of a few weeks and that continued outpatient support relies on me actively participating in my recovery and surrounding myself with the best possible people. he has pulled some strings to get me appointments both with one of the top nutritionists in london and with a highly recommended specialist in cbt-e. i know the rest is down to me.

and, as much as i hate to admit it because i like to think of myself as independent and resilient and self-sufficient and everything else that a seemingly professional and pulled-together woman in her mid-thirties should be, i’m not really any of those things. i need all the help that i can get at the moment. because i want to beat this. i really do. and i can’t do it by myself. this is going to have to be a team effort.

this week is eating disorder awareness week (#edaw2018). already i’ve seen so many inspiring tweets, blog posts, articles and vlogs from people who are suffering, have suffered or have watched someone suffer. inspired by all of those stories, i’ve gradually told more and more people in my life what’s been going on and have been staggered by the generosity of spirit that so many people have shown me. most people don’t really know how to react or what to say – which is absolutely fine with me – but just knowing that they’re there and cheering me on is enough for me.

it’s yet another one of those strange paradoxes that anorexia is built on; i don’t think i’ve ever felt so loved at a time when i’ve never hated myself more.

{title quotation from an african proverb}

the shared meal elevates eating…from mere animal biology to an act of culture

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yesterday i ate a meal in public for this first time this year. a little under two months without eating in a restaurant or coffee shop or pub probably isn’t that big a deal in the grand scheme of things – i’m aware that plenty of people eat out far less than that and are perfectly happy with it – but it feels like a lifetime to me.

my psychiatrist asked me last week to make a list of the things that anorexia has given me and the things that it has taken away from me. the latter list is, of course, so much longer and i still have enough insight to appreciate that even the things that i think anorexia has given me (a sense of control, better regulation of my emotions, reduction in ptsd symptoms etc) are all an illusion really.

my eating disorder has taken, and is taking, so much away from me. the first and foremost is obviously starting ivf but, beyond that, it has insidiously seeped into every aspect of my day-to-day life, even if i don’t always realise it. one of the most sobering things that my psychiatrist said to me this week was actually something said in passing – that he’d have to swap rooms for my appointment with him next week because his usual room is right at the top of a tall victorian building just off harley street without a lift and he didn’t want me walking up that many stairs. someone telling me that i’m too ill to climb up four flights of stairs? that hit home like nothing else has. (even if i do think it’s a complete overreaction, not least as i live in a third floor flat and still always take the stairs.)

clearly, anorexia is also having a huge impact on my social life and all of my relationships. i’ve had to come up with an increasingly elaborate series of excuses as to why i can’t go somewhere or, if i do, why i have to leave early and/or not eat or drink. it’s exhausting. so much of what i use to enjoy resolved around eating and drinking with my husband or family or friends and that part of my life just feels so alien to me right now. eating solo is all well and good but very little can beat that magic of sharing a meal with people that i love.

and so, when my mother suggested that we meet up on saturday morning for a spot of shopping and some lunch, my initial reaction was to decline and cite some mythical prior commitment. but i need to start challenging myself and pushing myself and gaining weight otherwise everything else is pointless. so i booked a table at one of my favourite places to eat, studied the menu online for far longer than is normal and decided that i was going to fight for it. and i did.

i got there early and ordered a blood orange tea (i’m not really a tea drinker but i was bloody freezing). when my mum arrived, we ordered our food and i allowed the conversation to distract me enough to eat most of the delicious shakshuka that i ordered. and nothing bad happened. my parents don’t actually know about the anorexia diagnosis although clearly they can see that i’ve lost a lot of weight. my mother twice made reference to anorexia in different contexts (once in relation to a friend of hers, once in relation to bone density…we really know how to have interesting brunch conversations) and part of me wonders if she was trying to give me an opening to admit it to her. if she was, i didn’t take it. i don’t know if i’ll ever be ready to tell her.

what we did discuss openly though was our plans for ivf (i made a couple of excuses as to why we haven’t started yet) and she, very generously, said that she and my dad would like to contribute to the costs once we get there. this was so overwhelmingly kind of them and i don’t think i’ll ever be able to thank them enough for easing the financial burden of treatment. what it does mean though is that i really do need to get better. the only thing standing in the way of our dreams now is my anorexia and i can’t have that any longer.

{title quotation from in defense of food: an eater’s manifesto by michael pollan}

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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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and that sweet city with her dreaming spires

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i went to oxford this week. although i’ve been there a few times (and, come to think of it, worked on a project there for a couple of months), it’s not a city i know well at all. i went to the other place and, when i was choosing universities, i never really considered oxford. i don’t know why. it’s not like my heart was set on cambridge at all.

i had a pretty miserable time at university. i didn’t mind the work and wish i’d spent more time taking advantage of the academic opportunities but i wasn’t really happy. part of that was down to what, with the benefit of hindsight, i know see was a very emotionally abusive relationship. part of it was down to the claustrophobic nature of cambridge itself. part of it was that i just missed feeling at home somewhere. i never felt at home in cambridge and i’ve realised, particularly over the last few months, how much i need that feeling of security and safety.

it was also the place where i first suffered from anorexia even if i didn’t know or acknowledge it at the time. to me, it was all just part of the madness of those years. disordered eating habits had been part of my life for longer – since my early teens really – but university was really the time when this pattern of trying to control the uncontrollable really kicked in.

so, it was weird being in oxford this week. so many of the buildings look so familiar to those in cambridge that it felt like i was back there and the world had just tilted a little. i was in oxford to take part in an academic study on how women with and without eating disorders perceive bodies (both their own and other people’s). it involved several computer based tests which would be almost impossible to describe and i deliberately didn’t think too hard about what the tests were trying to show so that i didn’t mess up the study at all. it also involved an interview with a psychiatrist and going through the eating disorder examination questionnaire. i’ve never officially done this before (my old psychiatrist didn’t seem fussed by my eating disorder; my new one prefers just to discuss things rather than fill in questionnaires).

whilst i am partial to an online test and have probably done thousands of ‘do you have an eating disorder?’ tests in the past, even i was surprised at my responses and how strongly i scored on the anorexia scale. i answered ‘every day’ or ‘markedly’ to every question whether it was how often i restricted my food and how frequently thinking about food meant that i couldn’t concentrate or whether it was how guilty i felt about eating or how i judged myself on my weight.

i said to my psychiatrist this week that i don’t think i’ve grasped yet that i have a problem. i think i’m beginning to do so.

{title quotation from thyrsis by matthew arnold}

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