be like a peacock and dance with all of your beauty

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it’s been over a month since i wrote here. it feels like a lot has happened in that month and most of it has been bloody hard work. an attempt to wean myself off sertraline ended in abject failure and a few weeks of feeling pretty fucking awful. as a result of that, the anorexic voice grew louder and louder until i was fully back into restriction and starting to lose weight again at an alarming rate. at the same time, our lives have been a little up in the air as our planned ivf cycle was delayed and we’ve been living out of a suitcase for the last month while we have some building work done. i also had a falling out with my therapist after she accidentally sent an email about me and my lack of progress/engagement to me, rather than to my psychiatrist who is in overall charge of my treatment. whilst it wasn’t a great feeling, i think it was actually helpful because i don’t think we ever really clicked and it gave me the push to say that i didn’t want to see her again. so now, i’m just working with my psychiatrist and my nutritionist which suits me much better as i like both of them very much.

so things, finally, seem like they’re coming together and i’m getting back on track. and it’s not a minute too soon.

last week, i spent three intense days on a leadership course. the focus was on finding the ‘real me’ to become an authentic and resilient leader (hence the peacock; it was a metaphor that appeared time and time again throughout the week).

i was cynical going in because it sounded like the kind of thing that i hate and i was also incredibly anxious about the change in routine and coping with having to eat with other people (spoiler alert: i didn’t). in fact, it was life-changing. so much resonated with me not just from a professional perspective but in relation to anorexia recovery. it helped to crystallise what is really important to me, what my core values, dreams and strengths are, and what i need to do to become the very best version of my self. which is what i desperately want to do.

at the end of the three days, we had to come up with our personal leadership vision; a few words that encapsulated where we want to get to. i thought i would find this a real challenge but actually it came to me quite easily: the freedom to make a difference. both at work, to my friends and family and to society. but in order to be able to do that, i need to get out of my head, be healthy and learn from adversity, rather than crumbling every time something goes slightly wrong and resorting to my usual self-destructive behaviours.

at the moment, there’s still a disconnect between this vision and my behaviours. the anorexic voice is still deafening and is winning through more often than not. but i’m more hopeful now that it won’t always be like this.

{title quotation from debasish mridha)

life is so endlessly delicious

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one of the goals that my therapist has set me for this week is to think less about food. this means less time on pinterest and instagram scrolling past pictures and automatically starting to calculate the calories. less time reading recipe books and food blogs, planning meals that i may or may not eat. less time looking at restaurant menus online, paralysed by hypothetical indecision.

the idea is that food – and everything i associate with it – is taking up too much of my time at the moment and forms far too large a part of how i view and value myself, leaving very little left for any other aspect of my life. every thing that i eat – or just think about eating – takes on far more signficance than it should. sometimes i can spend hours just trying to decide whether i should eat breakfast or not and what either of those decisions means about me (which, the rational part of my brain knows, is absolutely nothing).

like many people with an eating disorder, i love food. i’m obsessed by food. in some ways, i think this is a legacy of being a fussy eater as a child – i was always thinking about food and whether there would be something i could eat at the next meal. without wishing to sound like a twat, my husband and i have been lucky to eat in some of the best restaurants in the country over the last few years (including a spectacular pre-wedding meal at the fat duck) and i’ve been fascinated by every single ridiculous course.  for a while, this was channelled into the food blog i used to run which legitimised it. there was a whole community out there of people who spent just as much time as i did thinking about food. although i might have been free from some (or indeed most) of my disordered eating habits, that obsession meant that they were never very far away. and then, when life went to shit, they came back with a vengeance.

i do understand my therapist’s point of view. my life needs to be less dominated by food. but, at the same time, food is so bloody delicious and the idea of a life that doesn’t celebrate that seems pretty grim. i guess where i’m struggling at the moment is to find some sort of middle ground and so i end up swinging from one extreme to the other.

 

{title quotation from ruth reichl}

sunday evening…the very time of all others…when the heart must be opened, and every thing told

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somewhere along the line, i’ve grown to hate sundays. sunday afternoons in particular. for reasons that i don’t quite understand, i find this by far and away the hardest time of the week; it’s often when the intrusive thoughts are at their strongest. i often end up hiding, retreating from the world and burrowing myself in the sanctuary of my bed.

today has been no different.

i’ve not been sleeping well recently. partly because i’ve stopped taking diazepam / olanzapine at night. but mainly because there’s just a lot going on at the moment. work is busy and stressful; last week involved some late nights and early starts. the ivf process kicks off this week with a dummy transfer on tuesday morning to check that everything will go smoothly for the real thing. at the end of the week, all being well, i’ll start on the pill for 10 days or so to regulate my cycle. i’ve had a welcome break this week from re-living the rape in therapy but it’s always there. and then there is still absolutely no respite from the constant and exhausting battle against the eating disorder voices. it’s so bloody noisy in my head right now.

despite all of that, i actually had a couple of good days this week. i managed three meals without any restricting or bingeing. and then. as ever, i self-destructed. not spectacularly, particularly in comparison to recent weeks, but it was enough. i was, perhaps, slightly ambitious in inviting some friends for afternoon tea yesterday. the combination of anxiety about eating and being surrounded by food left me drained by the end of the day. and more conscious than ever of how much this eating disorder is still controlling every aspect of my life despite things appearing, on the surface at least, to be much improved.

i woke up early this morning, bruised and fragile. i felt defeated before the day had even begun and certain that i wouldn’t be able to resist the lure of a day of restriction. but a run helped a little, despite the rain and the hills that i forced myself up. an appointment with my lovely nutritionist also helped, at least enough that i was able to manage some lunch when i got home.

one thing that we talked about today was the importance of preparation; anticipating the bad times and having a strategy in place to survive them. and so, it’s been a deliberate strategy this afternoon of curling up on the sofa and distracting myself with a trashy thriller. so far, it seems to be working.

{title quotation from mansfield park by jane austen}

stirring dull roots with spring rain

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on friday, my psychiatrist and i agreed some rules for april. unless i make what he described as significant progress by the start of may, he will suggest that we take a break from treatment and i consider my options. for the last few months, i’ve been stuck in a sort of half-recovery, doing just enough to avoid getting into serious trouble but not really trying as hard as i know that i need to.

the rules are simple. don’t lose any weight. three solid meals a day, totalling at least 1,200 calories. reducing the bingeing that has crept in to twice a week, max. no purging behaviours. basically all the stuff that ‘normal’ people do (except maybe the bingeing).

april needs to be the month that i crack this. partly because being kicked out of treatment (even if it’s done in the nicest possible way) will be (yet another) way in which i’ve failed but primarily because we’re hoping to start ivf this month. my missing period turned up over the weekend so i need to call our clinic tomorrow morning to get the ball rolling; a prospect which is both more terrifying and more exciting than i can put into words.

sadly, yesterday – the 1st april – wasn’t much of a success. it was perhaps slightly ambitious to try and stick to the agreed rules and host easter lunch for my in-laws at the same time. at the moment, any kind of social occasion – even one in my own home which i am firmly in charge of – generates a huge amount of anxiety which generally translates into all the behaviours that i’m not supposed to be engaging in.

it astonishes me that we’re in april already. the year is slipping past, lost in a blur of bingeing and restricting and purging. i don’t want to go on like this. today is going to be a better day. it has to be a better day.

{title quotation from the wasteland by t.s.eliot}

the beginning is always today (part ii)

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a couple of years ago, i decided to cultivate a little garden on our balcony. this turned out to be much more challenging than expected. we didn’t get much more than seven raspberries (which i turned into donuts, obviously). my mother-in-law made some valiant efforts to help but for the last couple of years, it’s been pretty barren out there bar a rosemary plant which i was assured was indestructible but which i’ve been doing a pretty good job of slowly torturing to death.

yesterday seemed like a pretty good day to get back out there and plant some things.

my best friend texted a couple of days ago to ask how my week had been. it’s been hard, i said, but they’re all hard. and they really are at the moment. for every few moments where i feel like i might actually beat this, there are hours of despair, self-loathing and shame.

this week has been even more up and down than usual (as evidenced by the fact that the number on the scales has been ricocheting around). we had an appointment at our fertility clinic and got the go-ahead to start ivf when my period arrives. which is great except my period is currently awol. my doctor thinks that the stress of the last couple of months and the extreme cycles of bingeing/purging/restricting have caused it to disappear. i need to get it back asap. for a little while, focussing on the needing to eat healthily for a potential baby give me some much needed motivation but i soon (ie within a day) slipped back into my old habits. this led to a difficult – but ultimately beneficial – session with my psychiatrist who put some firm ground rules in place as to what i need to do in order to continue with treatment otherwise he’ll discharge me. surprise surprise, i’m a perfectionist who likes structure and rules so i’m actually grateful to him for being ‘mean to me’ (his words, not mine).

there have been many new beginnings. i can’t tell you how many times in the last couple of months there has been a day 1 (after the official day 1) or an email from my therapist that ends with some form of ‘don’t worry, tomorrow is a new day’. but it does sort of feel that something has started to change over the last few days.

i was going to blog yesterday about how it was a fresh start and i was really committed to doing what i need to do (three meals a day, no restricting, no bingeing and definitely no purging) and everything was going to be different this time. but i decided not to because i wanted to see if i could actually do it or if it was yet another false start.

but i did it (just about).

for the first time in a long time, i did have three meals. and although i had a bit more chocolate after dinner than i probably should, i shared it with my husband (rather than bingeing in secret). every minute of the day was hard and i really had to fight for it but i managed it.

and then, i had a really good appointment with a nutritionist today. her enthusiasm and positivity was inspiring. for so long, i’ve been stuck in the past, re-living the night that everything changed. the idea of a future – and a happy one at that – has seemed so far away that it’s not something i’ve ever even been able to contemplate. but it feels a tiny bit closer this afternoon. i know this feeling won’t last forever and my capacity to self-destruct will kick in sooner or later but i need to believe that i can and will feel it again and every time that i do, i get a little bit stronger.

{title quotation attributed to mary shelley}

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}

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}

SaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSave

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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