Eggscreme

Guys I can’t eat this Creme Egg.

I left a guy my number. I told my Self if he called or texted, I’d have to eat a Creme Egg. A bit of anorexic banter to bait myself with. Except now he has texted, hasn’t he? And I can’t do it. I can’t eat a Creme Egg, I just can’t do it.

I hang my head in shame reading my last blog post. I go over the lines I so carelessly signed away, sealing my pride and integrity in oblivion. Oh Ellie, you foolish child. Look what happens when you take too many calories and too much adrenaline: look at the disorder it brings. Anonymous’ lines have flared up, angry and imposing.
Let me take you back to my dream world. I was lost in it now two days ago: tripping tragically round in circles, apparently chasing a life I have no right to. Chasing not just a life, but a boy.
Having left him my number, I offered fate a deal: if he texts, Ellie, you have to eat a creme egg. You know, the adultered cocktail of chemicals and sugar, the branded bad-guy hoarding your whole sugar allowance in a single bite. The tiny foil wrapped time bomb. The one that haunts you from the fridge door, where it compiled it’s lair after the deputy head so thoughtlessly gave it to you on the last day of term. Yep, you know the one. 150 empty calories, with no nutrition but happiness.
“Hey, it’s (him its him its him!)” – received Fri 22:43.
My personal dilemma beckoned, and swallowed me up on Easter day.
I can’t eat this Creme Egg. Anonymous won’t even peel back the foil; she won’t even expose he fingertips to it’s thick shell. She doesn’t want to see what lies beneath, she can’t imagine the Anxiety that will be unleashed along with all those alien calories.
My body will surely react in only one way: one bite will be enough to pollute my mind and send it on a downwards spiral; up and up and up.
No, I can’t eat this Creme Egg. I’d sooner eat my words, for they are worth less. Yet they are just as scary: see how I have to back away slowly, and explain my way back into the safe predictability of anorexia.

Just because I can’t eat it today, doesn’t mean I ever will. Look around you Ellie. See how your world has changed in a single year. Your plate may put on a sparse spread of anxious mealtimes, food types and absolute reliance on quantities being measured to the g. Please don’t overlook the colour, please don’t neglect to notice how well it goes with the life you lead at the moment. You live a half life, and so your portion of it will provide enough to satisfy half your needs.
There are more colours than there were two years ago on this plate. Angry reds and flushing pinks pepper my days with emotion. Behold the yellow flesh of positivity, and the lush greens of fibrous fulfilment: a good job, a university place. And the thickening dressing that glues your synapses together, and so you can soak it all up and devour it each day, everyday. A high rises from the surface like steam. You weren’t eating like this before now.
Keep your plate piled with motivation and bravery, Ellie, and you’ll soon be able to indulge in the fullness of life.
You’ll soon be able to eat a creme egg. Just not today.

My phone has been humming with messages from this boy for just over 48 hours now. The blue light of a flashing screen has shown how big my lonely shadow is.
This is a whiff of a relationship, caught up in a changing calorific breeze. Giving myself more energy to listen to my chortling feelings has enabled me to engage with them. I have found a ghost: the presence of something so normal as desire. My desire is very, very weak. Anonymous hasn’t the time nor the mental space to waste on anything meaningful. It would be destructive, almost. It could induce change to my routine, and my feelings.
She never thought I’d actually taste my desire. If she had believed he really would have texted, she would never have indulged Ellie on a dream.
Yet here I am, holding my phone nervously, almost blinded by disbelief. This part of life tastes different to how I remember.
Approaching desire after a thorough detox of emotions has taken me very close to it’s surface. Through this thin angle, warped and widened by memory and experience, I can see past the facade of flirtation. I am already finding the blemishes on human interaction. Why is this all so complicated?

Easter is a difficult time of year for me. It’s another time marker, another monument to past years when Ellie was able to enjoy herself, and enjoy time with her family. She cold ground herself in her home and wade through countless blessings. She could let her feelings be comforted, not confronted.

29995248_985832874905478_1013955152_o
Family lunches are going to take some practice.

Pressure pressed it’s face menacingly against my family’s plan for the day. Church, lunch, love. Anonymous cannot bear such a strong force as that of family tradition, and so she and I must withdraw, even if just to avoid a scene. Even sitting beside a relative at the table, surrounded by the feasting and the festivity, Ellie is withdrawn. She holds the event at arms length, and watches herself perform “fine” for as short a time she can, before fleeing.
I cannot enjoy Easter celebrations on the day, because the very nature of it aggravates my illness. Anonymous cannot sit in church, nor for too long at the table. Anxiety devours me faster than my grandfather eats. Anonymous refuses to accept the speed my family eat will dictate how long she must sit at that table.
Easter’s purity has been hijacked and submerged in indulgence. The weeks raced up to the day, a gathering storm of chocolate, diets in the name of lent, and the reduction of our relationships taken from the size of our piles of easter eggs, of things. It is easy to mistake our celebrations to be of greed, not of gratefulness.

29893805_985832918238807_1202011554_o
Celebrating new life – and tastes!

Yet, this year I did enjoy some Easter treats. Whilst I can’t have that Creme Egg, I want to try a little Montezuma chocolate bunny Mum bought me. The terms for an Easter treat were negotiated well in advance: perhaps I’ll manage a little bite out of a raw dark chocolate bunny. Other sugary highs for Ellie included moving her breakfast 15mins later, and forgoing a day at my Anonymous command for one loosely based on my family’s time plan. 45 mins at the lunch table was like nectar. So smooth and easy, until anorexia checked the time. Then I had to leave – I had to get home for a walk.

With anorexia, life is hungry. It is not plump with pride and ripe with success, nor is it fresh with renewed vigour. It functions, mostly on promise.
Recovery is offering Ellie a taste for life, and shows her what it would mean to feel full. For it is the fullness of life which we celebrate at Easter time. What with all this possibility, all these meals and meanings and metaphors on the horizon, it is only right that I celebrate Easter and the renewal of my life. I try to indulge in the novelty of recovery everyday. Each day is a blessing that needs to be counted, and sucked dry of opportunity. It will guide me to a new life, one day. Full of family and fun, and Creme Eggs. Of course.

Oh, the Creme Egg.
Is he worth a Creme Egg? Should I cheat on Anonymous, gamble with her belief so quickly and willingly on chance?

Now that this boy has been plucked from my dream world and splayed on my phone screen, it feels real. Close, and unfamiliar. I can feel the breath of someone watching me settle on my skin like sweat.
Anonymous isn’t coping with the unfamiliarity of normal. She can’t even string the words together to talk about herself: for he insists on asking. How on earth do I talk about myself as if I know anything about it?

It is a shock, dragging a dream down into the real world.
One of the few to turn out better than I could have dreamt, really, is Recovery.
And chocolate. The bunny was delicious. I’m sure the Creme Egg will do too, one day.

(Advice on acting normal appreciated x)

Crushed

Something very un-anorexic just happened: I just left a guy my number.

Anonymous has been taking a strong dose of calories recently. The doctors said there were possible side effects, including increased energy, thoughts, and feelings. Mine are coming in waves. Hot and cold flushes, angry outbursts and depressive fronts. The pressure soars then drops, and it all comes out in relief rain. Sunny spells send me soaring high, tripping over all the colours.
The extra kilo I have gained recently has been lathered between jarred thoughts and disjointed feelings. Thoughts have been lubricated, and they slip and slide from moment to moment, meal to meal, face to feeling to fear.
My brain has gotten fatter. Stuffed with food and stimulus, my mind has dilated and feelings overflow all around me. There is more room in here to pack life into.
With every intended bite, every nibble at the corner of change, I am eating away at my own limits. Ellie tasted living all those years ago, witnesses it on the street. She uses her excess energy to dream. By gaining the weight I have so far, I have made room in my life for a dream world. Reveries featuring this afternoon’s snack; tomorrow’s game of scrabble; Mum’s smile when she hears of my progress next week; longer days; long lectures; travels; chapters and achievements. And yes, a boy.

My feelings about this boy have been pressed slowly against the confines of my brain, and now I am unable to cope with them.The real world leers through my sharpening senses. This emotion has been utterly crushed. And so it fights harder to be acknowledged each time he looks. Alive, and kicking.

Anonymous looked upon these messy, undignified feelings and blushed. Humiliated and confused, and completely out of her depth in this unfamiliar world of human interaction. Unsure of it’s threat.
I already know nothing will come of this. Anonymous wouldn’t be so unconcerned if she thought something in my life was about to change.

Ellie clung to her crush.
By clutching it close, Ellie can sink back into the cast of a normal 20-something year old. It is a drug that soothes the feeling of being an outsider, it is a reminder that even Anonymous is human too. Having a crush takes Ellie’s hot focus off me, even if just for a moment. An escape from all the empty space around me, all the vacant chairs and empty inboxes. A simple smile and light conversation cleared the air stuffed with nothing but myself, and my illness. Something else to think about, something less itchy. A crush that cracks open an unfamiliar part of life, and flushes my bleak horizon with interest.

The novelty of nervousness tickles where Anxiety normally bites. A fluttering, a flirt, an innocent throb of some thought process happening. Some change, or some yearning for change.

To him, I am Anonymous.
He knows a lot about the girl who drinks in his coffee bar after her yoga class: where she works, roams, rests; that she never takes her water in a glass but prefers to drink from the bottle; that sudden loud noises can draw tears from her eyes; to not speak until she looks up from her notebook; how important it is that her coffee is served with only skinny milk. He recognises her frown lines and wipes them away with a few gentle words. He knows she saw him blush, he knows he can tie her tongue up with only a smile.
He knows her as that girl, with no name. A half formed friendship growing too fast on one side, threatening to unbalance her from her stable, sterile solitude.

At Easter, the time to celebrate new life, Spring forces it’s head out of Winter’s tough hide. The sun lingers on the ruins of last year’s bloom. The air drags nature up and out of it’s selfish hibernation, and demands that the seasons share some life. Hardened flesh turned away from winter’s glare begins to crawl, wandering fingers pulling life into action.
When every leaf was shed in Autumn, every breath frozen in Winter; there is nothing left for Spring to lose.

Nature is brave. Maybe I can be brave too, maybe I could cast my fate to the wind, just this once. Now everything has been shed, now life has stripped itself away from Ellie’s skin, surely, there is nothing left to lose.
There can be Nothing for Anonymous or Ellie to lose by indulging myself in a crush. It’s the most normal thing that has happened to me in years, and it soothes my hunger for a normal life. Desperate not just for a life, but a full life.
The more I think about it, the more Ellie develops a taste for it.
I’m so hungry.

And so it was that on Good Friday, I marched into the suspect coffeehouse clutching a mahoosive bag of Easter eggs, and a gift tag bearing wishes and my number on it. Clad in my prettiest top and excitement induced, I was invincible.
I took my number and handed it over. My individual number, selected and plucked fresh for me by my mobile network, and stamped next to my listed name. A mobile number: the feature the grew on my reflection, as I stood before my mirror through the years, my phone clutched in one hand. A piece of myself I had control over. I mastered myself, and put it on paper.
He wasn’t even there that day: it was his day off. So I left it with one of his giggling colleagues, and walked out feeling taller and more capable than I have ever done before.

Ellie was a lazy dater: it is very unlike her to make the first move. Perhaps my illness has shifted her mind’s eye a little. Perhaps Ellie is learning the value of her own choices: there is nothing to lose, but everything to gain, by choosing to indulge in oneself.

This situation is no longer in my control, and I’m ok with that. The line between what I can do and cannot do is clear, and it is a very comforting feeling. My blood has been thickened by my pride, and confidence boost. I can do it. I can be brave.

He might receive my note, he might not.
He may text me, he may not.
He could toss my number in the bin, and laugh about it over a pint with his girlfriend later.
He might be forced out of his job by humiliation, reject any burden of attention and go on to lead a nomadic life as a recluse, in Scandinavia. He might not be.
He might be willing to let life slip between his sweating palms, and watch it flay and fray over there, out of his control. Like me, he might not.
There is so much that might and might not happen. This small pocket of the future punctured by ifs, buts and gaps; dashes through the dreams that itch away at Anonymous, and make my skin crawl all around her.
For now, I can sit with Anxiety as it picks over all this. There isn’t much for Anxiety to go on, really. Ellie lapped up most of the residual pride at actually taking control, for once. The power lies in the decision-making, and that wasn’t done by Anxiety.

If he did get my note, at least I’ve made it easy for him now.
If he texts, I’ll celebrate with a grand finale to Easter. I’ll be really, really brave. Guys, if he asks me out, I’ll face the biggest, itchiest fear food thus far: a creme egg.
The indulgence of fear, may turn out to be the indulgence of Nothing.

Happy Easter! x

Bring up a Body

Here, put on my shoes.
Lets take a walk.

We’re going to retrace my steps through the last few weeks. The ground is still very uneven, so tread carefully. There are a lot of cracks we could fall through, straight into the fiery pits of anxiety rumbling away underfoot. Not to worry. My shoes are used to these harsh conditions, they can swing my mood to and from the threat of progress.
After all, they carried me this far. They haven’t fallen to pieces yet, as so many have before.

Come, we’re going to get off the beaten track a little. We’re going to explore the dark allies of myself I’d really rather pretend didn’t exist.
Don’t trip up over the bodies.

The quiet was delicate that Friday night. I was home alone, curled up by the fire with a crossword and a cat. The Beast from the East pawed pitifully at the window panes.
Then it came back. Out of the shadows of my mind, still woozy from Anonymous’ enforced famine, it came back. I was dragged back to that dark place, back into the my familiar prison.
Silence, my old friend.

Silence is strong but brittle, as it turns out. The secret I have held away from me for so long broke out in a desperate rash as recovery threatened to close in on me from all sides. I couldn’t carry it with me any longer: it was too big, too heavy. I just wouldn’t make it out the other side.

I have held Silence carefully knowing it was strong, but brittle. It broke between my teeth. First to my Godmother, for she was the first to discover my body, writhing in horror and shock. Then my Mum. I broke it up, and shared it with my Mum. The next day in hospital, I offered it up to my nurse.
I beg anyone to take Ellie off my hands. Here – help me, help me.
My tongue riled behind gritted teeth. My Silence broke, my secret crushed against the roof of my mouth. Unable to take the weight of Ellie’s secrets anymore, I tore them from my person and spat them out in a sentence.
This rotting body I have dumped at your feet is long dead. Even so, I just can’t let it go.

I cannot show you my secret. Only parts of it’s dismembered body. You’ll get the picture; just not the angry buzz, the bitter taste, the stench of sweat, the crushing pressure. You’ll get a still, frustration bitten idea. It’ll itch, it will be painful. You’re only in my shoes. Imagine how excruciating it is being trapped beneath my skin.
Emboldened by my 13 years, I went on a childish wander. With bare, unprotected hands, I leafed through the world around me. Ellie was looking for Anything really, but discovered Something. That Something changed Everything.
I stumbled upon a Secret. A most terrifying creature, one that grew bigger and blacker before my eyes. It latched onto me and began to mutate. My shadow dilated and leered. My family, my friends, my Self. We were all being watched, we were all being stalked by Paranoia. This Secret brutally trained my senses to be alert. I kept my enemy close to my chest, squeezed it tight and vowed to never let it go, never let it be out of sight of my mind’s eye. Plotting, trying to work out how to kill it.
I just didn’t know what to do with it, nor how to handle it. Should I hand it over, turn myself in? Would it behave differently if it were out of my hands? Probably not. No, better to hide from it.

Hiding from Ellie didn’t make her go away. It didn’t give me any peace.
Only now I’m refeeding her, now the calories are rousing me from my starved sedation, am I beginning to think again, remember again, feel again. It’s all exactly the same as I left it, only heavier, and neglected.
I drugged her. I plied her with alcohol. I watched men circle her like sharks and did nothing to stop them dragging her down, pushing her head down, striking her down.
I was an extra hand held over her mouth after Crackhead no.4 broke into her room, again. 2 inch idiot, Tweedles Dum and Dumber, the-ones-who-were-so-uninteresting-I-never-came-up-with-a-scathing-name-for-them. I can still see the specs of cocaine on his nostils, glittering like stars. The nights are black, but I can still see his stars. The blood never washed off my sheets, the smell of skin and sweat lingers.
And I did nothing, because this is the least Ellie deserved. I could push her further and further, but still she’d stay with me. Still with me, trapped together in the same body. Trailing after me like a ghost.
I met Anonymous when I was 13. Together, we plotted to rid me of Ellie. Only after all else failed, did we begin feeding Ellie to oblivion. Kcal by g, kg by bpm.
Stay away, get away from me.

The fear is still alive, kicking and screaming. My secret died on my lips but it’s legacy lives on. The seeds of self hate grew roots as I grew older.
I’m actually frightened to approach the subject again, let alone start picking up the pieces. There are too many bits to reorder, too many sharp edges.

I don’t know myself anymore.
I don’t know who Ellie is, what she did, what she might do. All I hear are the rumours orbiting the perpetrator of all my pain: Ellie.
I tore Ellie’s shoes from my feet and ran.

Even after lancing my secret, it still itches. It is a different type of itch, an uncertain one. As if unsure why it should be there at all, but persists as a precaution. From the moment I told someone my secret, I felt relief splash on my face like cold water. The pain was numbed for a short time, and now it is back with a vengeance.

Come, let’s leave this now. It has been an uncomfortable journey, so let us turn back to recovery.
As we’ve walked together through this thick undergrowth of my Self, I can feel your attention starting to lag. The relentlessness has made you a straggler, and you’ve struggled to keep up as we wade deeper into the murk.
Now, you are vulnerable. This is where Boredom prowls, and I’m sorry I haven’t been looking out for you.
Careful where you tread, you would not want to fall prey to Boredom.

I have been caught by boredom. As I flee from anorexia and pursue recovery, I entered this long grey grass of endless anxiety and monotony. My routine closed in and winter froze out any variation. I strayed behind time, and now I am trapped by Boredom.
Boredom bites into my limited life, salivates when it catches a whiff of loneliness. This Beast has settled on my job like snow: the hours thaw through the day, dripping and draining until I can crawl home and take refuge in sleepy solitude. Days are swept to one side without having spoken to a single human being outside my house. My phone sits silent, a ghost.
Boredom is excruciating. It is so itchy, but there is nothing Anonymous can do about it. The only way out, is up: I can escape boredom by squeezing weight gain past Anorexia, and drag my feet towards a recovering horizon.

Stop fidgeting. The more you struggle, the harder you fight, the tighter anorexia will squeeze.
And now, it is time we looked down again. You can take those shoes off now, they’re beginning to wear thin anyway. Soon, I’ll stand on those scales, and they’ll fall to pieces again.
They make you uncomfortable. I can read you fidgeting, glancing over your shoulder to check how far boredom is away.
Sharp scratch, deep breath. It’s over. This misery is mine alone to manage.

I have managed to put on and maintain 1kg in a little over a month. Not quite the prescribed amount, but enough to satisfied my doctors that Ellie can do it.
Of course she can do it: boredom and frustration is excruciating. She is pushing my towards the kitchen cupboard, begging me to have my snack. Please, make it all stop.

In my kitchen is a small, unremarkable cupboard. Behind it’s door, lies a monster’s lair. The “Snack in the Cupboard” – a hoard of nut butter, energy balls, dates and mylkshakes I have been stashing out of harms way. Piles and piles of calories.
The increase I have hid from for months, but that I finally put in last week.
I gained some weight.
I held on to it.
The itching never subsided.
We stand here together now, 500 kcal braver. But also, 500 kcal more anxious. For we have inclined our head towards change, at the expense of our mind.

My life is trying to outgrow Anonymous, I can feel it. But it keeps being stunted in awkward places: great tumours throbbing with anxiety protruding in on Mother’s Day, red traffic lights and unexpected phone calls. Any form of social life has been deformed. Friends are ushered away before they can expect me to sit. My travel radius has shrunk and barely skirts London – the journey is just too long to go anywhere else. Anonymous counts the extra calories she could be burning by choosing not to sit and study, but to stand and sneer. Great periods of time drawing blank, and being called a masterpiece.

29527293_981940918628007_1399278761_o.jpg
Extract from food diary: “Banana approx. 25 lines long.”

My camera roll is stuffed up with pictures of my food. This symptom has got worse as the “increase” treatment was proposed: I feel the need to gather as much evidence as possible to prove why my weight behaves the way it does, week after week. Everything has been put on edge, and sharpened; ready for the charge to recover my body from anorexia.
Under all this thick and thin skin, Ellie still scratches her head, trying to find where it itches.

I feel life bulge from my person sometimes. Sometimes, I can taste the progress as it is made.
Look down at my feet: see the words written here. Read between the lines and find the small changes taking place in other chapters of our life, Ellie.
The violent buzz in my yoga classes is slowly subsiding. I find myself counting breaths in a pose, rather than seconds of being completely inactive. Exercise is being diluted by incense, and for a whole hour Ellie can focus on being, rather than feeling.

29526530_981940898628009_1234194784_o
“Thou shalt have a body positive day.”

The relationship I have with my mirror has intensified. It speaks more animatedly, and seems more open minded to what I present before it. It can see through my thigh gap and still isn’t satisfied. Sometimes, it even speaks to me kindly.

How are the shoes? All this talk of food makes them feel tighter, right? More itchy.
You can take them off now.

I’m sorry our journey down memory lane has been trying. It isn’t always that bad down there. Recovery pushes me down there quite often, now I have the strength to explore it.
Yes, there are the ghosts rising from writhing corpses. But there are some bodies there that died properly. Dead and buried by acceptance. There are some bodies of innocent bystanders: times of my life that were victimised by anxiety and tortured out of proportion.
Some of these aren’t dead; they’re asleep. Lost in a dream.

If only I could take you into the dream world.
Standing in my shoes and watching Hopes and Dreams will never be enough. You’ll never feel how excruciating it is to hope and dream, how itchy it makes one feel trapped beneath the skin of an illness.
I have tried to bring my dreams into the real world, by writing them down. I wrote pages and pages on one dream that takes place On A Little Street in Singapore: back to where I was safe, back to where I was saved. Back to listen to the Oriel warble.
Another dream of pulling my skin on in the morning and feeling proud of Ellie.
A somewhat more trivial dream of asking my barista out, now burst by the sharp scratch of reality: how would Anonymous be on a date?

For now, please stay with me as I reach out to touch a dream close by, and make it come true. The dream of feeling 500 kcal more amazing everyday. The dream of making progress and watching it wash over my life, like cold water. I could float on it, perhaps.

I dream finding bits of myself I never knew existed, and piecing myself back together.
That will start, with bringing up a body.

A Stranger

I can’t go downstairs.
Red wine smokes by a roaring fire, the clamour of crackling wood licks the dim hue of candlelight. A bottle of anxiety ripens, secreting that fruity stench. Swirled three times before poured neatly down their throats between mouthfuls of crisps. Cheese and Crianza: the fragrance of cosiness.
I can’t.
The air would be too heady, woozy. Close. I can smell the fug from up here, perched at this desk with the window open wide. Wrapped in the embrace of the frost.
Down there, the stench of wine, whimsey and worries would turn on me. Burrowing between my frown lines, my pores soaking up the alcohol lingering in the air. Fermented calories a mere whisper, a sticky breath down my neck. Poisonous thoughts can catch, then rage.
It is marginally safer up here, in the back room. A spare space for spare parts going spare in despair and disrepair. An unused duvet, empty decoration boxes, a pile of hollowed out ostrich eggs. A pile of used clothes on their way out of here, crammed into a donation bag. Then theres me. Nestled up to my desk by the window, breathing in safe air. This desk was installed a few weeks ago when the intrusions became too much. The grating cry of the telephone, scratching cats and door rattling on their hinges. Unhinging. Winged calories taking flight up the stairs and seeping under the bedroom doors.
Each of these are examples of single, over-ripe cherries that can crown my day, and finish the feast for Anxiety to devour. So I must retreat up here, and back away from the triggers.
For awhile, I can forget. The pages of this notebook fold under my hands and this pen nestles in my hand. I take advice from Keats and Byron that I don’t understand, only revere. Snip, snip, snip. Cutting my life down to size and displaying the good bits in a scrap book: newspaper clippings, receipts, an empty cereal wrapper. Only the pretty bits, the shiny ones. Because really, that’s all anybody would be interested in.
There is nothing extraordinary about these parts: nothing emotive or glamorous about wallowing in my own poverty. And nobody to tell me otherwise. When I am alone, I can be Anonymous, or Ellie, or unreal. Allowed to sink back, and be nothing. Be neutral.
This is such an aggressive illness. Sometimes, it is just better that I stay away. When a cancer of emotions blots up the fluidity of my family; when Anxiety eats the atmosphere or I catch myself stalking my parents as they move through the kitchen, looking for irritation. When all I want to do is unload my burden onto someone else as they stagger under their own. I find a pocket of clean air, somewhere away from the noise, and contain the violence.
Oh, to be alone. To be undisturbed and peaceful, to be apart from the reality of it all. To cower in the quiet. Of course, I’m never alone. There is always something, someone. There will always be some corner that stops me as I retreat away from myself.

When I tumble off the edge of reason, I break out in feverish anger. An unreasonable rash, blinding and raging.
It makes me a stranger in my own home, and to myself. I mustn’t be around other people, I mustn’t. Don’t look at me, not like this.
I can’t see myself for rage: I can’t distinguish Ellie apart from the fear, apart from the anorexia apart from the – real.
Anger pushes me out.

Stop. Ellie, stop.
Come here, come back down here.

Anorexia grew around loneliness like mould. Layer upon layer, keeping out the cold. Recovery gets it’s fingernails lodged under this tough hide, and then I feel it. The sharp bite of memory, the familiar chill running up my spine. A bitter reality condensing, and rolling down my face like tears.

Anonymous carries loneliness, and so other people are at risk of exposure.
Mum and Dad splutter when my anorexic words turn the air rancid. They watch as insults, with nowhere to go, turn back on my tongue and begin to self destruct. Yet they stand by, and wait for the worst to be over. Always there, just there. Nearly there Ellie.
I froze my friends out, or they did me. Some backed off at the stench of illness. Some were stared down by long silences over text, not recognising me drowning in a crowd of my own thoughts. Those that survived this winter then endured rashes of words snaking down their screens, never face to face. Desperate pleas for news, stories, anything to whisk me out of myself, away from me. From my illness.
Then, there are the ones who survived, and found me. They agree to meet me at the edge of reason, where I’ll often leave them hanging, unable to wade through a flash flood of panic. Yet still they grit their teeth, and wait for the symptoms to subside. This is the only treatment for loneliness I trust to work: the test and trial of time.
Even after all this time: thank you. Thank you for remembering me, thank you for inviting me. I am flattered that you remember Ellie enjoys the odd pub trip, a carol service, a night on your bedroom floor. One day, I’ll come. I’ll answer to my name, not to Anonymous’.
Days go by where I speak to nobody but my long suffering parents. Sometimes, Anonymous needs her hit of loneliness to turn the screw. She thinks it helps, because it hurts. As if she has any control over her own impoverishment.
Yet still, she feeds on it. Another way of starving myself.

The chill of loneliness, and the itch of boredom. Here are the symptoms wrecking havoc on my recovery.

Blotches of boredom rupture randomly.
I haven’t learned to sit with time: not at my desk, behind my harp, around a friends’ table or in a car going somewhere new. Instead I am made to stand up to creeping calories, and confront minutes as they slide by, squeezing exercise out of them like sweat. Time drips by, washed away by frustrated tears. The empty promise of Tomorrow lurks in a couple of hours, bumping through the night until it pounces on a breaking dawn. I endure boredom, and wait for the day to end.
Easing this deadly symptom takes practice, and imagination. Last week, a miracle occured.

I was sent where boredom fears to tread: unchartered territory for my Anorexia. I was asked to cover the reception class full time during the week. That is nine hours a day wading through layers of children. The assault course was the classroom floor: littered with paper, mud and fingers. Lego booby-traps laid like confetti. Eyes that have only witnessed four years of this world would produce tears that could be stemmed with the wave of a wand, or a teddy, or a time out. Here – take this. Make that.
There wasn’t enough of me to go round. I left some thoughts on the whiteboard and buried others in the sandpit; had a panicked mind instructing my body to just. Stay. Calm, and do as I say.
Children can smell fear, and I stank.
Confronted by a week restrained in a chair: at a desk; an easel; cross-legged on the carpet and bolt upright in assembly. I could watch Sitting in it’s natural habitat, still and camouflaged against the hope in that classroom. The conclusions I leapt to when I accepted the job: the endless sitting, the clamour, the stress – the triggers tipping off tongues like spit. I held these at arms length as I crossed the threshold on Monday morning. If I could jump at an opportunity as fast as I jumped to conclusions, things could be different.
I called on all I had learnt in recovery: Nut theory; the smoothie crisis; the mystery of trust. Try it Ellie, try it for one week. See what happens. A controlled experiment in an uncontrolled environment – moving meals an hour each way; activity anxiety; lunch in the staffroom – see what happens. If you can do this, you could be opening the door to new things. Imagine what you could do, Ellie, if you knew how to sit?
Imagine how much you’d be able to write.

Anonymous isn’t good with children. She wrinkled her nose and held back, but I felt her watching. Her gaze often burned a hole in my seat, and I was forced to stand up, and make excuses by clearing up during circle time. Her chest tightened as the clock hand turned, screwing my lunchtime tighter. She clutched loneliness and waved it in my face in the few moments I had spare to stand back, and admire my work.

I am so proud of what I achieved this week: I sacrificed activity, and killed off boredom. I didn’t enjoy it: there was no room for enjoyment, no time. But it was brilliant.
How wonderful to be too busy to hear loneliness snoring, how wonderful to feel something as fulfilling as joy.
I did it – because I said so.
For a week, I could be part of a pocket of progress in a world of constant, cyclic doubt.
If only it didn’t have to come to an end. Going back to boredom, it looks different somehow. More vulnerable.

Boredom and loneliness are both causes and symptoms of my illness. When I feel brave, I try different treatments, and see how my life responds to them. Learning to manage loneliness, and look into it’s scarred face without flinching, or running away.
Anorexia was just a way out, just another dead end.
This blog eases the itching emptiness. Someone to talk to who’s judgements I’ll never read through my screen. Someone to talk to when I am faced with an empty chair across the table.
My phone feeds off me, and I off it. An unhealthy attachment, stuck staring at a screen looking for something that will never be there. I feel each dancing image drain time and energy.

My life has begun to creep. My weight is taking tentative steps up an axis, and strength rushes straight to my head. My memory is dilating and senses sharpening, and it is all rather hard to adjust to. I’m not used to managing all these processes, all this pain and all this light. Reality looks different everyday. Sometimes, it hurts to look at, so I choose not to. I turn my thoughts onto something closer, familiar. Like myself. Then I tear it to pieces, just to prove I can.

This time of year aggravates symptoms of loneliness.
Festivities have frosted over, small sharp triggers prickling as advent is worn away. The overripe fruit of Christmas, hanging just out of my reach. Last year, I wasn’t strong enough to tug enjoyment from branches laden with emotions. This year, I am at least reaching for it, determined to find some sweetness.
My family beckons to Christmas, and I can already feel myself being left behind. Left out in the cold, unable to get too close to the celebrations lest they upset Anonymous. Even now as I write my Christmas cards, I can here her growling. How many calories are on the envelope glue?
Ellie always loved Christmas. Perhaps that’s why I grieve so much when I realise it may never be the same again. I will sew my broken heart together with the doubt that things will always be this way. Something will change, it has to.

There is a stranger in here. Raging under the confines of my skin, tearing my mind away from my body.
Hiding from myself for so long, I’ve become a stranger. Always there, but never here.
When I touch Anorexia to rouse it, all I feel is loneliness.

Anor-versary

The end gave me somewhere to start. A year ago today, I was diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa. Finally, she had a name. It was such a relief. A diagnosis to point at, something to accuse.

The last year lies in pieces. Collected, chewed over and hoarded. They have swept me up and dumped me here: where I am now. One year into “recovery”, and shuffling along to the noise of a weight chart.

Weak synapses still suck information away from memory. So I am relying on evidence to trace the steps Ellie took to resuscitate the Will to recover, and show it how to breathe.
Anonymous keeps my food diaries; wrappers; calculations; inactive social media accounts; the litter collected after a blog brain storm. Evidence of a crime committed in the name of recovery. A point of reference should that graph spike. My bedroom has become a cemetery of dead memory. I have a whole box brimming with pocket notebooks. I can read her silence between the lines of this blog: there are somethings she won’t admit to – even here.

I turned the pages of my food diary, engrossed. In a year, a refeeding programme has grown into a meal plan. Out of a milky hue, the silhouettes of calorie increases swam into semi-skimmed focus. They trained my body to catch electrolytes in a shift, and slow weight loss. Stop weight loss. Ah, look. Here it began to reverse.
Increases have splattered colour onto my plate. An autumnal olive oil slick dripped in through fried spices; dressings; on vegetables. A carbohydrate assault looted fear of rye and wild rice, glimpsing the prizes still up for grabs. I started putting tastes to names: sourdough; buckwheat; couscous. Sugar rushed after it was introduced to me in a medjool date. Homemade falafel blocked the monotony of hummus at lunchtime. Remember the spring smoothie crisis?
I turned another page, blinded by colour. Highlights flared and died, dimming as they became habit. The winter “snack” massacre. That is a controversial one. Ellie has to use the politically correct term “afternoon pick-me-up”, to avoid an Anorexic riot. I can read emotion bleeding through the unspoken planning that goes into every bite.
Anonymous preserves my food logs in her archives, keeping tabs on any ill-judged decisions to lick a spoon, or eat a grape. Unsolicited.
I’ve kept every “afternoon-pick-me-up” wrapper, just in case.

img_5738.jpg
“Afternoon-pick-me-up” Archive

Mental progress can’t be monitored in the same way. There is nothing to hold, nothing to form a trend with. Yet perhaps there are tracks heading in the right direction, if we look hard enough.
Perhaps this: not always rushing to the end of a meal to meet Anorexia’s deadline, or drawing it out to waste the day away.
See here, these are my arms. It’s sweaty at work today (body heat is a thing now), so I have rolled up my sleeves. I am waiting for someone to say something. Look. My arms embrace silence.
And here, I’m putting on make-up. No, not trivialising these aged eyes, simply enhancing them a little.
My skin looks clear, you say? Well I would hope so. I’m using a very expensive scrub. It has almond extract in it. I know, I know there are no calories in it.
And no, I’m not wearing tracksuit pants today. They have a curfew: they aren’t allowed out until after a shower.
I could have told you all this had you called my mobile phone: I might have answered.
Oh yes, perhaps this. I’m weighing up whether or not to drop in on my friend’s birthday reception on Saturday. Only for half an hour or so, would that be ok?
Won’t we be seen? Perhaps.
Or worse: What if they don’t see me?

When Ellie awakes, she coughs up memories. Embryonic emotions are thrust upon me prematurely, screaming for me to cope with them. Refeeding myself rips the scabs off wounds, and now I struggle to stem the steady flow of unwanted, unplanned feeling.
I have a bruise on my forehead.
Marbled moss, mustard, burgundy. The crater left by black and blue emotion. I had to react. Purple flowers grow out of burst blood vessels. The bruise smarts when people’s eyes graze over it. They unstick themselves from my face, unsure where to look. Nobody could meet my eye anymore. These emotions were never mine. Ellie doesn’t let Anorexia starve feelings out, so they are neglected. Nobody will handle or accept responsibility for them. When they grow rancid, they will release themselves.
It was such a relief.
And now, I have a bruise on my forehead.

It’s true what they don’t say about recovering from a mental illness. It is a journey, a psychedelic trip across precarious successes before coming down, hard. Regret is always there to pick you up, and reprimand you for loosing so much control.

I can feel restoration coming, slowly. Change snaked at a gradual gradient over an axis of the last year. It held still occasionally so Anonymous would let her guard down.
Anonymous knows physical restoration could jump on her at any point. She feels the trembling ground scatter noise across my weight chart. +0.2kg turns the volume up to an angry buzz. Anonymous covers her eyes, and my mouth. -0.2kg. There. Much better.
The line of best fit was kept snug, so my leggings stayed baggy. Fluctuations rose and fell in a stagnant dream. To wake Ellie from this nightmare, I had to turn up the noise. Even if only a little.

My mental illness has made a spectacle of itself. Recovery makes me blush because it humiliates Anonymous. It is embarrassing.
I dread the day when the numbers make “Anorexia” redundant. Anonymous needs her identity to be validated. If my body is ripped from her grip, she will have nothing to defend me with.
Earlier, I mentioned my leggings. Here’s the thing about those leggings. My XS leggings no longer pull a curtain over sharp boney corners. No, they cling to my thighs for dear life. They are only baggy at the crotch, and only ripple in a breeze. Can you hear her cry of shame?
Restoring weight is a blinding display of strength. She won’t let me face it. Anorexia can’t bear to witness my weakness degenerate. It would destroy her.
That is why change has to move slowly. Any sudden movements would make it prey.

Progress tastes better than it looks, and it is worth chewing over. Deciding to include a photo in this blog post traps me in a restrictive frame of mind. A single snapshot cannot capture progress, it is a moving and breathing target. It has feelings. And yet, Ellie wishes to use this picture as proof.

comparison
13.06.16 v. 13.06.17

I admit it. Ellie, you have come this far. You are ordering those numbers: +7kg; BMI 15.3; bpm 52. I dare you to turn back now.
My doctors have mapped out a route through unchartered territory: I still have a long way to go. I have barely restored half of my weight lost to Anorexia. I am still chasing that healthy horror. Perhaps when I catch up with it, it will scare away the ECG machines, and the blood tests, the needles.
Change hasn’t coloured over the lines of Anorexia’s rules, and the pale tinges complement my routine. But they are getting stronger, bolder. Life is starting to glow with progress.

 

IMG_5735
What a colourful start (to my day) !

“Recovery” is an unfinished story, without a beginning, a middle or an end, but with plenty of twists. This is my story, thank you for helping me get through my first year in recovery. Back then, I didn’t think I’d make it to the end of the week.

To my diagnosis: Happy Birthday. Anonymous, may you surrender many happy returns.

IMG_5733
Choosing recovery:

Cold hands, warm heart

Loneliness has cold hands.
In the winter of Anorexia they have been cracked and blistered, gnawed until raw by the frosty bite of neglect. Ellie is always surprised by their strength.
As I wrap my fingers around this pen, I watch bloodless crevices rip over my knuckles, and fraying shreds of feathery skin litter the cradle of my palm.
Loneliness has no expectations. No seeds of doubt or suspicion are sown, and no plump clumps of self consciousness are harvested. It is desolate, but safe. Anonymous encourages Ellie to let these tortured hands guide her into hibernation, because Anorexia relies on lonely: it is part of her history.

This time of year is hard.
I felt the leaves curl into corpses and shiver off the trembling branches. I felt the fragile sunlight trip under the darkened skyline. I felt the breath of frost cast over the twinkling Christmas lights.
Facing the cold when I am already shivering is hard.
Enjoying the warmth of company when I am burning in furious paranoia is hard.
Sitting through a carol service when restlessness stole the pleasure of heavenly peace is hard.
The weather outside is frightful, and Christmas is proving terrific in it’s plight to thaw Ellie out.

Holding the hand of lonliness, I am often tempted to hide.
I cancel plans last minute, foolishly believing Anonymous that only her company will bring me comfort.
Friends smell of spring, and Anonymous panics. What if they tell me I “look well”? Surely, that means I look recovered? Fat even? That I must be a fake? That this illness isn’t there?
“Well” means none of these things, Ellie.
With only Anorexia as company, “well” is only a controlled cycle that begins and ends in winter.

img_3583
In June …
img_4620
… and now. I’ve come a long way.

Let us take a moment to admire the darling buds of recovery that are peeping out of the cracks in the ice:

This sprig here grew when I actually managed to go to that carol service, venturing outside after dark. A month ago, I had to leave fireworks night before the torches were even lit: I was so tired, and so cold.

This bud sprouted when I ate my soup at the table as my family devoured a succulent, steaming roast. I didn’t panic about the greasy aroma wafting around the dining room. We shall call that a practice run for Christmas day.

This shoot is particularly fresh: I went on a date. Quite an achievement for someone who is barren of desire but brimming with nerves.

This seed has a plumage of proud petals: I received an offer from the University of York to begin studying there next year. These roots of recovery are anchored deep into the ground, slowly squeezing Anonymous dry. I never want to go back to Manchester university: it is full of ghosts. This would be a fresh start, a sign of spring.

img_4851-2
Win of the week: using oil again!

Before we finish this horticultural spectacle, allow me to explain this tomato stained shrub here. It marks the spot where an unbroken rule was breached: don’t throw food at Anorexics. (This is not an endorsement.)
I was caught in a crossfire during a food fight at work (don’t ask), which resulted in a gleaming, grease coated tomato to land on my left shoulder with a sticky squelch.
Alas: I didn’t look down and scream. I didn’t look down at all, nor did I hear the shrill cursing of Anonymous, telling me the calories would diffuse through my skin – I think she was more taken aback than Ellie was.
Instead, I stripped on the spot.

Like loneliness, recovery battles are strong but brittle. I must confess my failure to win a war I have been waging for 3 weeks: that of the forbidden fruit.
Full, fleshy and ripe bulges blush in the fruit bowl. Apples with fine stretched skin; shining zests of oranges and smooth leathery bananas. Even a pomegranate, crimson and glowing.
Ellie loves fruit. Even Anonymous can tolerate it during wartime.
So, when asked by my nutritionist: why won’t I eat that “extra” portion? Why do I find it so hard to sink my teeth into something so submissive? Why am I filled with shame when confronted by these bursts of nectar?

It is the word “extra”. T’is the season to be “extra”.
Indulgence and anticipation saturates the air of Christmastime, and there is expectation to be “extra”.
I am “extra” nervous, “extra” restless, and “extra emotional.
When gathered in a crowd, Ellie feels “extra” distanced. I will not let the frosty bite of shame silence my tongue that is crying out for fruit. With the excitement of Christmas, I am “extra” on edge, and “extra” thankful.

Thank you, for helping me get to see Christmas with my family, and with my friends. I didn’t think I would make it this far, and I am so grateful to be home.

Merry Christmas, with love from Ellie xx