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.

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“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.

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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.

 

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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.

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Choosing recovery:

Horizons

I kept my eyes on the horizon. Restrained by a seatbelt and a speed limit, I handed my attention into the nervous hands of Distraction. They held my gaze over the landscape. Bushes flaked away like scabs as forests melted into moorland. My phone glared in disapproval as I scrolled. Lorde and Ludovico flooded the space between my ears. My focus slipped over Woman’s Hour and was dropped between the pages of the Times. Jenni Murray had been jeering at me through my headphones: I’m sitting too. I was contained in a car burrowing deeper and deeper down that tarmac canal. I felt Anxiety shudder when I accidentally looked at the dashboard, and saw the time. All those seconds saturating all those minutes – hours – now drained away into my lap, and into my thighs.
Keep your eyes on the horizon, Ellie. You’re over halfway now.

It was crowded in there. The ransom of being allowed to travel sat next to me in a cool box, packed tightly next to myself and my overnight bag.

Anonymous had been baiting me with Anxiety as the date of our departure crept closer and closer. I had to sit with it. Ellie and Anonymous had struck a deal that would allow me to sit in the car for a long period of time, and it was being carried through. Everything was planned, the horizon already sealed off.

Opportunity was panting when I hit “submit” on the UCAS website. Drunk on my smoothie increase, I had committed Ellie to a series of battles designed to test her. If she survives, she may be able to take her place at Exeter University in September. That single click shook panic out of dormancy, and it began to snarl.

Looking into the future, I beheld the monstrosity Ellie had agreed to take on.
Hours of sitting was curled up in a bed made from fear. The pungent smell of inactivity choked me, sweating with the effort of staying still. Calories grew like warts over it’s time rotten hide. Fat pulsating as the car’s engine shuddered to a stop at traffic lights. Congested worry clogged up the roads and caused a jam.
Wait, there is more.
Anonymous beckoned me to the mouth of Fear’s lair, and there I saw it. Gravity was being ousted out of sight and the monster began to swell. I watched that greedy creature gobble up the time Anonymous had designated for movement: walking; standing; moving. It’s heaving breath tickled my legs and made them grow stiff. I was stuck like this: stuck between a rock and a crazy place.
I looked at the car journey, and asked what it wanted with Ellie. It began to foam at the mouth. Contorted with rage at my insolence, sound frothed from it’s lips. We couldn’t understand them: we couldn’t order the series of interrupted threats. I couldn’t work out what was so terrifying about that car journey. It just was.

Something is disturbing us, Ellie. Lets starve it out.

I responded to Anonymous. We sedated Anxiety by restricting my food. Had Ellie been allowed her meal plan, my Anorexia would have flared up. That’s the nature of the beast.

I met Anonymous halfway, and prepared all the food I would need for the trip. Pages of calculations was used as evidence for my Anorexic logic. Panic polluted thoughts clouded everything Ellie had been taught to recite in times of recovery hardship.
You need x no. cal to maintain your bodyweight.
Therefore, if you eat < x no cal …
Fact and fiction were chewed over and spat out in frustration. I cowered away from reason when I felt threatened. Everything became disordered. Problems were produced to fix a solution; interruptions conversed with denial; riddles revealed themselves in plain sight. Nothing made sense. Something was trying to trick me. Guided by the nervous hands of distraction, we managed to tiptoe through the trip.

When I arrived at midday, a wave of survivor’s guilt washed me out of the car. I felt contradiction rot into consequence: I hadn’t eaten enough. Anonymous cruised across familiar ground by starving me of food and feeding me words. It had felt so easy: we remembered every turning, every slippery spot. Mum and Dad praised me for winning the motorway battle, and Ellie shrank. You cheated.

Ellie blinked in the spring sunlight dancing off the harbour. Waves peeled off the sea and crept up the sand to greet me. The masts of a hundred yachts reached up to the cloudless sky, applauding it in the breeze. Salt frosted houses lined the weaving street, coloured pink, blue, stone and slate. People’s mouths sprang into smiles under beards, piercings and mouthfuls of pasty. I had been so terrified of the journey to Falmouth, I hadn’t been allowed to get excited about where I was actually going. The car journey’s enormous presence hadn’t let me see that I would wander across a beach with my parents, or be dragged down cobbled streets by my dog.

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It was magic.

Not being allowed to sit for long periods of time has meant that I have been contained by a small radius around my house: a seatbelt of disordered thoughts. Hope smelt salty, and delicious.
Oh Ellie, why haven’t you bought enough food. I ordered a glass of milk in a cafe, trying to atone for 48hours of restrictions. Nothing can compensate for effort.

It has taken me nearly two weeks to write this blog post, because I couldn’t face what I had done. The threat of the car journey still snarls, wounded but not slain. Waves of retrospective panic dump Ellie at Anonymous’ feet: what were you thinking? Sometimes, those billows lose momentum and drop back, defeated.
I remember Falmouth flirting with recovery, and the Exeter campus charming Ellie with it’s possibility of a life free from Anorexia. There was so much colour: societies; subjects; gardens and books – books with topics drowning each other out as they called from the library bookshelves. Conflicting, not contradicting.
I just sat in a car. Huh. Maybe one day, I’ll be able to sit in a lecture.

Regret sighs as I read this over. Ellie wants to be better, I just don’t want to get better. The journey is riddled with contradictions to the logic that doesn’t make sense, not while I let my brain shrink in hunger.
Ellie averts her eyes from the horizon, and focuses on the morsel of Anorexia she is gnawing away at presently. To navigate this journey through recovery, I just need to trust the horizon is there, and that hope is still breathing.

If anything, that trip gave me something to chew over, and now write about.

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I think Billy copes better in a car than I do!

Of Mind and Matter

I tore my eyes away from their lips. They were twisting and twitching, with wrinkles rippling over their plump surface. Words tumbled off their tongue and all over the table. The art of conversation was graffiti over this: Anonymous’ final meal of the day. I looked down at it, and felt my jaw grow stiff. Panic paralysed me mid-chew, and the pulp in my mouth began to sour. Stop. I’m losing it. Somewhere in this conversation, I’ve lost track of my food.
I chased confusion from plate to face to plate to fork – trying to catch up with it. I heard humming topics choke and drown under the buzz of sharpened senses. They sliced the scene into fragments: the fume of food, the flare of candlelight, the fug that had tricked me into distraction. The warmth of company began to burn.
Concentrate.
I counted the chunks of sweet potato; one, two, four. Now the salmon, size up the – oh. Oh the ratio is all wrong. You ruined the ratios Ellie. You’ll never achieve an even bite; there isn’t enough kale to cover four flakes of fish. It’s too late, and it’ll be over too quick.
You might as well not have eaten. It had been blissful: I was so busy savouring sweet, lingering words. I had barely noticed the carbs and calories that had flushed down my throat unseen.
Anonymous snarled from the dregs on my plate: What a waste. 

Anorexia and I live in a place called Control. It located in the suburbs of Living. The sun doesn’t set and plunge me into blind uncertainty, nor does it rise to coax change into bloom. In Control, Anonymous keeps me safe from the tropical temptations that lie waiting in the wilderness. Food is a fool to think it can wander aimlessly into Anorexia’s lair.
It is caught and recorded: g; %RDA; kcal. Nothing will reach my lips without passing the scales first. In Control, I never lick the spoon after serving my yogurt. Precision is moreish. I am especially careful when there are grapes in the house. Grapes can cause a leak.
Food must then be tagged and categorised, to ensure there is no over-indulgence of one nutrient. Ellie is not allowed turmeric in her porridge in the morning if she plans to make spiced soup in the evening. It’s not allowed, because I am in Control.
After food has been committed to, Anonymous starts to manipulate it. Anorexia knows how to restrain me into satiety. Everything from utensil size, food shape and fibre content grooms food into submission. Ellie has to talk me into eating an energy ball as I promised, because I can’t measure the pace with which it is consumed. How on earth does one cut up a ball?
Control is a lonely place. Its borders hug me closely, and there never seems to be room for anyone else. Anonymous warned me that other people dilute Anorexia’s acidic concentration. Eating meals at the table together tears holes in my boundaries and exposes the power I cannot catch. Anorexia squeezes my parents to plate up in time to meet my deadline. She stares down wandering eyes over my plate. She dares people to venture out of her control by pushing me under it.
My illness will calculate the risk of another person’s company. Buried under Control, Ellie can’t meet people if they infect time designated for Anorexia’s rituals to celebrate Self-Control. What if I am made to sit? What if they try and make me fat?
My illness controls people, and so I avoid them.

Mind and Matter are walking hand in hand across this plateau of Recovery, trying to drag each other down. My doctors remind me in every session that a semi-starved brain is weak. It is weak, therefore it latches onto strength to make it feel safe. Nature forces me to listen to Anonymous. I really need her to like me.

Recovery is trying to hijack Ellie, and take her on a joyride out of Control. There is a presence out there. Sometimes it lurks in the bottom of an empty bowl. I think It is called Choice.
Choice never comes into Control voluntarily. It is swept in amongst festered emotion and fragmented hopes and dreams: the debris that bleeds out of the wounds inflicted by Recovery. Feeding my Matter has addled the strong Mind that introduced me to Anonymous. The longer Ellie lets time stretch, the thinner her resistance wears. I have noticed how much harder some things have become that were easy a few months ago.

A foreigner arrived this week, called the Flu. I had promised Anonymous I would never get ill. I promised I wouldn’t let it’s propaganda indoctrinate my matter into defying my mind. Denying Flu was easy at first, it’s symptoms felt somewhat comical in the context of starvation. Willpower leaked when time stretched and tore.
My body failed me.
Anonymous snarled. She recognised him as a friend of the weak. We are not weak. We will not rest, not for the sake of Flu.
This is not a choice, but the animal instinct of an illness.

Mind over Matter, Ellie.
Push yourself. 

I have never studied the floor at work before. It’s rather blurry, which is just as well. Those funny shapes and grimy smears trodden into the tiles have always had an air of mystery about them which I am only too happy to sustain. I don’t really want to know what they are.
Up close, things are a bit more black and white. I can fixate on the small things: like my trembling knees that had failed me in such a spectacular manner. My weak body was somewhere out of Control. By collapsing, it had completely contradicted Anonymous and called her a liar.
Mind over Matter, Ellie. Nobody has seen you, you could carry on.
The scales fell away from my eyes. I left work early, instead of completing a day’s exercise. I chose to listen to a voice made stronger by the nourishment of reason. It spoke to my mind and my matter. Ellie must be right: I cannot control someone’s choice to make me a victim. Not another Mind, not Anonymous, not even the Flu.

Ellie would never choose to waste me, this brain, on a rancid Mind. Anorexic concentration is acidic, and it eats into choices I never thought I would have.
Choosing to break her “oil” rule and roast some roots; choosing to sit when my heart fluttered and faltered – faded
only for a moment, because I sat; choosing to have a friend over at suppertime and enjoy her company.

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My first ever roasted (!) sweet potato!

Choosing feels gluttonous, because I am doing it for me. I am doing it for my Mind and Matter.
This is not a choice, but the animal instinct of a survivor.

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Be like Billy.

A Balancing Act

I placed my spoon and fork together, and held onto the silence. The bowl, a crater smeared with the residue of saliva, was empty.
I had scraped the final morsels into my mouth with relish, savouring every last lick:IMG_5280
Almonds had shattered into a cloud of quinoa. Plump olives and pulpy raisins had swollen under the smoke of hummus. Bouquets of broccoli were flecked with shreds of chilli and buttery cashews. The mousse of sweet potato had sponged the lining of my mouth with a spicy lathering, and glazed it in a bittersweet dressing. The marbled colour of my salad bowl snuggled, swirled and separated. Green grew creamy, and the rust of tomato ripened under the sun of a lemony stain. Steam curled its fingers up into my nose, and the aroma of sweet anticipation suffocated Anonymous for a moment. I could only hear clusters of chickpeas crumble between my teeth, and a floret rasp as my tongue caressed it from my fork.
Electrified, the firing of thoughts had ceased.
Pleasure pulled at my cheeks and made me smile: I couldn’t help it. It was just so yummy.

Smudged and smeared, the face reflected back at me from my spoon stared at Anonymous and Ellie. It’s eyes were curious, and challenged one of them to break the silence. “So,” they seemed to ask, “What have we learned today?”
Reflecting on a meal after I’ve eaten it allows me to gather my thoughts together, and order them in a way so that the recovery battle can begin again with renewed vigour. Writing my way out of my eating disorder has taken on many guises: it is an exercise that forces me to communicate with each voice as it prattles in harmony with my cutlery.
This particular moment of recuperation happened just last week, when I took myself to London. The Mae Deli has become an oasis: it is the only place I trust myself to eat in. It is the only place that doesn’t serve threat, in all it’s imagined glory.
I sat beside my empty plate, surrounded by the chatter of other diners. Ellie nodded with pride as she nursed the wounds inflicted by Anxiety during the long journey leading to that first bite. Anorexia’s visions of a certain future wobbles, and neutralises as it dissolves into the present. In the peace of my own solitude, I asked myself: “So, what have you learned today?”

I had walked through the door, intruding on that serene scene of well nourished respect. My eyes darted around the room. I need a table now. Anonymous, high on adrenaline and panic, had pursued me across the city convincing me there wouldn’t be space. There wouldn’t be space, and therefore I wouldn’t eat. I need to eat now, or I won’t. I won’t.
Oh look, you can sit here. Here, next to the flowers.
I looked into my empty bowl, and saw questions swirling in the dregs. What would have happened if you had to wait? Was your metabolism really going to trick you into ballooning seconds after your deadline?
I want to call on Ellie to question her claim of control. Anonymous is in control of when I eat.
– until someone sits at the last table.

The scoop of quinoa had bulged in the ladle, leering at me as it tumbled with muffled thunder into the bowl. It looked so big. I realised I hadn’t noted from which corner of the dish it had been conjured from. Perhaps it had been scraped from the depths of that pot, from the abyss where heavy bulbs of oily dressing had sunk? I hadn’t counted the chunks of sweet potato as they were nudged into place. The numbers were Anomalies: an unknown jumble of carbs and calories. They couldn’t be compared and contrasted with the data I consumed every other day. I couldn’t do the maths: have I earned this? What will the result be?

Those questions weren’t answered that day. Whilst they didn’t sour the enjoyment on my tongue, they did chase me around Hyde Park for the rest of the afternoon. Earn those calories.

Every mouthful was peppered with a question: what does this mean?

The will to try with this recovery battle hangs in the balance each day with how well Ellie and Anonymous can argue.
I swing from one conflict to the next, trying to balance out each argument and identify whose voice it belongs to. The most recent was the Great Grape Grievance: Surely, if I ate one grape now that’s greedy? I had lunch an hour ago, I don’t need it. How would it look in my food diary? A whole extra line, how greedy. How indulgent.
Yes, but how nice it would be.
(I didn’t eat the grape. I’m still trying to work out what that extra grape would say about me.)

Reflection allows me the freedom to engage with my food anxieties after they have climaxed.
I had a discussion with Anxiety in the Mae Deli. I asked her why she was afraid of breaching Anonymous’ rules. Thus began her tale:
Anxiety claims to have travelled to a land called the Future, where she met a monster. That monster was named Weight Gain. Trembling with fear, she retold me a tale that will leave her worthless and alone. Ellie wanted to know what made this demon so monstrous. She began to describe an independent creature with a life completely out of it’s control, with nobody to help it. Horns and fangs had grown from indulging on the forbidden fruit of food and freedom.
Anorexia has helped me keep this beast at bay thus far. Anonymous will stop me from being gobbled up.
Looking into my spoon, I can see through Anonymous’ deceptive tale. She isn’t afraid of Weight Gain, she is afraid of what it stands for. She is frightened by it’s power to control how other people treat me, long after they’ve forgotten that weight doesn’t fill the hole that made me starve out Ellie. She is frightened by how Ellie might treat me.
What would it mean?

Recovery needs to grow a hand for me to hold, because I am hanging in the balance of each bite, each day. My hopes of returning to university in September are slipping between my sweating palms, away into a static space balancing on the scales. It would mean a lot to Ellie if she could cope with going back, it really would. At the moment, that portion size looks a bit too much to ask for.

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Milk meditations

I savour those seconds of silence after a bite. Enjoyment doesn’t sour in my mouth, it lingers. An animal in me stirs: I am meant to eat. I deserve to eat. Somewhere, something swings into balance, and I can smile. These are precious moments, and they give me hope.

An aftertaste: Months before my diagnosis and a year ago today, I had my first meeting with my lovely nutritionist J. She would later save my life with a glass of milk, and give me the confidence to try: try something new, ask those questions, take that challenge. A year a ago today, I presented her with a list of foods I would not touch. I found that list in my diary, and Ellie is proud to say that she is able to cross most of them out. A precious moment, and it gives me hope.

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A year ago I never would have dreamed of making a rice bowl.

Mastering the Art of Time

We lost the summer. My last memory can be traced back from the first week in May:

“Eleanor Davies, please go to Dr A********** in room 6.”
I tottered around plastered arms and hacking coughs, watching wheezing frames double over in the line of patients snaking around the room. I pulled my coat up to my face and breathed into the fleece. A trickle of warm air kissed my chattering teeth. I shut my eyes and tried to drown the cacophony of wailing and moaning and groaning. I tried to think.
Ellie: what are you going to say? What are you doing here?
You are weak.
She had cold eyes. They skated over me once, and a sour smirk unfolded over her lips.
You’re a waste of time.
“I just – I can’t – I won’t eat.”
Pah.
“I don’t know what to do.”
Very convincing.
“I’m flying home in 10 days, I just need some advice. Please help me, I’m frightened.”
Her body shook with the force of that sigh. With pursed lips she began to click, click, click away at her computer. She kicked some scales out from under her desk.
Oh look, she is going to weigh us. How predictable.
“45kg.” Not good enough.
“Yes.” Go ahead, cry. See? Nobody cares.
“So … you think you have an ED. What do you want me to do for you? Why won’t you just eat?”
Nobody wants to help you.
“I’m scared. I just need to make it through the next 10 days, please help me.”
This doctor looked at me a moment, stretching out time. “HA” her laugh rattled through the chair and into my bones. “Well,” she said, trying to composed herself, “obviously don’t eat any less.”
Challenge accepted.
“Well, I could refer you to an Eating Disorder specialist …” Hell no. “… or I can tell you to toughen up.”
We waited. Not good enough. We left.

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At 45kg: my legs have finally joined up and I have … a but crack!!

In those 10 days, I lost 6kgs.
It has taken me 6 months to the day to restore the damage done in that doctor’s surgery.
Nobody cares, nobody will help you.
My weigh in today clocked on at 45kg. BMI: 14.9.
Time can’t be tempted, but Anorexia can.

I can control time.
It is a power Anonymous fed me in scraps. We made it smaller. Time is a wild thing, but I have been taught how to lock it up in a cage to waste away.
Woozy and drunk on depravity, it shrank with and away from me.
Anorexia tortured time: I was stretched thinner and life was squeezed smaller.
Routine rotted the day. Daylight would crawl from my 4:30 alarm to my midday black coffee, over treadmills and trembles, to the turning of Anonymous’ screw.
This will make you strong.

In recovery, I chase time around the clock. I check in at breakfast, lunch, supper. Each day, I am robbing Anonymous of her control over my time.
Recovery tames time so it can be used, not filled.
My days feel small, but are getting fuller, bigger. I can cope with doing more.
I can follow my train of thought just that little bit further; even if time does eventually catch up with me and my mind stumbles into a babbling outburst.
I can think ahead, and plan past the next hour into the next day. I don’t panic quite so often if lunch gets ruined: if I drop a carrot stick or the phone rings. There will be another lunch tomorrow. Tomorrow will happen, because I’ve planned for it.
Time will take me there.

I know time watches me.
Anonymous grooms the clock for opportunity, and makes me move. I still can’t sit still in the day, I still feel her fingernails scratching away at my nerves.
She makes me fill my daylight hours walking, pacing, twitching. Moving from one room to another requires detours up the stairs or around furniture.
Jump up. Move. Earn that food. Get through the next few hours.
My job is exhausting. Time spent at work is never compensated on my days off, because I find it difficult to sit still.
The bar of activity has been set now. Move.
If I keep myself distracted, the seconds won’t creep up on me.
My job may contrary to medical advice, but it is the reason I have clawed back that lost time.

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Celebrating the New Year as it arrived!

Time pushes Ellie through the present because it knows there is freedom in the future.
In small licks, I can taste it. On New Year’s Eve, I stayed up to greet 2017. I watched fireworks, I hugged my friends. Anonymous was collapsed, exhausted from the day’s work, no doubt revelling in the hunger high she had been saving for us to share.
Ellie swallowed her solitude, washed down with supper, and spent an hour with a sparkler in her hand, grinning.

Recovery is like light: just a bit slower. Happy New Year everyone x

String Theory

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Hello, and welcome to Monday clinics.

“Imagine a piece of string.”
Here we go. Alright, piece of string in mind.
“Focus only on that piece of string.”
“Allow your thoughts to drift. Notice how fluidly they move through time.”
That’s because time knows it’s being wasted.
“Hold the string between your fingers.”
Impossible, but ok.
“Focus on what the string looks like.”
A mess. Just like everything else in here.
“Focus on what the string feels like.”
For heaven’s sake.
“Notice whilst you focus on the string, your thoughts are allowed to drift.”
Thank you, string, for your permission.
“As you experience this moment, no reaction and no judgment is needed.”
Bare judgement for dictatorial string.
Time to let this one go, I think. Focusing on the moment is not harnessing me out of the catastrophe of the future. Perhaps it simply isn’t for me.

Anorexia is about obedience, not beauty.
Anonymous is racial. She judges on sight not sense: all I see is black and white. What I think I see, is what is.
Thinking is a reckless occupation, and I am tethered to extremity.
There seems to be magic in food: it is giving Ellie the reigns to think.
Ah, but here is a problem. I can’t hold them. There are too many strings attached too many feelings attached to too much. Anonymous anticipates this is the future: “too much”. So she begins to tug at them.

Meals tangle me in a war on time.
I won’t eat lunch if I miss my lunch “time”.
The gap of opportunity draws nearer but wracks my nerves deeper. I’m going to miss it, tug I’m going to miss it. Tug.
You missed it. You’re too late. Tug.
You’ll have to do without.
I have cried too many times at work because I know I have been given my break too late, and I know I won’t eat. I know a hunger high will creep up on me and rip the threads of thought from my grip. I know this because I can see it: in black and white. The predictability of an unseen future.

Tug.

Ordering a coffee has become an ordeal: I am a barista’s worst nightmare.
I watch their every move as they perform behind the coffee machine. Wipe the spout; slam the buttons; pour, pour, drip.
Tug. “Is that milk really skinny? Check.”
Anonymous has to track the movement of milk from carton to jug to mug, or I shan’t drink it. A nerve will be plucked if I am distracted, because I am sure I will have missed the slip of a finger that laces the coffee with fat malice. Tug. I’ll be forced to walk away, leaving the steaming cup free and untouched on the table.

Anonymous’ twitching fingers are still dangling me from my strung up nerves. We haven’t lost our touch: in wartime, we can still perform self control.

The science is simple: my body literally has no way of defending itself. Ellie has to react by seeing the threat in everything.
I can’t hear pity when I look for criticism.
I can’t experience comfort if I am weary of pain.
I can’t see sense when I look for it, because it has become tangled in a web of confusion. I am clutching at straws, trying to remember what you’re meant to do with pride, with discomfort, with worry.
The power surges of adrenaline are violent tug thunderous with rage that Ellie let them be starved out for so long. Tug.
My mind’s eye has been blinded by sharp stabbing hormones, and I can’t recognise a single feeling Ellie hurls at me.
Everything is just a tangle of flashing black and white warnings; hazards; triggers. And so much tugging.

I need help eating away at these strings, I need help slackening the leash around Ellie. Every new challenge I am presented with jerks me out of control. An increase – tug – a weigh in –tug– a grumpy customer –tug–  or a loud noise.
My doctor turned to me at my clinic this week, looked into the eye of this tangled mess, and told me she trusted me. She said she knows I want to recover Ellie.
I really, really want to help Ellie.
To do that, I need to learn to be nice. I need to recover her, not entice her.

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Anorexia isn’t glamorous, so please excuse the hairy legs. They keep me warm!

I did something brave this week: I had a bath. Anonymous hates baths: just the thought of a steamy session of wallowing in fragrant peace sends her into a flaming fury.
But I did it, and it felt nice. That much I could recognise and handle.

Nobody thinks straight: strings of thought are too flimsy. They snake around us protectively in reaction to what we see, or think we see.
I am not trying to straighten out my thinking patterns, just liberate them.
If I can relax these strings of obedience they will look like guidelines, not lifelines.

Mountains and Molehills

Anorexia recovery is mountainous.
Sharp peaks scrawl across the skyline, rock swelling and rising to kiss the clouds, before tumbling down a sharp, jagged scarp.
I have been cast out into unchartered reaches of the natural world, and I fear I am getting lost.

I try to spot patterns, paths and landmarks. Lines: some indication of safety or comfort or familiarity, or of control.
In response, Recovery shivers in cold disapproval, and the ground trembles.

They move. These mountains that surround me are alive.
Mounds bloom threateningly as I scale each challenge: a visitor at suppertime; a loud noise; a glass of juice. A clash in plate tectonics.
At the summit the earth beneath me shrinks. I adjust to the fresh air of a new altitude, whilst watching another mountain form in front of me.

The ground is unpredictable. Sometimes I forget to tread carefully, and it crumbles underfoot.
Sometimes I’ll cross a line and take a step too far: I’ll neglect to weigh an apple; use my porridge spoon to eat my yogurt; allow myself an extra grape. Then I’ll tumble into Anonymous’ arms. She’ll guide me back down the mountain into barren land.
“You’ll never make it.”
“You are useless. You don’t deserve this success.”
“You need me.”
Anorexia catches me as I fall, then drops Ellie from a height. Then she’ll watch with relish as I wreck havoc over Recovery’s natural beauty.
I erode the soil by restricting food; I slash buds by hiding from people.
I hurl Ellie across the floor, and it hurts her: because recovery is hard.
Sharp, jagged, unpredictable; and really, really hard.

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Ellie the elephant ready with a hug when I got ill

Ascending mountains is exhausting: both Ellie and I agree. Last week, we clambered over a particularly trying one.
I fell ill having shivered all through summer, and Anonymous greeted winter with an eruption of volcanic rage; and I lost an alarming amount of weight. My heart rate and mood plummeted: and those fragile numbers fell back to where I was 2 months ago.
“You can still control it, well done.”
“You can push it further …”
I cowered from the wilderness of recovery in Anorexia’s lair.

I climbed out of that cave.
Ellie found a way to hoist me out by pointing out rocks and roots I could hold onto:
I held onto that time I ate in front of someone.
I held onto the pride in my doctor’s face when I said I ate something cooked with oil.
Soon, I could pop my head out of that crack in the mountainside, and look at how far I had climbed.

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Campaigning is fun 🙂

From acknowledgement at the very bottom, to completing my final piece for an upcoming Eating Disorder education campaign: it was quite a view.
So I dusted myself down and turned towards the foggy face of the mountain, and began to plot a route up.
I reached base camp yesterday: I did everything my doctor said, and have reduced last week’s mountain into a molehill – for now, at least.

Nature doesn’t rest, and these mountains keep moving. I slip up when I get tired of fighting.
I’m tried of being chased up a hard, rocky slope by Anonymous and her servant Anxiety.
Ellie tells me to use my resources to avoid taking a wrong turn. She tells me to trust my doctors, my clinicians and nurses.
They are keeping me on the right path. They introduce me to terms like “nutrition” and “restoration”. They soften the diction of words like “Anorexia Nervosa”; “Osteoporosis”; “Amenhorrea”
“Failure”
“Worthless”.

My clinicians are teaching me how to adapt to this turbulent terrain.
I have been taught to keep a ‘thought diary’, in which I record each time I encounter a trigger that sends me into emotional turmoil.
In theory, I should reflect upon the trigger, the thought, and the resultant emotional reaction. Then, in theory, I should consider how I can intercept the thought before it blossoms into a futile, wailing lament: Do they really mean this when they say that? Will that actually hurt me? Is that molehill really a mountain?
Currently, this isn’t going so well. The ‘thought diary’ merely serves as a woeful record of my emotional instability: but it makes for rather entertaining reading at the end of the day.

My route through recovery is marked by appointments and scans, lunchtime shifts at work, and precious time spent with precious people.
I am trying to move with nature, not against it. I am trying to stand my ground against Anorexia.