An ED is not forever.

This is my first post in … a while!

I am delighted to say that this is because I have been exceptionally busy but equally as content.

As I mentioned in a previous post I graduated with a 2:1! That week – grad week- was so much fun. Many of my friends have moved on from university now to pursue careers and other aspects of “being an adult” which is not just unnerving but scary even (I swear I’m still like, 12 years old…).

I then began my summer job as an English language teacher down in Brighton. It was really exciting to explore a new city and I enjoyed meeting people from all walks of life.

South of England

Food wise, all our meals were provided, which meant the anxieties of handling food were non existent. Throughout I ate well and didn’t let myself get too shaken up.

I began my second job in a small village in Wiltshire in late July. I had a similar role, but with added responsibilities. I absolutely love working with young people and in education so it was nice, however, the hours were exceptionally long.

I was often working 14 hour days and after doing a string of 12- 14- 12-14-14-12 days, well, it takes it out of you! By the end of the job I was exhausted. I was so proud to have been able to successfully do that job, but I was glad to see it end. Especially as…

Not 2 days later, my boyfriend and I were on our way to Nepal! We spent 12 days in that magnificent country. We spent five days or so trekking in the Himalayas, which is something I thought I would ever (or could ever) do. It was physically gruelling and heatstroke struck me down on the first day… and yet I loved it.

A perfect start to the day!

The views were simply stunning and I  thought to myself how proud 17 year old me would have been. Ah, if she could see me now! It also made me realise how much me and my body can do if we work together. My body is an amazing tool and I want to work to do something similar.

Trekking does seem to be good for me, as it gives me an achievable goal but it allows me to push myself too. I definitely want to do it again.

I’m now back at uni and raring to start my MA.

Well, I’m still tired, but there ain’t no rest for the wicked!

I am feeling optimistic about my recovery and about life. I have shown myself over the past year that I can do it and more importantly for me, that I have the potential to do whatever I want to do.

I’ve got a degree, I’ve trekked in the Himalayas, I’ve lived and worked in China, I’ve ran classes of 30 students, I’ve helped people- I couldn’t be prouder.

Keep at it, honestly.

~Alee

What To Expect In Recovery

So, you’ve embarked on the journey to recovery from an eating disorder. First and foremost: congratulations! Secondly, good luck! Recovering from an ED will most likely be the most difficult thing you have ever had to do, however, it is also the most worthwhile journey you can take. In 10 years time, you’ll be thanking yourself.

1. Expect to fail.

Why? because you will fail. You will fall and relapse and stumble and trip. You will. When I first committed to recovery way back in 2012 I saw a future for myself where I would eat every meal and snack on my meal plan, exercise appropriately and never weigh myself again. I failed again and again.

BUT

That’s alright. It really is. We (myself included) have to see failure as simply another step to where we want to be. Just because we fail once, twice, two thousand times does not mean we will always fail. You just gotta keep trying and eventually you get there. We must fail in order to succeed. Besides, we’re human- we’re not perfect.

2. Expect chaos.

Embrace it. The sooner you do this, the better. Leading on from my previous point, recovery is messy. One day you’ll be doing great then for the next three every mouthful of food will be a struggle. It can vary minute-to-minute, hour-to-hour.

Don’t expect your day, your intake or your mood to be neat and tidy or to follow a set path. It’ll be up and down and inside out and somehow, you must learn to accept it.

P.S. if you can do this, it will put you in good stead for life because life in general really is chaotic and it is random and unpredictable. Being able to throw your hands up and go, what’s next muthafucka is a fine quality. Really.

3. Expect to be exhausted.

Recovery is hard and you have to work for it every second of every day. No joke. Sometimes, you will be extremely lethargic and this will be a combination of weight restoration and emotional stress.

Changing how you think is not easy, altering your perception of yourself isn’t either and nor is working to overthrow an entire belief system (which you are likely to have functioned on your whole life!).

You’re relearning how to eat and how to live. You’re also learning a hell of a lot about yourself and how you think and see yourself.

4. Expect to grow.

And no, I’m not talking about your waistline. Sooner or later, after the endless fights with yourself, after the therapy, after the pep-talks, after the tears, you will change. You will grow as a person, in ways you thought you wouldn’t. You’ll grow in confidence and yes, if you stick at it long enough, your priorities will change.

That was the most awe striking moment for me. When I had more important things to do than to lose weight; when I began to care about my education, even my health, more than I cared to be ‘thin’, I began to see progress.

And it was the best feeling in the world.

Recovery from an eating disorder isn’t just about the weight gain and your attitude towards food. It’s a complete overhaul of your being, you shed your old skin and become something more. Of course, the essence of who you are remains, but it becomes more refined, it shines brighter and it beams out of every crevice. You become who you are truly meant to be.

*Recovery was the best decision I have ever made.

I hope you’re making it too.

~Alee

 

Gain 11: Challenges and Changes

Gain 11: Challenges and Changes

Recovery in the last month has been good/ bad/ difficult/ complicated interesting.

Basically, it’s been up and down like the value of the pound.

In my last post (here) I spoke of how I am coming to terms with being happier(?) which is surprisingly a sort-of-issue. Naturally, a day after posting, I crashed and burned… it’s always the way: you appreciate the good and life comes knocking some sense back into you!

Last week was my Graduation Week, which largely consisted of socialising, partying and one or two alcoholic beverages (okay, maybe three…) o and the small event of graduating  with a 2:1!

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My boyfriend graduated this week too!

Aside from the clinking of glasses and glamorous dresses, we were all faced with the reality of what our final week truly meant. Clearing out my room and packing my bags was tough as I said goodbye to the experiences I had had in that house over the past two years (first year was spent in halls).

In a way, I waved goodbye to some of my worst encounters with anorexia: where I had sat and cried alone instead of being out with friends or attending seminars; where I had hidden to avoid meals; where I had driven myself to despair after staring in the mirror at my always less than perfect appearance. I said goodbye to that.

Bidding farewell to the positive experiences I had accumulated whist residing in that room was equally as difficult. Especially when I began to recall how I had worked strenuously to grow and change.

I am completely overwhelmed with how wonderful things have turned out. In spite of the symptoms that don’t seem to be going anywhere soon… there are still little things, little annoying habits, which I cannot seem to shake. They are all connected to the eating disorder and I’ll shortly be elaborating on that.

The symptoms do arise, but they do not prevail. The other night, as an example, I purposefully skipped a meal. Not a big deal for the average joe, but I soon descended into a fit of melancholy, during which I extensively planned a severe weight loss plan and boarded the self criticism train. Lo and behold, a few hours later when my boyfriend arrived unannounced, armed with a bowl of cereal and a steely determination at gone 9:30pm- I cried.

Not only was it an ‘unacceptable’ time to eat, but I had already resolved to abstain from food for the rest of the day. What followed was the usual torture when I get like ‘this’. Tears, complaints, refusals, attempts on my part to instigate discussions/arguments (anything to delay the consumption of food) and eventually, the inevitable start of the meal.

By refusing to listen to the anorexia and refusing to leave me alone(!) my boyfriend helped me to eat. It was solely down to my boyfriend that I ate that bowl of cereal that night as there was no way I would have gone through the hell of preparing a meal for myself.

He’s an angel.

An hour later, after I had consumed the last spoonful of the now -very- soggy cereal, I felt slightly better. I had one up on anorexia and I had won that battle.

My fights with the illness are rarely so visible, they usually go unnoticed by the passerby. For the most part, I am better, but it is wrong to assume that one day you wake up ‘recovered’ and never have a food related disaster again.

Challenges are so important to keep up with. We all have room to improve. For now, mine revolve around the eating disorder as there are still things I ‘cannot’ do. For various fucked up reasons, these are the things I must try to do, that at present, I have great difficulty in doing:

  • eating past 9:00pm
  • finishing the last bit of a meal or snack
  • liking the lid of yoghurt pots
  • eating ‘unhealthy’ foods in front of others
  • expressing the fact I am hungry
  • drinking more water

These may seem trivial but the fact that they are there show me that it’s not over. These are all illogical and they all stem from the root of the issue- anorexia. it’s not me who can’t lick the lid of yoghurt pots, it’s a habit I can’t shake.

I need to show myself that I won’t die if I prod and poke the eating disorder, that I won’t have to witness my life falling apart if I eat at 10:15pm… because that’s all it comes down to: fear.

Fighting those little fights is how we overcome the monster: we weaken it bit by bit.

On a final note: I desperately want to start running again! I miss it so very much. If anyone has any tips on how to start up again in general (or after an ED) then please comment!

~Alee

 

 

Fear of Excess and Indulgence Prevents Happiness

For the first time, I am beginning to understand how a fear of excess and indulgence is constraining me and restricting my ability to live happily. I believe this is a common fear for people who suffer with eating disorders, anxiety and depression. When I speak of excess, I really mean to speak of the illusion of it and when I mention indulgence I am not referring to food or drink.

In recovery, as in life, we dream of having a full life; a life brimming with colour and love and music and movement. I have always wished for this sort of life and have tried in so many different ways to achieve it.

In the last month –much to my shock- I have been exceptionally happy. This sort of happiness has resided within me very quietly, it is not the euphoric sort of happiness, but a peaceful contentment.

Everything is just so.

mooo
I’m a graduate!

When I look at what I have been doing, it is easy to see how I have reached this point. I have been earning money in a job I enjoy doing, I have seen my family and friends, I have stayed at my boyfriend’s house, partied, I have bought books and traveled a little, graduated from university and kept my weight stable, I have met new people and smiled and laughed, I have eaten out at restaurants and painted and read in my spare time.

Some days have been so lovely that I have reached the end of it and almost sighed in disbelief at how lucky I have been. It’s not that I have been waited on hand and foot, or been traveling to the Bahamas or anything out of the ordinary, I have simply been able to enjoy what I end up doing each day and I have been thankful for it.

I am learning to accept that to be happy is alright. And it is a struggle I can’t quite explain. If it isn’t a voice within me that says “you’re having too much fun”, it’s a “you don’t deserve this” or a “you’re not allowed another good day”. That sense of dull anxiety when I am too happy, or laughing too much or having too much of a nice time is, I expect, incomprehensible to some but is becoming a reality for me. The irony is that these thoughts then dampen my otherwise perfect day!

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Free meals for Alee at work!

I am inclined to put this down to overthinking but the idea that I am simply not used to dealing with feeling and experiencing happiness cannot be overlooked. I am used to dragging myself through the day, I am used to oversleeping and exhaustion and lethargy and misery. I have been to the depths of despondency and I have built my home there. I know it very well. To have left and instead be surrounded by the good and bright and wonderful is a shock to the system.

I have perfected the art of survival and now I must try to thrive in this surreal and colourful world in which I have found myself. It is exciting and fantastic, of course, I would far rather be here than where I was 18 months ago.

I am so proud to have reached a point where I can be happy. I had given up on the idea long ago. It is a strange thing I am going through at the moment, but I shall continue to challenge these silly thoughts.

With happiness, there is no limit. You cannot be too happy, so smile, laugh and love as much as you can!

~Alee

If anyone else has experienced this, do comment below! I’d love to hear from you!

Why You Should Never Strive To Be ‘Thin’

Why You Should Never Strive To Be ‘Thin’

Strive to be clever, strive to be kind, strive to be at peace, but never strive to be thin.

For so many years, I wanted to be thin, skinny, slight. At 11 years old I thought those who were thin were elegant, glamorous and happy. I wanted that too. My obsession with my weight increased in my early teens whilst the number on the scale decreased. By the time I was 16 I was severely underweight and very ill: I had anorexia.

Anorexia, of course, is not simply the desire to be thin but it certainly is a large component. I do not wish this piece to be about the ins and outs of anorexia, but having suffered with this illness for over 5 years I have gained a great deal of insight into the entire notion of ‘thin’.

To be thin bears a number of connotations for all of us, some may associate it with happiness and healthiness, others with wealth and success. It is not just an ideal for those with eating disorders. It affects every one of us.

Thin to the point of emaciation

With my own experience, I can vouch for what ‘thin’ really gets you. Here, I am focusing on extremes but people who go through rapid weight loss (whatever their weight) can experience these symptoms too.

Anyone can look up the effects of being underweight or severe weight loss and if you do you are usually presented a list comprising of: heart palpitations, anemia, headaches, dizziness, loss of concentration, lethargy, loss of period and organ failure.

It’s a pretty grim list but living it is worse. Those lists don’t mention the deterioration in relationships and friendships, or your dropping performance at school, or the inability to get out of bed due to crippling depression, or the muscle pains, or insomnia.

This is strictly a list of symptoms from severe weight loss. Not anorexia. Simply being underweight can cause these things.

But I’m not underweight nor I don’t want to lose weight rapidly, so what’s the problem with wanting to be thin?

It comes down to the fact that you don’t necessarily want to be thin, you just want the emotional, social or physical effects that you associate with being thin.

Thin doesn’t actually mean anything.

Thin is thin. It’s a describing word. It’s a body shape. What’s so great about that? I’ll answer it for you: nothing.

I’m not saying it’s bad to be thin, I’m saying objectively there is nothing good about being thin. In the same way that there is nothing ‘good’ about being an hourglass shape; in the same way that being blonde isn’t pretty and brunette ugly.

You may associate thinness with healthiness but it can be forgotten that they aren’t synonyms. You can be exceptionally muscular and be healthy but not necessarily ‘thin’.

When you say you want to be thin, or you want to lose weight, think about the subtext. What are you really saying?

Do you want to be healthy, more confident, fitter, prettier, happier, brighter, livelier?

Don’t use ‘thin’ as an umbrella term. If you have low self esteem, work on building your confidence, if you want to be happier, look at what you can improve- friendships, life goals, day to day life.

Changing your weight seldom changes your mind.

To lose weight, to hold thin as an ideal may seem like a shortcut to wealth, happiness and love but it’s simply not.

Strive to eat more fruit, strive to make fulfilling friendships, strive to excel at what you enjoy, strive to smile more, strive to be kind, to be caring, to be good.

I have learned recently that there are so many worthwhile things to do, to achieve, to experience outside of your weight and appearance.

Consider who you can help, what you can do, how you can make a difference.

That is far nobler than a reduction in your waist line.

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Dissertation & degree done! A much better goal!

~Alee

 

 

 

Gain 10: Helping Heals

And that ought to be acknowledged.

During the last fortnight I have been teaching in an international summer school. The purpose of the school is to help students from all over the world improve their English; as a native English speaker and in possession of experience in teaching, I am well equipped to be of service.

It’s been busy, it’s been hectic, it’s been challenging.

But I couldn’t be happier. Some of my lessons have flopped, some pupils were challenging at times but I have also been thanked, high-fived and laughed with. I have met, danced, drank, worked and chatted with other staff members from all over Europe.

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I’m starting to enjoy food again

I haven’t breathed a word about my anorexia. Not to anyone. At home and university, I am fairly open about my struggles. The people around me know my past with anorexia and they know I still have days where I can fall back. Here though, I have been silent on the subject. Instead the people here know me as me. Not someone with an eating disorder.

And I cannot believe how well I have been doing. I eat 3 hot meals a day, tried new foods, embraced the variety and enjoyed it. I’ve only missed one meal in the last fortnight (and that was because I slept through breakfast oopsies). I haven’t weighed myself in two weeks (hurrah) and my anxieties have been quashed by the day’s work. I haven’t had time to be sad, to be preoccupied with my bad body image, instead I have been out clubbing, moimeeting new people, planning lessons, attending meetings and running classes.

There have been moments where I wanted to go back to my room and miss meals, because of a bad lesson or a deteriorating mood but I got the better of my thoughts. Instead I dealt with it, I managed it, no matter how loud my thoughts were.

I didn’t run away.

In a job like this, where you are helping people, it doesn’t matter what you look like. It doesn’t matter if you’re a size 6 or a size 16. It matters that you are kind, helpful, intelligent, respectful and confident. I have been priding myself on those qualities recently and I feel so much better for it.

Things are just going so well!

I am looking after myself properly and I’m happy and smiling and grateful and PLEASE if you have an eating disorder I am here to tell you that it does get better!

You can live and eat and be happy and comfortable in yourself and your body.

IT IS POSSIBLE.

 

 

To Me, Anorexia Recovery Is A Staircase.

Acceptance is the first step in recovery. If you cannot accept where you are or what you are struggling with then your journey to genuine health and happiness doesn’t have a hope in hell of starting. Acceptance of reality, especially a one we did not envisage for ourselves, is always a difficult one. Once you undertake it, however, it empowers you to change and to take hold of your life.

Unfortunately there are many more steps to climb. In recovery -if you are anything like me- you will know what it is you have to do to reach the next step. You have to eat and eat regularly, that’s a given, you have to challenge yourself on a wide variety of platforms and you have to work on your core beliefs see more.

Each step is agonising. I know, I’ve felt it too. You can sense the pain rising as you elevate your left leg, the agony takes a hold as you place it firmly on the step before you and as you shift your weight from right leg to left, you muster the strength to haul your right foot to join the other. You made it.

You gaze upwards and all you see are more steps and that in itself is intimidating enough. Some steps are higher than others, some only an inch higher than the step you’re currently on, some are a foot higher. For other steps you have to drag yourself along, using your upper body strength to hoist yourself up.

You can go at your own pace and if you must, you can rest a while, but you know soon enough that you must start moving again.

We’re all walking on our own staircase, with different sized steps and challenges to stepsovercome. You may fall down the stairs, perhaps on your bottom like a child, but we all know the journey back up the hill is twice as hard as the slide down.

As you climb each step, each uneven step, you will find that your body becomes stronger and as you continue the challenges you face become less daunting. Occasionally you will encounter a seemingly impossible step to climb (let’s say a challenging few weeks or a bit of a blip) but you push forth and you climb that step too.

Gradually, you will find that the steps themselves become longer, perhaps you will have to take a few strides before reaching the next one. At some stages, there are no visible steps. I’m not saying the steps will even out entirely -you will remain on a steady incline- but it will become easier. I must insist you keep walking, slowly if needs be, just keep walking. You will be stronger and the next time you encounter a step, well, you’ve climbed a thousand before so there’s no doubting you can do it.

This is how I now see my recovery.

Any thoughts?

Like, comment and share- it may help someone, somewhere.

~Alee

Image used: http://www.urbanwoot.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/steps.jpg