Tag: Bulimia

Going away for a break

Going away for a break

Wow. This week has been really emotional, with so many really sad tragic things happening – the Grenfell Tower disaster, two terrorist attacks in London, another attempt in Paris, another major attack in Mosul – so much pain. I desperately want to be able to “do something”. Help. Bring some hope. Bring the merciful love of our Heavenly Father into this pain.

My partner and I have taken some action to do this and I’ll post more on that separately.

Meanwhile I’ve been feeling overwhelmed. I’ve had a couple of appointments with the pain clinic which have been very draining and in some ways upsetting. I’m sure I’m going to learn things that really help there and I have to try to keep going, keep trying, keep open to what they’re saying and offering even through the parts of it that hurt.

Today my partner and I are going away for a few days. We are staying in a besutiful hotel. We’re going to meet up with some of his family and my goddaughters’ family too. This is the first time in I don’t know how many years that I’ve been away on holiday. It’s not to a totally unknown area but I’m anxious. It’s a huge thing for me to go away and stay somewhere I don’t know and to stay a few days. I am excited too and know I really need a break. Most importantly I’m looking forward to some time to spend with my partner, talk and pray together, and share home calmly rather than constantly running around at the point of exhaustion and it seeming that time in which we can be there for each other and be thankful for each other sometimes comes last. I’m thankful for these coming days and pray for God’s blessing on our time together.

There’s a pool at the hotel and I have made up my mind that for the first time in about 7 years I’m going to get in the pool. I’m going to try to do some of the exercises my pain physiotherapist gave me and try to swim a little. It should be fun but also a great challenge to overcome as I haven’t been in a pool since I used to swim obsessively to try to lose weight when I was in the grip of bulimia.

So it will be a weekend of firsts and implementing some beautiful changes, please God.

Wishing you all good things this weekend.

Ginny xxx

 

Ten dishes challenge #6: chicken stew and exploring wheat-free

Since the new year, actually I’ve been much better than usual at cooking meals, though usually I haven’t managed to remember to take a picture to add to this series, hence the lack of updates. A significant reason I’ve done better at cooking is that I was preparing food to share with a couple in my block who were in serious financial difficulty, and also cooking for another friend who is very unwell and struggles to eat at all let alone cook.

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I’m motivated to cook when I feel it’s to help or care for or simply for the enjoyment of someone else. This can help me overcome feeling too exhausted to do it. When I’m cooking for others, there is actually some joy in it even if I’m battling the chronic physical pain. The thoughts and voices that taunt me that I don’t deserve good food, must not eat, fill my head with repulsion at myself and greed and failure, do not come so loud when I’m cooking for others and sharing the meal. When I’m with others, I don’t binge eat and I cannot purge food. Perhaps it isn’t the ideal way out of these eating disorder symptoms – I have to be able to feed myself for myself in the end – but the more times I do cook, do share food, do manage not to binge eat and purge or restrict for long periods, the quieter the voices become even when I’m alone. It’s a very slow process and can still be awful but I think it’s a strength that will slowly grow.

The other major change in the last month is that since I was in hospital with stomach problems, I’m on a wheat-free diet because I was advised to try this. So I’m finding out new recipes or adaptations to recipes. As much as possible, I’m finding foods and ingredients that are naturally wheat free, because a lot of replacement products are very expensive, especially the processed ones. A very small loaf of gluten free bread will be £2.50 rather than 80p for a similar sized normal loaf; a packet of wheat free biscuits may be up to £3.00 rather than 75p or less for regular supermarket biscuits. I can’t have these things regularly on wheat free, at least not when I’m relying on Benefits whilst I’m signed off work. The plus side of this is that it leads me to cook more and eat more fruit, veg, beans, meat and dairy. My food bill will increase a bit nevertheless but I don’t think it will be unmanageable if I’m very careful to go for cost effective recipes. In fact, I’m often enjoying finding a new variety of foods and the altered diet. For example, I’m going to try making my own bread using wheat free flour. I discovered these funky coloured carrots that were tasty roasted:

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It’s not all saintly. Chocolate definitely still features in my diet! 🙂

For the first couple of weeks I was out of hospital, my stomach was very unsettled and I was mainly eating rice, rice crackers, cooked vegetables and fruit, peanut butter then gradually some egg and cheese as well. Most meals were looking something like this:

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Slowly, as my stomach is a bit better, I’ve wided my diet again with meats, yoghurt, various treats or desserts like chocolate, or fruit bars, and I’ve tried some wheat free cereal a couple of times. It’s a gradual process and I’m still feeling unsettling effects from the stomach problems I had.

I’ve also returned to using my Nutribullet, which I find most helpful for upping my vegetable and fruit intake with juices, ensuring I have high fibre intake and consuming things that can be harder to get into my diet. In the winter, I don’t enjoy eating a salad as I might in the summer, but I can make a yummy smoothie with some raw spinach and mixed leaves, avocado, banana, apple and a little lemon juice.

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The result does slightly resemble the bathroom suite my parents had in the 1990s, but I promise it tastes good. (Warning – in my experience, home made juices, whatever the ingredients even if you use brightly coloured fruits, tend to turn out green or brown. This may not look appetising however if you can overcome the colour they usually taste good.)

Yesterday I made a chicken stew with lots of veg and mashed potato, which I was very pleased with as I used not to be so confident cooking meat. I had the day at home so was able to pace the preparation better than usual. There was plenty left over that went in my freezer.

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Thanks be to God for helping me to rediscover some joy in food, some opportunities to share and eat with others and enjoy it, and gradually continue on the path to a more healthful diet and feelings around food and my body.

Ginny xxx

Exercise without returning to extremes

WARNING – this post discusses weight loss and eating disorders

I saw the nurse today as I had to have an ECG. I’ve had a lot of chest pain lately which is thought to be costocondritis but the GP wanted to check my ECG again. I’ve also been potentially diagnosed with another condition but that’s a story for another time.

Whilst I was there, the nurse took my weight and height and we decided I’m going to try the exercise referral scheme again (to a different gym this time), to have support to try very gentle swimming or at least exercises in the water.

It is time for me to do something about the fact that I am really upset at how much weight I have gained in the last 2 years, through poor diet and through my medications and being very sedentary as I often can’t walk more than a very little way unaided. The weight is increasing my hate of myself and my body. Not succeeding in losing it by my familiar means over the last few months has increased this hate even more. I know this isn’t a healthy thought pattern and I know many of my “familiar means” are eating disorder behaviors. At the same time, I am now slightly overweight according to BMI recommendations, so I need to lose weight for my physical health; also I need to care for my body’s needs by eating healthful meals rather than oscillating between starving and junk food, as has become my habit through lack of money and depression. I need to try to do some kind of exercise to improve my physical strength to manage the pain from my chronic conditions better.

So I have to figure out how can I manage my situation now and the changes I need to make without plunging deeper into eating disorder thoughts? How do I start an exercise programme without using it to punish my body? How can I keep track of my weight and control my diet without returning to my totally addicted state and the ever-present revulsion at my body tipping back over into self-harm and purging?

Does anyone have any thoughts about how to lose weight and change your eating to get back to a healthy weight range, when you have a history of binge-eating and bulimia? Are there any particular resources on this topic? I know that somehow I need to address the pervasive disgust I feel towards my body and ideally I’d do that first, but it has been present most of my life and I can’t allow my weight to grow to an even more unhealthy level. Most of my life since age 3 when my abuser started to use weighing me and controlling my food as one way of punishing and shaming me, I’ve been overweight, severely underweight or plummeting or ballooning between the two. I have lost all concept of normal food intake and normal appetite.

Ginny xxx

One massive punch

WARNING: contains a very brief mention of eating disorders and abuse in childhood

Well. It’s kind of ironic given my post yesterday about uncertainty in relationships. At least the uncertainty in the particular relationship I had in mind at the end of the post has been cleared up. Cleared up with one massive blow. I’ve rarely felt more hurt and betrayed and rejected though I’m not sure quite why the impact has been so consuming.

I have tried to talk with my friend about what has happened in our relationship over the past months / couple of years and some of how I’ve been feeling.

After a line of further rejections from her, her not hearing when I tried to be honest and explain some most painful things, her not believing as far as I can see, what I experience and what has happened to me in the past – today she told me I have no reason to feel upset or hurt or angry, that I have no right to feel as I do, that because I have a feeling does not mean it is right, that I am to come before God and see if I have any moral right to feel as I do because I don’t, I am to push it down and rise above it.

I was filled with a massive surge of anger and raw hurt. It has not stemmed any in the hours since.

Coupled with her rejection of me and her disbelief or at least dismissal and ignoring of severely traumatic things that have happened to me in my childhood and right now, it was an immensely hurtful judgement of me. And how strange she thinks that she has the power to decide what feelings I am morally allowed to experience and what is real and what is not.

The terrors associated with feelings I thought were sinful, feelings I was not allowed, feelings that were so dangerous, that I had to atone for and punish myself for, were together with my terror of my ultimate evil, the way that I got to life threatening anorexia and then bulimia, daily self harm, overdosing and attempting to end my life. These feelings kept me submissive and within my abuser’s control. The feelings my friend’s judgement of my experience, my feelings, their and my morality, where I stand with God, the truth and validity of what has happened to me, brought in me straight back there again. Straight away my impulse was to cut and make myself vomit. But something had happened to my legs and I was shaking too much to do anything and perhaps that was blessed protection. I just cried.

It hurts worse because this came from one of the very few people I trusted. Someone I shared things with. Someone who brought me to the church and whose child is my godson. Thank the dear Lord I did not share with her the very worst of the abuse I suffered. If I had I don’t think I’d cope in any way now. I already feel violated again. Tricked, ripped apart, judged, rejected, punished, blamed.

As well as the hurt that’s making me go to pieces, I wanted to scream – feelings are not a sin. I have many reasons to feel very hurt, angry, scared… Feelings are not moral or immoral. Who is she to judge what I have a moral right to feel? I have a massive amount of pain and hurt and yes sometimes anger about the abuse. That is normal. Yes, when I’m not believed, dismissed and rejected and abandoned when I’m most desperate, that cuts a little deeper every time and yes emotionally I end up right back where I was in the terror of the abuse. This is not a sin or something I have to crush. I am not a sugar plaster “saint” too “holy” to have any feeling but happiness and superficial love, floating on some supernatural plane disconnected from every real feeling. That’s what she wants. I am not that figure. I am bleeding.

She was the last person left, outside this blog and community and apart from my therapist, with whom I had the depth of trust I thought I did. Perhaps it’s as well it’s gone. I will be very very careful indeed in the future (even more than I already am) about what closeness I allow to develop.

But the hurt is consuming. I am falling into pieces. Shattering. I haven’t gone home yet as I was scared what I’d do and of being alone. But I’m exhausted now and I have to go home. I’ll stay safe somehow. If I can’t I’ll have to go to A&E. I tried to get to the safe place I’ve been to before but they are full tonight.

Ginny xxx

A closing drawbridge and a silent cry: too much; too big

 

A closing drawbridge and a silent cry

Eating disorders and personality disorder

My body becoming too much

WARNING: this post contains potentially triggering content on the topic of eating disorders, weight, body image and emotions. Please proceed with caution. Please note that in this post I express my distressed thoughts about my body and the relationship between my body, needs, emotions and relationships. I’m aware that a lot of these thoughts are part of my personality disorder and historic eating disorders. I am not advocating or encouraging these perceptions and feelings but describing what the process of trying to live with my body and face emotions is like. I think the stage of therapy I’m going through is bringing a lot of this distress to the surface. 

My body is changing. It’s out of my control (or so it feels, though the angry punishing eating disordered voice in my head says it’s me that’s out of control – disgusting fat b*tch – and my own disgusting failure).

I have gained so much weight in the past 2 years. I have tried hard in the last few weeks to lose and done all the things that used to be my trusted go-to solutions, with the exception of using illicit medications. I have failed and no matter that I succeeded in restriction, my weight has hardly dropped. If anything, now I feel more out of control. Sometimes I wonder if any of it is to do with being in my 30s now (quarter aged spread instead of middle aged spread?!) and my mobility being poorer with so much physical pain just now.  But that does nothing to justify the gain or calm me. Many people taking the medications I take report weight gain as a side effect even when restricting.  I think it increases my appetite but I know so does my need for comfort and my lonely emptiness and my…feeling. Feeling that’s dangerous and unchecked and explosive.

Anorexia meant I was never alone. I was cold and numb and empty and hurting, but needs and unbearable feeling stayed where they belonged and I dissociated, living somewhere whiter, higher, safer, always with the twisted pleasure of bitter success in my spiral to greater protection and greater weakness. Anorexia was my companion, that reassured me all would be well if I did not deviate from this path,  spurring me on with wild energy to control and deprive and make dangerous need and demands unreachable. Soon enough I would detach and dissociate totally then maybe disappear.

Anorexia left me. Abandoned me. I failed yet again. Just like my friends, even my family, my protector and guide left me. Found out I was a vile disgusting greedy failure, undeserving of that whiter place. Anorexia too abandoned me, and sped away to a place I can no longer reach, now that it is proved yet again that really the evil inside consumes and demands and if anyone else thinks differently, it’s only that I’ve tricked them into staying and caring. They’ll leave soon, when they find out.

I could take it if it were only for my protection that I needed my friend anorexia. But the thing is, it was to protect everyone else, first and foremost, from the danger and “too much” “too big”that I am. Without my friend I hurt beyond control and I hurt others beyond control.

I look in the mirror and I’m frightened and recoil from what I see. I wish I could rip myself away from the “too much” in the presence that I see, hating every part of the space I occupy, the weight, the body that absolutely does not seem to fit together right and screams too much, too much. I cannot escape. I cannot get rid of this body and these needs. I cannot stop what it contains, the out of control, the demanding, aching. … alone without my friend to starve and cut and numb and leave this place, I cannot stop the damage I will cause to everyone I so care for and so wish to save, protect and love.

Ginny xxx

Thank you, Daisy! The Liebster Award

Thank you, Daisy! The Liebster Award

I am extremely surprised and honoured to have been nominated by Daisy in the Willows for the Liebster blog award. This came as a wonderful surprise. Thank you so much, Daisy!!

Blogging is very new to me (I’ve been writing for around 6 months, I think). I was not sure what shape this blog would take. I don’t think I’m a particularly skilled writer but I do try to write honestly and not skip or hide the painful things because they are just as much a part of reality as the good things – of which there are many and writing this blog helps me to find them as well as keep going through the hardest times.

It’s my hope that we can encourage each other and build support and hope, sharing pain, joy, success, struggles, sickness, recovery, health, the extraordinary and the day to day.

There are 5 rules to the Liebster Award (I have found various versions on the internet. I sourced this version from Daisy’s page at https://daisywillows.wordpress.com/2016/01/22/5620/ )

1 Link back to your nominator

2 Let him or her know, by leaving a comment on their blog

3 Nominate 5 bloggers for the Award

4 Tell your nominees the rules, and invite them to do the above

5 Write 5 things about yourself that others may not know.

I am not quite sure whether I am meant to nominate only blogs with under a certain number of followers? When I looked up online, I found various suggestions such as that the award is for blogs with under 200 followers, however this is not consistent. I am afraid that I have ignored this part of the rules and simply nominated blogs that I find interesting, helpful, etc – I hope that nobody minds this too much.

I nominate the following for the Liebster Award:

Daisy in the Willows – https://daisywillows.wordpress.com I have not yet had the chance to read as much of your blog as I would like to have done. However, I’m eager to read more and I am very thankful for your caring, supportive, responsive comments and suggestions. I am very thankful that you reached out here to me.

Cathy Lynn Brooks https://cathylynnbrooks.wordpress.com – for telling a beautiful *story* full of love, respect and curiosity, and for posts that help us to be thankful for the hope in the every day.

a2eternity https://a2eternity.wordpress.com – for strikingly honest posts that do not hide or diminish the truth through a journey full of uncertainty, pain and change; for your amazing strength to keep fighting on through recovery.

Breaking Sarah https://breakingsarah.wordpress.com – for walking on through such a traumatic struggle to encourage me and others to keep on going one day more when it is so very hard. Again, I have to say that I have not yet had the chance yet to read your blog as much as you would like to. (That probably applies to everyone I have nominated here, to be honest! Which maybe shows all the more the value of what we share.)

Elsie’s Borderline Personality Journey https://elsiesjourney.wordpress.com – for sharing so honestly your fears and your path, building common ground and encouraging and understanding me so much. (And for reminding me when it’s hardest that “you don’t waste good” 😉 x)

Now for 5 things about me. This part is difficult! For all I write on here, when I’m tasked to say something about myself I find it very tricky! Kind of want to disappear sometimes 🙂 But here goes, though I’ve no idea how interesting these facts are.

1 – My dream job (disregarding all practicalities such as ability and finances!) would be to run my own coffee place with a retro theme. I’d organise small meetings and drop-ins there to bring together people who might be lonely in the local community, especially those suffering from poor (mental or physical) health.

2 – I love taking photos and making my own greetings cards.

3 – Sometimes I think I was born in the wrong era 🙂 hee hee… because I love 1950s / 60s retro and vintage styles.

4 – I’m thinking about getting a pet, possibly rehoming a rescue animal.

5 – I’m blessed to have 3 beautiful godchildren (2 girls and 1 boy, aged 2, 4 and 4). Though I often worry very much about being no good to them, they never fail to lift me up when I’m feeling shattered and numb inside and to remind me how as children, we live as though every moment is a gift.

Thank you again Daisy.

Ginny xxx

 

 

A closing drawbridge and a silent cry – Eating Disorders and Personality Disorder – #5

A closing drawbridge and a silent cry – Eating Disorders and Personality Disorder – #5

Protection in emptiness

Eating Disorders and Personality Disorder – #5

“You will never touch me”

[I am sorry I have not updated this series for a while!]

In my first period of anorexia, one of the greatest functions of my eating disorder was a kind of defiance and separation. Anorexia definitely changed my personality, or rather, it was often as if there was a separate personality, much stronger than my own, rising inside me and gaining strength as I got thinner. She was strong and defiant and could not be hurt. She could keep me away from everyone and every thing that hurt me.

I was about 15 by this time and had suffered at least 11 years of emotional, physical and sexual abuse and exploitation. The family unit of my mother, my father and I were increasingly isolated and cut off into my mother’s sick (in both senses of the word) world and anything that tried to penetrate it led to terrible consequences (her sickness, her threats to kill herself, her threats to abandon the family, her threats of breaking up the family or of me causing her and my father to die, be taken away and so on). Anything that posed a risk to the world of her twisted thinking, delusions and manipulation had to be invalidated or removed. Visitors weren’t allowed to come into the home. Any social contact had to be planned and rehearsed beforehand, carried out to Mother’s specifications, reported back to her, analysed against her pre-prepared script. The daily routine had to run exactly according to her needs. She had to be recognised as super-human, a genius that nobody could ever sufficiently understand, the victim of everyone’s cruelty and misunderstanding who was so gracious as to forgive everyone because she “loved” them so much. Appease, pacify, agree, conform….the disaster wouldn’t happen, maybe….

My eating disorder couldn’t appease, pacify, agree or conform. It couldn’t be manipulated or invalidated. My eating disorder could defy, protect, shield, consume, grow stronger, defend, refuse to succumb and refuse to be controlled or analysed by her and even refuse to recognise her at all.

I remember that eventually, as my weight dropped and dropped, even Mother started to worry I was too thin and getting weaker. She’d encouraged my eating disorder at first, requiring my weight loss and dieting and reminding me how ugly I really was. Eventually it snapped out of her control and I think it was the one thing that actually scared her.

One evening, she called me into her bedroom. She told me to get undressed and stand in front of the full-length mirror. She’d done this many times before in order to shame and humiliate me and to slowly and methodically point out all the bits of my body that were bad and “too plump” and “too much fat”. Usually it followed a ritual weighing and reporting of my weight to her, her disbelief and being forced to repeat weighing myself in front of her. Now I flatly refused to weigh myself in front of her, but delighted in doing it in my bedroom in secret (always in exactly the same place, lining the scales up with a particular pair of floorboards) and was satisfied with the thrill of seeing the pounds drop. But for some reason, this day, I did obey her to get undressed and stand in front of the mirror. This time, instead of pointing out the places I was too fat, she pointed out where it showed I was too thin. Even I was shocked when I was forced to look at where the normal shape of my behind had started to flatten and disappear at the base of my spine. She continued telling me I was too thin and how she was worried.

A thrill of power went through me. It was frightening but I had never felt power like that. No, I thought. No. This is my body. All mine and you will never touch me again. In total silence I walked away from the mirror, away from her, out of her bedroom back to mine and got dressed again. I resolved to lose as much more weight as I possibly could and get as sick as I could, because this meant she would never ever touch me again. I hated her at that moment. I don’t think I was thinking of the sexual invasions, specifically (and indeed a lot of them I didn’t even accept as invasions at that time), but of all the hold she had on me and all the hurt. She would never do it again.

I had an awareness, somewhere, that she was worried for me and she was upset, and that my father was too. At that time, the need for the protection and power of my anorexia was much greater. I had become quite a nasty person, disregarding the hurt I was causing people who loved me (my dad loved me, if my mother didn’t). Or the anorexia in me was quite a nasty personality and I was becoming that personality. The power of anorexia was stronger than my usual nature.

Of course, it didn’t really stop me getting hurt, and it hurt lots of other people in the process. Eventually, it was acknowledging my father’s fear of what was happening to me that started to bring me out of this first period of starvation. To this day, I am not quite sure what, at that time, made me acknowledge that and shifted the balance of power towards empathy and reason, and away from the protective force of anorexia.

Ginny xxx

A closing drawbridge and a silent cry – Eating Disorders and Personality Disorder – #4

 

Protection in emptiness

Eating Disorders and Personality Disorder

Chapter 4 – Frozen

So, this is the first chapter of several in which I want to explore some of the things my eating disorders “provided” to me as a way of coping.

Please note a lot of the thoughts in this post are from my eating disorder and my psychosis and BPD – they are not ways in which I’m advocating thinking and I’m not saying that starvation is a good thing even though it did have a purpose for me. I’m in therapy partly to find other ways to cope rather than turning to methods that hurt me.

Emotions are frightening. Feeling is frightening. Feeling with such intensity is deeply painful and more suffocating and gripping than I can stand. Needing is not allowed, greedy, out of control, dangerous. My body and my longing centre that wants all these things (love, comfort, that I am good enough, that I can be safe, understanding, a parent, security, home, someone there…) is despised and resented. Inside me is evil, bad and ugly and it might get out. I want and I hurt and I do harm, I’m a liar and a fraud and I punish and it all comes out when I don’t even know.

If i dont feel it’ll be alright. If I don’t feel then I can walk one day more. If only the pain of knowing everyone around me feels so much will go away. If I can stop hurting them. If I can get away, because I so need to get away and shut off and sleep. I need the thoughts and the voices to stop. I need out and away from the terrible things I can feel all the time, that hit me and grip me and tell me I’ve caused hurt yet again.

There’s one thing that stops it. Don’t eat. Go on. Just a little bit longer. Stick to the plan of what you’ll eat. Count the tiny crackers out. Slow as you can take the tiniest pieces. Stick to it all and you’ll be rewarded with wonderful emptiness. Even go longer than you planned before you eat, by the minute then the hour. .. and the emptiness will grow and the high will rush through your body leading and lifting you to a higher and whiter and emptier place.

Keep going. You can keep going now. The starvation opens the door to aclosed off, frozen place. It’s good there. The thoughts and the needing and wanting and feeling stop. All you need is empty and all you feel is cold and numb and closed away.

It’s your place alone. You’re alone and safe. The voices are silent for now and you needn’t engage with anything your body or heart demands because you’re separated from those disgusting needy screams. In your frozen place the pain has dimmed and everyone else is safe too because you’ve gone well away.

Starvation created that empty place, as though it carved it away in your mind and it’s a sure retreat for you alone. Stick to rules and emptiness and no temptation and you will stay safe there. However frozen cold it is there and however much you feel your energy slipping away and your heart pounding and your muscles weakening, it is too dangerous to leave it. The feeling and needing (yours and others’) and consuming demands are just too dangerous. The emptiness and starvation has carved out this safe place and consumes more and more of your mind, like a cave in rock that becomes bigger and bigger, empty but consuming its surroundings with the very emptiness, so that it becomes harder and harder to leave.

To recover you are drawn slowly from this place or something throws you out of it forcibly and it is taken from you.

However much I am thankful to be recovered from the terrible physical effects of anorexia and the destruction it caused to the lives of those who care for me, a big part of me still wishes that this frozen place hadn’t disappeared. In my recovery I consciously said goodbye to this place as I knew I had to leave it. I cried for it. It hurt me and my loved ones badly yet also it had protected me.

Now without my eating disorder the terror of all the feeling and consuming is around me and there isn’t any escape. And added to it is knowing that I “should” be fine,  better, out of danger. Out of physical danger, yes, but ironically into pain beyond what I know how to stand, although I also know how very weak I am not to be able to stand what others deal with day to day, and that adds still more to guilt and longing for escape.

Perhaps my therapy will show me how to walk through these out of control feelings and how to continue when there is no escape and no freezing out.

Ginny xx

 

 

A closing drawbridge and a silent cry – Eating Disorders and Personality Disorder – #3

A closing drawbridge and a silent cry – Eating Disorders and Personality Disorder – #3

Protection in emptiness

Eating Disorders and Personality Disorder

Chapter 3 – My History, 2 of 2 : 16+ years – adulthood

From the summer I turned 16 I started slowly and painfully to gain weight. It was frightening and felt out of control but at the same time it was about the one time I was cared for by my mother.

Even so it was tightly controlled by her. If I couldn’t keep to my lowest, most broken weight, I did want to please her by the way I gained weight back. Sounds weird, I know.

But it wasn’t long before she flipped again into her hatred of me. As I was “recovering”, she made my emotions – rising rapidly to greater extremes as I lost the perceived safety of the anorexia – all unacceptable and to be dismissed because, she said, it was all because of the eating disorder. I had to realise what I was putting the family through and how impossible I was to be around.

Then as I continued to gain, the “fat” talk returned. Now she even claimed that my father agreed with her. “You’ve got too much fat on you.” “Daddy was saying last night how he is very worried about the amount of fat you’ve got on you.” “You need to eat fewer carbohydrates and stick to protein. You’re getting far too much fat.” I know now that this was when I had only by a few pounds left the anorexic weight range, to enter the underweight range.

My weight was still going up. I was eating now but knew I was out of control. I tried to stick to what I thought was healthy eating during the day, but at night it was as if the compulsion to eat took over. I couldn’t stop. After dinner when I was doing my homework I’d go back and forth to the kitchen. Even though my parents could see, I couldn’t stop. It was as if something was inside me demanding more and more to eat and it was never enough. I longed for the control of anorexia to be back. But somehow I’d lost it. I was utterly repulsed and disgusted at myself that I could not stop eating. I longed to go back to starving but where had the energy to do it disappeared to?

If I didn’t eat, I couldn’t concentrate on my work. And I was driven to do the very best I could at my schoolwork. It was what my mother needed. Perhaps I was terrified she’d accuse me of “pretending” again and punishing her if I did not do excellently. Her grandiose beliefs about my intelligence increased about this time and she thought I was a “genius” and that “nobody could cope with my intelligence”. I longed just to be normal. Not to have to achieve amazing things and with no superb powers. I knew the grandiose things she said were not real but it frightened me a lot.

Equally she continued to pressure me to diet, to eat only salad during the day, she’d look at me hard and tell me how ugly I was, she’d watch me with a look of utter scorn whilst I was eating, she did not allow me to buy any clothes apart from my school uniform and anything I had needed to cover up how fat I was… she’d tell other people how fat I was… if anyone said anything complimentary to me in her hearing, she’d tell me afterwards how it was very nice of them to say it but I had to remember that they were only saying it to be kind or because they were worried that I might get an eating disorder again, and I must be clear that really I was very fat.

Throughout sixth form, my weight increased, and by the time I began university I was objectively fat. I was binge-eating in secret by this time and furious with myself for it. All the while I was longing for anorexia again but saw myself as a complete fraud and disgusting pig. Why couldn’t I just stop eating again? Every day I’d promise I wouldn’t eat but I’d get through a few hours, then binge.

In the spring term of my first year, my relationship with my mother was breaking down completely and I felt I was drowning in a feeling of emptiness, sadness and I was going through a religious struggle as well, believing in God but terrified of Him as well. Physically I was exhausted and following glandular fever was ill with ME and fibromyalgia which were not yet diagnosed.

Somehow, the pain enabled me to stop eating again. Over a couple of weeks, I reduced what I was eating very fast. I stopped eating solid food and survived on slimline Cuppa-Soups and diet hot chocolate. For 8 weeks, this was all that I consumed. I lost a substantial amount of weight. My friends concerns and discovery of my “eating” patterns led me to start eating again out of guilt that I was hurting them. But I continued to restrict and was sure never to go over 1000 kcal per day.

The next year or so continued like this. My ability to restrict food was still not as strong as I wanted and I lapsed into bingeing. Now I had discovered purging as well. I am not sure how. I started to take laxatives after binges, or try to go running (which I couldn’t because of the post-viral exhaustion). I would overdose daily on laxatives and not care that they made me too ill to do my coursework.

Still I was utterly repulsed by my body. It represented everything foul and uncontrolled I believed was in me.

When I worked in a department store over the summer between my second and final years at university, the physical activity helped me lose weight and some of the anorexic mindset returned. I reduced and reduced my food during my final year and my weight plummeted again. I had stopped the laxatives because they made me too sick to go to my classes and do my work, but if I did binge I would make myself vomit afterwards. Soon it became a compulsion to do it if I ate any more than salad. Doing it until I could tell myself I was sure I had got rid of everything and punished myself enough (ie until I saw bile and blood and could no longer stand up by myself) was “safe” I thought, and I was addicted to the pain and emptiness and the “high” that came afterwards.

Although my weight didn’t drop quite as low this time as it had when I was 15 or 16, mentally I was even further into the clutches of the disorder. It was the best way I knew to punish and weaken myself. I think I did realise I looked ill and realised that I was too thin. Nevertheless, eating, consuming, meant that I was disgusting and I was terrified that I would go out of all control. I did fear fat but even more I feared everything it meant to me and feared not hurting myself.

Around this time, just after I finished university, I was received into the Catholic Church. I was learning not to fear my God and perhaps on some level to understand that he did not think that I was dangerous and that my relationship with Him did not mean punishing myself enough for the badness I thought was in me, before I came to Him. The “God” I had invented in my head during my childhood (before I understood anything of the Christian faith or any more than snippets of the Gospels) was very much a judging, watching, God and to whom I had to atone for all the bad things that I had done.

Shortly after this, I started to want to recover. I was still disgusted at myself but on some level I did want to get to be “normal” and to not be dominated by the disorder. I started eating again. I was very ill physically with ME and a back problem and could not walk without crutches. As my weight went up I got scared again and, without a job at this time, I turned back to the laxatives and overdosed worse than before.

It is hard to really understand or remember quite how I got out of this stage. Perhaps the ability to restrict slipped away again. Perhaps in my struggle to eat normally I did start to win a bit. Perhaps as I got further from the extreme starvation state, my body did not have the drive to binge-eat as much food as possible whilst food appeared to be available, and my control of my appetite returned. Perhaps I just got better at resisting the hunger when I felt the urge to binge (or at replacing food with coffee!). A doctor once told me that most people who recover from anorexia go on to develop binge-eating disorder, because of the physiological and psychological effects of such starvation and being so underweight.

By my mid-20s, I was not underweight and by all external appearances, was recovered. I have to admit that I had taken steps out of the “safety” of anorexia or the temporary “comfort” of bingeing, to more normal, regular eating and an acceptable weight.

The problem was what this left me with. What I discovered lay beneath, which I could no longer conceal and suppress. When these things are too terrible, punishing myself with food / no food, with the distress of purging, is still a compulsion that I have to fight – and give in to at times. An extra struggle at the moment is that I take several medications which slow the metabolism and cause weight gain, and that physical disabilities prevent me from any exercise but walking. Poor finances also mean that I cannot eat as healthy food as I would like and the cheaper options are often higher calorie density. My weight feeling out of control is highly distressing because inside, wishing to be small and tiny is still very much there. That’s the safe thing but it’s now a safe thing I can’t seem to reach to.

I am very thankful that I have recovered to the point I have and I realise the terrible health consequences of staying at a starvation weight or purging regularly. I know the upset it causes to people who care (no matter how much I should wish to be invisible or wish nobody would be hurt but me!). I don’t want to do this to anyone. I know the physical effects prevented me from working (vomiting and stomach upsets from overdoses, heart palpitations, collapsing, debilitating weakness, cramps, regularly catching viruses and infections, poor concentration and memory, and so on) and it would be irresponsible to do something that meant I could not work. I don’t want to be anorexic again but in the dark times, I do in some way think that I wish I could go back there, at least to the place in my head that it opened.

In my following Chapters I’m going to try to describe what that place was, what terrible things I had to admit did lie beneath, and what the eating disorder meant in my life.

Again, I am sorry that this Chapter is not very well written. There is a lot that I am not sure how to explain and the memories are emotive. I’ve also tried not to go too far into my thought processes at this stage because I wanted to give an overview of my eating disorder history here, then in the next Chapters I will go on to say more about the reasons I didn’t eat, purged or binged.

A closing drawbridge and a silent cry – Eating Disorders and Personality Disorder – #2

A closing drawbridge and a silent cry – Eating Disorders and Personality Disorder – #2

Protection in emptiness

Eating Disorders and Personality Disorder

Chapter 2 – My History, 1 of 2 : ages 3 – 16

In this chapter, I’m going to tell you a bit about the history of my own eating difficulties, as an overview. I am not going to go into detail of my feelings and the reasons I started to restrict or overeat at each stage, as I will go on to that in subsequent chapters.

I have done my best not to go into any detailed description of the techniques I used to eat less or conceal how little I was eating and so on, as I understand that this can be triggering for people who are unwell with eating difficulties.

It has proved much more difficult to write this “history” than I anticipated. I think what lies behind each of the periods of my life is more raw than I had admitted to myself.

Although I probably did not meet clinical criteria for an eating disorder until I was about 15, my relationship with food and my body was distorted throughout my life from preschool age.

I first knew I was “fat” when I was 3 years old. I remember vividly sitting on the stairs. It was shortly after Easter. On Easter Sunday I had been given a chocolate Easter egg with my name iced on it, and some other chocolate treats. As a typical child, I guess, I delighted in the egg. I shared it with my Nana and my parents but probably not very generously! (Typically, again, for a 3 year old.) I remember that on that Easter Sunday, I was praised for sharing. But then that day on the stairs (I don’t know how long after Easter), my mother was calling me “greedy” and shouting at me for how I had stuffed my face with chocolate and everyone else just had a crumb. I remember so clearly and it hurts even now. I remember knowing I was greedy and bad, and FAT. How exactly I knew to make that link, I am not sure, but I knew it meant FAT, and BIG, and that was bad. Perhaps I had already absorbed some of my mother’s preoccupation with food and body size.

My mother began weighing me in secret around this time, and keeping the fact hidden from my dad. (My dad recalls this and has told me about it. I myself recalled it from when I was a little older, maybe 5 years old.) When my dad found out what she was doing, he told her to stop, and she agreed, but actually continued with increased frequency and forbade me to tell my dad.

From the age of around 6, she would regularly tell me that I looked “too plump” and would send me to weigh myself and report back to her my weight. She would not believe the figure I told her and would then have me get the scales, bring them to her bedroom or the upstairs landing and weigh myself in front of her. Then she would stand me, often undressed, in front of the long mirror in her bedroom and point out the bits of my body that were too plump and too fat. Then I had to go on a diet until she considered I had lost enough weight. She did not want my father to know so I still ate the main course of the evening meal, but the diet meant no snacks or biscuits (most of the range of sweets and chocolates children ate were banned in any case) and something like lettuce and rice crackers or a small amount of plain pasta for lunch. Not the most extreme by any means, but I didn’t like it. When I got older, it meant exercise in the living room as well, sometimes with exercise videos and tapes.

I did dance classes from the age of 3 or 4; two or three classes twice or three times a week. This was about the only contact I had with other children and the outside world (my mother taught me at home until secondary school age and almost completely restricted any contact with friends or wider family members). In my classes, I knew that I was bigger than the other girls. I think partly I actually was rather a fat child and partly I was very tall for my age and so of a larger build than the other girls. In any case, candy pink leotards and tights or white ankle socks were not the most flattering outfit, to say the least!

I wanted to be little, thin and tiny. I wanted to be the smallest, not the biggest. From as soon as I could start to read (which was early, around 5 or 6 years old), I would go through my mother’s Prima magazines whilst she was asleep (there was a big stack of back issues beside her bedroom mirror).  I’d look at the pictures of the women there and, as I got older, read the diet features where you were supposed to live on grapes, yoghurt and hard boiled eggs. I remember in particular, one picture of a woman in a sparkly red dress. This was the late 80s when the extremely thin, emaciated look of models was popular, perhaps even more than it is today. I had pretty much uncensored access to these magazines whilst my mother slept. (My dad would go to work but my mother frequently would not get up until a good 2 – 3 hours or more later, during which time I’d play by myself or read books and magazines that I could find lying around.)

My mother, meanwhile, was very concerned with her own weight. She was convinced that she was fat (she was not). Her morning toiletry and beauty routine took an incredibly long time. She would spend a long time on extremely precise application of a lot of make up, then in front of the mirror looking at her body. One of her delusions with her schizophrenia was that she was being bitten by insects or that there was poison under her skin, which she would try to scratch out in front of the mirror. Her eating patterns were very irregular. She would eat nothing at all during the day and instead smoke a vast amount and drink coffee and later, wine. She would then eat an evening meal (except during the terrible arguments, when she might not even eat this). I thought that was how grown up women ate and waited for it to happen to me that I didn’t want to eat any more during the day. I didn’t have enough contact with anyone other than my mother to know that this wasn’t normal. I thought something was wrong with me that I still ate breakfast and lunch.

Food was also a big focus of my mother’s ill thoughts and actions. Arguments often started during the evening meal. If the argument (her shouting, crying, threatening and so on) had already gone on all the day until she suddenly went away to bed, it would resume over dinner on my father’s return from work. When I was older and had been out to school during the day or, rarely, elsewhere, dinner was the time for her cross-examinations about what I had done, what marks I had got, who I had seen, what conversations I had had, what I had said and what the other person had said, usually followed by a rehearsal of why that was not good enough and exactly what I had to say the next time and what the  other person would say in response.

During dinner she would watch me intently, observing in minute detail how I held cutlery and crockery, commenting and criticising and even accusing me that particular mannerisms or movements were done to punish her or because I was “pretending to be a little girl” and knew it would upset her. My father and I had to give effusive praise of every part of the meal if she had cooked it. She had a rotation of elaborate dishes. Not liking something was not acceptable. Other times she would completely stop cooking at all for months on end. The food had to be set out in dishes in a particular arrangement on the dinner table. She would eat with particular precisely repetitive actions that on top of everything else, just raised the tension to absolute boiling point. If she was eating yoghurt from a bowl (it had to be decanted into a bowl, never eaten from the pot), she would circle her spoon twice clockwise and twice anti-clockwise round the bowl, then tap it three times on the top of the bowl, before taking each mouthful. As a result, she ate incredibly slowly. My father and I had to sit still until she had finished. (Even writing this my anger is boiling!) If she was angry, or going to accuse me of punishing her in some way, her actions became more elaborate and pantomime-like. It was frightening and the spring that lived in my stomach around those years coiled tighter and tighter waiting for the explosion that came no matter what I did, anyway.

By the time I went to secondary school aged 11, having been taught at home by my mother from 4 – 11 years old, I was probably a completely average weight. I was still tall although not quite as extremely so as when I was younger. I was not particularly slim but I was not fat either.

At school, able to choose what I wanted for lunch and with some spending money for break time, suddenly I was away from my mother’s intense scrutiny of my food intake. She would always watch me extremely intently if she was sitting with me when I ate. At dinner time I hated the feeling of her intense gaze. It was strange. In other ways she almost ignored my food – for example, I got my own breakfast (unless my dad did before he went to work) and lunch from the age of around 6 years old. After her hospital admissions started I often cooked all or part of the family evening meal, when I was around 8 years old. But when she was present, she watched intently, worrying and judging and controlling.

So with this new-found freedom at school, I wanted to try all the foods my friends were eating which I had not been allowed. I wanted to eat sweets when they had them. I was hungry with the busy school schedule. The result was I did definitely have too much candy and sweet food in my diet. I ate it in secret from her, fearful of what her reaction would be.

Unfortunately, when I was around 12, my physical health problems started, first from an ankle injury and then a serious knee injury, following which I was on crutches for a long time. I have a mild form of joint hypermobility which did not help.

Not able to continue my dance classes or to join in sports or move around so much whilst I was on crutches, my weight started to go up. I yo yo’ed for a while, restricting severely when I was on a diet (drinking only fizzy drinks during the day at school and eating nothing) and at other times eating far too much sweet food. My physical health problems did not really get any better from this age and I was in constant pain in my legs and back (apart from a brief period when I was about 14).

By this stage, my mother was going into hospital with increasing frequency. When she was at home, she seemed the more angry with me. I was starting to challenge more her world that was wrapped up in the schizophrenia and closed in at home, I guess. She became angrier with me for my weight. The weighing had become less frequent but she would still call me to stand in front of the mirror and undress for her to show me what was wrong with my body. I was plenty old enough now that I did not want to do this in front of her.

Nevertheless, I did want to lose weight. I still wanted to be the thinnest, the smallest, the youngest. Over the summer I was 14, turning 15, I started to diet in earnest and this was probably the start of the longest period I had yet spent on a diet. I also started cycling into the next town, swimming, then cycling home. I had gone from being fairly inactive to doing a lot of activity. My stamina had increased and I pushed and pushed myself. I would swim 30 – 50 lengths of the 50 metre pool and cycle 5 miles there an back. Though I hated my body at this time, looking back I can see I was strong and fit for perhaps the first time. All I saw was fat, and my mother ensured that it stayed that way and commented constantly on my food combinations and portion sizes and if I went down a clothes size, would say it was ridiculous and I could not be that size, the clothes were sized wrong and I was much bigger. Nevertheless I enjoyed my swimming and cycling. It gave me some freedom to get away from my mother and out of the tiny village where I grew up. I was free of her whilst I was cycling and swimming and it was something she couldn’t take over.

When I went back to school that autumn, I was pleased with the comments on my weight loss. I continued to further restrict my food intake and fill up on fizzy drinks. I would skip breakfast, hiding it from my dad, and eat only vegetables sometimes with a tiny bit of potato or pasta at lunch time. I was in a musical production with my school, which I also loved (plus more time staying at school for rehearsals equalled more time escaping my mother). I was losing weight very rapidly now and by the time the performance came, the costumes that had been ordered to fit to me a few weeks earlier were hanging loose and had to be pinned in. I collapsed from exhaustion on one day and was so very cold and could not get warm. Although nobody appeared to notice at the time, and I certainly did not acknowledge it, I was probably entering the underweight range at this point.

I then took my dieting further and further and could not stop. My memory of this time is really not at all clear so it is hard to write about. People started to express concern – teachers and even other children at my school who normally hardly paid me any attention at all. I hated the concern and attention and was angry inside. I didn’t want anyone to notice me. I didn’t want anyone to stop me. I was fine. They should leave me alone, I thought. Nothing was wrong and what right did they have to try to reach me. They didn’t understand.

I kept on going swimming in this time, but my energy was now wearing out fast and the distances that I could swim were reducing. It was as if a switch flicked. For weeks I was able to push myself on, swimming 50 or 60 lengths of the pool despite being underweight, determined to go further and further and wishing I could keep going forever. That was safe and everything else stopped. But then within a couple of days, the power had entirely gone. I was so, so cold in the water. It was hard to move. I was being dragged down and it was so so very cold. Everything was pain and not being able to breathe. Even getting changed and getting into the pool took longer and longer and I could see the teachers watching me now. Suddenly it wasn’t where everything stopped anymore – I was being watched there too. I can still remember the last day I went swimming and the cold I felt then somehow seemed to get right inside me and I could not warm up and the feeling did not leave me for years.

I was still dropping weight and by now experiencing physical effects. Downy hair grew over my arms. I was shattered all the time. I caught a cold and cough that I could not shake and would cough over and over in the mornings waking up. It hurt. My skin cracked and split and didn’t heal. I was freezing cold and even basic things like washing and changing became painful because I could not bear taking my clothes off – partly from hatred of my body but a big part of it was the intense cold. I bruised easily. I injured my toes in a fall and the bruising did not clear up for months. I started losing bladder control, often barely making it to the toilet in time. Moving anywhere was such an immense effort and I walked more and more slowly.

Somehow this did not stop me or shock me. I brushed everything off. Nothing mattered because it was all obscured by the need to become smaller and disappear and shrink. The drive not to eat was overpowering. It was a desperate, driven, angry need.

My parents were late to express their concerns. I had done quite a good job of hiding from them what was actually going on and how much food I wasn’t eating. The illness made me nasty and devious. I did not tend to wear revealing clothes anyway and wearing more and more layers against the cold hid how thin I was.

When they did express concern I was furious. It was probably the one occasion on which they both, eventually, when I was severely anorexic, expressed unified concern for me. This stunned me. I hated inside that I was hurting and worrying them. Yet, starvation was stronger.

It was my dad who got me to admit to having a problem with my weight. He spoke to me one morning before my mother had got up and there was something in the distress in his eyes that finally shocked and scared me. I admitted that morning that I had a problem. I was 15 years old.

There were still many months before I actually began to regain the weight. During this time I suffered a serious back injury from which I still have disc damage. I was painfully helpless and I think this made me start to hate the disorder. I was walking with crutches and could not get up from a chair or out of the bath without help. The starvation which had previously protected me now threw me into far more intimate dependency on my mother than I could stand.

Nevertheless, I received very little medical input or help. My memory around this time is again very very poor. It was a really distressing time and I can remember arguments I could not cope with and immense sadness and fear and anger. I know now I was causing my parents a massive amount of hurt and pain and I feel terrible guilt for this.

My mother, in her illness, was adamant that I should not have help from the GP or specialists. My GP wanted me to attend a centre nearby for children and teenagers with eating disorders and to go to therapy and group sessions there. My mother did not want me to have this. She told me what to say to the doctor and what to hide so that I would not be sent to this centre. As she had done with the threats of her, my dad or I being sent away when I was younger, she made the idea that I might be sent away to a hospital into a terrifying thing that would destroy her and mean I was sent away from the family permanently.  She coached and rehearsed me on exactly what to say. She said that she had to be in complete control of my food.

For some reason, her power over me was so great that I went along with what she wanted me to say. For some reason, the doctor believed it. For some reason, my father did not know what was really going on.

So I didn’t get the referral. I didn’t see any specialist. I saw the GP for monitoring a few times, where I’d be weighed and spout the rehearsed sentences that would make it clear that I did not need any help and supposedly was completely in control.

What realised a few years ago, when I was working in an eating disorder service, is that at this time at the age of 15, my BMI was about 13 (I will not share my weight as I know that this may be sensitive and triggering to anyone in the midst of struggling with anorexia). I had Anorexia Nervosa so severe as to be considered life threatening.

When I realised just how unwell I was when my mother had done all she could to prevent me from getting help, my view of her started to change. I believe now that she prevented me from getting help from a specialist because she knew that if I was seen by a psychiatrist, the abuse she was subjecting my dad and I to might be discovered.

A physiotherapist I was seeing for my back injury realised exactly what was going on, I think. My mother hated her. The physiotherapist urged me to try to get more help. I was too much wrapped in my mother’s constructed world to understand what was happening to me. I could not speak outside of what she had told me to say and pretend was true.

I started to gain weight and I could walk again, but just as she said, she got complete control of me again.

This is the first time I have written about this period in my life. It is very very hard and it feels incredibly shameful. I am not ashamed of having had an eating disorder and/or still having eating difficulties. I don’t know exactly what it is. Somehow telling the story seems scary, unreal and I think part of the problem is knowing it won’t just be hidden inside anymore now that I’ve written it.  It hurts much more than I thought it would. However, I think it needs to be said. It’s almost as if the purpose the starvation served is lessened as I tell it. That probably doesn’t make sense right now but in my later chapters I hope it will.