Relapse

If I was to weigh my sense of humour, I’m pretty certain that some of it will have slipped away; that the scale will weigh lighter than before. The eating disorder is back at full strength. I am relapsing and I cannot even be sure if I care. Or at least I don’t want to care.

But I do….

I don’t want to spend my time weighing cherry tomatoes.

I want to achieve something more worthwhile than laxative induced piles.

I want to eat a pea knowing that I will never see it again, hell I want to eat a whole portion of peas knowing I will never see them again.

I know zombie films are in but I want to look less like I died and accidentally carried on.

I want to be able to talk without fearing I am wafting sick fumes up peoples nostrils like smoke signals.

I want my smile back.

I want my smile back knowing that it isn’t being slowly erased by stomach acid and diet coke.

I want my sense of humour back.

I want to eat.

I want to live.

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Relapse

Food for thought

Sometimes when I am sad I squirt barbecue sauce straight into my mouth. I don’t know what I expect this to achieve but it seems to be my default position. Barbecue sauce and the boiler cupboard. One or the other. Or heck, if things are really bad then I might even simultaneously seal myself in the boiler cupboard and feverishly consume barbecue sauce in the darkness. Multitasking at its finest.

When I think about it I am not sure I even like barbecue sauce.

But I don’t think about that at the time.

I’m pretty sure not thinking is exactly the point.

A long, long time ago in the days where I believed a Penguin was just a chocolate biscuit, 7 year old me discovered an ability which does not appear to have left me to this day. The ability to discreetly ingest an abnormally large amount of food and dispose of the wrappers down the side of the sofa or push them firmly into the soil of an unsuspecting flower pot.

Not that I do that these days. Abnormally large amount of food; yes. Wrappers buried beneath my cactus; no. And this isn’t just because I don’t own a cactus.

What I mean is that one thing stays the same. The secrecy. The shame. The “I appear to have eaten all of the edible items in my house” moment.

The word ‘binge’ is tinged with the taste of guilt. It is the sort of word which I find hard not to whisper. The sort of word that brings with it loud and difficult questions.

Where has all the cheese gone? Don’t you realise I have other children to feed? Why is there a collection of Penguin wrappers gathered under my chrysanthemum?

I shy away from the years I have spent eating away the emotions I just can’t deal with. I hide them out of sight.

Over the last 10 years I have fitted myself neatly into more of the ‘categories’ of weight and eating disorder diagnoses than I care to admit. I have moved between them. Backwards and forwards. Over and over.

Binge eating. That’s where I rest now. A potent and private world of self-disgust and hatred. Feelings which I felt I could ‘solve’ if only I could stop. I stopped. I starved myself instead. It didn’t go.

After years of different eating disorders, different labels and different words; each attempting to describe the chain which links food and emotion in my mind, I have decided that that they aren’t so different after all. You feed yourself too little- you aren’t looking after yourself. You feed yourself too much- you aren’t looking after yourself. So why do we beat ourselves up? If you ask me regularly and silently filling yourself up with food to the point that your stomach feels like it’s going to burst, to the point that you want to cry or to the point that you don’t even taste the food you are eating; that isn’t something to give yourself a hard time over.

Each time when I find myself in the boiler cupboard with only a newly empty bottle of barbecue sauce for company, there is very little else to do other than say out loud “default position” and have a laugh at myself. I stand up brush myself down and wander into the bathroom and run myself a warm bath. Sometimes I binge. That’s OK. It has to be because I’m not ready to stop. Beating myself up more isn’t going to help. I’ve done that enough already….

After all, I’m not even sure I like barbecue sauce.

Food for thought

A puzzle induced epiphany

Puzzle induced epiphanies aren’t an everyday occurrence in my life but today, sitting on the floor putting a particularly difficult puzzle together I had one. Or rather I had two. The first was along the lines of “I could be outside enjoying the sun but instead I am spending my Sunday slotting oddly shaped pieces of a pig picture back together. I should go outside.” The second was slightly more helpful and marginally more profound.

Stay with me on this….. A puzzle is kind of like recovery.

There was a point in my life when I didn’t know who I was. I was defined my eating disorder. I wanted people to see it rather than me. I wanted to hide behind it because underneath my calm exterior and my togetherness I didn’t want to face the fact that I was falling apart. That in fact I had no idea who I was or what I wanted from life. That I was tired of getting hurt and it was easier to hide. That things that that had happened in my life and the chaos of my eating disorder had left me feeling a bit like a scrambled egg…..Or a box of puzzle pieces.

I’m not saying that underneath my eating disorder I’m a dismantled portrait of a pig but instead that….

  1. I have no idea if all the pieces are there.

I broke the golden rule of Puzzling (Yes there are golden rules). Never buy a puzzle from a charity shop. You will get towards the end and realise that a face is missing an eye, a flower is missing a petal or a landscape is missing an.…erm….bit of landscape. When you set out finding out who you are without your illness you just have to trust that if you keep going then you will start to emerge. Trusting that isn’t easy, especially when….

               2.  You have no instructions.

Nobody can tell you what you will be like. You aren’t going to be the person that you were before you got ill. You learn so much about yourself; deep stuff (I am passionate about people having a voice, I want to use my experiences to help other people and I never give up no matter how bad things get) and not so deep stuff (I love standing on my sofa dancing to Chumbawumba- Tubthumping.) There are so many things to gain in recovery but you also have to face that…..

               3.  Some bits don’t fit

I like a challenge and, in a moment of madness (among many) I thought it was a good idea to get a puzzle which had some extra pieces which look like they should fit but just don’t. Much like this, there are things in my life which I wanted so desperately to keep hold of but they just don’t fit with who I am anymore. A close friend of mine just couldn’t accept that I was getting better. We had bonded at a time when things were really hard for both of us and neither of us wanted to accept that we were drifting apart. No matter how hard, sometimes you have to let go of things rather than mashing them in where they don’t belong. Which brings me nicely onto my next point which is….

                4. I’ve lost pieces

Years after began a Snoopy puzzle (You are getting the wrong impression of me, just to set the record straight, I’m not actually an avid puzzler!) I found a piece inside a sock. Who knows how it got there or if I had worn this sock since, what I am trying to say is that things get lost along the way. One of the hardest things that I have lost during my illness and subsequent imperfect recovery is pieces of my teeth. Chunks washed away by stomach acid. Sometimes it makes me sad when I see myself smile and I think about how much this illness has changed me and how much of my life it has taken away. But I use that to keep myself fighting. I don’t want to lose any more than I have to which means that….

                5. As Dory would say “Just keep puzzling (or swimming if you prefer)”

Never give up no matter how bad things seem. The next piece is just waiting to slot in place.

So there you have it. Some of many the many reasons why recovery is like a puzzle. I am sure there are plenty of reasons why recovery is not like a puzzle as well but I think I may have taken the puzzle analogy slightly too far already! Time to stop methinks.

Keep fighting,

Madasanegg xx

A puzzle induced epiphany

How am I ever going to get better?

Recovery from my eating disorder is like a spiral. Sometimes I feel like I’m getting somewhere only to arrive in the same place. The same supermarket for copious amounts of ice cream, followed by the same toilet bowl for copious amounts of vomiting, followed by the same copious amounts of wondering  ‘How am I ever going to get better?’.

After nearly 10 years of asking myself the same question I stumbled upon the answer and in the place where all the best answers are found; an unexpected place.

My unexpected place was in half of an apricot. I can remember the apricot clearly. The way it glistened, the way it lent against the side of the bowl, casually laying in a bath of syrup. I remember it clearly but even more clearly I can remember the other two half apricots relaxing beside it. Clearer still I remember the sudden and all-consuming fear that a ‘third apricot’ had made its way into my bowl threatening to overturn the very foundations upon which I built my morning ; two halves of an apricot. No more. No less. Definitely not three.

I would like to say that at this point that I ate the extra apricot and I danced happily into the then unknown territory that I now call recovery. But recovery doesn’t work like that and neither does life. I didn’t eat the apricot but that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t the start of something. It wasn’t a big start and it didn’t happen in that moment. Only now, long afterwards, can I see its significance.

That was the day I laughed at myself; when I realised that I had reached a point in my life where half of a canned piece of fruit could make me cry harder than even the most depressing James Blunt song. Sitting on the floor, cross legged with the bowl in front of me there was nothing to do but acknowledge that I had been broken by one of my five a day. And to laugh at how surprisingly bad things had become.

Finding my sense of humour again is the best thing I have done. It is a dark, strange sense of humour but it is mine in a way that my eating disorder never was and never will be. Nobody is supposed to be afraid of a piece of fruit, no one deserves to carve their world up into the smallest possible bites or stand over a toilet bowl until their throat aches. Nobody deserves to not allow themselves to truly live. But that’s what having an eating disorder stops you from doing. I have spent so much of my life unhappy and punishing myself so now I search for the humour in everything. Even if it doesn’t change anything, it makes it easier.

How I see it, like all good spirals, recovery moves outwards, away from the centre. Even when it feels like I’ve been somewhere before and things are terrible and I find myself eating flour out of bag with a wooden spoon, I remember the apricot and how it felt to laugh and that takes me further from the eating disorder and closer to me.

How am I ever going to get better?