Monthly Archives: May 2017

Fractures, Frustrations & Fry Ups

People who think they know me think I’m super sensible all the time. People who really know me, know that there is a very ditsy side to me. Recently, ditsy Emily fractured her foot (the fourth metatarsal of my left foot, to be precise) by doing a front flip off a bunk bed at a hostel in Sweden. “Don’t tell people that!” a friendly stranger in the street said to me when I went for a slow stroll into town earlier today. “Say you did it skiing; that sounds much more glamorous.” He’s right. But unfortunately I didn’t glamorously fracture my foot while playing a sport. I stupidly fractured it by not getting down from a bed sensibly. #adultingfail

Before I went to Sweden, when my left foot was in tact, I decided to turn my efforts to making one final big push to fully recover from my eating disorder. Research suggests that only 46% of anorexia sufferers make a full recovery. The remaining 54% either learn to manage it, remain chronically ill, or die. I am determined to be in that 46%. But if recovery wasn’t a hard enough task already, by injuring my foot I’ve now gone and given myself something else to fix. Sigh. Nice one, Em!

I’m feeling pretty frustrated.

For the next six week…

  • I can’t drive which means my weekday working routine is pretty much scuppered – and I love my routine.
  • I have to rely on other people to give me lifts to places – and I love my independence.
  • I’ve got to wear a super sexy – and by sexy I mean hideously clunky and uncomfortable! – walking boot thing. (And if I’m not wearing it I have to hop so I don’t put any weight on my foot. Trips to the loo in the middle of the night are… interesting!)

I’m an enthusiastic ‘get up and go’ kind of person; but because of my foot, I’m restricted by how far I can go and how much I can do at the moment. Taking it easy does not come naturally to me. I get bored very easily so I’m purposefully finding interesting things to do to pass the time, mainly: writing a book, watching lots of Doctor Who, and trying to learn all (yes, all) the lyrics to the musical Hamilton (man, those raps are fast!). But even with those fast raps, life just feels soooooo slooooow at the moment. And it’s annoying!

But do you know what? This fractured foot may actually be a blessing in disguise. The fact that I’m a ‘get up and go’ kind of person may partly be the reason why I’ve struggled to recover from my eating disorder in the past. I’ve never properly stopped to give myself enough time to rest and recuperate. I’ve always pushed myself onto the next challenge, the next adventure. But now I’ve been forced to slow down.

You’ve all heard this expression, right?

“You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs.”

In other words, in order to achieve something, it is inevitable and necessary that something will get damaged. I think doing my foot in is, in an odd way, helping me to recover from my eating disorder.

A couple of weeks ago, I blogged about wanting to cocoon myself away to recover (see The Very Hungry Caterpillar blog post). Maybe this six-week period of ‘inconvenience’ while my foot heals is just the cocoon I need!

“You are being called to heal yourself, not to agonise over your mistakes. Quit overthinking; this is what surrendering really means. Don’t focus on your problems and don’t obsess about ‘fixing’ things. These thoughts can be psychological irritants. Just leave yourself along! When you pick at things they never heal. Simply relax and give yourself some time.” ~Bryant McGill

With rest and calcium, I have no doubt my foot will make a full recovery. But more importantly, I believe I am also actually (finally!) overcoming anorexia and healing from it mentally, emotionally and physically.

For example, I got my period back after six years of not being a fully functional woman! (See my last blog post A Period Drama! if you want to read more on this not-often-talked-about subject.) Never ever have I been more excited about something so inconvenient and disgusting! But it’s a HUGE recovery milestone. I celebrated it with my friends while I was in Sweden by having a burger. A proper big burger which I voluntarily chose from the menu. I devoured it. And I loved it! For me, that was a really significant and special moment. Then, when I got home from Sweden I offered to make my family dinner. I suggested a fry up. A proper full English. It tasted so good! As well as all the delicious flavours from the bacon, egg, mushrooms, tomatoes etc, it tasted like freedom. That sounds pretty pretentious, I know. But deciding to have that for dinner was a free decision. Something I, and not my eating disorder, had chosen to have. I felt normal and free! That is what I want in my life – I’ve had enough of control and restriction.

Anyway, I could go on sharing my small victories with you, but I’m sure you’ve got much better things to be reading about. So I’m going to hobble back into my cocoon for now. If you do see me over the next six weeks or so, please don’t feel sorry for me and my foot. Just laugh at the ridiculousness of my behaviour. I did. And so did the doctor.

A Period Drama!

Is it appropriate to blog about periods? Because I have something to share…

My periods have started!

Periods are not usually something girls talk about with fondness. And they’re probably not something guys talk (or think) about at all. (So, if you’re a guy reading this, I hope you don’t get too grossed out!)

But having a period is something to celebrate in my life because anorexia screwed up my body. For reasons explained in my previous blog post, I lost respect for my body and as it became malnourished it stopped functioning properly. This meant my periods stopped. As of yesterday, the last period I had was when I was 18. I’m now 23.

It’s like going through puberty again (why oh why do I put myself through these things?!). And I was completely unprepared for it. I was at work yesterday and found myself stranded in the loo with no sanitary stuff. Thankfully our incredibly lovely receptionist at work was supplied with sanitary towels (as well as all the latest Panini stickers!). She came to my rescue and celebrated the moment with me (shout out to Sofia!). 

Getting your periods back is a HUGE milestone in recovery from a restrictive eating disorder. So although I’m feeling emotionally tender, I’m so relieved. Missing hormones are switching back on. I’m becoming a woman again!

I’m​ not going to bother analysing what may or may not have kick-started my periods – although I do think the big lasagna I had the night before possibly gave my body the extra hit of energy it needed to wake up (thanks mum!). The main thing is that I’m on the mend.

Typically, my period has come just as I’m about to go away to another country (I’m blogging en route to the airport this morning… Sweden here I come!). However I’m going away with great friends who are looking out for me and celebrating my period with me.

Now that’s more than enough talk of periods for one blog post!

Pulling the Trigger

*This blog post comes with a warning for anyone who is sensitive towards sexual abuse and eating disorder triggers*

A couple of blog posts back, I likened my eating disorder to a weed that was destroying my life. I said I wanted to pull it out at its root. I’ll admit, other than make an appointment to see an eating disorder specialist (which I’m still waiting for!), I wasn’t sure how I was going to do that. Roots deeply embed and bury themselves so they are hard to find.

However, over the last week, I believe the root of my eating disorder has been identified. It’s in the process of being pulled out.

This is a painful process.

This a sensitive situation.

Freshers’ week, September 2011. Anyone who’s experienced a freshers’ week will know that it’s a roller-coaster of emotions – it’s meant to be a scary but exciting time. All I remember of my freshers’ week is this: someone tried to have sex with me. It was not a violent attack. It was just a fellow fresher who was pumped with alcohol. They probably felt peer pressure to have sex that week, and thought they’d try their luck with me. But if this person had known me, they’d have know my attitude towards sexual behaviour. I don’t sleep around. I value my virginity. I see it as a special gift to give to the man I love and marry. I’m aware this is a very traditional view, and I don’t judge anyone who thinks and acts differently. We should all have the free-will to decide who we sleep with and when we sleep with them.

Which is why, in that moment (and it felt like the longest moment of my life!) I felt violated. I felt vulnerable. Someone wanted to use my body for nothing more than their own pleasure. They wanted to take something from me; something which I was not willing to give them.

I’m so thankful nothing more happened that night. I really am. I know it could have been a lot worse. But it shook me up. And it scared me. A lot. But at the time, I didn’t address how it made made feel. I didn’t talk about it or even think about it. I buried it.

Looking back now, it’s clear that’s what triggered my eating disorder. It all makes sense. Someone had tried to control me, so I needed to find something to control. Being away from home and responsible for feeding myself, of course food was the obvious choice (not that I consciously decided this; I was oblivious to it all at the time).

The incident that night (combined with several other incidents that I’ve been aware of over the years) gave me quite a negative, cautious view of how men view women. Starting uni at the age of 18, I’d pretty much finished going through puberty. I was getting used to having a fully-formed female body. But I lost respect for my body. I didn’t want it to be beautiful. I didn’t want men to look at me and my body and think I was good for nothing more than sex. So when I became sickeningly skinny because I was restricting my food so much, I didn’t really care that I was destroying my body. I became like a little girl who needed protecting. If anything, that made me feel safer.

Despite feeling physically and emotionally vulnerable, I’ve tried to be strong – probably as a reaction against being made to feel weak. But my eating disorder strengthened its stronghold over me – we’ve been wrestling each other for so long. My attempts to recover over the years have failed because I’ve never addressed the root cause. I’ve suppressed it for nearly six years.

But I can’t suppress it any more.

I’m releasing deep emotional pain at the moment. This experience is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. The Latin derivative for the word emotion ’emotere’, literally means energy in motion. This is because emotions have physiological symptoms. I’ve been awake in the middle of the night, shivering and crying (such a good detox though!) and feeling violently sick. It’s exhausting, but liberating! I feel like an open wound. But open wounds eventually heal. I can see that talking about this issue is all part of the healing process. For me, this includes talking to friends and family, people who pray for me, counsellors… and writing my blog!

Why’s this all coming out now? Well, I’m not going to pretend I understand the psychology behind suppressed emotions resurfacing. But due to recent situations in my life, I’ve become aware of how that trigger has affected how I engage in other relationships. Relationships that I deeply cared about. I am so very sad, cross and regretful that an issue from years ago has been preventing me from living and enjoying my life to the full now. I don’t want to miss out on anything any more. I want to be the complete, whole person I know I have the potential to be.

“Until you are broken, you don’t know what you’re made of. Being broken gives you the ability to build yourself all over again, but stronger than ever.” Ziad K Abdelnour

I should probably make it clear that I don’t judge all men by the same standards of guys who just want to sleep with women. I know not all men are the same. Some of my closest friends are great guys. And in the last few months, I have been shown in a beautiful and special way that men can be kind. Some men do know how to respect a women and appreciate her for who she is as a person.

In my heart, I have forgiven that guy from uni; although he probably didn’t even think he was doing anything wrong that night during freshers’ week. And I expect he hasn’t thought twice about our encounter since. But the affect it’s had on me has been profound. I think we should all take this as a reminder that our actions – all our actions – have consequences. We may not ever realise how much what we do and say impacts other. And most of the time, we have no idea what hurt people are carrying around with them. So let’s treat each other with respect and kindness.

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week. Just like our physical health, our mental health is something we should all be aware of. On a day-to-day basis, we are all processing emotional responses to situations – and some of these emotions should not be bottled up. Talk it out. People will listen. In fact, many people will feel privileged to listen to you. You may feel weak, but in talking some stuff out, you have to be brave – and being brave ultimately makes you strong!

“Emotional pain cannot kill you. But running from it can. Allow. Embrace. Let yourself feel. Let yourself heal.” Vironika Tugaleva

 

 

 

Is There Really Light in the Darkness?

I’m an over-thinker. Even as I write this, I am sitting here in my bedroom overthinking about how to stop overthinking. Sometimes I wish my brain would just stop.

For example, rather than wake up this morning and think about what I might like for breakfast (like a normal person would), I started thinking about everything that is wrong with our world – the hurt and brokenness, the conflict and confusion. I am intensely experiencing all these emotions on a personal level at the moment. And I know those emotions are filtering the way I am seeing the world. It’s dull and colourless, like a black-and-white Instagram filter! Thankfully, I’m not in the deepest depths of depression any more, but I am struggling to see the light in the darkness right now.

I know many other people face this same struggle. Here’s a little statistic for you: one in three people experience depression at some point in their life. So chances are, either you yourself or someone close to you will go through it – and they are both painful positions to be in. Or maybe you’re just going through a really tough time – it happens to us all. And those times are completely rubbish, aren’t they?

But, did you know? Although dark and difficult times feel like a curse, they can also be a blessing; an unwelcome blessing, but a blessing all the same. Let me try to explain this paradox…

I don’t like the dark (I had a nightlight in my bedroom for ages!). However, without the darkness, you cannot appreciate the light. I vividly remember the dark night I realised this. It was a sort of epiphany (great word, epiphany!). It was one evening in May a couple of years ago when I didn’t want to live anymore. My Dad took me out to Seasalter to help me try to clear my head. It was dark. To me, the world seemed empty. But Dad pointed to the stars in the sky and the lights whizzing past on a nearby train, trying to get me to appreciate these simple things. And I was overwhelmed. “Wow!” The stars and the lights of the train stood out so brightly against the backdrop of the night. If it wasn’t dark, I wouldn’t have been able to see and appreciate those lights. And on that night, those lights may have just saved my life.

Of course, at the end of that dark night, the sun rose – as it does every morning – and drove away the darkness which had terrified me so much.

A very wise man once said this:

“Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if only one remembers to turn on the light.” Albus Dumbledore

If you hadn’t picked up on this yet, I am using examples of physical light as a metaphor for positivity and goodness. I think Dumbledore was doing the same thing – great minds! Along with positivity and goodness, light is always present in our broken world and our broken lives. But sometimes finding it, seeing it and focusing on it is hard work – because it’s not a passive thing: it’s a choice. It’s our choice.

Another very wise man said this:

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Jesus

I don’t generally talk about my faith in my blog posts – and I promise I’m not going to start preaching at you now! – but I am open about the fact that I’m a Christian. Different people find their their ‘light’ in different places, and my faith is where I find mine. Jesus’ words are not just cosy words. They acknowledge that the world is a dark place and there is a need for light. Looking at the state our world is in today, I’m sure you’ll agree with that, whether you’re a Christian or not.

So, is there light in the darkness? Yes, there is. There really is.

When we experience emotional darkness in our personal lives, of course darkness will taint the way we see the world. But, if we manage to pull ourselves together for a moment (and, trust me, this is possible, even if you’re feeling like a complete and utter mess!), we can chose to see the light. And – perhaps more importantly – we can decide to be the light.

There is darkness in our world. But by being little lights, we can be positive and good people who help make the world a bit better – a bit brighter. In any and every situation we find ourselves in, we all have the power and potential to illuminate life’s little beauties. And that really is a wonderful thing.

So, do as wise old Professor Dumbledore said: turn on your light. Glow in the dark!