I haven’t been able to write for a while. I haven’t been willing, or even able, to articulate how it’s all going. It’s not that it’s been extraordinarily bad or that I’ve relapsed or anything. It’s just been a daily slog of getting myself to eat, focusing on living. I’ve come to a part of this road that feels like I’m walking through waist-high treacle. It takes a lot of effort to make a whole lot of no progress.
I’m still easily triggered, which is frustrating. The other day making a coffee at uni I had the swoopy-standing-on-the-edge-of-a-cliff feeling because there was a bag of marshmallows on the counter. I still hate myself if I think I enjoy a food too much. My list of safe foods is very small again. I’m fighting every day the desire to lose. Just a couple, maybe four kilos. That’s not too much.
The new semester of uni has begun. I’m retaking the Science unit I failed last year. I’m starting to see how sick and detached I was this time last year – I really didn’t learn a thing. How could I when my only weekly goals were to be smaller, lighter, and more self-controlled. I could have got my Masters in those. I am so glad that now I can see that the certificate for graduating from Gloria’s course is a toe-tag.
This is the only thing that keeps me from totally giving in. I need to remind myself daily that there is no guarantee I’ll survive a relapse. I need to remind myself daily that she lies, she lies, she lies. I cannot truly live when I give in.
So I choose to truly live. I choose to truly say (one day):
Gloria is not me.
(I love this girl)
Yesterday I ate two bananas. Which is just bananas. Crazy good bananas. Bananas have been banano-nos for quite a while now. Gloria hates them, for an undisclosed, and quite probably irrational, reason. But I needed to eat (!) and that’s all there was. And instead of listening to her, pushing through the hunger and ruining my day, I ate. Wrapped in a red rug (go Red House!) chatting to a friend at the kids’ cross-country, surrounded by people. And IT WAS GOOD. The even better thing was silencing her attempts at guilting me in to restricting later on in the day. I reasoned with myself that I needed to eat, I needed the energy to be able to accomplish all I had on my list. And so I did. And guess what. I did not go berserk and eat the whole world, as Gloria has so often told me I would. I ate what I needed to. No. Big. Deal.
And today, I am PROUD of myself.
It totally helps that I’ve had two nights running of decent sleep. Which is just another thing to celebrate. Like the chill in the air of autumn. The laughter and fun of our family dinner table. My health and strength.
I am running towards the day when:
Gloria is not me.
So many good, good, good things to write about.
I think, though I know I have thought this before, that I am definitely firmly on the road to recovery. And I, Hannah, am making the choices, taking the steps needed to keep going. The road is still a hill. I can see places where it will be steep, but I do believe the road is straighter and more solidly marked than it has ever been before.
I want to celebrate the wins I have had these last few days. I have taken over making my meals and I am STICKING TO THE PLAN. My choice. I felt hungry today, so I ATE SOMETHING. My choice. I made a new coconut and mango ice-creamy dessert, and I TASTED IT AT A NON-DESIGNATED MEALTIME. My choice. It has been so long since I have been able to choose to do that simple little thing. So long since I have let stray calories in.
What has happened to me all of a sudden?
I have come to the realisation that I, Hannah, am worth recovery. How? Three simple words: handcrafted with love. That’s me. Made by God to be loved by God. My value and worth to Him far outweigh any hate that Gloria (who is really myself) has for me. Suddenly Gloria finds herself de-clawed, hoarse and at a loss. I have finally been able to see her lies as lies. Oh, she still tries. I still have to fight her, it’s just my weapons are so much stronger than hers. Love beats hate. Compassion triumphs over despair. Truth overcomes the lie. And I, Hannah, can see myself living again. Not just not-dying. LIVING. LOVING. A fully functioning member of the community as I am meant to be.
If you are struggling with recovery, DON’T GIVE UP. TRUST YOUR TEAM. If you haven’t yet sought help DO IT. It is never too early to seek help for this, or any disordered eating. Yes, it sucks. Yep, it’s hard. There are times when you will drag yourself unwillingly through the motions just to shut your family up. Let their love for you speak louder than the tyrant in your head. That tyrant offers nothing but pain and emptiness, and leaves you a dry husk of potential unfulfilled.
My heart is full and I am so close to truly shouting:
Gloria is not me.
I’ve been in denial again. Trying to tell Tony I’m all better now. Weight is high enough now please. My body is recovering nicely; I have some more energy, I can wear my wedding ring again, I don’t need as much sleep now and, er, it’s all systems go in the girl department.
But I know, and Tony knows, that given the chance I would restrict and exercise to lose all this weight as fast as I could. I feel so uncomfortable in here. I cannot see the weight gain as healthy or desirable.
Yesterday talking with my psychiatrist, I was able to recall my dreams regarding my education degree and future academic career, and I was Hannah again. With ambitions and opinions and a knowledge of the paths to achieve and validate them. Fully aware of all I’ve been blessed with, and all I can and have offered of myself. All of which has been buried as I cave in to Gloria. As soon as he mentioned my weight, asking me how I felt about it, my world shrank again. I was just a woman with an eating disorder. With one goal – to pull my body in after me as I implode.
Because I listened to Gloria, I did not accept my university’s offer of a place in the Embedded Honours Program. I don’t know if I can explain why. I don’t know if I know myself. I think it’s because I felt I didn’t really deserve it, and to make me worthy I had to gain control over myself. Completely. But instead of giving more in life, this has gradually eroded just about everything of worth to me. Even myself. Physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally.
So feeling and being Hannah yesterday, even for such a short time, makes me determined to beat this. To be one of the positive statistics. To ignore Gloria’s warnings. To trust Tony and the rest of the care team. To choose health and life.
Here’s how I won today: today I ate from the whole piece of toast. I did not even once tear it into smaller pieces. Today I ate an uncut sandwich, like some sort of grown up. I didn’t realise how long it had been since I made a mess on my face as I ate. I’m out of practice eating salad sandwiches, apparently. I ignored her warnings because:
Gloria is not me.
I, Hannah, have had some wins today. And I’m giving myself gold stars. Literally.
Today I chose to pack a snack because I knew I wouldn’t be home in time. And I knew Tony would not be with me to tell me to eat. And I actually ate it. Not only did I eat it, I ate it in the company of a friend I don’t see often (enough), in the midst of a crowd of strangers in a café. I was in the middle of the café – not hidden in a booth. EATING.
I, Hannah, made the choice to eat an afternoon snack, too. An apple. Like an apple. That is, I did not cut it up into bite sized pieces first. I ate straight from the fruit like a normal, grown up human being.
Some people do like to go on about how we should rely on intrinsic motivation to get people to behave the way they should. Unfortunately, the reward centre of my brain is malfunctioning and my intrinsic motivation is to starve myself to death. So I think a little extrinsic gold star motivation could be just what I need.
I need some suggestions as to what reward I could encourage myself with when I trade in my amassed gold star haul. That’s the reward system at my kids’ school – good work/deeds get a spot, 10 spots earn a pink award, 3 pinks get a green etc til you can by the end of primary school have possibly (by licking an awful lot of boots) earned enough spots for a gold medallion.
So, what should my 50 star upgrade be?
Gloria is quietly fuming about this, but, hey, Gloria is NOT me.