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.
When David wrote Psalm 23, the bit about walking through the valley of the shadow of death, HE DIDN’T MEAN THE EASTER EGG GAUNTLET OF AN AUSTRALIAN SUPERMARKET. And neither should I.
I should not have to plan a grocery shopping trip with battlefield tactics. I should not feel like I’m about to jump off a cliff to my certain death because the fish I had chosen to buy was sold out and I need to choose another kind.
I woke up this morning determined to be okay today. Determined to be a normal wife, mother, person, relaxing and holidaying after the first round of uni assignments have been finished and submitted.
But here I am. Shattered after a trip to buy milk and bread and fish. Staring at my scheduled morning snack like it’s poison. Dreading the chocolate that’s coming tomorrow. Throwing cheese away when Tony’s back is turned.
I am angry. And I’m angry at the right thing. Gloria. I refuse to be held hostage any longer. This is just too much. I have had enough of this stupid cruel disease.
There is so much more to life than this.
Gloria is NOT me.
How do you keep going when winning feels like losing? Gloria screams ‘NOOOOOOOOOOO!!’ when I can get myself to eat. She makes me so anxious about and around food I have collapsed trying to choose an avocado. I collapsed because WALKING PAST a fruit and veg shop was too much. Two more ambulance rides. I now have to do meditative breathing exercises just so I can go to the shops. Just because she can make me faint rather than choose food. She made me feel a congratulatory pat on the shoulder (for gaining) was more like a slap in the face, so much that I actually flinched as if it were.
Cheese was a huge deal again today. I just want the cheese to stop. So. Much. Cheese.
When will this end? When will winning actually be a victory? When will giving in to Gloria feel like losing? I tried the gold stars again. But according to Gloria I’m such a whining, stupid, pathetic sub-par excrescence I have no right to believe in myself. And there is definitely no point in trying to encourage myself.
I’m not fishing for compliments. I am fighting this with as much as I have in me. I am trying to just trust that it will get better. Trying to explain just why and how it is so difficult to ‘just eat something’. I have been sticking to the plan (mostly), even through all this. Tony has helped a lot. So has this song.
One day, food will be energy, not the enemy. One day, I will no longer believe her. One day, when I can say:
Gloria is not me.
Ok. I fell down. I stayed on my face in the mud for a bit, totally discouraged. I didn’t want to get up. It’s humiliating. I was running and winning and dancing but I tripped over.
It’s ok. Get back up. Choose to eat for health and energy. Choose to rest. But keep on going.
The only one in this race is me. I can only lose if I give up.
Oh, it’s frustrating and discouraging. Embarrassing sure.
But I will remember that God is the lifter of my head. He is the keeper of my soul. He loves me. As I am and for all I am. He knows my weakness and promises His strength. I will trust in that.
I read this Psalm and it was just what I needed to be reminded about:
Is anyone crying for help? God is listening ready to rescue you. If your heart is broken, you’ll find God right there; if you’re kicked in the gut, He’ll help you catch your breath. -Psalm 34 17&18
So. I’m catching my breath. I’m wiping the muck off my face. It’s ok. I fell down. But I’m getting back up.
I can do this.
I CAN do this.
Not only can I do this, I will. Got my fight back. So watch out:
Gloria is not me.
Last week was challenging. It was my first back at uni, I’d gained yet more weight and we had predictions of wild weather to make my boy’s life misery. Oh, and our car kept breaking down. Perfect storm for Gloria to try to trip me up. Trick me into thinking restriction and weightloss would get me in control of it all.
BUT SHE DIDN’T.
Oh, she nearly did. It was just a little blip.
BUT I DIDN’T STAY DOWN.
I was able to be real about what I needed to achieve. I had to get my head around my new units for study. I had to cope with feeling and being bigger. I had to be strong, physically and emotionally, so I could support my boy and I had to deal with mechanics not fixing our car the first THREE times they had it. This needs energy. Energy means food. Food means guilt and shame. Guilt and shame I just didn’t have time for. So, as hard as it was at times (food still is hugely evil), I ate. I chose to eat to give myself the energy to live.
I got through last week. And not by the skin of my teeth.
I ROCKED IT. Hannah-style.
I’m starting to realise Gloria cannot compete with real living. The counterfeit existence she offers is such a poor imitation. Like 97% fat free mass-produced mayo poor.
Uni looks achievable, Tim survived, and I think actually grew, and the car is now fixed (at no extra cost). Just thankful and prayerful.
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.
The last few weeks have been a little bit nightmare-ish. I have now lost almost complete control over my life. Tony is on orders to be in control of all meals. With instructions to phone in if I refuse to finish anything. I am so not okay with that. I’m even less okay with the whole absolutely no exercise thing. Tony even stops me fidgeting.
I’ve just had five whole days rigidly sticking to the meal plan. My longest stretch ever. And it still feels like such a pain in the neck. So much food. Coming at me all @#*#-ing day. I have to admit that I can’t wait to be able to eat what I want, when I want it. But right now that’s just nothing and never.
Tony says he can see more of me, Hannah, as I continue to eat. Gloria hates that, uses all her tricks to make me feel weak and useless and more in hate with myself. But Tony has stopped arguing with Gloria. He plainly tells her to go away, he wants to talk to Hannah. At least he can get away from her voice.
I want to be rid of Gloria, to be truly Hannah. But I’m so overwhelmed by the effort it takes, and will continue to take. I’m even doubtful the effort is worth it. I am so lacking in any motivation these days. My bedside is a morass of tangled wool with half-finished craft projects. I am yet to enroll in uni for the year. The house is chaos. I think we’ve all run out of undies. And this is the first post I’ve written in weeks, that I might actually finish and publish.
So here I go. Today #3. Choosing life, because:
Gloria is not me. (That was the first time I actually faltered while typing that, right now it’s just not true)
Christmas with Gloria has not been the most peaceful or joyous of times. I had thought I would handle it much better than I have. Not once have I been able to relax about food. Or even treat myself with something not on my nice list. Did you know you can have Christmas without those wafer stick things? Part of me feels cheated, but most of me feels triumphant. I am the BEST at self control.
On Christmas morning I was already fairly triggered and anxious about the coming day. I still haven’t come to terms with the weight gain. This is what sent me over the edge: I couldn’t find an ACCEPTABLY SMALL COMMUNION BISCUIT during the church service. But I also couldn’t bring myself to break the one I chose into an acceptably small size as I thought it was a bit petty. I can still feel that biscuit in my mouth. And I have not been able to eat with anything resembling normality and rationality since.
This is how fragile my grip on recovery is. Ridiculous things, tiny, insignificant moments are enough to send me hurtling back downhill. Like the sudden whiff from a hand cream can send you back in time to your Grandma’s garden – or the unwashed bus upholstery smell can send you back to high school – in an instant. Last time it was because my undies felt too tight. Another time it was because I thought I noticed someone noticing the tightness of my jeans.
I didn’t realise how far I’d relapsed until tonight when I walked to the shops in the pouring rain to buy yoghurt for muesli in the morning. A rational person would just be ‘oh, no yoghurt? I’ll have milk, or something else, no probs’. I’m all ‘No yoghurt? NO YOGHURT?! I can’t eat breakfast then. In fact I can’t eat anything. Ever again.’ I went to three shops to find the yoghurt. And couldn’t buy any as they were either shut or there’s a supply issue. And then because I couldn’t get yoghurt, I can’t give myself permission to eat. Not even fruit. I hate myself for the food I’ve already eaten today. Gloria is in my ear telling me that my body deserves everything I’ve put it through. And I believe her.
I am so glad Christmas is so much more than food and getting presents. Because this year I didn’t really get to have that side of the season. I have so enjoyed celebrating the love that sent Jesus for us. I have been able to sing my heart out and be thankful that He came for the broken and the sick. Especially ‘cause right now I am both those things. One day we’ll have a laugh together about that biscuit thing. One day, when:
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.