Don’t Say ‘Cheese’

I am really struggling. The anxiety and guilt and the white noise are constant.

Yesterday was an especially difficult day. Slept in and didn’t pray and pledge before I got up. Skipped my morning snack altogether. Tried to hide my cheese at lunch. I won’t tell you where I put it, but Tony caught me. Gloria has a real problem with cheese. And trail mix.

Yesterday, I was in a dark place again. I mean I really wanted to hurt myself. Simply because I do NOT want to eat any more. I am sick of having to fight every second of every day with this voice. And having to deal with the self-condemnation when I do fight back and eat.

But you know what? I am still fighting. Somewhere I know that eventually I will win as long as I don’t give up. I don’t get to have a day off. It doesn’t work that way.

And Gloria isn’t like some sitcom bully. She doesn’t run off scared because I stand up to her. The more I fight, the louder, more insistent, ugly and frightening she becomes. I’ve been promised that as I keep resisting and feeding my starving body and brain the voice and impulses will lessen. I just wish it would come soon. I just wish I weren’t so terrified of the medicine. I just wish that I could help people understand what it’s really like in here. Knowing that food is the answer and also just as completely sure that if you eat it you will be an utter failure as a human being, for losing control. That to admit to such ‘supreme weakness’ (ie needing food to live) you are pathetic beyond belief. The self-disgust at eating, the loathing of fat on one’s body, the goal of ‘just one more kilo’ to perfection and self-satisfaction that never comes. The very irrational desire to be free of this fat and flesh cage, and to cause as much damage as possible on the way out.

I am safe at the moment. Again. Tony has been amazing through all this. He helps me to fight. He knows that:

Gloria is not me.

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Every Time I Hit Rock Bottom, Gloria Manages to Find Something With Which to Dig.

Sooooo. I don’t even know where to begin. Been a rough few days. Wednesday just gone was the worst day yet. Hopefully that’s the worst day all done now.

I don’t really want to go over it but that’s what this blog is all about. I want people to know how hard this is.

Better go back to Tuesday. Saw the new dietician. Who gave us a structured meal plan on the spot. She listened to me about what I can and can’t/won’t eat. That was good. She was yet another health professional who vetoed exercise. That was not so good. And on paper, the plan didn’t look too bad.

Come breakfast Wednesday, first day of the rest of my life. I measured the required amount of muesli into my bowl. And immediately put 1/3 of it back in the box. It was a crazy amount of food. Seriously. I didn’t even bother to measure the yoghurt.

The day went downhill from there. Do you want to know how long I can shout and argue about cheese? I’m not normally a loud person but I managed a good half an hour of irrationality. Again I thought it was too much (it was literally 15 grams of cheese). I was actually putting my shoes on to run out of the house and just keep running. We can laugh about cheesegate now, but at the time it was anything but funny. And it was only the second meal of the day. Not even 11am.

I managed lunch like a sulky kid. Go me.

It was afternoon tea that tipped me over the edge. ¼ cup of trail mix and ½ cup of yoghurt. TOO MUCH AGAIN. I had some of it but was overwhelmed by Gloria. I had to get out, escape from the food, be the one in control. I got down to the front door, where Tony caught and held me so I couldn’t move. He just whispered in my ear ‘please don’t do this to them, please don’t do this to us’. I was able to be rational enough to climb the stairs. I was able to fight enough to eat what Tony had served to me. ALL of it. Then, I don’t really know what was going through my mind, guilt over having the kids witness all this, extreme anxiety over the amount of food I was suddenly expected to eat and was being forced into me, and suddenly I was wanting to really hurt myself. I thought it would be better to die than to eat and fail. I thought it would be better if I was gone from my family so they wouldn’t have to see me do this anymore. Tony found me curled in a ball under the quilt on our bed. I remember showing him my arms and saying ‘I know exactly where to cut’. Something that stopped me was thinking about how big and hard a mess Tony and the kids would have to clean up if I managed to do it in the bedroom. I would have to go to the bathroom. But Tony was holding me. And he just held me until I was calm.

I felt so unsafe. But I think it did shift something inside me to see how Gloria keeps me anything but safe. If that could be an answer to a tiny thing like eating, what would a bigger problem prompt? I already know the answer to that: starve myself, restrict to the point of self-harm, slow suicide.

Spoiler: I’m not feeling like that now, and I haven’t since. Tony and I talked. I promised I would try again tomorrow. And now in the morning before the day begins, while we are still in bed, I pray for strength for the coming day and Tony asks me to pledge that I will follow the meal plan, I will not restrict, purge or exercise and I will not say it is too much.

So yesterday, I earned six gold stars. Six! That’s the best ever! I have not had a day of eating so much since, I think, just after Christmas last year. I still have to fight the anxiety. I still panic about the amount of food I have to eat. And I am really freaking out over not being able to exercise. But I am now half way to my 50 star goal.

And a little closer to the day when:

Gloria is not me.

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I Quit

I hit rock bottom again yesterday. Collapsed in the shopping centre. Staff would not let me refuse an ambulance. I was shivering uncontrollably and unable to answer most questions. Slept it off under observation in A&E while blood tests were done. I cannot deny what’s happening to me anymore. Not when I can’t even toilet myself to give a sample for testing. If that doesn’t make you wonder about some of the choices you’re making lately, you really are in a bad way. It didn’t make me wonder until today.

Last night I couldn’t even promise Tony I would stop exercising. I refused to make a promise I didn’t intend to keep. I was still refusing to believe that I am responsible for the worry and disruption to so many people’s day. I was still in denial that the worry and disruption were at all warranted.

Last night I was still trying to restrict. Still covering up how much exercise I’ve been managing lately. Still clinging to the lies and empty promises of Gloria.

Today I think I finally realised that Gloria knows jack squat about what is good for me. And I don’t know anything about how to fight this by myself. I am blessed with an amazing husband, great kids, awesome family, fantastic church and friends as well as a super team of professionals. Maybe the key to fighting is to just stop. Stop thinking and just start trusting that the people placed around me know something more than I do by myself. Stop listening to Gloria’s hate and start listening to the overwhelming majority’s care and support.

I quit. I want a future full of promise and hope.

Gloria is not me.

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A Few of My Favourite Things (sing along)

Coffee and family

My fishies and singing

Creating unique crafted

Items and winning

Putting a smile on a face in the crowd

Laughing and daring to dream out aloud

Clean living rooms on

A Saturday morning

Hiking on mountains

Watching new days dawning

Being a member of God’s family

Midsomer Murders reruns on TV

When the white noise

And the self-hate

Seem too hard to bear

I’ll try to remember some favourite things

Like those I’ve listed

Up there

Trying to focus on all life has to offer today.

What are some of your favourite things?

Notice that I didn’t put restricting and controlling because

Gloria is not me.

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Today #2

Today I’m choosing life. Again. Again. Another another attempt at recovery.

Two lies have hindered this journey: the first being that one day I’ll wake up and I’ll finally be ‘done’ – I’ll have earned Gloria’s approval. The second is that choosing recovery will be straightforward and easy. Like I just have to actually choose and that will flip a switch and it will all be gone, done, finished and I’ll be fine.

How do I combat my own thoughts and unrealistic expectations of myself? I, Hannah, know the standards to which Gloria holds me are unachievable and downright unhealthy. ‘Perfection’ in the body I have will never happen. I’m short, with short legs, a high flat bust and wide shoulders. I am ok with that. That’s me. Gloria isn’t trying to attain a magazine image, even she’s not that irrational. The aim is to be as small as possible – to be able to curl up into the tiniest ball and hide away. To be strong and invincible and the way to do that is restriction and extreme control. But I will never be small enough. I think the ultimate goal is complete implosion.

The other lie is harder to explain and fight against. The feeling of being safe as I engage in these behaviours is so strong. The peace and calm I feel when I don’t eat is bliss. The lie I cling to is that if I choose to stop all this then chaos will suddenly pour down and it will be all my fault for walking away. But I have little glimpses of what life could be like without this. Enough to see that this is not achieving any of the peace I truly want. I already have so many positives in my life that will be lost if I continue this way. Choosing them over Gloria should be the easiest thing to do, but it’s not. And every time I choose recovery, I seem to forget that it’s not a straight, easy road. I’ve said it before – I can’t just walk away from this voice.

But I can choose to fight it. And I am.

Gloria is not me.

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Tony Wants Me to Call This Post Busted McCustard

So, I chose the easy road to peace today. It went well until dinner. Then the brown stuff hit the spinny thing.

I can finally see just how weak and underhand I’ve become in order to maintain this illness. I’m sneaky, but can’t lie about it when I’m caught. So tonight when Tony discovered that I’d hidden half of my dinner under his nose, things kind of became tense. I had to admit I’m still exercising more than he thought. When Tony realised I chose ravioli for dinner so I could restrict under the guise of never having liked it, he was more than a little peeved. The kids were still at the table with us. Phoebe was trying to bribe me to eat, Tim was just watchful and silent. Friends who’ve eaten with our family know that Tim is not silent at dinner time – he has a captive audience and will capitalise at any given opportunity. Tony got through to me, told me to fight. For once I was able to pick up my fork and eat. And I was even able to fight enough to choose to eat more after that, given that I’d eaten almost nothing all day.

There are times when this illness is just cruel. The mental and even physical aversion to the very thing that is the only cure is beyond imagining. But the short term peace is bought at too high a price.

I don’t want to live like this anymore. I don’t like who and what I’ve become. I don’t want to see that look in my son’s eyes. I don’t want Tony to search my bag every time I come home looking for what I might have bought to use for purging. I don’t want to be chaperoned everywhere I go because I’ve proven myself unworthy of trust regarding food and exercise. I don’t want my daughter to learn any of these behaviours.

Time to get real. Again.

Gloria is not me.

White Noise

Tony looks forward to summer as he loves to fall asleep to the sound of the fan. I’m the opposite. I love me some silence for sleep. Tony will even use white noise in his headphones to help get to sleep.

Right now, my mind is just white noise. Really loud white noise – tuning the telly on full volume loud. Days such as this are really exhausting mentally and emotionally. And I do usually end up choosing the easiest path that leads to some form of peace. That means completely caving in to Gloria. If I don’t have to think about eating at all, my mind can at least rest, and I can focus on some other parts of my life. This is what happened on prac. I couldn’t focus on lessons, teaching, getting to know the students as I was constantly fighting Gloria. So I just quit fighting. My body lasted only two days and I had to quit prac instead.

The aim while I’m in this place is to lose as much weight as I can before someone notices or my body lets me down. While I’m here all the anxiety about food is gone, so I can go to the shops, cook food for my family, talk about food, plan the weekly menu for our family. Food is not a problem at all. I know it can’t hurt me, as it’s not going in. And I just enjoy the sense of calm.

This is when my psychologist is most blunt and tells me my thinking is dysfunctional and I cannot trust it. This is when it’s hardest to even try to be rational. Why would I choose that chaos of mind over this apparent peace?

Praying for strength to make the hard choice. The right choice. The choice that will ultimately lead to true peace, when:

Gloria is not me.

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