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.
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.
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 am doing this. I mean, I am really doing this. I am making some good choices, finally.
Feels bizarre. I can suddenly think more clearly. Who knew the brain really does need energy. Gloria sure didn’t get that bit right.
I am sleeping a lot. Like nine or ten hours at night and a nap in the afternoon. I’m starting to see how badly I’ve been treating my poor little body. It needs to repair.
I am feeling brighter. I can see beyond this painful now. Before, that’s all there was. I can appreciate what’s around me. See what’s around me. Love the people around me. I’ve been blinkered and numb for so long.
I still have to fight. Still have the urge to restrict and purge. Tim is having a really difficult time with all this rain and the storms. My first thought is to stop eating and start running so I’ll be able to fix it. Not sure of the logic of it, but oooh, it’s strong. I have fought it today. I am eating my afternoon snack, which includes milk, one of my big no-nos. Gold star!
I am fighting the voice that hates this weight gain. Gloria re-heally hates it. She is great at convincing me I am too big already, I feel too big, I see that I’m too big. But you know what? If I don’t look in the mirror, it’s easier to be rational, to rely on the evidence that can be verified. Like my weight is at the low end of healthy, and my clothes still fit. Can’t be too big if those things are true.
I was so close to giving up this week. But I managed to keep going, trusting that it will get better. I’m so glad I did. I’m choosing my own adventure, and I avoided the poison spring this time. I’ve started reading the first few sentences of the possible choices so I can make the right one. Gloria isn’t aware that such a life-hack exists.
I will beat this.
Gloria is not me.
This was my favourite Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book when I was growing up. Did you have one?
There’s an African proverb that says ‘it’s only by climbing hills that we gain strength’. This past week has been the steepest part of my hill. I am so glad I had support to help me step by step and meal by meal. I know I wouldn’t be further up if I were alone. I am stronger. I know there’s still more hill to come, there might even be yet steeper places. But now it’s time to look how far I’ve come. Celebrate every hard won little victory. Remind myself of what I have faced.
I have come from days of eating nothing or as close as I could get to it, pushing myself so hard to be smaller there were times I thought I seriously and literally wouldn’t make it up the hill, to here – where I am able to nourish my body six times a day. And last night, I enjoyed dinner so much that I HAD SECONDS. GASP!
For the first time I, Hannah, feel that recovery is possible, achievable and, wait for it, desirable. DOUBLE GASP!
So thankful that God does keep His promises. So thankful for the people He has around me. Especially Tony, of course, and Phoebe and Tim. With their help, along with our health team Jeremy, Sara, Russell and Lisa, my sister Laura and all my church family particularly Andrew, Kylie, Michelle, Gary, Robyn and Elisabeth, I am here. And thank you to everyone who has sent me encouraging messages to support me. Looking up to the day when:
Gloria is not me.
50! That’s FIFTY!
I done-did it!
I can’t wait to cash these in.
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.
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.