Friday, 29 June 2012

Word of the Day Challenge: Day Twenty Nine

Word of the Day Challenge: Day Twenty Eight

The good life is a process, not a destination – Carl Rogers

I have always been convinced that my life is waiting for me just around the corner.

I will be happy when I am a certain weight. I won’t consider a relationship until I am ‘fixed’. I will go back to school when I have a better job and have saved some money.

The trouble is that when you’re always thinking about the life that is waiting for you at some future juncture, you’re not living the life you have now.

It’s all well and good having goals to strive for – it’s motivating, it’s inspiring, it keeps us moving. My problem is that in keeping my eye on the final prize, I miss all the good stuff along the way.

I try to think of it as being on a train journey. If I’m solely thinking about getting to my destination, my head is probably full of plans and questions. How will I get to my hotel? Is it far from the station? Will I need to get a taxi? What if I can’t find it? I hope the booking is ok, maybe I should have called to check….what if they don’t have any record of my reservation? I didn’t look at the weather report, either. I hope the clothes I’ve brought are weather-appropriate. What was the name of that restaurant I wanted to go to? My phone battery is running low…did I bring my charger? I’ll have to ask at the hotel if I’ve forgotten it, see if they have a spare.

(I was smiling wryly as I typed that because it is very much the type of conversation I have running constantly through my head….and yet it looks so silly when I see it there in black and white.)

In thinking about what’s going to happen an hour or two down the line, I’m missing out on what could be a pleasant journey.  I could buy a hazelnut latte and stare out of the window at the rolling hills, the sheep in the fields. I could talk to another passenger. I could read an amazing book, spend an hour or two in the trenches of World War I, in the magical, snowy land at the back of a wardrobe, in space, in France, in Henry VIII’s head.

My point is that it’s not solely about jumping from A-Z as quickly and effectively as possible. There is a whole alphabet in between. How boring would it be to read a book comprised entirely of A’s and Z’s? Or a book with no chapters, plot or development, just an opening and ending?  

I’m still a worrier. I still fret about what I haven’t achieved yet, and how I can manage it, and how quickly I should be able to do it. But I’m also starting to recognise that that’s not what life is about. I’m starting to be more conscious of my present. I am able to remind myself when I start getting distracted that it’s not about hurtling along at full pelt and arriving first at wherever the destination may be, but about having the nicest possible journey, about drinking in the details and enjoying the experience, about travelling mindfully, and well.

Word of the Day Challenge: Day Twenty Seven

I’ve been reading a lot around happiness and mindfulness as a consequence of therapy. It was something I found really interesting – this concept of almost creating our own happiness rather than simply ‘being happy’. Finding pleasure in the small things. Really thinking about what makes us smile, what makes us feel connected, what makes us feel peaceful and calm.

I’ve started keeping a Wellness Journal, filling it with quotes I find inspiring, clippings from magazines, reminders to myself, to-do lists, affirmations. I found that I really enjoyed spending this time just sitting and thinking about positivity and health and how to maintain those things in my self.

One of the things that came out of that was a list – the Bliss List – where I started to write down the things that made me happy. It’s something I’ve been back to again and again, not just when I’m feeling a little blue and need a pick-me-up or an idea about what to do to make myself feel calm and centred, but also just to review how many things really do make me feel happy.

It’s amazing how simple a lot of the things are. A bubblebath with a good book, for example. A glass of wine. The smell of rain. And how they appeal to every sense: touch, taste, hearing, smell, sight.

I started to think about how I could incorporate as much bliss as possible into my day to day life. I love fresh flowers, for example, so I started to buy a bunch once a week, and I keep them in my room where they look and smell pretty. I love candles, so I bought sweet little glass votives and put them in my window. I read by them at night, and it feels so much more special and calm.

I’ve spoken a little about this in a previous post, I think. And it sounds so simple….but honestly, it’s so effective. It’s about giving yourself whatever small happinesses you can, whenever you can. Thinking about what appeals to each of your senses.

Here is a glimpse of my Bliss List. It’s not the full thing (the full thing is a notebook full of scrawls and scribblings, post-its I’ve written hastily at work and then stuck in later, pencilled notes in the margins) but it’s enough to give you an idea. And I really recommend doing this for yourself, even if you don’t necessarily write everything down. Just think about what makes you feel positive, happy, calm, centred, pleased. And then indulge that in any way you can. Or even better, combine as many things as possible. Love the smell of lemons? Love reading? Love bubblebaths? Get yourself some candles, some lemony bath oil and shut yourself in there with a good book.

Be creative!


Writing – journals, letters, poems, stories, lists
Buying new books
Creating something – making cards, cooking, drawing
Going to art galleries and museums
Sitting quietly in the library with a stack of books
Walking in the sunshine
Collecting quotes


Black and white photographs
Flavoured lipbalms
Just-washed bedding


Clean laundry
The sea


Petting my fluffball of a cat, stroking his little nose
A gentle massage
Hot water
Bare feet
Soft pyjamas




The colour pink
Painted nails
Art and photographs
The sky
Flowers – peonies, tulips, roses, lilies
Heavy rain
The Eiffel Tower
A real, handwritten letter


Cats purring
Poems, read aloud
A friend’s voice
A choir
The tapping of my laptop keys
The sound of water
Carousel music

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Word of the Day Challenge: Day Twenty Six

I believe that we all have a purpose.

I also believe that everything we do, every action we take, every person we meet, every opportunity we are given, all of those things have a purpose too, whether or not we can see it at the time.

I was eating disordered for a little over fifteen years – almost half of my life. One half of my life fretting about calories and collarbones and numbers and food and worth and weight. It would be so easy to look back on that simply with regret for the meals missed, the time wasted, the friends lost, the sadness. And until quite recently, that is how I viewed it. Time I would never get back; years and years and years of time.

Now, in a strange sort of way, I am actually very grateful for having had my own particular experience. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without having had an eating disorder.

I am the happiest I have been in as long as I can remember – I am interested in things, I make a conscious effort to learn and grow, I read about mindfulness and I make time for activities I value: reading, writing, yoga. I ask questions of myself. I think about situations carefully before I react (is that what that person meant? Is this how I really feel?). I am more aware of who I am, what I want and what I need.

I don’t think the majority of people DO make time for themselves in this way. They don’t necessarily stop to ask themselves the bigger questions – what do I want from my life? Am I happy? How can I satisfy my desires? – because they haven’t had to climb from that low, dark place, haven’t had to feel their way back up into the light, groping for whatever handholds they can find.

This is not to say they are not content with their lives. But I don’t think content is the same as happy. I don’t want to just be content with my lot. I want to be happy with the choices I have made and the direction of my life. I want to be passionate about things, to enjoy myself, to help others, to learn, to be challenged. I want my life to have meant something. I want to have made a difference, even if it’s only a small one.

As far as the purpose of a human life goes, it’s going to be different for everyone…it might be a particular career or vocation, it might be to end up with a particular person or in a particular place. I feel very strongly that my purpose is to write – even if it only ever ends up being for myself. I never feel more connected, more myself, than when I am writing, whether it’s a journal entry, a poem, a letter or a story.  And again, this is something I possibly never would have pursued without my eating disorder. I kept journals before I got sick, but not regularly. I hadn’t written poetry outside English class. And I certainly didn’t work things out on paper in terms of notes and lists and mind-maps (something I find absolutely crucial now).

And slowly, I am finding my feet. I am taking classes. I am regularly writing posts for this blog (and meeting all of you lovely people as a result!). I have started submitting poetry again to journals and magazines, and am getting things published – just little bits here and there, but it’s starting to happen.

I also wouldn’t have gone to therapy if I hadn’t developed anorexia. And therapy has been absolutely, mind-blowingly life altering for me. It seemed to take forever to get anywhere – but then all of a sudden, I was in this place where I could accept, and forgive, and love, and risk, and hope, and connect. I honestly think without having gone through that process, I wouldn’t be as whole a person as I am today. Even if I hadn’t developed an eating disorder, I still would have had an inferiority complex, I still would have  felt ugly, not-good-enough, lost. Therapy has taught me to respect and challenge myself, has given me the skills and knowledge I desperately needed in order to overcome the eating disorder and start becoming someone I could actually grow to like.

I never would have had the self-insight I do now without having had therapy, and I never would have had therapy without having developed anorexia. I maybe wouldn't have started writing again without being desperate for a way to channel what I was feeling and express my sadness...which means I wouldn't have been blogging at all, and so wouldn't have found and connected with you amazingly inspiring people.  

So you see, EVERYTHING has its purpose :)

Word of the Day Challenge: Day Twenty Five

I let myself get behind with these posts as things have been so busy (in a good way)...but am determined to catch up before the end of the month!

For this post, I wanted to include one of my (million) favourite quotes, which I think is perfect:

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Word of the Day Challenge: Day Twenty Four

It has taken me forever to accept that I cannot alter my face. I used to think that if I lost a little weight, I’d look more attractive. If I wore make-up more often. If I cut my hair just-so. If I… blah blah blah blah blah.

I compared myself unfavourably to every girl I saw, but especially to my sister (I still do, although I am really trying hard to stop this). My hair is light and fine, hers is a glossy auburn. I have small eyes with blonde lashes; hers are huge with soot-black lashes like butterfly wings. I have a long nose, too big for my face. My sister’s is cute as button.

I think my ed was partly a response to this perceived ugliness. I knew I couldn’t physically change my face, but my body? To an extent, that was under my control. I could mould that and shape it so that, even if I didn’t have a pretty face, I would at least have something positive about my physical appearance. I would have a perfect body, completely spare and pure and clean.

The funny thing is that when I look back at photos from when I was  ill and underweight, I don’t think I look more attractive, but less. My face is gaunt and haunted, and not in a defined and angular kind of way. I look like a hospital patient, not a runway model.   

I know that beauty is not skin-deep. I have never questioned this when it comes to others: I didn’t choose my friends because they had clear skin, white teeth or perfect bone structure. My friends are my friends because they are good, intelligent, funny, supportive, amazing, kind. How they look isn’t remotely important. It doesn’t even come into the equation. So why do I still struggle to believe that unless I look a certain way, I am essentially unacceptable?

Realising that this logic is skewed is the first step to self-acceptance, I think.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Word of the Day Challenge: Day Twenty Three

Word of the Day Challenge: Day Twenty Two

My literal home was a fractured one. My father was never on the scene, and my mother and sister formed their own close little unit very early on, from which I was – and still am - excluded. Personality-wise, we are polar opposites, and so all of the things that bonded the two of them were the things that made me feel different and separate.  I told myself that I was lucky, that I lived in a nice house with nice things, I had food, clothing, heat and light, I had rollerskates and a goldfish and piles and piles of books. But still I always thought of it as a house, not a home.

I have an absolutely amazing therapist. I may have mentioned this once or twelve-hundred times. I remember telling her once that I wished I had enough money to just pick up and move, start over again: new place, new life. She smiled, and said, But everywhere you go, there you are.

I’ve heard similar things before, but that time it hit me like a truck. I thought, no matter where I go or what I leave behind…I will always have this particular body, I will always have this particular mind. I will always be me; I can’t escape myself.

Previously, that would have filled me with despair because I didn’t like the Self I was. But this time  it really struck me that I was going to have to spend the rest of my life with myself. I was the one constant I could count on. If I was in a relationship with someone who treated me cruelly, would I put up with it? Maybe for a while, but hopefully, I would have the strength to free myself from the situation eventually. So if I wouldn’t put up with it from someone else, someone who I could walk away from if I so chose, then I certainly shouldn’t have to put up with it from myself.

It’s a frightening one, this idea of the Self as home. Terrifying at first when you’re not even sure you want to share the same space as your thoughts, your ideas, your feelings and fears, not even sure if you can. My therapist told me to think of it like moving into a house where every wall is painted black. You would probably begin to feel claustrophobic – cramped – small – depressed. But- and this is what’s important to remember -  you can change that. They’re your walls. Paint them however you want: white, pink…fluorescent green and flowery if that’s what makes you happy! Whatever helps to make you content in your living space. Whatever you need to be comfortable in your body, your mind. This is where all the mindfulness comes in…the self-soothing we’ve been talking about…the nurturing…

(She is very wise, my therapist).  

It’s not an overnight thing. I am not suddenly revelling in every cell of my body. I don’t imagine my interiors as being gold and gleaming. I still sometimes want to strip away every last bit of myself and start over – new paper, fresh paint. But once you begin to accept that you are a work in progress, a sort of ongoing renovation project, it’s incredibly liberating. You are not building a home from scratch, you are improving the one you have. Feel like your mind is rusting away, your brain unchallenged? Take an evening class, learn a language, read a difficult book. Feel shabby and well-worn? Take a bubble bath, get a haircut, paint your nails. It doesn’t have to be anything majorly dramatic. It’s about constancy. A little like keeping up with the house cleaning – you might properly Spring clean once or twice a year, but you still need to do the dusting every few days to stop the cobwebs collecting, you still need to vacuum under the beds.

Everywhere you go, there you are. Might as well make it a pleasant place to be. 

Word of the Day Challenge: Day Twenty One

‘Fight’ doesn’t have to be a negative word. It doesn’t always  have to mean fists and violence and bruises.

‘Fight’ can mean arguing against those spiteful, unhelpful voices that tell you that you’re not good enough, that you don’t look right, that you don’t weigh as little as you should (which is to say, the same as a feather, a whisper, a breath).

‘Fight’ can mean overriding your own instincts. You may not want to eat, there are a million reasons why you ‘shouldn’t’…but you do it anyway, even though it’s difficult. You know that it’s necessary for health and wellness.

‘Fight’, when things are especially dark, can mean nothing more than grimly hanging in there.  Using every ounce of energy to not give up.

It isn’t always obvious when people are fighting.  There is a quote I love that says, be kind to everyone you meet, for they are each fighting a hard battle. Like many others, I have gotten good at pasting on a smile, at laughing brightly, seeming fine. When I was ill, it seemed ludicrous to me that I was getting away with it: surely people could see past my disguise to the obvious bones beneath, the scars under my sleeves?

I was very underweight and not at all well…but because I put up that front and smiled, went to work and paid my bills on time, people believed I was fine. Even when there are physical symptoms as well as emotional problems, people can be fooled into thinking everything’s alright, really, as long as they have that surface calm to distract them.

In a way, having been through such a desperate time has been an invaluable experience. I think it has made me a much more compassionate and sympathetic person. When you have been so terribly low and yet been able to hide that so effectively, it makes you more conscious of what could be going on for other people behind their public smiles, more tuned in to other possibilities.

I always try to keep that quote in mind, now. To remember that everyone I meet is fighting  something, no matter how happy go lucky they may seem. 

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Word of the Day Challenge: Day Twenty

I really struggle with accepting compliments. I blush and stutter. I counter the compliment with self-disparaging remarks as a sort of defence mechanism: deep down, I don’t believe I am deserving of compliments, so I automatically undermine them. It’s almost like I think the person giving the compliment is doing it out of pity, and by brushing it aside, I’m showing that I understand this, that I know I’m not really pretty, I’m not actually intelligent, that this dress doesn’t really look nice on me.  

I realise that I’m my own worst enemy when it comes to this sort of thing. I remember talking to my therapist once about my inferiority complex regarding my sister, and telling her that She’s everything I’m not. She’s bright, she’s popular, she’s sweet, she’s reliable. And she  got all the good genes, too: she’s beautiful, she has gorgeous hair. She’s normal height, not ridiculously tall like me. She has big eyes, big boobs, a tiny little button nose.

Later in that same session, we were talking about perfectionism and the rules we have for ourselves, and she said something about the fact that she had never seen me with a hair out of place, that I was always ‘groomed’. I laughed self-consciously, said If you think I’m groomed, you should see my sister…she always looks impeccable, her hair and make-up are always perfect…

It’s interesting that you immediately deflected that compliment, she noted. And that you directed my attention, and the compliment intended for you, on to your sister.

The subconscious thought under my reaction was not only that I didn’t deserve the compliment, but also, pre-emptively, quick, mention your sister so that she knows that you know that you’re not as good as she is…you wouldn’t want her to think you had any misconceptions, that you thought you were anywhere near as groomed as your sister, or as attractive as she is…

(The thought wasn’t quite so conscious as that at the time, obviously, but in breaking it down, that’s where we arrived).

My best friend, Steven, was surprised that I was surprised by this realisation. You do it all the time, he said. Someone will say they like the colour of your hair and your immediate response is something like, oh, mine’s a sandy red, really, it’s not red at all, you should see my sister’s, hers is auburn, it’s really gorgeous…

I suppose the point is that if a compliment is given to you, it’s intended for you. It’s not necessarily someone’s way of saying, You have nice hair, but your sister’s is prettier. It’s not necessarily a pity-comment (She’s so unattractive, I feel bad for her…I’ll tell her that I like her dress and make her feel a little better).

You can’t decide what other people mean. You can decide what you take from a comment: whether you choose to disqualify it, or whether you say thank you, and appreciate the fact that someone took the time to compliment you on something, whether or not you believe it.  Usually, whatever you might suspect, their intentions are honourable.

Word of the Day Challenge: Day Nineteen

"There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, of unspeakable love."

- Washington Irving

Word of the Day Challenge: Day Eighteen

Another quote from me for this prompt. If you haven't guessed already, I love quotes. I have a zillion notebooks stuffed full of them :)

A day without laughter is a day wasted.

- Charlie Chaplin

Monday, 18 June 2012

Word of the Day Challenge: Day Seventeen

Word of the Day Challenge: Day Sixteen

I have always loved new beginnings. The first scrupulous page in a new notebook. The first day of school after a long Summer. The first day of January every year, when your ears are still ringing with bells, and the promises you have sworn to keep still bright and shiny.

My problem is not with beginning things; it’s keeping them up. And the main reason for this is that I want to run before I can walk: I want to have accomplished what I set out to do right now; taking small, incremental steps feels agonisingly slow, and I convince myself that slow progress means failure.

I read something recently that made me look at this from a new perspective. It was in one of the books on mindfulness I read at the library (I know I keep droning on about mindfulness, but honestly, I feel like it’s been such an eye-opener). The author said that we can’t decide to live our lives wholly perfectly from a particular moment onwards. If we decide that we won’t restrict ever again, and then we find ourselves repeating those old familiar patterns, the repercussions are terrible: we have failed, we haven’t kept our promise, we are worthless, useless, blah blah blah – I’m sure you’re familiar with the rest of the litany.

The author said that, instead, we can only make the next right choice.

That sounds like kind of the same thing, given that making the next right choice in the above circumstance would mean choosing to eat the next meal rather than restricting, and then choosing the next one after that. Surely that’s the same thing as just deciding never to restrict again in the first place?

The difference with making the next right choice is that it isn’t rigid. It’s not a stern decree or an absolute. There’s something very human about it, and very humble. There is flexibility in it, and room for error. It’s saying that ok, I will try and keep making the next right choice for myself but I understand I might not always be able to do that. Sometimes I will make the wrong decision or make a bad choice. But that’s ok. No-one’s perfect. What’s important is that I pick myself up again and make the NEXT right choice.

It’s not starting over again, back at square one, with a new promise and an equally steely look, only to feel despairing and worthless again the moment we ‘fail’ (which we ultimately will: I keep saying this, but it’s important: we’re HUMAN). It’s keeping on with the new beginnings. It’s keeping on full stop. Every day is a new beginning. Every hour, every moment, every year. Our new beginnings are limitless. What’s important is not seeing each one as an imperative, because then any mistakes we make along the way become absolute failures. They’re not. They’re only stumbles we can pick ourselves up from.

Carl Rogers said that ‘The good life is a process, not a destination’.

It’s not a nice, neat beginning with a nice, neat, defined end in sight. It’s a series of experiences and emotions and observations and triumphs and mistakes. And yes, things will come to an end, good things and bad; but in every end, there is a new beginning. There cannot be one without the other.

And in between, all we can do is keep making the next right choice.

Word of the Day Challenge: Day Fifteen

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard expressions like ‘Live in the moment’, or ‘the time is now’. I’ve always thought that it was a very nice idea on paper, but not one that can actually be incorporated in a practical way into a real life: not when we need to plan for the future, not when we need to review our past mistakes to make us better people and avoid the same trips and pitfalls.

Then my therapist introduced me to the concept of mindfulness. She recommended books for me to read – always the best way for me to learn – and I ploughed through them, fascinated. It turns out that mindfulness – essentially being conscious in each moment and living in the now – doesn’t mean abandoning your past or forgetting about your future, hoping that it flowers before you, just so. Mindfulness is about not letting those things define you. It’s about not blindly rushing around without thinking about what we’re doing. It’s about noticing. About really connecting.

It’s not easy to keep bringing your mind back when it wanders – we’re imaginative creatures, and we like to daydream, we like to revisit old ground and set up temporary camp there. Our minds are like gypsies in that way – always drifting, never settling. Apparently, it gets easier with practice.

What I did notice, almost immediately, was how much more connected I felt.

One of the simplest exercises I was taught was to just notice my surroundings – for example, walking home from work, I’d normally be thinking about my day, calculating how much money I’d spent, worrying about the work I hadn’t completed or wondering what to eat for dinner. My therapist told me to actively observe instead – talk to myself as if I was pointing things out to a child (because, as she pointed out, children are naturally mindful), keep a mental litany going.

Look how blue the sky is. The clouds are lovely, and full of light. That one looks like a teapot. That one like a rabbit in a hat. Look at those bright pink flowers, the one bee nosing about in their petals. Listen: a dog is barking, it echoes from the walls. Feel that breeze lifting my hair, the sun on my skin. I taste like spearmint. I feel warm, and calm.

It sounds ridiculously simple. That’s because it is. If it sounds hippie-ish or New Age-y…it isn’t. It’s just about learning to notice things again rather than drifting off. About experiencing things rather than dulling them out with the white noise of our swarming thoughts. How many times have you driven home without remembering the actual journey? Or washed the dishes on autopilot? It’s easy to zone out. It’s easy to disconnect. But we miss out on so much actual life when we do it.

I just wanted to end with a quote I’ve always liked – it may sound trite, but there’s such truth in it:   

Today is a gift – that’s why it’s called ‘the present’. 

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Word of the Day Challenge: Day Fourteen

For this post, I looked to my journals for inspiration. Particularly in these last few weeks, I have been trying to direct my entries more towards positivity instead of simply using my journal as a space in which to offload the emotions or concerns I don't like to share with others. Reflecting on an entry I have just written and then writing a little note based on my observations has been one way of creating a sort of distance from my immediate emotion - of observing what's really going on rather than just closing the pages after I've finished writing.

This is a note I wrote a few weeks ago when I had really started to focus on recovery and learning to like myself as a person.

How do you learn to love what you have loathed? The only way is to do it. The doing is the learning. The teaching is the lesson.

You think you don't like yourself, but you don't like what you think about yourself. There is a distance between the two as huge as the space between two stars.

'I love who I am'. Tell yourself this. Tell yourself often. All love starts small. Any love is enough.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Word of the Day Challenge: Day Thirteen

I knew right away what I wanted to include in this post: the lyrics to the Pink song, 'Perfect'.

One of my best friends told me that she cried when she first heard this song because it reminded her of me. When I listened to the words, I cried as well. But it was a good sort of cry.  Sometimes we need reminding that we are special just the way we are.

Made a wrong turn once or twice
Dug my way out, blood and fire
Bad decisions, that's alright
Welcome to my silly life

Mistreated, misplaced, misunderstood
Miss "no way, it's all good", it didn't slow me down
Mistaken, always second guessing
Underestimated, Look, I'm still around

Pretty, pretty please
Don't you ever, ever feel
Like you're less than, less than perfect.
Pretty, pretty please
If you ever, ever feel
Like you're nothing
You are perfect to me.

You're so mean
When you talk about yourself, you are wrong.
Change the voices in your head
Make them like you instead.

So complicated
Look happy, you'll make it,
Filled with so much hatred
Such a tired game.
It's enough, I've done all I can think of
Chased down all my demons, I've seen you do the same.
[ Lyrics from: ]
Oh, pretty, pretty please
Don't you ever, ever feel
Like you're less than, less than perfect.
Pretty, pretty please
If you ever, ever feel
Like you're nothing
You are perfect to me.

The whole world stares so I swallow the fear
The only thing I should be drinking is an ice cold beer.
So cool in line and we try, try, try,
But we try too hard, it's a waste of my time.
Done looking for the critics 'cause they're everywhere
They don't like my jeans, they don't get my hair
We change ourselves and we do it all the time

Why do we do that? Why do I do that?
(Why do I do that?)

Oh, pretty, pretty please
Don't you ever, ever feel
Like you're less than, less than perfect.
Pretty, pretty please
If you ever, ever feel
Like you're nothing
You are perfect to me.

Oh, pretty, pretty please
Don't you ever, ever feel
Like you're less than, less than perfect.
Pretty, pretty please
If you ever, ever feel
Like you're nothing
You are perfect to me.

This Little Bird...

I mentioned in an earlier blog that I was thinking about creating a second blog page, and after turning the idea over in my head for a few days, I’ve decided to go ahead and do it. The content on this blog specifically relates to eating disorder recovery, and it felt too casual to go from writing about something with so much gravity to writing about discovering brown bread ice cream (really: it’s a thing). So I’m going to create a second blog where I can post random musings, pretty photographs, little weirdnesses (see aforementioned brown bread ice cream), quotes I like, little life updates, etc etc.

I also wanted to make sure I kept some sort of active dialogue going in terms of recovery. The posts I’ve been reading on here and the comments I’ve been left have been incredibly inspiring, and are making sure that I feel motivated and supported. It’s important to keep being inspired, I think – to keep on asking questions, to keep growing, and to keep building relationships. And it’s proven valuable to have a designated space to talk and think about all that specific stuff (and of course, I love reading the words you all post on here, too!)

That having been said, I am more than just someone recovering from an eating disorder. I am a writer. I am a best friend. I am an obsessive reader. I love to read about quantum physics, even though I was terrible at Science at school. I am fascinated by mindfulness and psychology and dreaming. I love to travel, I love art, and photography. And it would be nice to have a designated space for all that stuff, too.

If you’re interested in reading, I’d love for you to stop by my other page, too. I just set up the page, and the link is below (please note: you may need to paste this in manually – I am not the most tech-savvy of folk):

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Word of the Day Challenge: Day Twelve

I wasn’t sure what to write for this post, so I did a sort of free-association exercise. The result is a little disjointed (my thoughts often are, they tumble and spill over themselves like little gymnasts) but I thought it was quite interesting to see what came up…

There is a strange comfort in crowds. Crowds provide a place to hide. A place where you can be a faceless person among many. Crowds are largely anonymous. Thy have their own kind of privacy – there may be a million eyes to see you, but you’re only one dot on a teeming landscape.

There will always be people who try to stand out from the crowd. They might wear flashing lights in their hair, or fluorescent wigs. They might dress outrageously, or in costume, so that eyes can’t help but be drawn to them like iron filings to a magnet.

Eating disorders can be a little like being part of a crowd. You might want to disappear – to be a nameless, faceless number. In the same way, it might on some level be a way to get noticed – the sharpness of emerging bones sounding a warning to concerned friends or parents.

You can feel alone in a huge crowd of people, just like you can feel alone within the confines of your eating disorder (or depression, or other mental health issue), no matter how many friends you have around you.

My friends joke often that I am a crowd-pleaser, which is true – I want to be all things to all people and have everyone like me. I am trying to be more relaxed about this. More accepting of myself. Crowd-pleasing is exhausting. Constant performance is exhausting.

But crowds can also lift and carry – think of the joyous crowds at a concert, united in song and support; think of crowd surfers on a sea of hands, trusting they won’t fall, riding the wave of spontaneity and celebration.

Monday, 11 June 2012

Word of the Day Challenge: Day Eleven

When I was about to start writing this post and thought to myself, what do I think when I think ‘force’?, it spoke of violence – brute force, asserted force, lack of control. But actually, after I rolled it around in my head for a while, I started to think of it as a positive word: a force for good, a force for change. The driving force of willpower, which can be used for self-destruction, as in the gradual whittling away of the flesh that comes with restriction and starvation, or self-preservation, as in wilful recovery.

People with eating disorders – or any kind of mental health issue for that matter - are sometimes seen as weak. They have given in or succumbed, they aren’t fighting against their negative thoughts, they aren’t trying.

In actual fact, maintaining an eating disorder is hard work. It feels impossibly difficult at times. Starving to the point of exhaustion requires an enormous amount of willpower. Not that I’m saying this is a good thing – only that we are not weak-willed, lily-livered little girls with no fight in us. When we learn how to channel the force of our own willpower in a positive direction, access our own sense of self-preservation, we are unstoppable.

Before I recovered, I’d have said that my anorexic weight was the hardest thing I’d managed to achieve. I think that people who have no experience of eating disorders sometimes presume that anorexics just decide to stop eating one day and get veryvery thin as a result. The truth is, it takes constant battling, constant effort to lose and keep losing weight, and then to keep that weight stable. Constant, forceful arguing with the self, about what to forbid and why we should not submit to temptation. Constant agonising about whether to just have one bite, one sip, one chew, about whether to purge the little we have managed to eat. I remember being utterly exhausted, ridiculously hungry, and still I wouldn’t give in. That, to me, was strength. That, then, was willpower.

Now I am in recovery, I can say, hand on heart, that achieving that was even harder. And some days are still hard (although it is getting easier) but it’s so worth it. I have a life, now. I am interested in things again. I can read a book and remember what happened, I can sit down to write and not be confronted by a dull mental hum and nothing else. I can socialise with friends without having to worry about whether they’ll be eating, and if I’ll have to eat, and how little I can get away with. And oh my goodness, it took so much effort to undo all that mental conditioning and allow myself things again and put on weight to get physically better. It was like the anorexic process in reverse, with extra difficulties thrown in for good measure. 

This is turning into yet another long-winded and sort of rambling post…but the crux of what I am trying to say is that we have used our driving force, our inner power to over-ride the most basic of urges, and that has taken commitment and power and strength – it was just used in the wrong way. Like using a sword to slice bread and hacking the loaf into broken little bits. You’ve achieved what you set out to do – you’ve sliced the bread – but what a mess you’ve made of it.

When we can learn to turn our driving force around and use that for recovery and creation and positivity instead….that’s when we really do become a force to be reckoned with.