I go to university, I go to lessons, I chat to course mates…But I battle with fear of failing and fear that no one really likes me.
I study, I write essays, I do coursework…But I’m not allowed to sit down and I’m constantly distracted by thoughts of food and weight. Terrified of gaining weight and deliberating what I can eat today.
I go out for dinner with friends…But I’ve scoured the menu looking for what fits in to my calorie allowance. It’s no a question of choosing a meal I want, but what meal is the right number.
I eat dinner at home seemingly with ease…But I’ve barely eaten anything all day. And should I be served a meal that looks larger than I am expecting, I’m riddled with fear and anxiety, needing reassurance.
I go running every week and power walk every day…But I’m physically exhausted. Trying to run with barely any muscle is harder than you can imagine.
I can meet up with friends and have a chat and a laugh…But I’m overwhelmed with depression and loneliness the 95% of the time I am on my own.
I worked as a chef for 2 and a half years, cooking food for other people…But I have never tried any of my own cooking and never ate a morsel of food whilst at work.
I watch the latest shows on TV…But again, my mind is distracted by food and weight, a sudden panic that I’ve eaten too much, that I’m going to have gained lots of weight.
I commute with others on a daily basis on the train…But again, I’m not allowed to sit down.
I get dressed in the morning and have a shower at night…But I look in the mirror and feel utter repulsion and disgust, wishing I could take a carving knife to my body.
I smile at the lady in the shop as she asks how I stay so slim, how she wishes she could be thin like me…If only she knew. If only she knew what it was like living with an eating disorder. Living with depression and anxiety.
Appearances can be deceiving. I do normal things, I go about daily activities. But there is an inner battle, an inner torture, an inner suffering that is like no other, that I can’t even describe in words. I dream of going out and doing things with friends, having a life…But I lock myself away, scared and alone. Convinced I’m not capable of being sociable, convinced no one actually wants to spend time with me, convinced my life is destined to be this way.
That is what having a mental illness is – living in constant fear. Having hopes and dreams but then behaving the exact opposite through shear fearfulness. And it is not all about appearances. Eating disorders are not just about weight, you don’t have to be skinny to suffer. Depression isn’t just about being sad and how many times you cry. It is not like physical illness, you don’t get a bandage or crutches. You often cannot see mental illness. But it can very much be there, despite of appearances. Just some food for thought.
What a testing month it has been. Not only have been tested in several exams for my course, but my strength to keep fighting anorexia…and to keep fighting for a life has also been tested.
I’ll start with exams. I have spent the past two weeks doing exams and coursework…which means I have spent the past month with my head in books revising. I can’t say it’s been particularly enjoyable, revising for 8 hours a day everyday…even on Christmas day! But I’ve done it and thankfully the exams/coursework are over. I wasn’t hopeful for the results of my exams – I genuinely thought I had failed. There have been many tears, many “I can’t do it” and “I want to give up” and “I’ve failed” but I have passed and so for now, I carry on, albeit convinced that I will fail the next assessment.
So, for just over a month now my life has been taken over by preparing for these exams. Although, anorexia still likes to try and keep itself my number one priority. I was weighed by my nurse early in the new year. My eating hadn’t changed over Christmas (except for maybe eating a few Brussel sprouts), my exercise had stayed exactly the same…yet I stand on the scales and I’ve gained a kilo! An F***ing Kilo! I was distraught. Since August my weight has slowly been creeping up, for no apparent reason. I’ve cut things out of my diet but still, it continues to go up. So on the 2nd January 2018, tipping the scales a kilo heavier…the heaviest I’ve been in 10 years, I just felt in complete despair.
From then, it was a real struggle to concentrate on my work. All I could think about was my weight, how disgusting and repulsive I was to have let this happen…how dare I have allowed myself to eat Brussel sprouts when my weight was doing this. So, whilst everyone else is sat there helping themselves to an extra roast potato, or another chocolate from the box…I am wracked with guilt for having eaten 5 Brussel sprouts. Revision took a back seat as I tried to think about what I could cut out to lose the weight, what from my already reduced diet could I take out to reduce it even further?
I discussed it with my mum and we agreed on an amount to take out. She was very reluctant but in the state I was in we had to do something. And I would much rather do it openly than secretly, something that is very different to how I was before. And I am not trying to lose a lot of weight, just to get back to where I can cope with…to what was agreed would be my upper limit, to which I am now several kilos over.
But I hate anorexia for making me feel like this…and making me behave like this. Having to count every calorie that I eat, living in fear of gaining weight. And I know reducing my diet is not the best option, it is not the option that is going to help me beat anorexia or get a life…but it was the only option at the time that would enable me to carry on, to try and keep revising for my exams and not go full throttle back to complete restriction and quest to be skeletal. With all the other stresses in life, it is taking every effort to just manage anorexia. So for now, I am sticking with that. Management. I still hope for a life where I am free from its chains but that fight is not something I am up for at the moment. I will be in the future…but not right now.
And then there was also the situation with the dentist. Mid December I went to the dentist with toothache, similar to what I have experienced before so I was just hoping for some antibiotics. Boy was I in for a shock. He wanted to remove my wisdom tooth there and then. So as a good patient I agreed. I had no idea what it would be like, having never had tooth removal before. I can’t say it was a particularly pleasant experience, but over the years I’ve spent in hospital, I’ve dealt with much worse.
I spent the rest of the day revising, although it was difficult with the immense pain. 15 minutes into eating my dinner of soup, I passed out. The next thing I know I am on the floor with my legs in the air, my mum telling my dad to call an ambulance. The ambulance crew arrive, do some checks and try and sit me up. And I pass out again. The ambulance crew want to take me to hospital. I reluctantly agree…it’s not as if I have fond memories of going to hospital.
We bypassed A and E and were taken to a small waiting room with several other patients and their families. And that’s when anorexia really started to kick in. Firstly, I was made to feel a fraud for being in hospital when I wasn’t thin. At least when I’d been in before I’d barely been able to walk, now anorexia just made me feel like a fat failure. Then anorexia started to lure me in with its temptations. How nice it would be to be ill again, to have an escape from the stresses of life…to be too ill to barely breathe let alone think about trying to get qualifications and a career. Anorexia was luring me in like a dog to a bone.
As I sat there, anorexia convincing me how good it could make me feel, I looked at my parents sat beside me. And I was overwhelmed with guilt. All the previous times I have been in hospital I have been too out of it, too brainwashed and taken over by anorexia that I have lost a sense of reality. But whilst anorexia was now trying to convince me to escape the reality once more, I have been living in the real world for over 6 years, living in reality, and I could see how worried my parents were.
And then all I could think was how I could never do that to them again. As much as I sometimes think I want to go back to anorexia, I could never put my parents through it again. They were worried about me now having just passed out… I can only imagine how they must have felt when I could barely walk, or talk, or keep my heart beating. They have spent years by my side, in and out of hospital, always there for me no matter what. Anorexia has ruined the past 10 years of my life…it has also ruined theirs. And whilst not quite ready to try and beat anorexia, I am doing my best to manage it, to stop letting it completely ruin mine and their lives. I will beat it one day. But I have to manage it for now…hopefully this time next year I will have managed…and beaten it.
Snow…isn’t it pretty – when it settles on the rooftops and trees, people look out the window and feel excitement. So much fun can be had in the snow – building snowmen, playing on sledges, making snow angels…these are all activities I saw people doing last week when we had the snowfall. Everyone was out there having fun.
However, to me, snow is just an inconvenience. A real pain that just stresses me out. I hate it – How am I meant to do my daily power walking when the grounds are covered with snow? And then when the snow starts to melt, the grounds are covered in ice. The stress it causes is unbelievable! So while everyone else was out having fun in the snow or staying cosy inside as they looked out of the window at the pretty views, I dug out my wellies, loaded up my layers and went out for my 45 minute power walk.
As I pounded the streets and fields in 5-inch-deep snow, with little snow flurries blowing onto my frozen face, I thought “What the hell am I doing?” Who in their right mind tries to power walk for 45 minutes in these conditions? It’s utter madness. And for anyone who tries to tell me that anorexia is a choice – this is proof of the polar opposite.
No one would ever choose to do what I went out to do. I didn’t want to do it – I would never actually choose to do that – it was hell and I hated every minute. But I HAD to do it. There were no ifs or buts, I had to do my walk, no matter what, no matter how much I hated it or how much I wanted to cry while I was doing it, anorexia had taken over my head and was making me do it. it had complete control of my behaviour; I certainly wasn’t in any control of what I was doing.
Likewise, the day after, I went out for my powerwalk in the torrential rain. I was absolutely soaked, cars splashing me with muddy water, hands bitterly frozen. Absolute hell. But I had no choice. I can’t cope with the guilt, anxiety and fear with not walking so I have to do it. Anorexia wins. But it’s at times like this that I hate anorexia more and it makes me more determined to not let this become my life forever, to not spend the rest of my life marching round streets powerwalking in all conditions. I don’t want that. I hate it. and I hate anorexia for making me do it.
If another person was making someone do what I had to do in the snow and rain, there would be outrage for it being so cruel. But when it’s someones own mind making them do it, no one even notices. But it is not acceptable. And it is not acceptable for treatment for this illness to be so sparse, for treatment to only be offered when anorexia has literally driven you to the brink of death. Anorexia severely impacts in every aspect of a sufferer’s life. And even people who appear to function, who appear to get on relatively normally, can still have anorexia impinging greatly on daily life.
I’m going to keep fighting. I’m not going to be like this for the rest of my life. And to help me, I’m going to keep paying to see my therapist…because I’m not allowed this treatment on the NHS…because I’m not ill enough. But anyone who had seen me out walking in the snow would know that isn’t the behaviour of a ‘well person’. But not everyone can afford to pay for therapy like I am and it is not fair that we are expected to live with serious mental illnesses, receiving no funding or treatment until we are ‘thin enough’ and our BMI ‘low enough’. No one would accept the abuse we suffer from anorexia from another person. Early interventions and better treatment for mental illness is needed. We need help to get us out of our blizzards. Not wait until we are completely snowed under before help is offered.
“Say it loud, say it clear…It’s too late when we die.”The words from a song by Mike and The Mechanics which came on the radio the day after my Grandad died nearly two weeks ago. And the words are very true. We can’t tell the people we love and care about we feel once we or they die. And I haven’t told the people in my life enough.
I have some wonderful memories of my Grandad from when I was a child – taking us to the park to feed the squirrels, listening to my sister and I endlessly singing as we repeatedly jumped off a wall into his arms, the parties on New Years Eve, the fun at Southend, playing board games for hours…and him sitting on Professor Plum from Cluedo and breaking the playing piece, always trying to give me a wet sloppy kiss on the cheek but me refusing…oh how I wish I hadn’t refused now.
Me with my grandparents and sister when we were younger
I look back with very fond memories. And I feel sad that life couldn’t stay that way, that we can’t freeze time. I also feel sad that for the last 10 years of his life I have spent the majority of that time either in hospital or being so preoccupied with anorexia that I never really took the time to see him much, that I never really took the time to tell him I loved him and that I thank him for helping make my childhood so happy and enjoyable. I’d like to think that he knows this, but it doesn’t stop me hating anorexia for ruining virtually all of my relationships with family and friends.
I can’t change the past but I can change the future. I am going to make every effort to not let anorexia seep in and further destroy relationships that I have started to rebuild. When I think about how I treated my mum and dad when in the deepest grips of anorexia, and virtually froze out all other family and friends – it’s devastating. And I hate myself now when I find I sometimes slip back into that old, horrible me…as much as I try not to…sometimes anorexia wins.
But I’m going to fight it stronger now. My family and friends, the ones that are still here and have stuck by me even though anorexia pushed them so far away – I am sorry and I am eternally thankful to you. It is their care and their love that keep me fighting anorexia. So please, tell the people that you love and care for how you feel – Say it loud. Say it clear…because they can go at any time…and it is certainly too late when we die.
My family and friends who mean the world to me. Thank you:
“If only I could lose weight,” I said this week, “then I’d be able to cope with everything else a lot better.” This is what I said and it is genuinely how I’ve been feeling. The stresses of uni, the disappointment of a bad running session…you name it, everything is getting to me. And the stresses of life aren’t helped by the fact that I keep gaining weight, albeit by small amounts, but it is showing a general upward trend and I’m struggling to cope with that.
It’s bad enough gaining weight when it’s planned, when you know you have had a calorie increase, but when there’s no reason why, I’m not eating anymore, so why am I continuously gaining weight? That makes it really difficult. And with everything else going on in life it just feels a bit overwhelming. And my default mechanism – focus on weight and then everything else will feel better. If I can just sort my weight out, I can deal with everything else. However, my stresses then increase because I feel I can’t sort my weight out as it feels I only have to look at food at the moment and it makes me gain weight. That’s how I feel anyway.
It is at times like this that support from my family is so important. My mum is there as the voice of reason, when my head can’t be, telling me that my coping mechanism of losing weight is in fact absolute bollocks, doesn’t solve anything and doesn’t actually in the long run make me feel any better.
I look at young kids going to school, riding on their scooters or running along with their Disney lunch boxes and I think ‘God I wish I could go back to that. To go back to my childhood when everything was fun and stress free.’ When I’d play outside all day, every day with friends on weekends, when coming home from school meant watching Rugrats or Mary-kate and Ashely, when I could eat anything without thinking about it or feeling guilty. All that has gone. Adult life isn’t like that and this leaves me very depressed.
But it is possible to be happy and have fun as an adult. However, not when you have anorexia. I considered the possibility of going travelling, thinking this would be less stressful than dealing with daily life; an escape from reality. But as my sister pointed out - it wouldn’t matter where in the world I was, anorexia would still be there and I would still have my same troubles. Ultimately, it is anorexia making me stressed and unhappy and until I beat it, that won’t change.
One day I will beat it. not while I’m doing my Masters however, I am still holding onto my plan to try when I finish. This thought is terrifying and often I want to back-track and say actually, I’m alright as I am and that I really don’t need to gain weight. But the reality is that I’m not okay as I am. I’m not happy and in the 10 years I’ve dedicated to anorexia, life most certainly has not got better. And where anorexia feels like the answer to all my problems, my sister is right – anorexia is the cause. I refer to a saying I have used previously “to succeed in anorexia is to fail in life.”
So I’m nearly 3 months into Uni…I’m definitely back into the swing of it, with work coming out of my ear holes! It is still very stressful and there are many times when I feel I can’t do it, but I desperately want to make it to the end of the course so I’m going to keep slogging away. I really like the people on the course and it’s nice to have that social interaction again-to feel part of a group and have things in common…I like it and I like them.
It’s a million miles away from my last experience at Uni in Loughborough when I was isolated, with no one talking to me…or even smiling to me. Now I’m involved in conversations, laughing and joking. I have become a lot less reclusive than I was at Loughborough, I have changed a lot since then and I have worked really hard to do so-to make myself more sociable, to be able to just talk to other people.
Me and my friend out for dinner
Other progressions have happened recently as well. I met up with my friend in London last week and we went to the pub and a few weeks ago I went out shopping and for dinner with my other friend which was good…something little but of big importance to me-to go out with a friend and have fun. I have mentioned before how cheese has been my fear food for years and that last year and that last year I did try eating again on the odd occasion when I went out for pizza. So, when I went out with my friend a few weeks ago, I faced the challenge again and I had Halloumi! And it was delicious! This is not to say cheese doesn’t still scare, it does, and it scares me that I liked it. But I have to accept that it’s ok to like it and just because I like it, it doesn’t mean I’m going to end up eating masses of cheese every day and gain lots of weight.
That is my mind thinking all or nothing again. Either I don’t eat it at all or I will end up eating it all the time. But as my Psychologist is trying to teach me, there is middle ground…everything isn’t always one extreme or the other. But that is exactly how I think-everything is either perfect or awful. And because most things in my life aren’t perfect, I think they are bloody awful. This is a thought process we are working on changing.
Me going out with my friends these past few weeks is evidence of that. When I was at Uni in Loughborough, I would spend all my spare time studying, never seeing anybody or doing anything. A classic case of me doing ‘all or nothing’. I either had to study every spare minute of the day because otherwise I was convinced I would fail. I do still have that thought but I also don’t want to go back to that old routine and lose touch with the few friends I have managed to get back.
So I’m trying to find a balance…that ‘grey’ middle ground, studying enough but not overly excessively and certainly not to the detriment of friendships. Now that I have these couple of friends and can go out occasionally and enjoy myself, I’m not willing to sacrifice this. So here is the start of the search for middle ground and trying to accept that middle, average, normal…is okay.
It’s Mental Health Awareness Day on Tuesday 10th October 2017. A day to raise awareness of mental health. 1 in 4 people every year suffer from mental health problems and more awareness and understanding is needed. But does it actually make any difference-an awareness day? That’s debatable.
For people that suffer with mental health issues like myself, it is not just about being aware for one day. Mental illness can affect people for months, years….and lifetimes. Mental illness is often so misunderstood and stigmatised that it can make the period of suffering, however long or short, very difficult.
There have been numerous occasions over the past few years when I have had abuse shouted at me in the street. “Are you a man?” and “Eat a burger” bellowed at me as I innocently go about my business. It beggars belief that people can think it is acceptable to say thing like that to anybody and it shows a complete lack of understanding of how comments like that can seriously negatively affect people suffering with mental illness, who already have shattered self-esteem and find it difficult to go out in public through fear of people staring or thinking they are different.
But these types of ignorant idiots are not alone. Recently, Amazon put a jumper up for sale with the slogan “ANOREXIA: Like Bulimia but with self-control” – absolutely disgusting, and research found that only 50% of people thought it was necessary for someone with an eating disorder to see a specialist. Seriously?! I wonder how many of those people would be happy to see a foot doctor when they were having serious heart problems? Trouble that could potentially kill them. Would they be happy to see someone who knew in great detail about in-grown toenails but very little about potential heart conditions? Probably not.
But eating disorders (and other mental health issues) continue to be deeply misunderstood, with many thinking a sufferer of anorexia chooses to be that way, that they simply choose not to eat because they want to be thin. And therefore they don’t warrant NHS treatment-they are not worthy of it because their condition is self-inflicted. And this could not be further from the truth. It is an illness of the mind and just like physical illnesses, there is no control over it and it can affect anyone at any time. And just like physical illnesses, it needs specialist treatment.
So is one day enough to make everyone aware and understanding of mental illness? I very much doubt it. It’s a start…but there’s a very long way to go before those with mental illness are not judged or discriminated against and instead shown compassion and an attempt to understand. But this is not to tar everyone with the same brush, many people do try to understand and show sympathy, support and help. And to those people – thank you. and I do appreciate it is very difficult to understand when you haven’t experienced it yourself. But there are still far too many people who are happy to remain blissfully ignorant and don’t want to know about it. I’m trying to help raise awareness and understanding – please help me.
So, I’m into my third week at uni. I can’t say it hasn’t been stressful – it certainly has. Mainly from all the work and assignments etc – it’s definitely been full on! There have been tears, lots of “I want to give up” and “I can’t do it.” But I continue to persevere. It is hard, there’s no doubting that and it’s a whole new experience and change from what my life has been these past few years. But I know that the things you want in life don’t come easy and you have to work hard for them. Which I am certainly going to do.
However, it would seem no surprise that under this time of change and stress that I have found myself thinking more ‘anorexically’, with restricting food creeping back in. I am very aware of it and whilst it hasn’t come to much at the moment, I know it is a slippery slope. You restrict a little bit here or there but justify it in your mind as ok because it’s only small. But it was enough to reassure you that you still have anorexia and it was enough to give you that addictive buzz; the buzz of knowing you can defy food. I haven’t felt that buzz in a long time but last week I did and it made me want to have it more. And that is dangerous. Little bits of restriction build up and before I know it I will back to losing weight…which is only going to end me up in one of two places – hospital or a coffin.
So the past few days I’ve made a real effort to force myself to have everything I am meant to. And I have. It’s bloody hard...my ultimate escape of anorexia seems so appealing in times of real difficulty to take me away from the stresses of life. But the ultimate escape does not lead to ultimate happiness. I’m back on track and I must give every effort to keep it that way. I want to achieve things in life, not have my only ‘success’ be that of being an anorexic. Because that would be the ultimate failure.
And I am having little successes. I really like the people on my course…and I chat to them! Yes me…who spent over 3 years at uni not talking to anyone, I’m now having lots of contact and conversations with others and enjoying it. And hopefully over the year, friendships will develop. I’m also succeeding in reducing my walking. The plan now is to reduce it by 5 minutes, 5 times a week, which I did last week. And I recognised my ‘blip’ and I’ve acted on it to try and stop it. Anorexia may feel like the ultimate escape but in fact it is the ultimate life sentence. And I’m going to keep rolling the dice for my ultimate double to get out of jail. The ultimate success.
10 years ago, I was embarking on my journey at Loughborough, entering as a very nervous fresher, worried about making friends…looking forward to losing weight.
Obviously, things didn’t turn out as expected and over the 10 years I have literally been to hell and back and dragged my parents through it with me. But here I am 10 years later about to embark on my new journey, starting a Masters at St Marys university. It took hours, days and weeks of agonising to finally commit to St Marys and not go back to Loughborough. It was a very hard decision and most definitely not the easy option. Everything is going to be new and unfamiliar – I will be completely out of my comfort zone and writing this the day before I start my first official lesson on Monday 11th, I am absolutely terrified. I will always feel a tie to Loughborough and coming to St Marys is a big risk and I guess we will have to wait and see if it was the right decision.
A big milestone did happen on Friday night though which needs mentioning and one which made me so happy. I met up with my old uni friend for dinner in London and then went back to hers to stay the night. And it was bloody brilliant. Being able to sleep round a friend’s house has been something I have wanted to be able to do for the best part of a decade.
Me sleeping at my friends
To spend an evening with a friend, chatting and relaxing in front of the TV, to stay over for the night – it has always been a wish yet felt a million miles away. Firstly, I didn’t think I would have the friend(s) to do it with (but the return of this friend in my life last year has been wonderful) and secondly, I never thought I would be able to manage my anorexia to the point which would enable me to sleep round a friend’s house. This time two years ago, probably even one year ago, I wouldn’t have been able to do it. The anxiety over food, exercise etc would have been too much – how I’d fit my eating plan around staying at someone’s house, how I’d fit my exercise routine in – I just wouldn’t have been able to cope and I wouldn’t have been able to do it.
But on Friday night I did it. Without much stress and with a lot of happiness. To most, sleeping round someone’s house is nothing out of the ordinary. To me, it is huge. And for me to be able to do it, to fulfil a decade long wish…something I have desperately wanted to do for so long but have been locked up by anorexia – it feels liberating, it feels incredible. A step towards unlocking my anorexic prison cell. And if I hadn’t chosen St Marys I wouldn’t have done it. I stayed over her flat because I had to register at St Marys on Saturday morning and she only lives 15 minutes away. So everything happens for a reason? Maybe. And whatever happens with my Masters and St Marys, I made a huge personal achievement on Friday night and that is just as important.
Anxiety. What a horrible feeling. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could go through life never feeling anxious, stressed or worried? Or at least not beyond the point that keeps us safe…as we need a certain amount of angst and worry to prevent us doing dangerous, harmful things. But life to me, particularly at the moment, just feels like one gigantic worry.
I worry about everything…and by everything, I do literally mean ‘everything’. And if I’m not worrying, I worry that I’m not worrying. I used to be quite laid back and never really let my worries and anxiety take over. But anorexia has changed that. Anorexia has made me incredibly anxious, although less so now than about 7 years ago when I was having constant panic attacks. But my three hospital admissions took a lot out of me and anorexia left me as a nervous wreck. I have come a long way since then-from being too scared to go into my house, or wear different clothes, or put food in my mouth; I have managed to tackle a lot of anxiety provoking situations, yet my daily life still seems overridden with worry.
Everyone develops coping mechanisms to deal with anxiety and anorexia is my maladaptive one. When faced with a lot of stress, fear and worry, I turn to anorexia to help me cope. And this can be over ‘anorexic worries’ but also normal life worries. Anorexia helps me cope by isolating me, taking me out of the real world and away from all it stresses and giving me something else to focus on-weight loss, food and exercise. And yes, these in themselves bring a lot of worry and anxiety but I am used to dealing with them-they are familiar and safe and if I focus all my attention on that I know I can deal with them…and I won’t have to deal with real life. Take where I am at the moment as an example. I am due to start a Masters very shortly, at a new university, on a new course, with a load of new people…and I am absolutely terrified. My instinctive reaction is to run away, to run to anorexia and focus on that; to set about losing weight and taking myself away from the daunting real-life situation. That would most definitely be the easy option. Easy? Yes. Safe? Yes. An escape? Yes. But will it truly make me happy? No. I have tried it before and I know for a fact that no matter how much it tries to convince you that it will, anorexia never makes you happy. It doesn’t make everything better, even though it is so convincing in persuading you otherwise. So I need to try and develop new ways of coping with my stress and anxiety because whilst anorexia is the easy option, it is actually just the option that reinforces and strengthens my anxiety and worry.
Every time an anorexic behaviour is used to cope with and relieve anxiety, it reinforces that behaviour and makes the fears worse. I feel very anxious when I reduce my walking by 5 minutes (in line with my new plan as mentioned on previous blogs) and my reaction to deal with this anxiety is to either do the final 5 minutes or cut my calories. And when I did that, my anxiety did come down. But then I associate the relief of the anxiety with that anorexic behaviour and conclude that the only way to relieve anxiety is to do the anorexic behaviour. And this can be applied to any scenario. But as my psychologist explained last week, anxiety never keeps on just rising and rising. It will in time hit a peak and plateau, and then start to fall. But you have to sit with it. You have to let it rise without doing the anorexic behaviour to control it and bring it back down. Because it will come back down without the behaviour, it’s just I’ve never tried because as soon as I feel the stress rising, I do the anorexic coping behaviour.
So with starting at university next week, whilst my default coping behaviour is anorexia; I am going to fight this. And I am going to have to apply this to all areas of my life in order to stop reinforcing anorexia as a way to cope. Whilst anorexia may help me cope in the short term, I will never break free from my state of constant worry and anxiety if the anorexic coping mechanisms just continue to reinforce these…which they do. I don’t want to keep running away from things and missing out on life because anorexia made me too scared to do otherwise. I am about to start a new chapter in my life and as terrifying as it is, I am going to face it head on.
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