It was almost automatic. I'd get up, search hastily through my ever growing pile of notebooks and stationary to find the hardback copy with the pretty colourful flowers on the front, and then set to work, usually over breakfast, in writing down my weekly goals.
The months passed and changed, and I changed, too. And now so much is different from before, there are a few things that remained unchanged and static.
ED's actual presence is one of these. It's true that his presence in my life is not as perceptible, as manifest, or as patent as before. Sometimes I even forget he is there; in times when excitement or joy, or simply hard work transport my mind to an unfamiliar place which ED cannot touch. But then he gently reminds me again with a cold hand on my shoulder or an insidious whisper in my ear. He's like the that thorn in your side which you can't quite prise out; that fly above your head which you keep on swatting at but can not quite shake off from your back. A thing that doesn't do enough to cause you any danger, but is there, nonetheless, and is enough to make a smile disintegrate into a frown. He is like my second shadow, in a way. Though I run and feel free at times, I look round and I can still see him attached to me, casting a space of darkness upon just some of the ground upon which I tread.
Impossible. Impossible so it may seem to detach yourself from something which for so long has been so intrinsically part of you, just like a shadow. Through darkness and light, through ED has been there, for every step of the way. And it almost seems like he had become part of me.
Not so, of course. The past two years have been critical for me, in the sense that I have finally begun to develop a sense of who I really am. Not the sick Emmy. The real Emmy who wants to live.
Im different from the rest, perhaps, but I'm no longer ashamed to say it. I don't drink, I don't wear ounces of make up or use snapchat or twitter, I don't choose to wear the clothes which might make me fit in a little bit better amongst the other members of my society. But I don't feel bad about this anymore. Im learning to accept, perhaps even embrace, my differences. And I can say that for my body, too.
Though I know I've got a much longer way to go, yet.
I've still got a bit to go along this long winding road.
And, contrary to my former beliefs, I know now that if I walk faster and stronger, I can leave that shadow far behind me. Detach myself from it, like a butterfly breaking free from the spider's entrapping web.
I landed there long ago, in that web of the intricate fine lines fringed with minuscule droplets of shimmering pearl and glistening silver. A thing so beautiful to the eyes of the innocent, but which, to those who know better, has long been the lair of a bloodthirsty creature; a creature which feeds off the bodies of its victims while they still remain torturously, tormentingly alive.
And back then, it was the more attractive fate for me, to be wrapped in the stifling layers of darkness and no feeling. To feel my body slowly be drained of its lifeblood, leaving nothing but an empty shell behind.
But now, for no longer. I want to free myself and learn to fly again, and spread my strong new wings.
And I believe this is where goal setting comes in again. For this, and so many other reasons. And with this in mind I will use my next post to explore these reasons, and what goals I plan to put in place which will finally enable me to fly free. And to teach me how for the next time, I need not land back in the spider's web; But to alight, like a feather drifting softly to the earth, in the midst of the meadow of bright and shimmering flowers. <3
Beautiful October, so radiant in her gold and copper finery; so richly adorned with the bright treasures of autumn's exquisite bounty. But yet she can also reveal a slightly more malignant side in her summoning of the first dark winter storms.
And Friday was just one of those such days when this side to her became more manifest. Walking upon the bog with Daisy it was as if a giant hand had taken a crayon to the canvas of a formerly blank virgin sky. To the north; the horizon was so clear and radiantly blue; whereas, to the south, an angry shade of steely grey, that spoke of volatility, unpredictability, and anger. And that grey was advancing with all the fury of some dark and dangerous beast.
Gazing upon it, I felt strangely unperturbed. Too engrossed, perhaps, was I in my world of anorexic-type thoughts; those ones which swell up, like some ugly bulging plant, to occupy so much space in my head that there was hardly any room for anything else. Sometimes I fail to even perceive the reality around me, so entrenched I often find myself being in this abyss of worry and anxiety, of fear and self-revulsion.
But then the wind called - called to me; so it seemed - and a flurry of yellow and crimson leaves were flung into my face before spiraling, drawn by invisible strings, in slow figures of eight before alighting to the ground like a dancer who has finally come to rest. And it seemed like the wind had called my name.
Wake up, Emmy! Wake up!
And suddenly I became startlingly, beautifully aware of the striking beauty of the world around me. The dark fingers of the birch trees holding aloft their final offerings of gold and brown. The rippling grass and the purple blue forms of the watching mountains. And, that troubled sky, with all its foretelling of a gathering storm and those furious clouds which would all too soon block out the sun.
But then I remembered that the storm would not last; and that, having blown its full course, the sky would once again take on the guise of a blank, fresh slate.
Though the storm would come it wouldn't last forever; and, once it was gone, the clear sky would reassert itself; as if making a fresh new beginning.
And even though I've been in recovery for a while, I realise that there is ever the potential for starting on a fresh new slate. For the past few weeks have been increasingly messy, with a lot of scribbles and spilt paint; alot of waste. And though I know recovery is never going to be perfect, I still felt like that I could do more. More to get myself away from this fuzzy grey zone, more to allow myself to push myself more firmly away from the Voice.
And one important thing that I want to do, is to teach myself how to pull myself away and out of that deep dark pit of sickly, cloying thoughts. The wind that morning was a blessing; for it enabled me to pull myself temporarily free, and fill my senses with the beauty all around me.
So time to lay out my blank slate, now, and look with fresh eyes upon its untarnished surface. And then to begin again. Not to begin, at the beginning of the very beginning; but, rather, at the beginning, of a renewed effort to break away; to break away from ED once and forever.
So they said, on reaching weight restored, one should start eating intuitively.
Eating intuitively. It's easy, right? Eat when you're hungry and stop when you're full. Eat what you feel like eating, what your body and mind are telling you you want. Simple.
Easy for them to say. For me, it's quite a different story, indeed.
If I were to do as they say and eat intuitively, I would stop eating my dinner after a couple of mouthfuls as that's when I feel physically full. I wouldn't eat half of what I am currently eating now, because it's rare that I feel physically hungry and therefore, at times, I have to force myself to eat. And then there is the other side of the coin - the constant mental hunger. That's the other extreme. I never really stop thinking about food - about what and how I am going to have it, how much, and at what time. I have cravings and I do not dare follow them. Because to me they do not make any sense. How could I possible crave more peanut butter when I've already had three tablespoons of the stuff that morning? What possibly could be the cause of my desperate longing to have another serving of cereal, when I have just polished off a whole one for my supper, not to mention the even larger one I had consumed earlier that day?
It makes no sense, no sense at all. No matter how hard I try to focus my mind, to pull it desperately away from these intrusive, screaming thoughts, they latch on again, clinging like a limpet to a rock, reasserting themselves with renewed and malicious vigor.
Even though I've gained weight, I can't seem to stop eating. What happened to that self-control? You're useless..it's no wonder you're looking so fat and dumpy..
Last night I stood and opened my bedroom window, gazed out upon the rustling, whispering garden: a garden that whispered of secrets untold, a garden in which every tiny plant had parktaken of life's sweet cup; had permitted itself to grow, and flourish. And now that autumn was here, their brightness was fading; but to me they shone as brightly as they had in their summer finery.
Because to look upon them reminded me of the thing that for me cannot be done. To grow and allow oneself to grow. Without putting a hundred restrictions in place and trying to change, or alter, what was meant to be; what is natural.
Because even after all this time I feel like I am still fighting against my body. Because I've reached that certain point: the glittering milestone with its diamond cut top and polished surface of cold shiny marble. The magic number!! The magic number which is bmi of 19. Once you're here, so they say, you've done the hardest part. You're healthy!! Well done!!
And having reached that number and placed my hand on its unforgivably cold surface, all I felt was panic, not relief. Right. So I've reached the golden number...so God forbid I gain a grams worth more weight.
Something had to give, so I cut a little back. And that's how it remains.
It's like following a precise mathematical formula. As long as the formula is followed, everything falls into place. I feel calmer, more secure, knowing that my weight is not going up, and the volcano under which lies the swelling magma of my anxiety is blissfully, idyllically dormant. The fissure remains sealed and uncannily silent; provided I stick precisely to the formula.
The formula of how to maintain my weight.
But if I once make the slightest step out of line, the crater is ripped open and the lava surges forward. With the heat it feels like it has enough power to destroy everything in its path.
That shiny stone may have looked beautiful from a distance, but now, having reached it, all I can taste is the metallic taste of betrayal. Better..?? I dont feel better. Is this really what the land of recovery truly looks like?
It is different, that much is true. For There are trees where once there was nothing but dead leaves and arid earth. But though the trees bear some sweet new foliage, their boughs are still deprived of blossom or fruit.
Recovery represents a new life, a new beginning. I knew this all along, but now, this concept takes on a new and profoundly beautiful relevance.
For not only does recovery mean a new life for me, free from the shackles of the eating disorder. It also means that, from my body, new life may be brought into the world.
Me this Summer
I've been with my boyfriend for almost a year now. Something I haven't really talked about on my blog; for at first I didn't discern a connection between my relationship and my recovery.
For through this extraordinary and beautiful boy I have found both life, and beauty, in a place where there once was only barrenness. Being in love has taught me alot about recovery. It has showed me what recovery should be like, and could be like. For when I am with him it is like I almost feel normal. Normal and more alive than I have ever felt, in the whole twelves years of my illness.
He has made me realise just how badly I want to be free.
Free, to make our own life together: and, perhaps in time, to create new life through children.
There was once a time I was repelled by the thought of having kids. I love children and always have done; but yet, when it came to the thought of having children myself, my whole being would recoil with fear and abhorrence. Because being a mother meant being a woman. And being a woman meant gaining weight and leaving my thin, stick-limbed child's body far behind.
For me, once; a distant possibility.
For me, now, a close and fundamentally life-changing new reality.
For now I no longer have a child's body: my body is that of a young woman. Just yesterday, I bought my first D bra. Having been wearing B bras since March this year, it did not escape my notice that my breasts, over the summer, had continued to grow.
Hard to believe that once even my tiny little A bras were much too small for me.
I now have the body of a woman; the body that the person that I am was meant to have, long before now. Now all I need to do is accept it; and perhaps, in time, I will learn to embrace it.
And it is through love - the love of my boyfriend, my Mam, my best friend, and my readers - that I have come to realise that I need not fear being healthy. For being healthy will enable me to fulfill all my dreams and aspirations; for being healthy, I know, will enable me to live my life to the full. A life free from restriction, irrational fears, and obsession about my weight and my size.
It's began, now. And I am near the end of the road. Not there yet; for there is still much to do; still a hill up ahead, for me to climb. But the light is shining, strong and true, through that little chink in the wall; like a beam of golden sunlight pouring forth from the cloud-shrouded heavens.
Now all I need to do is dismantle the bricks that encompass that hole, and step through, into the light.
And as the night creeped in like a stalking leopard, so too did the familiar feelings of uncertainty. The claws of doubt raking through my mind, the sharp-toothed fear biting deep into my spine. The jagged self-disgust opening wounds that everyone else thought long since healed; the burning anxiety, roaring like a savage beast, terrible and formidable, in the shadowed recesses of the night.
That anxiety throbs perceptibly, a beating pulse of its own. Every feeling, every thought in my head gradually leads straught back to it, as if they are all connected by a complex channel of veins.
And this is how I feel every day and every night: the constant anxiety, sweeping in like a wave; advancing grimly like the hingry predator, ready to take and kill and destroy. And then all I've ever achieved seems as insignificant and intagible as dust motes blown across the barren desert.
I feel like I have hit a brick wall, a brick wall across the recovery path. It does not appear crossable, while at the same time there are minute cracks. Minute cracks that permit me the barest glimpse of the shimmering idyll lying beyond.
And I can't help but feel that there should be a way across this wall. But I can't help but feel immobolised by my society's definition of what is beautiful in a woman. Slender, tall, and usually done up with layers of makeup which completely change the natural look of a woman's face. Being less than 5ft 1 and never having as much skill as far as make up applying is concerned, I never felt as if I stood that much of a chance. But I used to be thin. Used to be. But now I am not. And now I feel as if that small, barely significant claim I once had to being even a little bit pretty has been taken away.
But now, as I stand staring wistfully at this wall, I realise that there is something that I could do, right now, which could well enable me to traverse its steep side.
That being, to just start following my own heart, my gut instinct, about what is right for me. After all, no one knows myself as well as one single person: that being, I.
It's time for me to stop trying to fit in to other people's model of recovery. Those who just see recovery as a simple restoration of weight. This hit me hard when I was talking to Mam the other day. Having refrained from telling her my true feelings for a while, I endeavoured to explain to her the swinging ambivalence upon which I find myself precariously balancing: one minute, feeling ok about my body, and the next minute, full of disgust and self-loathing, adamantly affirming to myself that I am fat and longing with an incensed passion for the "good old days" when I was thin and emaciated.
She had shook her head and told me that she thought I had long since "gotten over that". I wanted to cry. But I didn't because this merely confirmed what I had already expected. In the eyes of many, I am the "recovered girl". Noone sees or knows the struggle that continues to ensue between I and anorexia.
But there are those in which I have found understanding.
And through that understanding I have began to mold my own vision of what is a recovered Emmy. And that is what I am aiming for now. The perceptions of the others who do not understand, I must learn to pass me by.
For whereas I used to see such judgments as having the strength of those rearing, monstrous waves that have the power and the ferocity to drag me into the sea, I now realise that I was wrong. I now realize that they are more like gentle, curling breakers. Breakers that swirl and rush about my feet, but which do not possess the power to knock me straight over. They do not have the power to drown me.
I just need to stand and hold my ground, in these shifting sands.
My recovery should be about...
What is right and healthy for me.
Me. And this might not necessarily fit in with the perceptions of other people. How could it possibly do so; when those perceptions are in themselves flawed - they are uninformed, inaccurate; shaped by common societal ideals instead of proven research about real recovery - in both its physical and mental aspects. Rather then perceptions, they are misconceptions - misconceptions about what recovery from anorexia really looks like.
And it shouldn't all just be about how it looks. Rather, it should be how it feels. How it feels, deep down, inside.
They said that the beginning would be the hardest part.
But why didn't they warn me about halfway? The halfway slope, which rises to an almost vertical climb: steepening and steepening, rising before me like a grim and inaccessible tower. And in the exposed space in my head, the comments wheel and shriek like vultures circling their prey.They bide their time, awaiting the opportune moment, before closing in with talons outstretched, cruel beaks poised to slice flesh and draw blood.
You look healthy now. Your body looks better than it has done in years. She has finally recovered from her eating disorder. She doesn't have anorexia anymore.
And if I could, I would raise my arms and protect myself; but how can I possibly fight something which I know is inevitably, inexplicably, part of this recovery journey in itself? People will look and people will judge; it's part of life; and I would be a fool if I were to go through life expecting people to keep their thoughts to themselves. If you go into the desert, you expect to find vultures. If you make it as far as the land of half recovered, than you have to expect to encounter such comments. That's part of the harsh reality. The harsh reality, of being a supposedly "recovered" anorexic in a harsh, diet-obsessed, thin-loving world.
Its been so long since I last wrote in my blog. But the last time I went to write I found that the words would not come. What to say? What to describe? How to possibly express the feelings and emotions running rampant like racing stormclouds in my head?
They said the beginning was the hardest part. And in this case, perhaps, it was.
But just like the beginning of my first initial recovery journey, four years ago, now, when I realised I had to make some sort of start.
A beginning I will make here, too, on this small and little known blog.
And now is the time to return to my journey, and begin where I left off. The beginning of the hardest part of the journey. The beginning of what is recovery after the halfway mark.
I sit down on the grass and look down at the landscape stretched below me. A landscape alight with the luscious shades and hues of high summer: golden wheatfields bowing in homage to the sun, shady wooded glades of emerald green; clusters of heather, mauvy pink and paling peach, and then the wafting poppy fields, as red and as freely flowing oin that brisk wind as fresly drawn blood spurting from an open wound. The scarlet induces within me a shudder, inevitbly turing my thoughts to the pain deep inside.
I turn my euyes away from this external beauty to examine something alot more closer and known, that being the contours and inclines of my own body. I stare for a long time at the thigs and the arms.
Freedom. Its a word which I once didnt comprehend the true meaning of. but with the passig of years in recovery came a maturiry, a growth, an increased awareness and understanfding.