Lately I've been noticing a huge variation in my thoughts. I can feel a sense of breakthrough, of finally thinking I want to recover, only to experience extreme obsessive behaviour and thoughts of cutting fat off my body just a few hours later. To say I'm confused is an understatement.
As an over thinker in general, I'm sure I'm more aware of my thoughts and perhaps respond more deeply than others might. I'm worn out from so many highs and lows, and no progress in concluding what I want as a result!
In 6 weeks I will be back in England. That feels like a deadline by which I should be "thin enough", but also like a time frame in which I could achieve more positive things with my eating.
Can I have the middle ground? Can I be losing weight while making a tiny increase in calories? Can I get thinner and also take steps in the right direction? Deep down I think I know the answer, but I don't like it.
I HATE how much my mind obsesses over numbers. Today, I was filling in a form and had to go and buy a tape measure in order to complete a few measurements. Some of these were no issue- arm length, head circumference etc. I decided there were some that I wouldn't be able to cope with knowing, and avoided them by making an educated guess. There have been periods throughout my disorder where measurements have been my main focus, and so I have an idea of my biggest and smallest figures and can make a reasonable estimate.
The problem is, now I have that tape measure and part of me wants to do everything and monitor it. I'm not sure I could handle it emotionally though, as my weight number did once cause me to become suicidal. Of all the measurements I did do today, my thigh is my biggest worry. They seem huge now, and now it's hard to believe comments I've had about being thin lately.
My mind has a folder where it stores an entire spectrum of numbers. Without trying, I can remember my thigh circumference from 2012. Clearly this unnecessary information to have stored up there, but nevertheless it is. The constant comparison to try and work out where I am on my own size spectrum is confusing and tiring. Partly I want to forget it, and partly I want to get small enough to write off all the big numbers and be done with it.
This was a therapy task, but here seemed like a good place to share it.
When I'm in a logical frame of mind, I can see that anorexia has cost me in some way or another in almost every area of my life.
As a teenager my body didn't develop like everybody else. While friends matured physically, I fought against the fact I was changing and have now missed the chance to develop alongside my friends and learn to feel comfortable. They are all accepting of their bodies, are all different shapes and sizes, and all have a relationship with food that allows them to be spontaneous, have energy, and build relationships. Because of my obsessions, I've never had a crush or felt interested in love the way other people are. In many ways I feel like an outsider when it comes to romance.
Unlike my female friends who have proper periods and experience a normal cycle, I don't. I've now reached a point where having periods scares me as I feel unable to cope or accept what that means.
Anorexia has cost me money, too. All the times I've bought expensive food because I couldn't make an alternative choice, or I've bought food I never ate simply because having it there felt comforting. Bulimia also made me waste money on foods to binge on, which I only felt guilty and ashamed about later. I spent money to get to NHS services which I didn't engage in, and I missed out on classes to do so.
At sixth form, the anxiety caused by my eating disorder took me out of classes daily, as having several panic attacks a day was my normal state.
Anorexia has also cost me in confidence and self trust. I have no idea anymore if I'm even thin, if I'm even truly anorexic, or if i should trust anything I think whatsoever. It's taken up hours of my time; time spent worrying, time not spent doing things because they involved food, time spent changing clothes several times until I felt able to leave the house.
On the outside, I've had people tell me they see me as highly successful. I was an A* student, a school prefect, member of the highest level orchestras, achieved highly in my dance and instrumental exams, and often received praise from teachers throughout my education. Despite what people see, anorexia has added to my perfectionistic tendency to see things as not good enough. The A that wasn't an A*, the 2 marks off Distinction etc etc were seen as failures. In light of these small events, anorexia took the opportunity to make me believe even more strongly that being thin is an important consistency that I need to feel good enough at life.
Anorexia has cost me my health (maybe) although I can't think of one key point. Perhaps people on the outside would say they don't see a healthy individual. (Here goes the me not trusting myself again!)
More than anything, I'm sad that anorexia has cost other people their time and energy. I feel guilty for how much worry, frustration and exhaustion I've caused for my loved ones. All those endless, repetitive conversations, all the times I've ignored people or taken out my feelings on them.
When something affects me, I can handle it, but seeing people I really love suffer gets to me much more. Anorexia has made me choose it instead of the people I care about.
Ah sleep, remember that? I generally find I'm sleeping all the hours possible, or struggling to drop off night after night. A lot of mental health problems can affect but, but combine more than one and it can feel like you're destined to feel sleep deprived whatever.
Depression when I'm down, I will fantasise about getting to go to bed all day long, then be awake for hours on end unable to sleep. That's because my old pal anxiety rocks up to remind me of every worry under the sun.
Having an eating disorder not only adds to my anxiety, but can also mean I'm awake out of hunger which I can't mentally merit settling by eating. Instead, I lie there trying not to think about it.
I don't like the silence of bedtime, so I always play podcasts in the background. I've found Sleep With Me can be quite good (it's free and is basically rambled, non-sensical stories designed to be engaging enough to distract, while dull enough that you can sleep). Im also a fan of guided meditations, although I will say I find it very easy to stay awake through the whole thing (but at least feel slightly less tense by the end!)
Any top tips?!
Everything feels hard right now. Several times a day over this last I don't know how long, I find myself wishing I didn't have to do anything but stay in bed. Sitting in my own little hole feels so appealing and necessary. Unfortunately, I don't have that option, so everyday I have to drag myself up and pretend to be fine all over again.
ED-wise, I reach this kind of end of my tether sensation once in a while, where I feel like I just cannot handle making a single decision more about food. It's like I've walked straight into a concrete wall and the concussion has made me confused and unable to do anything ,let alone the right thing. Naturally, all these thoughts and exhaustion over my ED lower my mood, and when I'm in a patch of bad depressive thoughts it's hard to shake it off. One fire fuels the other, and the days pass regardless.
When I'm not panicking or wishing I could disappear, I still appreciate that I'm performing and in the sunshine, but even my shows don't give me the same level of release from normality that they normally do. (On an average day, doing the show in the evening gets me through the day, and will make my day finish well because I'm happy from doing it).
I need therapy to come sooner. Monday seems a thousand years away.
I'm trying to not to think to far into the future to avoid feeling overwhelmed, but equally I do need to continue looking for auditions and potential things for when my contract finishes. I guess I just need to find options, and not be fixated on trying to plan exactly what I will do and when.
If you've made it this far, congrats on navigating this bunch of ramblings. I hope your day has gone well. Comment below what was good about it. (For me, my protein bars arrived and that's excitement in my sad little life 😂)
I sometimes feel like my eating disorder is my full time job. Then I realise that it isn't a surprise I feel tired; we aren't designed for two full time jobs.
As some of you may know, my "proper" job is performing 5 nights a week and doing daytime duties of rehearsals and working with kids. All the waking moments both in and out of my job comes my second job: eating disorder worry queen.
That job is much less straightforward. It's worrying endlessly about if I'm anorexic enough, thin enough, good enough… it's constant thought about what/when to eat, if I can eat, what is a safe amount? It's taking photos of myself naked in a billion positions in my bedroom mirror to try and work out whether I'm big or small, or checking how much or little my bones are visible. All in all, it's working at something that doesn't give you a reward that anybody sane would want.
A sad truth is that lots of dancers have eating disorders. You might think that nobody could exercise so much or have the ability to dance and maintain an eating disorder, but I can assure you it happens all the time. I can think of about 10 people off the top of my head who are dancers (or were, or are in full time training to be) who all having anorexia or bulimia. Unfortunately, being lean isn't unusual in the dance world and so it's easy to carry on "eating clean" or "on a new plan". People rarely question it. Regularly, you're on stage in a bra and hot pants or a skin tight leotard, all of which would reveal any hint of a stomach in seconds. You wouldn't want your upper arms to be wobbly when they're on show 24/7, would you?
When I think of this not so unusual situation, I'm reminded of Emma Woolf's book An Apple A Day. She speaks several times about how she called her condition "functional anorexia", because she was doing her life (albeit less social, less energised, less normal) but keeping her anorexia, rationalising that it wasn't a problem because she was still doing x, y, z. On reflection, the book details how sneaky anorexia is. How you can be thin, but have just enough energy to get by, or so much obsession that going on that run is just about possible. How you can shove loved ones off the case because you aren't rapidly dropping weight, but instead maintaining in a small zone considered safe, even though the safe zone is not physically a healthy one. The perfectionism of anorexia can cross over into your normal life and force you to do everything- to keep the Ed and to keep whatever bits of your life you have going on. For anybody else, doing it all wouldn't be possible, but the mind is far too powerful.
I'm feeling really sensitive and confused after trying to tackle a therapy question: what is real anorexia?
I have so many thoughts in my mind- about whether or not I have real anorexia, whether what my idea of that is right or not, whether or not I want to hold on to it. Arghhh it's all too much 😕
In simple terms, I believe anorexia is two things: thinness combined with the thoughts processes and beliefs of the ED. Sure, my thoughts aren't exactly normal, but am I thin? As ever, here I am again wanting to know. I feel obsessed with the idea of anorexia, yet to say that word aloud is a rarity for me. I find it difficult to say, because I feel almost embarrassed to even associate with me, because how could chubby, horrible me be good enough for that word?
Evidently, my mind is not feeling that great right now, but oh well. That's life…
Hope your weekends are all going well xoxo