Posted in recovery

When the systems collide

For 2 weeks now, I’ve been struggling to put what I’m feeling into words. Since George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis by the police, something has struck a nerve that I can’t express in words. I watched as the city I grew up in rose up in protest, anger and hurt so deep that it could no longer be ignored. I watched as the nation I am from, rose up. Deep fissures of injustice could no longer be ignored as thousands, millions have marched, protested… I heard so many stories of everyday microagressions and overt racism and injustice – things happening to people I know and love. I learned about systems designed to advantage the white – community zoning, property taxes, education funding and so on. I have learned the stories of Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery and their murders, as well as countless others… and then I have watched as the rising up in America has started a global tidal-wave. Australia is suddenly rallying, facing its own injustices. I learned today that Indigenous Australians are still not even recognised in the constitution. Increasingly I am learning just how little I know. My social media is flooded with photos and videos of peaceful protests all around the world. There is a solidarity that I have not seen before. Something about this feels different. I hope and pray that it is – that this is a moment in history where things shifted & dramatically.

I have found myself in tears more often that not over the past weeks as all these stories and realities sink in. I struggle to put things into words. I remember as a child being disturbed that people would ever consider discriminating on account of colour or status of any sort. I also find myself in tears when I see the protests, or when I watch churches be very strong in their stance and commitment to action to fight racism, and to learn and change. It is these emotions I can’t quite articulate. Which led to a discussion I had with my psychologist this week.

We were discussing these emotional reactions, how it highlights values and is not inherently bad to have strong emotions or to let myself feel them (as opposed to my norm of shutting down or sanitising). We discussed ways to learn to sit with the emotion and feel it, to tolerate it and to learn from it – whether I just need to accept that this is how I feel, or whether I need to take action on account of what I feel. These are skills that will help me overcome the eating disorder as well. And that’s where this also got interesting.

In reading up on some of the racism stuff, I became aware just how hard it is to get ED treatment as a BIPOC because of racism… The BMI is not designed with people of colour in mind; eating disorders are seen to be a white-persons disease, so they are less often screened for in people of colour. The pursuit of thinness has even been explained as perpetuating racism – a concept that I am committed to understanding better, but currently can’t explain well as I am still learning about it.

It’s given me a lot to think about and also is really destabilising the eating disorder – which is a good thing, but causing a bit more intensity in the short term. The question I am currently pondering is, can I really say that I am anti-racism if in my pursuit of thinness I am upholding the very values I say that I am against?

In saying all of this… I understand an eating disorder is not just a choice, it is a mental illness, and sociocultural pressures are only one piece of the equation – so this is not in any means meant to shame myself (or anyone) into any action. The question for me though is about anchoring to my values… if I value justice and am anti-racism, then one of the actions I can take in the direction of that value is to do the hard work of recovering from an eating disorder. I didn’t become unwell by choice, just like no one develops any illness by choice. But I can make a choice about whether to try and get better; and when I’m frustrated and exhausted, whether to keep trying.

Values-oriented living. Integrity. Choosing courage over comfort (thank you, Brene Brown). 2020 has been a massive year so far, but I am hopeful that despite the horrors it has held, it will also be a year that marks significant change, personally and globally.

Posted in recovery

Request for Help :)

I am currently studying psychology and am writing my thesis. It’s been a fun journey to juggle this amongst Covid-19 and work and my own health challenges, but here we are. And to be honest – I am loving it and super excited about my topic.

We’re researching correlates of body image disturbance & disordered eating; and I am particularly focused on the various ways that traits like gratitude, anxiety, and impulsivity as well as behaviours like calorie & macro tracking interact.

If you have some time (and are age 18 or older) and would be willing to complete an anonymous survey to help with this study, I would be really appreciative!

The link is here (opens in a new tab) and it takes about 20 minutes or so to complete. My personal recommendation would be to do it from a computer/laptop over a mobile phone as it’s a little easier to use some of the sliders & read the text on the page.

Thank you!

Posted in recovery, Uncategorized

Through a thick fog

Thick fog is disorienting – you lose all perspective – of distance travelled, direction, time. Senses are heightened. Even that which is intimately familiar feels suddenly foreign, and sure footing becomes hesitant stuttering steps. Navigating through a thick fog is exhausting. It requires a trust in an external measure, despite every ounce of your being feeling this is not accurate.

Trying to recover in the midst of a pandemic is like navigating a very thick fog. Routines that acted as way markers are gone, or stripped back to vague indicators. Supports that acted as headlights are somewhat less accessible, the path more dimly lit. Plans are out the window. Now, more than ever, it is important to trust the wisdom outside yourself, because now, more than ever, there is a compelling desire to turn back to what felt familiar and safe.

There is (to my knowledge) no roadmap through this pandemic. There is no manual on how to sustain recovery in the midst of what is being called a global collective trauma. There is only hope. And hope is an anchor in storms, not something that fast tracks you through the storm. With hope, you are still tossed about on the waves – the rain still beats down, the wind screams, and the night is dark; but your position is secure. You cannot see it, you cannot even necessarily feel it, but you must trust the external anchor is holding fast, keeping you on course.

 but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Isaiah 40:31

It is normal to feel weary or weak in the midst of the storm or the crisis, in the midst of turmoil – but when hope is placed in God – the only sure foundation – that strength and energy can be renewed.

I’m still working out what all this looks like practically, but these are some of the things I have been finding helpful:

  1. Acknowledge the present realities. There is no point denying the reality of what is going on. There is no point denying the impact it is having on your life. Acknowledgement means recognising that you are in the storm, and noticing the areas where you might be particularly vulnerable.
  2. Experience the emotions – bottled emotions waste invaluable energy. It takes deliberate effort to deny or numb out emotions, effort which could much better be applied to strengthening ones’ self. Allow yourself to feel the emotions that come with being in a storm. In the current pandemic, the two I have heard the most are grief and anxiety. Grief manifests in so many ways – grief for what has been lost, grief for what may be lost. Anxiety is in part aligned with this grief – the uncertainty of how long this will go on, how wide the impact will be. Anticipatory grief is the term I heard. It’s the attempts to plan how to navigate the daily demands of life while still trying to work towards a future that remains very uncertain.
  3. Remind yourself of truth. This one, I find challenging. I can remind myself that yes, God is sovereign, that this does not surprise Him, that He has a plan. I can remind myself of His promises. And all this is important. But sometimes, it feels futile. What good is a promise of being in family when one is completely cut off from all community? Or promises of a future that you cannot envision? It’s ok to have those moments of frustration, or of feeling that it is empty – it is in the process of reminding yourself that the truth is watered and given the opportunity to grow (even when it seems nothing happens).
  4. Strengthen yourself – reminding yourself of the truth is important; remembering there is an anchor holding you in the storm brings reassurance. But in order to survive the storm, you still need to take protective measures. Find those areas of vulnerability or weakness and put protective measures in place. For example, if anxiety plagues you – limit how much you expose yourself to the news. If lack of routine leaves you prone to depression, create new routines & find a way to stay accountable to them (even if it just is a checklist for each day!)
  5. Rest – this is also key. Once you have done everything you can do in any given moment or day to process what is going on, give yourself the space to rest & recover. Heightened emotions are exhausting. Dealing with a crisis is exhausting. Physically, we need rest, so to do we emotionally and spiritually. Find those things that recharge you and prioritise them.

I’m sure there are plenty more things that one can be doing in challenging times, but for now, these are the ones that I am finding most helpful.

Posted in recovery, Uncategorized

Surviving Quarantine

This year has felt like an eternity already, and it’s only the end of March. Who would have guessed that summer holidays and their overwhelming bushfires would so quickly fade to distant memories; replaced by a worldwide pandemic?

To say our lives haven’t been altered would be an understatement. Shops were stripped bare, strict rules apply now to most activities – in a way, it’s like regressing to childhood. We have been forced to stop and rethink how we live our lives. For some, like myself, it is more social inconvenience. I am able to work from home, I already study online. For others, entire livelihoods have vanished in a day. For all of us, in a country where loneliness was already a significant problem, the risk of isolation and declining mental health is present.

So – what are ways to manage these risks? There’s no hard and fast rule I am finding, but more suggestions to try. I’ve been working to maintain a curious approach – try those things which seem unusual or more rigid than I like and see what will happen. I’ve spent a few months in hospitals along the way, so I feel like I got a bit of a head start on ‘quarantined life lessons’ but here are the things I am trying or have found helpful along the way:

  1. Connection
  2. Mindfulness
  3. Outdoors
  4. Structure
  5. Simplify
  6. Gratitude
  7. Creativity

Connection – connection is so important to well-being. While social distancing means physical connection and proximity is limited, this doesn’t mean isolation is the new normal. Reach out to friends and family. Make phone calls, join online video conferences (check out Zoom or HouseParty for ideas), text; whatever method works best for you, make sure to check in with those you care about. And, when you’re connecting – be genuine. We’re all figuring this out as we go – and likely all feeling an array of emotions, but giving each other space to feel them and to sit with them can be healing in its own way.

Mindfulness – I have never been one that is good with formal mindfulness or meditation – but by all means, if this works for you, go for it. For me, I find mindfulness comes more in mundane / repetitive activities that require an element of concentration, but also allow my brain to be processing life in the background – decompressing. Things I personally find fall in this category include:

– cleaning
– crocheting
– colouring
– puzzles
– playing an instrument
– playing with a pet
– pilates

The idea is an activity or practice that requires you to stay present in the moment and not get sucked into a vortex of anxiety or stress.

Outdoors – there is something about being outside that is good for the body, soul & spirit. You may not be able to spend much time for various reasons, but even 5-10 minutes a day can do wonders. There is a change of environment, an engagement of the senses (what sights, sounds, smells surround you in the outdoors?), an opportunity to be present… Plus (when the sun is out) Vitamin D!

Structure – This is a key one. Structure helps time not seem to drag on so much. For me, this looks like scheduling activities. In my ‘old’ life, I had routines I followed before I went to work – now these happen before I start working for the day. Even as simple as writing out (instead of packing) my lunch. This means I have a plan in place for when lunch time rolls around, which also is extra accountability when recovering from an eating disorder.

I’ve also found, as much as possible, designating spaces in the house for various activities. For example, I work at our dining table. I can study in my bedroom as this is where I normally study. Lounge room is reserved for ‘relaxation’ time – movies, reading, whatever type of activity. This also helps segment the day as moving around provides a change of scenery as well.

Simplify – cut out what isn’t necessary in this time. For me, a lot of this was simplifying my expectations. I still have obligations with work and study. I still need to allow time for connecting with friends. This means I am not going to have copious amounts of time to sort my wardrobe or learn a new language or any other ambition. Those are all fun/necessary activities, but my expectation needs to be realistic and simple.

Also – it’s important to remember that significant uncertainty takes a toll mentally – meaning that my energy and capacity for some things may be reduced. A classic example- I haven’t read in over a week because I don’t have the brain capacity to retain what I am reading. Work has been productive but at times slower because it’s taking longer to problem solve. As I settle into a new routine I am sure these things will also find a new rhythm, but it’s important to recognise the impact in the meantime.

Gratitude – It’s amazing how much we appreciate what we don’t have. The luxury of going to the grocery store at 10pm; of easily finding anything you need on the shelf. The ability to give someone a hug. Going out for a meal. I am learning to appreciate things before I lose them. For example – I am thankful for my job, and the fact that I can work from home. I’m thankful for the scent of laundry detergent as something novel in a day. I am thankful for UberEats when I really can’t be bothered to cook! I am also thankful for all the crazy videos on TikTok and the amount of laughter they have brought (having only just discovered it!)

Creativity – taking time to do something creative is a good way to break some of the anxiety circuit I am finding. This may be as simple as colouring or could be as complicated as creating artwork or poetry or writing. There’s something about the process of creating – of newness – that is invigorating and relaxing. It’s not something I do on a daily basis – although I hope to at some point – but I am trying to make more and more time for this. Even if just a few minutes a day!

So there are my top tips for navigating this new world we find ourselves in. As I learn or discover more, I will add to this list.

Posted in recovery

Stay Planted

The past week or so I got to thinking about how I have managed the struggle of mental illness and faith. I’ve seen statements that can isolate or stigmatise, such as ‘fear is sin’ or heard of many who struggle to go to church because they find it unwelcoming for those of us who wrestle with poor mental health. I too have regularly struggled with staying safe in the context of these environments, and trying to not lose my faith.

I’ve also struggled with staying in recovery again. This 2 1/2 years with an active eating disorder has been exhausting. I’ve been in various stages of recovery throughout, but the last 9 months have spent a lot of time in and out of hospital and/or on the brink of hospitalisation. There has been very little forward progress, and at times this has been discouraging.

It is in this context that these thoughts around staying planted have emerged.

I am not known for my patience. Taking action, quick thinking, impulsive, these are all better descriptors of my approach to life. In this season, however, I am learning the value in being still.

I got to thinking about the concept of staying planted – something I hear in church circles a lot. As I thought about it, I realised that a plant weathers a storm, a drought, a season of fruitfulness and abundance and a season of dormancy all the same… there is a lot happening in the unseen, but to the visible eye – that plant just… stays. It doesn’t strive, it doesn’t constantly change its environment, it has good and bad times, but it stays put all the same.

For me… I am realising that has been the key to how I’ve kept my faith through this process. It’s not easy to believe for healing week in, week out, and not see it happen. It’s not easy to hear messages about faith and trust and the love of God when everything about how my life is being lived feels the opposite – fearful, shame, etc. But, I keep turning up. There are weeks I need to stay home because that is the thing that provides the best self care, but most weeks, I still show up. And most weeks, I leave feeling as empty as I came. Does that change the value in the showing up? I used to think ‘what’s the point?’… but now, I wonder if it’s more consistency. Each time I show up, I sit under “showers” of worship and truth. I may not see the impact of this on any given week, but somewhere deep down it is nourishing me.

But this principal goes beyond even faith. In terms of my recovery… what does it look like to stay planted? It looks like… doing the best I can each day. Knowing some days this will be ‘not enough’ and other days may seem ‘too much’ – but that in the end, it balances out. It looks like keeping on showing up to appointments even when I don’t see the point, because I’m too “stuck” and nothing will change. It looks like listening to the same messages over and over and over again, that “food is fuel”, that I have to nourish my body and so on. I may not see the impact of this on any given week, but somewhere deep down it is taking root.

Another way of viewing this… Each day that I don’t give in to relapse, no matter how tempting, even if I make no forward progress (visibly) is actually strengthening and growing. By staying planted at this point in recovery, I am allowing roots to go deeper, stalks to strengthen, and becoming overall stronger and able to take on the next steps.

So… whatever the aspect, holding on to faith, navigating parts of recovery, finding a way to stay planted in life seems to be a key. Just keep turning up, keep doing the best you can, and let the fruit come with time.

Posted in recovery

This is ED.

I stumbled across a poem I’d scribbled out while in hospital a few years ago. It gave me chills reading it as, now, I can see so clearly the ‘eating disorder voice’ and just how abusive it is.

Disgusting pig –
those shame filled eyes –
worthless and lazy
under the disguise.

Oh, you think you have them fooled,
think they believe you’re wonderful
but darling, you’re about to get schooled
when your castle comes crumbling down.

They’ll see the filth and all the dirt
they’ll see just how much a fraud you are.
Just like Dorothy’s wizard,
it’s laughable to think you can hide in Oz.

How dumb are you, my dear?
It’s such an easy little game we play –
one simple task each day –
keep those desires at bay.

But when you cave –
and I know you will –
because you’re weak and lazy,
it’s such a cheap thrill.

I’ll laugh as I watch you swirl and spiral
tormented and haunted by your failure,
each calorie and craving a reminder.
Now go – purge – try and put it behind you.

I’ll own you a while longer,
unless, somehow you get stronger?
but ha! don’t make me laugh..
stay trying.

Keep trying to defeat me,
it only makes you weaker.
Not only do you fail me, you fail everything
It makes my victory much sweeter.

You lay here, defeated again.
Eventually I will win,
when you are gone.

Written during hospitalisation in 2018
Posted in recovery

A day in the life… (TW: discussion of eating disorder & behaviours)

5:30AM: The alarm goes off. Rolling over, you stare at it for a moment, debating whether to hit snooze… What’s the point when you’ve already been awake an hour? Sleep is an unfamiliar friend these days. Slowly, you push back the covers and stumble out of bed.

Making your way to the bathroom, the morning judgment awaits. Stripping down, you feel your hairs stand on end as the chill hits your exposed skin. You step onto the glass square and wait for the numbers to appear.

There is no good outcome these days. If the numbers are up, you have failed (according to the eating disorder) and you are moving forward (according to recovery). If they are down, the sides change.

The number flashes at you and you sigh as you step off, your stomach knotted and your mind already whirring, calculating what this means for the day.

You get dressed, pulling your once thick hair into a tiny bun, splashing water on your face, empty eyes and dark circles stare back at you, an empty shell of who you once were. Grabbing your water, you head to the gym.

6AM: The studio is nice and warm, a welcome relief as you are perpetually cold. For the next 45 minutes you sweat, you work. You relish the site of muscle lines and bones. There is a sense of satisfaction, almost even pride, at how strong you are, and at how much you push through. As the class goes on, your breathing louder in your ears, sounds around you are becoming muffled… a sign you are unwell, but you shove it away and press on. At the end, you walk out, relief washing over you with the cool air outside. As you walk home, the shakiness in your legs does not diminish. You realise you will have to eat something in order to continue on your day.

7AM: You open the pantry, staring at your options. Muesli? No, too many calories, not filling. Yoghurt? Too filling, too much food this early. Perhaps a protein bar? No, too many calories this early in the day – you don’t want to waste what you just did. In the end, 2 rice crackers win out – enough to stave off the shakiness, but not enough to be a catastrophic overspend in the calorie department.

7:15AM: As the cool shower water hits your skin you gradually increase the temperature, careful to not overheat and risk passing out. You slowly wash your hair, grimacing at the amount that is falling out in your hands. You notice your ribs, how visible they are or are not; and the bloat of your stomach. Inch by inch you evaluate and critique your body, admiring where muscle has formed and fat melted away, shaming where it still remains. Once complete you stand in your towel, staring again at your reflection. Who is this person you have become?

8AM: Packing a bag for work, to you the amount of food is excessive; to another it might be a couple of snacks. Each snack calculated to ensure the calorie budget is not exceeded, and that room remains for an unexpected coffee invitation.

9AM: You start your workday. The tasks in front of you seem overwhelming – it’s as if everything has become urgent and written in a foreign language. Routinely you must remind yourself to stop, take a deep breath, take a step back. You recognise that the intensity in your mind is higher than reality, but you don’t know how to turn the volume down.

10:30AM: It’s technically time for your snack… but you’re not hungry enough yet, so you have to wait. After all, if you wait long enough, snack time might be lunch time, and then you’ve saved calories. But you know you should eat. That every missed snack, every missed meal just keeps you stuck in this cycle. You pull the snack out of your bag & it sits in front of you for 15 minutes… taunting you. You argue with yourself… what do I want more? To be ill, or to be happy? Another voice chimes in, ‘but if you eat this you will gain a heap of weight’. You try and tell yourself this cannot possibly be true, while secretly afraid it is. Your mind flashes back to the scale this morning… Can you justify these calories? Today, you choose to push through and eat the snack. For the next hour as you continue to try and work you are riddled with anxiety, wondering whether you should have done that, and what will happen now, and how can you make up for it and will you get fat and have you lost control?

12:00pm: It is only noon, and you are already exhausted. There are still 4 more meals/snacks to go in this day. And this is just one day. You must do this, day in, day out, week in, week out… Fighting off the voices, fighting off the fear. Trying to wear the brave face and look happy and ‘normal’ to everyone else. Trying to be productive and complete your work, your studies. Trying to be present with your friends. All the while, wrestling these thoughts.

The invitation comes to go for lunch, but fortunately your phone rings at the same time. As you answer the phone, you whisper apologetically “maybe next time”, while breathing a sigh of relief.

2pm: You realise you need to eat your ‘lunch’ for the day, and you reluctantly pull out the small serving of yoghurt and tablespoon of muesli. You wander in to the kitchen, thankful you have left lunch late enough that anyone would think you’re just having a snack, rather than question the size of your meal. You are exhausted and could really use a nap.

3pm: The fatigue is growing and you wonder how you are going to make it through the rest of the day. Your ability to concentrate on your work is diminishing rapidly. You decide to go outside and take a brisk 5-minute walk to wake up. Taking your phone, you disguise your true intention by making a phone call while you walk up and down the street.

4:15pm: You really should have your other snack. Nothing in you wants to do this, but you are fearful of the risk of a binge later if you don’t. You remind yourself it is just rice crackers and a kiwifruit. You eat them slowly, trying to convince your body it has just had a big meal.

Throughout your day you face comments where people say they’d give anything to look like you; you sign to yourself knowing you wouldn’t wish this on anyone, meanwhile outwardly smiling and pretending to appreciate the compliment. You dread when they ask what you’ve done or how you’ve reached this goal… you either must lie or be deliberately vague and hope your cover is not blown. You are surrounded by conversations about diet, exercise, which foods are good or bad, how to cut fat, how to eat clean… it is ever-present. It doesn’t seem fair that everyone else can try to achieve the same goals as you, and it is completely acceptable; and yet you are being asked to go completely against the grain. Rather than lose weight, like everyone wants to do, you are being asked to gain. Rather than eat ‘sugar free, low carb, vegan, raw, whole30’ etc., you are being asked to eat the very foods every diet demonises – carbs, cookies, cakes, sugar, butter, and more. It feels completely foreign and like you don’t belong.

5:30PM: time to go home. You have to stop for groceries first, you remember. Arriving at the store, you brace as the knots in your stomach tighten. Fruit and vegetables first – they’re easy, or so it seems. But how many do you get? How much are you going to eat? Bananas are unsafe remember and beware the calories in grapes. Berries are good. Carrots and celery, cucumber too. You move on to the cereal aisle and you shudder – you start to look at the options but the anxiety induces so much nausea you have to rush out of that aisle. Maybe another day. You roam the bakery – nothing here either… although you would give anything to have fresh bread guilt free… well, almost. The biscuit aisle – here you find your staples. Rice crackers, multiple flavours, ready for your choosing. Then the muesli bars… each box examined – how many calories? How much sugar? Protein? Carbs? The guy stocking the shelves gives you a funny look as you examine each box, ultimately taking none because today nothing meets the requirements. Vitamins and pills… laxatives, multivitamin and diet pills now in your basket, buried under the few other items. Frantically you look around ensuring there is no one you know in sight. You continue on. Every aisle, every item calorie checked. After an hour you leave with your pills, fruit, vegetables and rice crackers. The anxiety lifts and shame floods in as you realise yet again the anorexia has outsmarted you.

6:30PM: it feels too early for dinner so you decide to take a quick walk around the block… “to clear your head”. While walking you also feel relief as you burn off any calories that may have infected you at the store. You know this is illogical and yet you still feel contaminated.

7pm: arriving home you cook your dinner of steamed vegetables and a single scrambled egg. You place it on a small plate so it looks gourmet, and proceed to your room to eat in peace. Shortly after finishing the guilt and panic set in. You check your weight… it’s up too much for the day, so you take some laxatives, knowing there goes another night of sleep.

8pm: you try to study or read but you find yourself recalculating all the calories of the day, and planning tomorrow. How can it be enough but not too much? How much will let you lose weight? What foods are low calorie and also light weight so they won’t sit too heavy on your stomach?

10pm: should start thinking of bed. But first, stretches and sit-ups and squats… the cat doesn’t know what to do and keeps attacking your feet, thinking this is a game.

10:30PM: getting ready for bed and evaluating yourself in the mirror again… disgust at how fat you now look from the bloating, how tired your eyes look. How tired you are… this life is no life at all. Turning off the lights you head to bed, but sleep does not come easily…

2AM: it feels as though you’ve only just fallen asleep but you are awake again. Your mind races but you can’t even identify the thoughts. You run your hands over your hipbones, relieved to feel some of the bloating has diminished. You reach up to count your ribs… how prominent are they? It feels as though they’re disappearing. You get up to use the bathroom, and check your weight… frustration builds as it seems that today you will have gained, despite being good. You go to bed, falling asleep with pleas of weight loss on your lips, waiting for the next day to begin.

And then there are the days of appointments. In and amongst the ever present noise and planning, you are forced to face the reality of this disorder head on. You have appointments with doctors, where they tell you whether you are making progress or not, whether your vitals are stable, your weight up or down. You see the psychologist who tries to help you to stay focused on taking steps towards recovery; tries to help you find strategies to quieten the incessant noise in your mind; tries to help you find and access even more support. You see the dietitian and again have the stark reminder that you are not eating enough. It feels overwhelming, this sense of ambivalence – knowing you are not having enough and yet paralysed in fear at the thought of more; while knowing that more is the only way out of this hell.

These are the days that you must rely on your family and friends. Some are good – some understand. Some try to meet you where you are and help you find the key to take that next step. Some offer hope. Some help you recognise that every meal you fight back is a victory, even if you fall over other times; that this is not about perfection, but progress. They remind you that the desire and the willingness to push through – to choose to live in this permanent exhausted state – that, in itself, is progress. They remind you that life is worth living. They tell you they love you, no matter what. You have friends who remind you who you really are – that you are more than the hollow shell in the mirror. Each of these friends, each of these professionals are all pivotal in helping you find your way home again. And one day, you hope, the battles at the meals will lessen, and maybe the trend of the scale will matter less (or even not at all). One day you will sleep through the night. One day, you will be fully living your life and realise how free you suddenly feel.

Posted in recovery

2 A.M.

The house is eerily quiet at 2am. From my bedroom upstairs I can hear the steady ticking of the clock down in the lounge room. I can hear the trams as they pass along nearby roads. But most of all, I can hear the thoughts raging in my mind.

It has been a long time since I have consistently slept a whole night through. Sometimes the sheer exhaustion wins out and I get a night of semi-refreshing sleep, but more often than not, I ‘keep watch’ from 2-4am. The darkest hours.

Distractions are few that time of morning, and I am left observing my body and my mind. I become aware of the beating of my heart – sometimes irregular if anxiety builds too high. I feel the expansion of my rib cage as I take deep breaths in attempts to lull myself back to sleep. There is a warmth at the small of my back, where my cat has curled up against me for the night. If I am still enough, I can feel the gentle brush of his fur while he breathes.

I run my hands along my ribs, feeling the indentations between each one. Are they deeper yet? Can I count each one? They slide down to my hips, feeling to see if they protrude. Is my stomach flat? Can I create a bridge from one hipbone to the other without feeling my stomach under my arm? There is something comforting about feeling my bones. It grounds me, reminding me that I am real.

In the midst of this battle with Anorexia I have lost myself, and I’m still in the process of rediscovery. But for now, I am lost in the ethereal; I have become a walking calculator – numbers – weights, calories, distances, grams, lab results, and so on. I have numbed out feelings. I have no interests, no preferences. I am a cold and calculated machine.

There is something that feels safe about being so cold and calculated. Predictable, perhaps. It is for this reason I fear the process of weight gain. It is not that I don’t value health, nor that I don’t agree that it is needed… but I fear the softness. I fear losing the sharp edges. It is as if the sharp edges of my bones are the only connection I have to being real, and to mask them under a softness is to lose the last of that which is me.

I do not have the answers yet. I wrestle with so many questions, and in this moment, faith seems silent on this matter. What I do know, what I will hold to, is the promise that dry bones can live*

*Ezekiel 37

Posted in recovery

Emmanuel – God with us

Usually I am one who loves Christmas – the festivities, the excitement and busyness, the memories and family and fun – but this year it just seems heavy. As I drove home from work tonight, I was listening to a Christmas album (Nichole Nordeman’s Fragile), and the song O Come, O Come Emmanuel started to play. This song has always been a favourite; there is something about the simultaneous hope and recognition of the waiting which I love.

As I was listening, I got to thinking about this concept – God with us. What does it mean, God with us? God with us in the waiting. God with us in the hoping. God with us in the darkest of night. I know so often when I am waiting for something, or when I am traversing through a dark season, “God with us” seems like it couldn’t be further from truth.

I started the song over, this time really listening to the lyrics:

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel

O come, Thou, Dayspring,
Come and cheer
Our spirits by thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadow put to flight
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel

O come, Desire of Nations, bind
In one, the hearts of all mankind
Bid thou our sad divisions cease
And be thyself our King of Peace
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel

Perhaps this year the song resonates more than other years, in a year when I approach Christmas completely spent. 2019 has not looked the way I thought it would at all. The year started with great hope and expectation – looking to the future and seeing the potential for some dreams to start being fulfilled. By March, things started to fall apart and by July, I found myself relapsed and back in hospital. Unfortunately, post discharge things continued to be a struggle, and in October I found myself being taken to hospital yet again.

Now it is December. I am exhausted, physically & mentally. My faith is faltering – not because I do not believe, but because I do not have the capacity to withstand any more storms or battles. I am weary. The night is long and dark. It has been silent for far too long.

Advent, the season of waiting in expectation, has begun. It feels signficant this year. Perhaps, in this season of silent darkness, the Saviour may enter in. Perhaps Salvation may again appear in the most insignificant and humble of settings, with no grand fanfare – just another ordinary day, another ordinary night. Amongst those who are weary from a journey. Weary from carrying the promise for so long. Weary from labouring. And yet, in amongst the weariness, hope was, and is, and can be birthed.

I do not know what the coming months or year holds. I do not have great ambitions at this point. I am broken and empty. Maybe this is the perfect setting for a Christmas miracle of my own. Maybe this is when, in the silence, rather than the fanfare of Christmas, I can experience “God with us”. God with me. I can experience what it is to have God with me in the dark of night, God with me in the doctor’s office, God with me as I face another meal, another anxiety. This is my prayer for this Christmas season – that in and through everything it holds, the good, the bad and the in-between, that there would be a sense of God with us. That I would truly come to know Him as Emmanuel.

Posted in recovery

Gut-wrenching Honesty

I wonder where I got the idea that recovery would be a simple journey. Spend a few weeks in hospital eating, see a psychologist & dietitian & learn that food is ok and boom, fixed. If only it were that easy.

In reality – I could go through those motions easily – and did for a long time – all while still rigidly controlling what I ate (even if it was ‘acceptable amounts’), how I moved, etc. But I wasn’t recovering. I was walking a tightrope.

Now – after having crashed; I find myself confronted. Confronted by how afraid of foods I have become, confronted by a genuine distrust that somehow normal body function (e.g. metabolism) won’t work the way it is meant to for me, confronted by fear of weight gain even though I know I looked and felt healthier at a higher weight. Confronted by the reality that I am out of control.

I have spent my whole life trying to control – everything. Be perfect. Don’t let people too close – earn friendships by being there for everyone else but don’t let them be there for you. Excel at anything you do. Be who people need you to be. It nearly killed me.

Now I have chosen the motto “honesty is the best policy” – which requires vulnerability and that is so hard. Gut-wrenching. Pride-stripping. And, freeing.

The more I have been honest, the more I have admitted vulnerability and let people in, the more I have been met with genuine love and acceptance. It’s starting to challenge the lies I’ve believed that I have no worth. Clearly, if everyone around me sees something, something must be there. I feel like the fog is slowly lifting. It’s painful. It’s hard. I’ve cried more than I like. But, I am healing.

The road ahead is long, and I am sure it will be bumpy. I’m going to have to adjust to a changing body. I’m going to have to challenge my fear foods. Currently I’m having to confront my fear of hunger. I’m going to have to keep leaning in to the discomfort. But, in that will come freedom.