4000 kcal

20 days have passed since Ellie told my Self we needed to start gaining weight again. The 200kcal increase had a violent birth on the first day, and has since been a hard act to follow – no matter how hard I push.

I should have consumed an extra 4000kcal over the last 20 days.
One 200kcal snack with my morning coffee, everyday. Any bar – a TREK bar; a KIND bar: a bar set at a reasonably low limit to entice myself back onto the path to weight restoration.
The scales in the clinic do not measure determination or promises. They only monitor numbers: and my number was just short of exactly the same as it had been the day I received the news that Anonymous had scavenged what little there was left of my spine, and made my osteoporosis worse.
The number retold my tale of 20 days in the wilderness. I was being lured back onto an anorexic track, without even realising it.

I did some maths, and calculated how many extra calories extra I had really eaten. 2305kcal; without factoring in all those little anorexic discretions Ellie turned a blind eye to. We can’t really blame her: self-destruction isn’t a pretty sight. Osteoporosis has a haunted by disasters that haven’t happened yet. With a crumbling skeleton, there is no structure to hold disorder in place.
It felt safer to let Anonymous pass through every now and then, and do the tough stuff when anorexia was already full of extra exercise, or chewing over a plan.
It means my 4000kcal bar has been shaved down to 2305; plus restrictions.
This is not enough to earn back my weight.
This will never bargain back my periods.
2305 kcal is a story full of holes, just like my bones.

This is harder than I remember.
But I will soon remember this struggle too. A couple of million calories down the line, when my weight is restored and my mind reinstated, I will reform the memory of this time and be grateful for it.
This will be the period that ate into anorexia, burying her bones 200 kcal at a time.

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T – 200 kcal

I saw some light.
I need to put on weight. Fast.
If I don’t, it will all become real.

My body is playing dead.
I was confined with an extremity of myself I still don’t understand; but the only way I can run away from it, is to listen to it.
I can still hear that frightened cry: begging my periods to come back.
Please come back: I need you. With your magic hormonal formula to protect my bones, with your warm cycle of predictability my body can rejoin, and orbit – on track.

The shock of my worsening osteoporosis, even after putting on all this weight and drinking all that milk, was traumatising. My mind colonised those porous bones and began haunting my spine with symptoms. I spent three days carrying myself like porcelain, carefully turning my body instead of my head, sinking to my knees instead of bending over. Alone in my flat, these worries solidified into certainty that my spine had already crumbled.
The back pain I’m experiencing since receiving the news was not inflicted directly by osteoporosis, but anxiety. Flying on panic, my muscles have been wracked up to a height and stiffened – petrified. It hurts to sit, it hurts to lie down. Bed has been a torture cell, and the days a torment.

Ellie somehow hatched a rational plan of action amid the chaos.
Science says if I eat an extra 500kcal a day everyday for a week, I should gain 0.5kg in a week. Now, that science is scary. Big – out of control; and I can’t trust it.
So, I am taking a bit of science, as a taster. In the flickering light of what has happened recently, I have decided to eat an extra 200 kcal with my morning snack – without restrictions. I need to see what happens.
I need to see if my body really does love me unconditionally.

Yesterday, I took the first step. I worked my way through a KIND Dark Chocolate and Sea Salt nut bar: 197 kcal of gluey chocolate, almonds crunching like bones. An extra 197 kcal of protein and minerals; an extra 197 kcal to kick my metabolism into action. 197 kcal closer to getting my periods back.

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Stocked up on ammunition

That afternoon, I felt guilt sink to join it in the pit of my stomach. Food preparation was a slow process, a grim negotiation that had me shave only 20 kcal off my afternoon snack. The day passed, the summit melted.
Today was harder. Feeling like I was already failing, clutching a 135kcal snack instead of a ~200kcal one, I confronted a Nakd bar. If Mum and Dad hadn’t been there, I don’t think I would even have opened the wrapper. Anonymous was there at the table, gritting her teeth. Anorexia’s gaze is crushing, but I broke it.
An hour later, it felt good. The intensity of the moment had diffused, and I could think clearly about why I need to eat, why I need to put on weight. It’s the first thing Anorexia casts her shadow over: the threat closest to the ground on which she treads.
So yes: two days in, and struggling.
But struggling into the next day nonetheless.

The back pain I’m experiencing since receiving the news was not inflicted directly by osteoporosis, but anxiety. Flying on panic, my muscles have been wracked up to a height and stiffened – petrified. It hurts to sit, it hurts to lie down. Bed has been a torture cell, and the days a torment.

Tomorrow, I will remember this:
Which is scarier, Ellie:
An extra 200kcal today?
Or losing your bones to osteoporosis; and your mind to the inevitable, excruciating regret?

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As anxiety inducing as discovering chocolate dressed up as an avocado 

Pore Us

“Is anybody there with you?”
My doctor’s voice was distant down the phone. News was about to make an entrance, and I wasn’t ready for it. 3pm crept up on me as I shrank away from the sun, and was retreating up the steps to the university library. Then a shrill ringtone cut through the air, a white light flashing with alarm.
News was stirring.

“Is anybody there with you?”
I pulled into an alley. Campus is full of these dingey holes in the wall, sheltering mould, pulverised pizza boxes and sobbing, stressed out students. This one was empty.
“Can you sit down?”
No doctor, Anonymous cannot. We’re anorexic, remember? We couldn’t sit down now, even if I tried. Anorexia can’t stand to. Sitting now would hurt so much.
So I stood by myself in the alley, and asked News to come in.

I had been preparing for our first meeting since I had my bone scan, a month or so ago. Lying on that slab, listening to the machines whirl with the clock, I had time to wonder what News could be found.

News was always going to arrive after a number of Chances. There were the nice chances that drinking my milk and eating my yogurt would have done the trick. A welcome chance, that keeping my calcium levels up would fill the gaps, and help explain how and why I will recover from anorexia. The chance that osteoporosis could be halted as it drained my bones of strength, simply by gaining a little weight, was a very nice sounding chance.
Even Ellie knew, nice as it was, it wasn’t very good.

Good chance favoured the bad. With the cool indifference of science, Chances are things who do not bear good News. Just News, in all it’s disruptive and ugly forms.
The suspicion that science was right meant I was braced, standing by myself in the alley, waiting for News to come. I had expected disruptive News, but didn’t realise News would be bad enough to rip the air from my lungs and Ellie out of her cloud.
When News came, I was horrified.

Osteoporosis follows Anorexia like a shadow, lengthening into black holes burrowing into my spine and hips.
My scan results have exposed just how deep my eating disorder has sunk its claws. 12kg, 3 years and 10bpm later: osteoporosis is still alive and well. Feasting on the bones left out in the cold when my hormones abandoned me, when my periods stopped seeing red and fled.
I swallowed the News with too much air, and felt tears lance from my eyes.
“Is anybody there with you?”

I am a crowd of empty spaces.
Cramped under a mask of blood and bones, there is a life unlived. Missed opportunities, unfinished business, side-steps. Anorexia scared it all away, and drove me to this place: the derelict landscape of illness.

Illness is a lonely place. I’d invite you in, show you around, but there is nothing to see.

My island drifts between my flat, the library, the gym. Once a week I get to go to work, but it takes a moment to adjust to the sound of my name coming out of someone else’s mouth. Ellie gets let out to explain herself in my weekly hospital appointments. Going to the supermarket is a treat: it doesn’t hurt Ellie like exercise does, it doesn’t offend Anonymous like boredom.

This lonely place does things to you.
Boredom eats more than I do: days are swallowed up in a desperate attempt to keep busy, just to starve off the panic of realising how empty my time really it. Illness makes me ravenous for things I cannot do. Instead, I’ve had to binge on my university work, just for something to fill the gaps between meals. I finished coursework months before the deadline, and read theory into a frenzy.

Lonely words don’t make sense on their own. They need companions, friends to form complete sentences with. Then the thoughts would have somewhere to go, someone to bounce off. Instead, my words circle the shrinking perimeter of my incarcerated mind, picking morsels off the only topics Anorexia can stomach: food, and exercise.

Thoughts of myself burst in by accident. Then, it hits me.
Loneliness presses into my face and squeezes time to a slow, steady, stop.
Then, the wall hits me. One, two,
Three
The crowd inside surges, bursting from my head and hurling it against the wall in a desperate attempt to get out. Let me out, I want out. So much harm done.

Here are the words that have nowhere to go. They have no order to fall in, and yet still they rain.
My therapist has told me it is normal to grieve in recovery.
It is grief that I salvage out of empty spaces: this long lost love for life, and not knowing what to do with it.

Loneliness is hungry, and somehow manages to swallow up the good bits.
This is why I still write my positivity diary, every single day. It is record of Ellie in exile: and without fail, I am grateful to have people who are there for me; even if over there instead of right here in loneliness. Even those who don’t quite make the journey to realise exactly what it is I’m going through.
They still try.

Bad News arrived, and I had nowhere to put it. It rampaged through my mind and tore down my nerves until my breath rattled.

There are people who attempt to join me on my cold, anorexic island.
They usually get starved out by Anorexia’s sparse routine; or lose my plot, confused by the bits of my illness that splinter socialising like tiny shards of glass. Only pieces of myself are reflected in my behaviour. Ellie has to keep her distance to protect Anorexia, and so my island drifts off, leaving everyone else ahead.

I won’t be able to stay on this island if I get heavier.
If my body anchors itself even just above an ‘anorexic’ BMI, Ellie will either sink or swim.
Food will entice hormones back into my blood.
Food will float a heavy head with an ability to think in a straight line: to see the grey, not only the black and white.
Science says, if I restore my weight, the empty spaces will shrink, and heal over with new ones.

The News has frightened me to Ellie’s bones.
If I cannot put on enough weight to get my periods back, something bad might happen.
If I don’t recover from anorexia, something bad will continue to happen.

I have nowhere to put this bad news, except at the front of my mind.
And here, in this empty space: for anybody who is still with me.

Somebody.

Ellie, focus.
Some Body.

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Just keep swimming!

Germination

Spring has a violent beginning.
Everything that has been asleep over winter begins to stir. Distraction’s sweet lullaby starts to drone and die with the novelty of the new year. Even a slight change cracks the steely hide of routine, and wakes up all the bits of Ellie anorexia sedated in a deep, eternal sleep.

Ellie sprung on me out of her nightmare. I don’t quite remember what set her off; did I slip up on Time and fall back a few years? Was it a greasy comment or sticky news piece that hunted me down from my radio? Whatever it was, it was quite a shock; and it is the shock I have been trying to recover from all along I suppose. Starvation suspended me below the world’s line of fire, but Recovery sticks it’s neck out, and I’m feeling the aftershocks. I have managed to work my weight up another kilo over Christmas (51kg now …!), so I suppose my safety catch was off. Whatever it was, she got me. I became possessed by a blind fear.

Eventually I salvaged shredded thoughts to show to my doctors: help me, help. It has been two tear-sodden months of stomach-churning, hair-tearing fear. I wrote a blog post on how I felt, but couldn’t publish it. It was so ugly, so frightening, that I thought it would be irresponsible to publish it. Trigger warnings are sticky buggers. They promise sadistic entertainment then wash their hands of the consequences. The writing was good, but I’m not going to publish it. Something about it doesn’t feel right. You don’t need to know how much distress I was in, just that it existed, and potentially still could if it is so rudely awakened again.

The eruption of Ellie’s nightmare woke me with a shock, and I’ve been working hard to calm her down.
My doctor has prescribed me a mantra to stem the scary thoughts. They just need to clot in time for me to get to my doctor, to pick up the phone and ask for help – I’m scared. Otherwise they’ll bleed into the day after, and the next and the next. This is how I rescue myself: “How I feel right now is temporary. Just because I think it does not make it real. It wasn’t my fault.”
Recovery comes with practice. Shovelling x amount of calories to meet y amount of exercise in a day is still a challenge, but will get easier with practice. Naming Ellie and shaming Anorexia is still a challenge, but will also get easier with practice. Now of course, my therapy has opened a porthole into bits of myself that I abandoned long ago. They are unpredictable, and run wild. My doctor says with practice, they can be trained. With even more practice, they can even be accepted – “should” be accepted.
The last few weeks have been very tough to chew on. With practice, I’ll get there.

Time continued to grow around me, dragging me into the sunlight every now and then. As the scary thoughts slowly released their lock-jaw, I could watch the violence of spring subside into clawing for the horizon. Blossom foamed from the trees, the sky lifted off my shoulders a bit. My therapy pulls me forward, and I’ve been looking forward too.

There has been much to look forward to as the thoughts hang back. There is a lot I am grateful for; it wells up inside me like warm porridge. There have been days I’ve been bulging with the marvellous feast of happiness that is mine to suck on like a sun-blushed peach.
Spending time with someone other than anorexia is always a pleasure, but getting to spend time with my Mum and Dad rattles Ellie deep to her core, and wakes up the good bits.
Some of the food stuff has been feeling less like wading through treacle recently too. Now we’re tackling “the root cause” of my eating disorder, Anorexia is almost resigned. She cannot do her worst, because her worst still hasn’t managed to make me any better. Anonymous has exhausted herself and still the problem won’t go away.
Almost resigned, but not quite – or at all

– yet.

As a result, there have been pockets of progress rising in my food diary like bubbles.
Pasta has made a star appearance dressed in a homemade tomato sauce and sporting grated parmesan.
In London I watched Ellie behave almost normally around food. A weekend with my Mummy in the big city was the best treat, and I really, really enjoyed it. Ellie chose a restaurant with a variety of food – vegan, vegetarian and meat-eating alike, and held her own as she held the menu. I ate a delicious plate of ratatouille, and anorexia didn’t steal a single bite. Ah, and I had my second glass of champagne in recovery. The bubbles rose up in giggles.
Back at home, it was only when chewing through an over-ripe slice of avocado at lunchtime that Mum pointed out how lovely it was to eat lunch together. I wouldn’t have done that a year ago. I can’t think why: having some company is lovely. Especially now I live alone, and trust myself with my meals all the time.
Elsewhere, I’ve just tried to be brave. It hasn’t made the slightest bit of difference to my weight, which confuses Anonymous deeply. Surely that glass of champagne …? Or heaping that tablespoon …? Really, even choosing the larger avocado …? Realisation is germinating slowly. It better be a beautiful bloom.

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Um, hello

Other buds survived the first days of spring. One particular one is like a thorn in Anorexia’s side. A short, sharp shock; hard as a bullet. I tried to bite it, but I’m not strong enough for it yet. I was offered my dream job last week. A placement for a stylish magazine, covering their events and publishing pieces every week. In the big city, with all the big names. It is a mouth-watering opportunity.
I was offered my dream job, but anorexia is making me turn it down. It’s too soon. That’s what everyone is telling me, including Ellie. Needless to say, I am heartbroken. I might need to rename this epoc of my life as the “terrible twenties” – I haven’t tearfully cried “but it’s not fair!” like that since Barbie was confiscated.

Blossom foams from the trees. Tumbling and twirling recklessly – freely – then hits the cold hard pavement. Reality moves through it’s seasons. Beginnings are always the cruelest. But then, things get going.
And we fly.

Jaw Dropping

For a blog about Recovery, I realise how little I talk about it.
The actual mechanics: the calorie maintenance, the exercise regulation, the bloating, constipation. Hopping on and off the scale each week trying to remember the last time I managed to poo. The warm swell of a full tummy. The dread of putting on that pair of jeans breaks with the dawn. They must have shrunk in the wash.
Unless …

My weight: what affects it, what it is doing, where it is sitting at what time of day – it’s all Anorexia thinks about. And when I write these posts, I chew over how recovery is going, then cherry pick the best bits. The plump and juicy morsels of sweet success, or over-ripened anguish. I leave the weight problem to fester. My feelings about it are rotten to the core.
So now, I just want to spit it out.

Weight gain has not been happening, but nor has weight loss. Take from that what you will.
Wait, don’t take that impression: don’t think I haven’t been trying. We’ve endured nearly three years of this, and dragged my BMI up from 12.8 to at least 16 (I haven’t calculated the exact figure. Knowledge of it will only help Anonymous.) But yes, you’re right. I’m still nice and snug in the “anorexic” weight range. I’ve a good few kilos to go before I can leave my body alone, and focus all my attention on fixing the rest of my Self.

Ellie wants to be better so badly it hurts; but Anorexia don’t want to gain weight. Anonymous wants to have her cake and – not – eat it.
And so the moral of the story is … “I want never gets”. ‘Want’ will never get me out of this mess.

When my doctor insists on telling me so, I can see where I’m going wrong. I understand where anorexia gets in and sucks the wind from my lungs.
I understand I do too much exercise. All that walking, and those sneaky trips to the gym; which will become more frequent and more intense if I ever recover from this cold that has been my constant companion since I started overdoing it anyway.
I over-exercise to justify eating. It’s a negotiation to balance the scales, and keep Anorexia close.
And I understand this, you might too. But Anonymous doesn’t believe it.

So, you might ask, why bother anymore?
That’s how I feel too. Yes, recovery is very frustrating. It looks and sounds so simple. But it tastes bitter, it feels horrendous. It just stinks.
This is why I bother. I can’t stay here, I can’t live like this forever. Not when there might be a chance of reaching to a different side of my Self, and pulling it all together into something that resembles a good, happy future.

“Living must mean more than just not dying.” (Thanks Mum)
That is why. Remember that, Ellie.

All the psychological therapy I have relies on my weight.
I worked hard in the summer to bring it up to a level that rendered me “cognitively capable” of going through with psychological therapy. Since, I’ve been fighting just to keep it here.
This is the tip of the iceberg, and a fat iceberg at that.

I’m going to chip away at it where I can.
I left the hospital this week, having told myself “just for one week, I will do it. I will eat everything I am supposed to and test my doctor’s science.”

Ellie is wise from three years of weight restoration. She has been revising the old ways of doing the weight thing.
I’ve brought back my “win of the week” award, which last week went to trying a new fear food: mustard! (So SAUCY it is scary).
I’ve exhumed my little star stickers, and brandish them in my food diary whenever I do something particularly brave. Asking Mum to cook “whatever she fancied” from Deliciously Ella’s cookbook earned me one; having a savoury breakfast got another. Even today, I had a wee glass of orange juice with my lunch, not instead of it. I’ve been so under the weather recently, I figured I need the Vitamin C. And the sugar of course, but we must never mention the S word after it happens. The best thing about getting a gold star, is that it’s bright shiny surface reflects a very different version of my food than the one in Anorexia’s mind’s eye.

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Just cos I’m not on instagram doesn’t mean I’m not going to show off this awesome supper ft. dressing made with mustard!

I’ll never win this game against Anorexia without changing the rules.
I wish I didn’t have to play anymore but I’m in it now; right up to my low BMI.
And the only way out, is up.
There is no avoiding it, Ellie. Just open your mouth and try.

There’ll be gold stars all round.

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Gold stars, and pretty breakfast bowls

Zucked Up

Instagram is just not natural, and I can’t stomach it anymore.

There are so many additives and preservatives, so many added colours. They bring out likes and comments out like a rash. That sugary rush of excitement and validation dies as soon as I scroll down; the moment has passed, and I am old news.

I watched myself stalking my profile first with fascination, then horror. A grotesque curation of my Self and myself only, as if I were really that interesting. Then I looked at how I reacted to my friends, and was shocked at how easily I could hate them. I gagged on good news and choked up watching them explore a world anorexia denies me access to. I was blinded by highlights, and couldn’t see past the dazzling perfection being offered up around the clock.
Fixing my image has disorientated me, and thrown me off track in finding myself again. I am not the person I used to be because of it. My attention span is shrinking. Dependence on a mobile is an extra tentacle for anxiety.
I do not like this person. She may be anorexic, but she doesn’t have to be so self-absorbed, she doesn’t have to be so bitter.

So I’ve deleted instagram.
It was so easy. One tap killed the screen dead, and now there is a quiet. I’ve more storage on my phone, more headspace for the real world, and 28 minutes extra in my day. I’ve deleted Instagram, and blocked that part of my competitive instinct.

Had I given myself time to think it through, I would have delayed again. Laying down my profile like a shield would risk losing all those precious pictures, missing out on news and views, and of course denying myself an escape route into a dream world.
But I didn’t have time to think it through, because on Instagram there is no time. It all happens so fast. There is just no time to think any of it through.

I don’t miss her at all. eatingforellie and eatenbyellie were growing up to be the dumb cronies of anorexia, and only now they have been locked away in my internet history do I realise just how controlling they were learning to be.
They were always breathing down my neck. Their breath fogged the screen up with that bright, white light. I would wade into the day, poised to catch a moment then frame it on a dead screen.
Sometimes, my accounts would prod me into action. Followers will lose interest if I didn’t top them up with news constantly. Often I’d be clutching the end of my tether, on the verge of an anorexic meltdown, yet still bend over my phone glossing over what will never show up on screen.
I had a face to maintain, even if looking at it made me want to scream.

My camera roll is a graveyard for rejections. Some were scorched by bad lighting, or smudged by a clumsy angle. Endless streams of damaged photos make a dull reading of my life. I must have spent so much time sifting through each cluster, choosing a snap with malleable features.
I’d open the app and select my weapon of choice, then begin to make it better. I’d doctor it: cropping, tweaking, twisting it out of proportion.
I’d make it better, but never healthier.

My instagram account no longer monitors what I take a picture of, or how.
In three days, I’ve noticed how much more I value the few I do take. A foggy sunrise leering through my curtains, my dog hurtling through bracken, an avocado smoothie with a colouration Shrek would be proud of.
I can’t document moments of my life anymore, but that doesn’t mean they never happened. I can testify that point: I was there. I saw it with my own eyes, not through a camera phone.

It also means anorexia has one reason fewer for taking pictures of my food.
This is one of her mealtime rituals, so I have a record of portion sizes. Ellie uses pictures as evidence to ward away any later anxiety about how much I ate.
Then I got Instagram, and it became complicated.

My battles were being broadcast for entertainment. The anguish that brewed as I chewed was dulled under a caption’s empty optimism.
A hashtag covered reality up, and made it almost comical.
Recovery felt like a performance, and it really did make people believe it really happened.
The picture would be taken, then I’d add peas to my plate. Those unruly green vandals would ruin a visual curation.
The picture would be taken, then I’d mix the berries into my porridge and recreate a scene from Psycho.
The picture would be taken, and with it my enjoyment. I’d chew cold food and swallow more wasted time. It belonged to someone else now.
I’d share it, but nobody would really understand. So much is lot in translation. There is so much one simply cannot fit in the picture.

I’m braced for loneliness, but it never comes.
I spend time with my Self, rather being completely wrapped up in myself. Even Anorexia feels better for it: she so hated her failings being had up in front of the world. She even concedes that this might be better: I will surely achieve so much more without being distracted by other people. Even my metabolism might focus better, without the glare of that white light.
I’ve chosen to respect the limits of my Self. Because really, they will never filter down to fit anyone’s idea of perfect.

You’ve scrolled down this far. As ever, there will be a more serious point in this blog post.
My retreat from Instagram is also being made partly in solidarity with the family of Molly Russell, who took her own life after viewing self-harm images on social media.
I have been force fed these images too. “thinspiration” and “pro-ana” accounts linger near the popular kids who play with food. Anorexia goes looking for them, for support and guidance. She goes there to learn. She goes there knowing she will see too much. Anorexia wants to be better than everyone else, but will only achieve that when she knows how much better, or how much further she needs to push me. The competition is live, it is never switched off. How easy it is to pick up a phone when feeling anorexic.
Then there are the onlookers. Those bizarre people who think my “collarbones look nice”; but also those predatory cowards who seem to enjoy our degeneration back into our child-like bodies. They cower behind a screen, just as the trolls do. I’ve witnessed insecure girls at unstable weights be pushed to rock bottom because “they’re so fat”.
There are places where people don’t have to be nice, they can be cruel even. And they will always go after the vulnerable.
In these stunted and pointless interactions, we can only see each other; we don’t ever listen. We can’t smell the sweat of that gym-selfie, or taste that bland coffee. We never have to understand the bigger picture, just a snapshot will do. Then we just keep scrolling, as if nothing were wrong.

There is so much of the world I have seen, but will never understand. Social media is part of that.
I refuse to let it get under my skin and change the person I know I am.
I’ve already got Anorexia for that.

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“What do you mean I’m not beautiful enough for Instagram?!”

Edgy

My burnout over the Christmas holidays was spectacular. My tears would have made the monsoon proud, and it took my breath away. Panic attacks still grip me most nights, suffocating sleep in it’s sweaty bed.
Somehow, anorexia bred with exams. Exams then mutated into windows of lost opportunity, through which hope began to leak. The winds of change refused to flush me out of the library, gym or flat. Burning writer’s block fused my synapses and singed my coursework. Bits of myself shut down in panic. I was breathing nothing but my own desperation, digesting nothing but the food I knew I had to eat. Calories became the only language I understood, and Anorexia was always trying to argue with them.

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Why tho

And now it is all over, and I have had a little time to examine how my body got me through it.

I rearranged my limbs according to the time of day.
At night, I hunched them over books. By day I pinched together a few hours here and there in the library, but found it painful to prise any more time from Anorexia. She has such an appetite for it.
The time I did have to do my work was precious. Ellie guarded it with her life: her social life, her normal life; her family life. She grieved for lost opportunity as we pounded on the treadmill or prowled about in the daylight. She could feel the paragraphs she could have been writing unravel and tie themselves in knots.
Anorexia held me back from my work and tired me of it. Somehow, we got there. A jumble of disjointed thoughts were scattered onto a word document; then another, and another.
Deadlines fell away like scales.

Then came the exam.
On the other side of coursework, it looked to be much more straightforward for Anorexia to navigate than all that reading and researching. Alas, this too was a trap.
Anonymous dropped my stomach into my trainers when she found out the test was 2 hours long. 2 hours shackled in a seat, sitting, sinking. Then she gasped again: 2 hours was only the length of time of the actual assessment. What of the faff that goes on around it? The paper collecting, ID checking, the monotonous instructions read out over a loudspeaker? The exam was not just a 2 hour assessment of how far I had achieved my module aims. It was a mental assault that caused my anorexic symptoms to flare up before the revision had even started.
On the day, we sat through it. Anonymous was persuaded to sit the exam only on the condition that she be allowed to stand up until it began, and immediately stand at the end. So I rose gratefully after 2 hours of scribbling, and nearly collapsed. My arm dangled by my side, bruises snaking up my hand. An imprint of my scribbling grinned up at me from the desk.
You did it.

I refuse to get anxious about the results. I’ve already done brilliantly, because I did it. I sat through and exam; I sat through revision; I ate my way through pages and pages of reading and devoured calories, trusting them to help me.
Only now do I realise why I went back to university in the first place; and it has nothing to do with getting an outstanding grade. I’m trying to reunite with Ellie, and I think pushing myself so hard over exams almost inched me a little closer to her. I can hear how much she wants it, even over this anxious anorexic anger.

It also pushed me out into the cold, into another rocky area of recovery.
The earth feels all uneven, the ground threatens to open and swallow me into that black hole again. I tread carefully around the cracks, guarding myself from triggers. This meant I wandered further and further from people, and away from their warmth.
After holding my own for so long on Christmas day, 3 o’clock struck fear into my heart. I left my family and went home to my empty flat, and spent the evening trying to type some sense into my essays. I greeted the New Year curled up with my coursework, listening to the silence of an empty calendar. Anonymous never goes to parties; soon she won’t even be invited any more.
Loneliness is sharp and icy, it’s rocky terrain is dangerous.
And really, really hard.

Ellie is time-tossed, downtrodden, and tired; and it make Anorexia nervous.
Five days free from the library has done little to revive me, possibly because I’ve held them at arms length. These were days offered up in my timetable for ‘rest’; and I’ve forgotten what to do with them.

Time off is Recovery’s black magic, and it terrifies Anorexia because I long for it so much. Ellie salvaged some for herself: going to bed early, a few minutes less exercise. All the while reminding me that it’s ok to do this, we’re going to be ok.
Some days are harder than others. Some days, if I slow down I fall off an edge. Any edge: that one there, with grades dropping off and out of university; these ones here, the black holes where my meals should be. Then the edge of therapy: a tumble down the scarp of memory lane. The edge of reason, of which there is none.

Now that this blog post has wandered over to this edge, allow me to explain it a little more. We are here, mid-way through my schema therapy. Having had a reasonably clear run at the beginning, things are starting to get a bit tough. I can’t break the thoughts down well enough to describe them in detail, but I’m chewing them over with my doctor.
Every word bites. Each question burrows into places I never, ever, wanted to revisit. Rummaging around for answers, splitting anorexic hairs standing on edge.
Yes, my treatment is getting tiring.
But then this, too, I will succeed in. Just by trying.

I survived the most gruelling exam season yet by breaking each day down into manageable portions. I’ve guzzled my way to the beginning of Semester 2, and I’m trying to convince Ellie that I’m not full.
I can’t have had enough already, but why does my stomach bloat with so much worry? Why are my shoulders still tensed up by my ears, as if to protect me from the sound of my lecturers?
The thought of having to go through all of that again just feels too much.
I don’t know how I can drag anorexia through another semester of study. I’m not strong enough, and she weighs me down so.

Today I could carry her, and we got to the end of it.
The same might happen tomorrow, then the day after.
Weeks will surely melt into months, the fiery pit of exam week will burn out before I do.
This is my hope. My hope: and I will not let anorexia take that away from me again.