And After Denial And Anger And Depression Comes Acceptance

Yesterday’s post was written a day or two after I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. It was a messy few weeks, of crying and ableism and cancelling plans and haze and tough decisions and more crying. I yelled at people I loved: my mom, Tom, my sisters, God. I pretended nothing had changed with everyone else. Both took a toll.

But now I’m almost a month in. And things are looking up. My worries and fears from July have come to their foregone conclusions for the most part and I am looking for the upside in them all. And life is looking a little like this:

  • Downside: I decided not to go EUDC in Croatia. Upside: My space went to Andrew, who deserves it and will do it justice.
  • Downside: I have been transferred out of Nursing and will not be graduating in 2015. Upside: The college are making what is essentially a new course for me (BSc Health Studies) and I will graduate in 2016. The next year will also be part time, which will allow me to adjust to professional life at my own pace.
  • Downside: Running is a no-no. Upside: Swimming and yoga are still yes-yes.

It helps that two of my dearest people have disabilities, and are up for a venting session when it is needed. It helps that I bought a shower chair so that I can wash myself in peace. It helps that I am getting into a low-sugar, low-caffeine, bed at 10pm routine. It helps that I am taking more me time. It helps to multitask less. It helps that I am taking a break from worship team, and approaching God in a slightly different manner. It helps that the American explains relevant theology (and makes silly faces) when I am upset. It helps to have a mother who does lots of research about fibro and test runs facials on me.

You get to a point where you start being okay with being a spoonie, a fibromite, a pillow fighter, and whatever other cute names online support groups have for their members. You start being okay with walking less and sitting more, less nights out and more sleeps in, less fancy coffee and two more paracetemol.

But it’s good. This is good.



Waiting, Surviving, and More Than Surviving

It’s been a few weeks, sporadic blog readers. One of those months, you know? Where things are going from bad to worse, and a cycle begins reminding you of all the other bad things that have already happened in your life thus far. The cycle then goes on to speculate on all the terrible things that are inevitably going to happen as your life progresses and you get caught in this storm of desperation and disinterest in anything else in the world.

The latest in is that I have an undiagnosed something. Readers and real life friends alike are fully aware that I give out about my hip pain a lot, and as time has gone on, it has become more of an issue. Now I’m waiting on a rheumatology consult, need to take day time naps to deal with the fatigue, and am relating far too well to The Spoon Theory. It’s frustrating and exhausting and it takes a whole ton of effort to do not very much.

The build up has started: I am tired and in pain, so I can’t get a job, so I have no money. I am tired and in pain, so I can’t work as a nurse so I have to consider transferring into something else, which isn’t dropping out, but feels remarkably similar. I am tired and in pain so I can’t sleep at night and am exhausted during the way which makes it harder to socialise, serve, and survive.

All this happens and it would be so easy to give up. I could just take to my bed and watch Netflix and drink tea and never stir. Which I do some days, and it is absolutely necessary. But not every day. And I have to remind myself, as we all do sometimes, that I have survived the terrible things before. I survived bulimia, and dropping out of med school, and coming out as queer, and being raped, and having PTSD, GAD, and panic attacks, and having IBS (I am alphabet soup apparently), and a whole host of other things that felt like the end of the world (like being broke and relationships ending and growing apart from friends.) I am still here after all of that and so I must keep going. Or all that effort will have been a waste.

I can survive, and more than survive. I can adjust. I have a computer. I write (and get paid now. That’s cool). I have Skype. I have a rent free room to live in and meals made for me, courtesy of my beautiful father and mother. I have best friends who are not in the least bit frightened of all my baggage, and often come to the rescue. I have Jesus, and God’s infinite love. I have hope.

And that’s good enough for now.

On Being Aware Of Disordered Thinking

I checked before writing this, but this is my only confession of 2013. Which means that Kate, of sharing all her thoughts and feelings on the internet fame, felt no need to cry about eating disorder thoughts in a public forum all year. Well done me. This has a lot to do with a) Jesus, b) dealing with underlying problems rather than masking them with maladaptive coping behaviours and c) deciding to face problems head on. But enough of that.

Last weekend was a difficult weekend. Not for any traumatising or psychologically damaging reasons. Quite simply, I had to see the American off as he returned to Texas, and this was contrary to my desire for him to be near me. What worried me, however, was that although intellectually I knew I was upset, I was actually quite chipper. Sunday morning I woke up super early, relatively perky, and with the strong pervading thought of starting a new diet. What the hell, brain?

(Side note: Thanks to FYP stress and two vomiting bugs in quick succession, I lost about a stone quite quickly in the last semester. I found this great. Christmas is undoing all this unhealthy weight loss. My brain is not responding well.)

The point of writing all this is the importance of being aware. Of being aware of your reactions to unpleasant situations. Being aware of your own maladaptive coping mechanisms. Being aware of the subconscious habit you have of not wanting to feel sadness (for reasons or for no reason). Being aware of the fact that losing weight will not make the Atlantic Ocean one iota smaller. Being aware that losing weight will not make you one iota of a better person. Being aware that you are no less valuable as a size 16 than as a size 4 (thank you Mary Lambert). Being aware that you are a work in progress but that you are beautiful just the way you are. Being aware that being sappy and lame doesn’t make these things any less true.

A Confession Of A 180

When I first started doing confessions all that time ago, I was in the height of striving for recovery. I was waiting for the day when I would wake up and feel better and act better and just do better at life. I wrote about the struggles, I wrote about the mini successes, I wrote about the mini relapses.

My eating disorder began when I was 17. But in a way you could trace it back a lot further, back to the low self esteem and body hate that followed me through my childhood and teen years. Growing up, I just didn’t want to accept who  I was. All I wanted to do was change.

In the last two or three weeks, I find my body checks have significantly reduced, my eating is not dictated by emotion and is not a starve nor a binge, I am exercising for the craic and for the relief it gives my anger and my leg stiffness, and I can look in the mirror (like I did for 30 minutes today while the stylist cut my hair) and not freak out about what a stain my reflection puts on this earth.

I can see some dark circles under my eyes which suggest that I could get a little more sleep. Sometimes, I pinch an inch somewhere between my waistband and my bra line and wonder if I could adjust some things to lose some weight. There are moments when I feel like I am more hair than woman. But these are fleeting moments in comparison to the ease I feel on a regular basis.

I’m not quite sure that this is exactly loving my body. But it is a major step in accepting my body. There have been moments along the way in which I hoped that a day like this may arrive. It was more realistic once I realised my idea of recovery was too perfect and too ideal to be a true possibility. This non-extremist approach is helping. So are the unrelenting opinions and support of the people I love (especially A.)

For the last while, I have felt like I have been right at the end of the tunnel but still stuck where I was. Now, I think I might be able to finally leave.

Love Your Body Series: Forgiveness

Learning to love and respect your body is not just a part of ED recovery – it can enhance the way any person thinks about themselves. Once a week, this series will explore my own attitudes to body-loving, spread the love and wisdom of other bloggers and throw out any tips and steps I learn along the way.

There is no one reason why we are the way we are. All the fears, the little neuroses, the obsessions, the quirks, all of these are the build up of the years of tiny events that have happened in your life. When I first went into therapy, I felt pretty sure that I had one problem in life (my eating disorder)  and that I knew exactly what the trigger was (a bad break up) and that once someone could tell me what to do when I felt the urge to binge (a nice quick fix if possible), I would be cured and I could start living the life I wanted to.

That was about two years ago. I have now been to enough doctors and therapist and had enough breakdowns and relapses and everything in between to know that just isn’t possible. The fact of the matter is that what happened to you happened. And trying to pinpoint a reason or assign blame as to why you find it difficult to trust others or why you have a compulsive need for perfection or why you perpetually think you will never be good enough is a futile exercise. What happened happened. The walls are built. You now need to break them down.

As part of the 12 step program I used to be in, I made a list of everyone I had harmed and everyone who hwas focusing ad harmed me. Then I had to apologise and make amends (nobody wanted anything from me and everyone was surprised that I was apologising at all.) The thing about it is that while this can be an effective program for some, it was not for me and the process didn’t help much with feeling any better about myself. What did help was forgiveness.

I had a list. I knew to some extent (therapy helped to add to this) what baggage I had been holding onto for years.  I was focusing in on the last few months but in reality, I still had issues with people that I hadn’t even seen in years. So I took my list and I went through every name one by one and I forgave them. The people who had hurt me? I let it go. I sat alone in my room for about an hour and did just this. Then I went through all the horrendous things I had done myself and I forgave that too. And for the first time in a long time, I felt okay.

This is something that you can do over and over again. The only time guilt is helpful is before you do the bad thing. Maybe you might think again. Maybe you’ll learn the next time. But obsessing and damaging yourself is not helping you and its not helping anyone else.

We all fuck up. But regrets have no function except to hold you back. You learn from your mistakes and you move on.

Love Your Body Series: Fall In Love…With Yourself

Learning to love and respect your body is not just a part of ED recovery – it can enhance the way any person thinks about themselves. Once a week, this series will explore my own attitudes to body-loving, spread the love and wisdom of other bloggers and throw out any tips and steps I learn along the way.

They say that after 3-4 months into a relationship is a make or break point where you will either break up or fall in love. The infatuation and excitement is gone and those cute little quirks you once adored in your significant other now make you want to punch them in the neck. Or else you settle down and start into a working, real life relationship that will hopefully last another 3-4 months when another make or break point might rear its head.

Loving yourself can be a similar process. If you are coming from a background of low self esteem and self criticism, then in all likelihood, learning to love your own skin and bones is much like the start of a new relationship. It can be awkward, a bit of a hit and miss while you still test the waters, it can have its ups and downs and days where you think its not worth the effort, you’re not worth the effort and it might be easier just to go back to the enemy you know.

But that horrible awkwardness of the first three months is nothing compared to the absolute awesomeness of starting to fall in love. Think of the excitement of finding out new things about the other, the comfort of someone holding you, another person being totally sweet to you just the way you are. That is how I want you to love yourself.

If it came to three months and the person you were dating did the following:

  • Insulted your appearance
  • Told you you were stupid
  • Forced you into activities that made you sick or unwell
  • Harmed you
  • Wouldn’t let you take part in the things you loved because you broke one of their ‘rules’
  • Took away you confidence

Would you stay with them?

Treating yourself with kindness, respect and love is not something to be ashamed, embarrassed or afraid of. Treat yourself how you would treat your girlfriend/boyfriend/husband/wife/lover/other and be ok with that. Be ecstatic about that. Appreciate all your little quirks. Fall in love.

Love Your Body Series: Make A Compliment, Take A Compliment

Learning to love and respect your body is not just a part of ED recovery – it can enhance the way any person thinks about themselves. Once a week, this series will explore my o wn attitudes to body-loving, spread the love and wisdom of other bloggers and throw out any tips and steps I learn along the way.

I’m not sure how it is in other countries but Irish people aren’t great for taking compliments. There’s an urban legend going around that a Polish girl replied “Thanks, Penneys!” when someone congratulated her on exam results because she figured that’s just what Irish girls say when they get a compliment. (For anyone outside Ireland, Penneys is a very budget friendly clothes shop.)

We don’t like to admit that wilwe are doing well, looking well, feeling well. We shrug it off with a chorus of “It was nothing!” and “This old thing?” Personally, I think it is a combination of two things that makes me uncomfortable with compliments. Firstly, I grew up thinking I wasn’t good enough, so I am paranoid that people are either lying to me or taking the piss. Secondly, I am afraid that by accepting the compliment, I am tooting my own horn and giving myself undue credit. I wouldn’t think this of anyone else if I were to compliment but for some reason, I’m convinced of it for myself.

I’m getting better at saying ca”Thank you.” My friend Emma is amazing in that she doesn’t accept Penneys! as an appropri wiate response to her admiration of your dress.

I’m also not a huge fan of replying with a random compliment to the other person. Don’t grasp at straws; give compliments freely but honestly. In this way, you will also learn to trust that others aren’t just humouring you.

I’m still not totally okay with compliments. I was told I was cute today and had no idea how to respond. There were lots of lovely and true things I could have responded with but instead I laughed off a thank you and changed the subject. I’ll be brave. Next time.

Homework for the week: Compliment others. In the truest way you can – empty words don’t count. If you receive a compliment, say thank you and believe it! You’re probably super cool. Write down the compliments in your journal so you can remind yourself of your awesomeness when doubt starts creeping.

And remember: words carry weight. So use them wisely, affectionately and grammar perfect 😉