Freedom

‘True beauty, the kind that doesn’t fade or wash off, takes time. It takes incredible endurance. It is the slow drip that creates the stalactite, the shaking of the Earth that creates mountains, the constant pounding of the waves that breaks up the rocks and smooths the rough edges. And from the violence, the furor, the raging of the winds, the roaring of the waters, something better emerges, something that would have otherwise never existed. And so we endure. We have faith that there is purpose. We hope for things we can’t see. We believe there are lessons in loss, power in love, and that we have within us the potential for a beauty so magnificent, our bodies can’t contain it.’ – Amy Harmon.

 

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I am writing this post in December, and will continue writing throughout January, when I believe a thought is worth documenting. At the moment, throughout this month and the next, this is my journal of recovery. My path to freedom. And I begin with these words: my body is a book of rules. A diary of my disorder, the keeping place of lost memories, the broken machine which suppresses emotions. The scars of past events exist less as real memories and more as renderings which I create and reimagine. Scratching at those scars to open fresh wounds is where the revelations live – digging deeper into discomfort, away from the default mode of denial and safe routines. The same way I write as therapy, my body is a storage space for all which I am ashamed of, the process of transforming pain into a manageable compartment in my mind. I wish I could mould my body, like my history, into a redemptive narrative. I wish I could win in the end. Yet in the middle of writing the book, it occurs to me that there might not be a victory. Not all stories have happy endings. Perhaps this is a story not of salvation, not of overcoming, but a parable to serve as a lesson for younger generations. This is my greatest fear in writing, a fear that keeps me from continuing the story, as I am terrified that I will be unable to execute my plan, unable to write the plot I imagined. I define my identity by what I am counter to; I define myself by my voids. This disorder has led me to write as I do. Writing is my ritual though which I can transcend time and heal. Yet until this post, I have been hiding from myself – I note here the words of Lao Tzu: ‘The truth is not always beautiful, nor beautiful words the truth.’ Here is my truth, my story, and it is not beautiful at all.

 

Here is a rambling from the diary I kept during December: Go back. Do what Walcott recommends, give your heart back to yourself. Do to the darkness what a seed knows best; eat it whole, grow. Mouth what you once wrote: Sticks and stones will hone my bones. Be whittled. Soap scraped into sculpture by a patient prisoner. The fine art of embroidered bones. Invite the elephant into the room. Teach it how to pronounce copacetic. Look up at the fan again, not to weigh its verdure against the lapses of your own body but to admire the physics that powers it. Look at how it dances with all this enduring invisibility. Let it teach you how to unbury yourself. Stand before her and let her remind you how you are the switchblade of lightning that shivers the silver mirror of water to the ambered dust of sands. Know that suffering beyond pain is powerless, is parasitic. Sprinkle some rock salt on that leech. Take a pair of scissors but this time don’t split your skin; find a long red thread, cut it in half and fling it outside the window you wanted to catapault from. Stare at a starling murmuration over the skies. Stare at it with intent. Let it speak to you with the symmetry of its vignettes. Find the first letter of your name in this tango of bird shapes. Pat a dog. Any dog. Pat a pit bull. Build up the day when you can go to a zoo and ask if you can pat a snake. This is a lesson in tender tension. Memorise that Tao of the Audi ad: ‘all conditions are perfect conditions’. Decide what this condition is perfect for. Act. Write poems again. Don’t ever let them take that away from you. Don’t be ashamed of the poems you wrote. Claim back the alchemy of every word you were compelled into. Invoke through poetry. What antediluvian prophesies are sleeping inside you? What will it take to kindle their veins? Seek the books you stashed at the back of those granite shelves. Thumb through the dog-eared pages. Search through the debris of memory to find just a single diamond of logic you can smuggle across to your consciousness. Repeat Ozick: ‘Trust the afterward’. Trust what comes next. Trust your survival. Watch those wildlife documentaries. It is always the female of the species that can predict the oncoming natural disasters. This struggle is power. This makes a whole from your halves. This reminds you never to dichotomise your sense of self at the knife of another’s deceit. You know about the monarch butterflies of Yucatan, don’t you? You have flown through epochs of migratory trance, the ache of wintered wings, their chorus warming your chrysalis. Respect their lives. Respect yours. Pin their photographs on the soft board. Watch them as they watch over you. Bow your head to what is whispering ‘la vie, la vie’ in quiet corridors of your mind. Etymologies are a parade of cliché but sometimes we need this ready entourage to rearrange our sadness. Find yours. For example, anger, from old Norse ‘angr’. Meaning: grief. You want to leave this body? Do so. Leave the anger of this body. Leave its lies. Leave its violent hiss that tells you to distrust your gut. Pick the places you have hidden from yourself. Show them light. Show them grace. All civilisations are cradled in ruins. Bless your blisters, your shanty towns of mute scars. Pull back the tarpaulin off this skid row. These are the places you have best survived in. These are the spots you were strengthened in. These folded, cratered corners are telling you what Rilke knew – how beautiful the terror of enduring; how wild the appetite of angels. Go forward. Touch your past. Then let it go. It can’t call out. It has no voice, only echoes. Learn not to distrust the ideal of survival. It depends on what you see when you look at my scars – a place where the harm ended itself, or a place where the healing began. There is such fear and shame in admittance. Yet freedom as well. Those monstrous thoughts will eat their way through you, no breath of respite, gnawing to the bones through sanity and rationality. The more they chew, the stronger the will is to keep them hidden. Unseen by others. But eventually it becomes visible how you’ve been bitten. The monsters gain a tighter rein. But their bite is nothing compared to their bark – eradicate the shadows and be rid of the disorder, the most faithful bedfellow I have had for as long as I remember. Close the door. There is nothing to be afraid of. Mark a spot – in a garden, a church, a beach. Dare to meet yourself there. Daily. Ask how you have been. Show yourself at least a quarter of the kindness you lavish on those who wound you without a fear of repercussions. Loss is a weed of language. Find a scythe. Don’t keep your apologies hungry. Don’t let anyone reduce you to the sum of your mistakes. Refrain from bisecting yourself into the martyr-victim binary. You are neither. You are both. You are so much more. Break often – not like porcelain, but like waves. Make multiples out of your singularity. Realise this disorder is not an escape, it is a death sentence. It is self-abuse and addiction. When they ask ‘how sick were you?’ and are really asking ‘how thin were you?’, be able to respond simply with: ‘I am alive now.’ Do not cringe when they say you are ‘healthy.’ It is not a bad word. Do it for me. You survived the earthquake, now learn to deal with the decade worth of after-shocks. Be raw, be real, remove the pain which digs its teeth into your eyes so you can’t see who you are anymore. How do you survive survival? Persevere, self. There is a beautiful somewhere. Live really. Live fully. Be all the things. Be proud of yourself. And they will be proud of you too.

 

Each of us knows or has known, at some point in our lives, the feeling that we are capable of something great. There are dreams which sometimes come towards us, images of how it could be, life unfolding before our eyes. Yet we become masters at destroying these feelings; telling ourselves they are not possible and besides, we’re not worth it after all. And if they leave, they disappear, they dissolve, leaving us merely with the painful haze of what used to be. What if deep down inside, we all are incredibly, infinitely powerful? What if every dream we have ever had, has the potential of becoming real? Most of us spend the majority of our lives running away in one way or another. Myself, I have been running away for over six years straight. Yet then again, there were moments where I tasted freedom, the thought of potential, the thought of something greater. After all, the existence of light needs darkness and the existence of darkness shows us that there must be light. And light there is – infinitely. Each of us has moments of being aware, moments of seeing clearly, moments of understanding and grace. Deep down inside, we are whole. We carry light; each and every one of us. It is the small voice in your head which says, ‘This is not all there is.’ The tiny thought: ‘I’ll try again,’ the small hope for a brighter future, or any future at all. It’s the first step into and out of the darkness, not knowing what you’ll find. It’s the getting up in the morning, the smile despite sadness, the moment of hope. If we embrace all shades of life – light and darkness and all the grey – we can learn to explore and expand our consciousness. Explore, find what you treasure most, and then hold on to it. Dream it. Live it. Become it. It is never easy, but always worth it. Why should we be afraid, when we are free to become everything? Why should we despair? Believe me, you hold the strength to live your dreams. On our journeys, we fall and we fly and we rise. And we realise: we carry gold within. Never again will I underestimate the power of my determination, even when all others had lost hope. I will forever acknowledge the indisputable strength of the human will.

 

So this is what recovery feel like, I muse to myself at the end of December. It is destruction and construction. I remember Bertrand Russell’s wisdom on this, ‘Construction and destruction alike satisfy the will to power, but construction is more difficult as a rule, and therefore gives more satisfaction to the person who can achieve it… We construct when we increase the potential energy of the system in which we are interested, and we destroy when we diminish the potential energy.’ This fierce determination illuminates the person I once was, what I belong to, and the self I wish to protect, the child within me I am willing to risk my life for. I must be the person I needed when I was younger, in order to save myself. And in this given moment, I am faced with the choice of either stepping forward into growth or retreating back into safety. I can see now that this safety is only temporary, and in the end will be the death of me. To construct or destroy, to step forward or to retreat. There is always a choice – accept conditions as they are, or to take responsibility for changing them. Deepak Chopra said, ‘when you make a choice, you change the future.’ When a person has the capacity to choose, they have the ability to change. You may argue that this disorder warps the choices we make, and oftentimes we are trapped between two choices of equal evil. It required a monumental step on my part, a finally burning sense of self-belief, and a great amount of courage to see beyond the evil I had learned to love, and to choose life. I wrote daily on coloured sticky notes, ‘self-love = strength.’ Before I stepped outside to face the world every morning, I looked in the mirror and said, ‘You are beautiful and you are going to do great today,’ and ‘I am strong. I am brave.’ Eventually I believed it. I felt stronger and slowly began to love the parts of myself I had been told were broken. After the struggle passes, I will remain in the midst of the pain. Soon, I will begin again, be able to recover the years of my life I lost. I break the rules etched deep into my body. And for once I feel happiness, not shame. I make it through another day.

 

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The parts of myself I had hidden from others, I began to reveal. I believe self-expression is the most powerful form of self-love and authenticity and these expressions are what we each, uniquely, have to offer the world. Whatever ‘it’ is, it will be different for all of us. I said to myself, ‘Britt, the world gains nothing from your eating disorder. The world needs your Britt-ness, your much-ness.’ And if we don’t have our muchness, and if we don’t live out that muchness, then what is it that we have? Nothing. And what is it that we have to offer the world? Nothing. That’s the ‘it’, the ‘it’ that must be said and expressed. The hardest part was convincing myself that the world still needed my muchness, my Britt-ness, after I had told myself for so many years that I had failed to live out my potential, and that it was pointless to try to find myself again. Sometimes I would feel shame, that my muchness was too much for others, that my history was too fractured, that my ability to be loved would never return. And that’s what my eating disorder fed on. I could not point to the exact moment that this all started – it was the combination of many events, trauma, an emphasis on restriction, ‘less is more,’ always wanting to be better than I was, of feeling unable to live up to expectations. I do recall some words one person said to me once, which may have begun the spiral. If you were to ask me when the spores of anorexia first crept into my heart, that’s the moment I might point to, me absorbing those words and realising I would never be good enough. There. Right there. And I never saw clearly again. The narrative impulse is one entwined with anorexia itself. Being sick means constructing an alternate reality, strapping it in place with sturdy mantras, surrendering to the beguiling logic of an old fairy tale: ‘There once was a girl who ate very little… There once lived a witch in a deep, dark wood.’ Anorexics are convinced that they are hideous, bad, and unlovable. It is not only a humiliating physical and psychological affliction but also an elevated state of mind, an intellectualised hallucination. More fundamentally, though, anorexia is an inveterate liar whose grand theme is your identity.

 

The disease is a classic example of ‘monkey see, monkey do.’ I remember travelling with the lightweight rowers for competitions and watching their behaviours. It was cool to wrap up your food in napkins and squeeze it to absorb any trace of oil. It was cool to take bites of each item of food, but never finish the whole piece, leaving a graveyard of a meal on your plate. It was cool to drink litres of Coke Zero, because this filled you up yet contained zero calories. It was cool to buy other athletes chocolates and feel superior when we would say, ‘oh no thankyou, I have to be on weight for the race.’ It was cool to run ten kilometres after a long training row, just because we were lighter and faster. It was cool to have the best power-weight ration for my age, make two Australian teams, and be invited to the Beijing trials 8kg lighter than the other heavyweights. It was cool to have a zero skinfold count whenever it was time for testing. It was cool to be perpetually cold. It was cool to park in the spot at the other end of the carpark, so we had to walk that extra distance to reach the gym. It was cool to have the older heavyweight rowers say, ‘wow, aren’t you looking like a greyhound now?’ It was cool to be built for speed, not comfort – to be all veins and lean muscle. Never again would my Italian coach say I was ‘looking at bit soft.’ He told me once, ‘you should always be hungry.’ So I made a point of always leaving food on my plate, to symbolise the sacrifice I was making to become an elite athlete. Always hungry. The habits I observed so carefully in others, the comments and advice I remembered and recited, they formed my identity in sport. These behaviours were normalised, so I spiralled entirely under the radar. Only able to operate in extremes, as I always have, I lost sight of myself. I didn’t notice when the winning greyhound became a broken skeleton, with osteopenia and broken ribs. Even after I recovered once, the athlete identity drove me into marathon and the Rio shadow squad, and again, that identity broke me. I failed again. The eating disorder makes you androgynous – both in appearance and mentality. Perhaps that was my aim. If I became sexually unappealing, then I would never be at risk again of the same horrible experience which plagued my nightmares. The etymology of the word ‘intelligence’ – from the Latin ‘intelligentia,’ an assimilated form of ‘inter’ and ‘legere,’ meaning to choose between. Intelligence is the ability to choose between, to distinguish; in fact it is a variation of the Serenity Prayer wherein we pray to be granted the ‘ability to know the difference.’ In 2015, when questioning whether there was something wrong with my brain, I sat multiple formal IQ tests, all of which returned the score of 179 (yes I did spend some time moping over not cracking 180), and was admitted to MENSA. This suggests to me that firstly, anorexia can affect people of all intelligences, and secondly, that it does not impair cognitive function to the extent some may believe – I was very ill even then, but still could demonstrate intelligence levels well above average. Yet, here’s the catch with these disorders – you are completely unable to distinguish between the rational and irrational, right and wrong, until eventually even the most intelligent of us lose the capacity to accurately evaluate our actions. I realise now that all these things which were ‘cool’ in fact were absurd. Of course, rowing was only the beginning. If it hadn’t been for the other events, the accumulation of trauma far removed from the training scene, perhaps I would never have fallen so far. But they happened, and I did. When I didn’t feel as though I was falling, I felt claustrophobic – trapped in a glass box, unable to escape and barely able to breathe.

 

Anorexia is the mental health equivalent of the red shoes that make you dance until you die. It is a performance – of hatred, of damage, of power – that turns into a prison. The choreography becomes so absorbing that you can no longer access your own will or desires. You may require an external party to confirm for you that you exist. Yet you never seek the presence of others due to an increasingly ingrained belief that you are the cause of all suffering. I often mused obsessively on a trio of lines from ‘Persephone the Wanderer’, a poem I love: ‘Unlike the rest of us, she doesn’t know/ what winter is, only that/ she is what causes it.’ I spent years believing I was the Winter. That Summer would never come. But the last two months I consciously and intentionally redirected myself back to Britt and my show, to allow myself to feel alive in my space, releasing judgment of the person I have been, so I could embrace the person I was becoming. To honour my story, but to question it, to unsubscribe from the beliefs I had about myself that weren’t true, to stop living in fear that I was ‘less than’. I had said for so long, ‘I’ve always been this way, it’s who I am.’ As a shell of my former self, I had forgotten who I was without my eating disorder. I was afraid of who I could be without it. I didn’t know how to live any other way. I had been shamed for being human, but these shadows played an important part in helping me grow from a beautiful mess to a complete person. However, when we learn to disassociate from the disorder, it becomes more manageable. It is easier to envision life without it. We should never say ‘X is schizophrenic’ or ‘Y is bipolar’ or ‘Z is anorexic.’ X has schizophrenia. Y has bipolar disorder. Z has anorexia. People are not their illness, they have an illness. Just as someone has a broken arm or cancer. In the same way, we should never say ‘J committed suicide,’ but that ‘J died by suicide.’ J did not commit a crime. J resorted to suicide, which he perceived, in his unwell mind, to be the only possible solution to his tremendous suffering. Those with mental illnesses do not commit crimes. By shifting our language, we can take a small step towards removing some of the shame, self-hatred, and suffering these people, including myself, have felt for so long. I had to release the weight of my limiting beliefs, to start living while I was alive, to set the world on fire. In recent weeks I have finally reached a place of knowing that I’ll be okay, and believing that I am meant for the good more than the bad.

 

It was more than that though, it was believing I was going to live to see the new year – and to want to live. In all honesty, I moved to Melbourne in February 2016 resigned to death within the year. I moved to be out of the way, to remove myself from my family and the inconvenience I caused them. I would live on my own for a year, unable to recover, as I hadn’t been able to for the five previous years, and eventually die likely with not a soul noticing I was gone. My landlord doesn’t even inspect my apartment because I’m such a perfectionist and minimalist – it looks exactly the same as it did the day I moved in. It would take until the lease was up the following January for anybody to come in and notice, to find the remnants of the girl who could have been anybody, achieved anything, and instead did nothing but ruin herself and those around her. I remember my mother saying once that she might love me again when she couldn’t see my spine through my neck, or if I didn’t look like the back of a cow when I bent over due to my protruding hipbones and concave bottom, or if she couldn’t see my shoulderblades through the thick jumpers I wore to hide my frail limbs. I didn’t think it was possible, and doubted she would ever look at me again the way she did when I was her little superstar. It broke my heart. But I imagine I had already broken hers long before. My father, whom I adore more than anything, was suffering each day. Every child wants their parents. But I realised that not every parent wants their child. I thought it was the sensible choice to leave. And so throughout the year I struggled through my Masters degree, receiving the award for each subject I completed, achieving perfect scores for both my placement schools where I taught, and being offered tutoring opportunities for Literature. I told the schools I had a muscular degenerative disorder, so they wouldn’t be afraid of allowing a teacher with a psychological disorder to teach young students. I had to use the lift to make it up floors at the schools, as I couldn’t physically walk up stairs, even one at a time, even if I pulled myself along with the rail. Looking back, I have no idea how I survived the intensity of the course combined with the teaching, performing my morning ritual of one hour vinyasa yoga, and walking obsessively for several hours each day, and running on four hours of sleep. I couldn’t lift my head up from my pillow without using both hands for support. The same girl who could clean 60kg could not lift a 10kg dumbbell. On a weekly basis, I would plan to walk in front of a tram – not to kill myself, but with the hope it would break my legs which would force me to stop exercising and be admitted to hospital. I was completely alone. I could go for days during the uni breaks without hearing my own voice. Sometimes I would walk aimlessly and start conversations with strangers, just to remind myself that I was alive, that somebody could see me and would acknowledge my ghostly form haunting the local streets in the evening. I had food scales and would weigh out thirty grams of rice at night to have with a little tin of tuna. During the day, I would have green tea and one quarter of a protein bar. I rationed food to save money for rent, but it became an obsession after a few weeks. I have no idea how ill I became or what my lowest weight was – I didn’t see a doctor to have blood tests, and never weighed myself. I has hospitalised twice after fainting, once at university and again in my apartment complex. I checked myself out the same day – saying it was because I couldn’t afford the hospital bills, but knowing I was in denial. Then in October a miracle happened. For an unknown reason, I began to crave sweet food. I tried a churro (heartfelt thanks to San Churro), a cinnamon scroll, a doughnut, an Oreo Freakshake. I would buy them and have one bite and throw the rest away, yet somehow I didn’t hate myself for it. Each day during that month, I would buy myself one sweet treat, a fear food, to test myself, to break routine, to prove that the world would not end if I ventured beyond my ritualistic procedures. (After a month, I had satisfied the cravings though, and returned to my healthier eating patterns).

 

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On the first day of November, I decided I wanted to live. Not a half-hearted ‘might as well’ life, but a full life, to regain the five years I had lost, and to form new memories over the haze of my disrupted history. I bought scales and weighed myself for the first time in two years on November 19th. It read 36kg. I thought it was wrong, so moved it to various locations, tried jumping on it, and replaced the batteries again. No, it was right. With a height of 179cm, I wasn’t quite sure how I was still alive at that weight. It is a BMI of 11.2 – not that I have ever been one to place emphasis on BMI. 90% of females suffering from anorexia are shorter than 164cm (so even as I began to improve, due to my height the weight distribution was barely noticeable). I took photos of myself (caution: displayed below) and vowed not to look at them until the end of January, so I could see if I had changed. (I had also taken a couple of video blogs, an attempt at ‘recovery vlogs,’ earlier in the year when I was a little healthier, roughly April 2016 – I found them the other day and uploaded them to YouTube on a private channel. The link is at the end of this post if you’d like to watch. I’d advise against it though). I increased my food intake tenfold – and immediately developed night sweats, insomnia, serious oedema in my ankles and feet which prevented me from wearing shoes for a week, and had bloating and indigestion. Yet after some weeks, my hair had stopped falling out in chunks as it had for most of the year, and I could walk up stairs without assistance. I found some dumbbells in the basement and took them back up to my apartment, starting weight training to rebuild some of my wasted muscles – they were heavy for me, even at only eight pounds each. Yes, I still walked obsessively every day – but it was almost a necessity, as the indigestion was so horrible that I couldn’t handle my next meal if I didn’t move in between. I did this all alone, without support, and without medical supervision, other than a brief hospital visit at the end of December to safeguard against refeeding syndrome. I don’t recommend doing this alone. I should have admitted myself to a clinic and stayed there.

 

I cried every day, felt more hopeless than ever, and wanted to give up many times. I allowed myself to cry, though. I remember time and time again being told to ‘stop being so hysterical’ and my tears were never welcomed by others. The voice of the body is louder – it is a grave injustice to a child or adult to insist that they stop crying. To humiliate a crying child will only increase the pain. We stop other people from crying because we cannot stand the sounds and movements of their bodies. It threatens our own rigidity. It induces similar feelings in ourselves which we dare not express and it evokes a resonance in our own bodies which we resist. I stopped resisting, allowing the waterfalls to come. Rather than shaming myself for crying, I repeated, ‘for a star to be born, there is one thing that must happen: a gaseous nebula must collapse. So collapse. This is not your destruction. This is your birth.’ Yet there was still depression coupled with frustration and hopelessness. I couldn’t see any changes in my grey and gaunt face, and I thought it wasn’t worth the effort if there weren’t any visible physical improvements. December was the worst month – an entire month of having nothing to do, no university, unable to work, and unable to go home to receive support from my family. In January, I had chosen to complete my Masters in the accelerated mode, opting for three units which would be finished in the first three weeks of January, leaving only one online unit for completion over the first Semester. I planned to go home at the end of January, perhaps permanently. I used my father as motivation the entire time, reminding myself that all he ever wanted was to see me happy and healthy. I imagined his smile when he saw me for the first time in fourteen months, not the sick girl he remembers, but a healthier woman who had finally chosen recovery. Through it all, while curled up in a ball on the floor crying hysterically, while hyperventilating through panic attacks which have plagued me for several years, through the night sweats due to sudden hypermetabolism, and the intense loneliness aching in the background every moment, I reminded myself of my parents and how proud they would be if I made it through. How they might love me again if I wasn’t broken anymore.

 

It was some time before I realised that this belief was fundamentally flawed. I was viewing myself as broken, simply because I had been told I was. By viewing myself as a work in progress instead, and loving myself through all the stages of recovery, regardless of how horrible I still looked, I could find the strength to continue. I reminded myself daily of the words of Nikita Gill: ‘Even when you felt you weren’t strong enough to survive, somehow you found the strength to survive anyway. What does that say about you, other than you are made from the blood of stars, with enough iron in your veins to make ten swords, and the same carbon that makes impossible to break diamonds?’ My strength and determination came from a developing sense of self-love, and letting myself in. Self-love is when you take a good look at yourself and say, ‘I see you. I know your worth and I am not going to let you live a half-assed life. I respect you too much to settle for mediocrity. So begin the work that must be done to reach your potential.’ And with this discipline comes hope. Hope is something we all have within us when things get tough. It is self-love in action. It provides you with the courage to face your fears and to keep going. It empowers you to break the chains that hold you back. Hope is that inner voice that says ‘I can do this.’ So I never lost hope, because by keeping hope alive, I kept myself alive. ‘As you are,’ says the universe. ‘After…’ you answer. ‘As you are,’ says the universe. ‘Before…’ you answer. ‘As you are,’ says the universe. ‘When…’ you answer. ‘As you are,’ says the universe. ‘How…’ you answer. ‘As you are,’ says the universe. ‘Why…’ you answer. ‘Because you are happening now. Right now. Right at this moment and your happening is beautiful. The thing that both keeps me alive and brings me to my knees. You don’t even know how breathtaking you are, as you are,’ says the universe through tears. After, before, when, if… Versions of my life I dreamed of without accepting myself as I was. As I am. Some things in life cannot be fixed or changed, they can only be carried. We cannot erase the trauma of the past, cannot turn back the clock to stop the hurt, to prevent the events which would change our lives. They will be in our lives forever. But they won’t be in our lives forever like this. One day, you will wake up without experiencing the pain, and you will go to bed without dreading the cinema of nightmares and sleep. You won’t cry at the difficulty of having a shower. You won’t flinch when another person touches you. You will learn to carry it, and the load will lighten. And you will be okay. The project of becoming free is to realise that you are free to begin with.

 

I was living a story which people prefer to read about in the paper, my life was not one they were comfortable being confronted face to face with. They pretend to be captured in the tragedy of the poor little sick girl when her life exists purely on paper. Where her smile sits on faded black and white pages and can easily be covered with a dinner plate or the morning cup of coffee. People like to discuss the passing of former paper girls over lunch, conversations of how utterly tragic it all is, before moving on to conquer life’s next biggest tragedy like the rising price of bananas. I do not think these people realise that paper girls exist everywhere, not just in black and white headlines. They were once real girls, with sunlight filled cheeks and sparkling eyes. They weren’t always grey and sunken skeletons. They fill classrooms, coffee shops, malls, and sad homes everywhere. No one seems to care or notice until the lives of the former-real-girls can be purchased with coffee and then discarded once their sad, paper demise has been printed next to the comics on page 32. After all, aren’t the comics all people read anyway? People don’t realise that the next girl might well have been me. Perhaps it would have been me, had I not learned to live, to love, to hope, to find strength through suffering, and reach a stage of recovery only one in four of us will. I always wondered whether anyone would remember my face if I ceased to exist. My tale would be a page turner to reach Garfield and Calvin & Hobbes. People would think to themselves, how sad, then turn the page to something less morbid. Even I wanted to turn the page, in my own mind. But I couldn’t do it. Here are some lies the disorder told me: I have fat therefore I am fat. I am nobody without my eating disorder. I don’t deserve to recover. I am unlovable and worthless. I have to deserve and compensate food. I will eat normally once my weight is X. If I start eating I will lose control. I have caused the destruction of others so I deserve my own destruction. These lies were overwhelmingly convincing, and I believed them. But I did not want to be that girl in the newspaper. Edgar Cayce’s comment, ‘don’t feel sorry for yourself if you have chosen the wrong road. Turn around,’ resonated with me – although I am aware that for some of us, ‘turning around’ is not that simple and the road is certainly not chosen. Yet for me, I could choose the road of recovery. I could turn around. Visualise what you want – set your destination, and head in that direction. Without a destination, without goals, you have no idea where you’re going.

 

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Slowly I started feeling healthier. I uncovered the mirror in the bathroom, which I had draped with a sheet months prior to avoid the sight of myself, and forced myself to look at my skeletal face and body each morning. I told myself that I loved my body just as it was, but reminded myself I would feel even happier if I could look normal again. Each day during the break over December, I went out for a walk (which I shouldn’t have, I know) to fetch some sushi and eat my Lenny & Larry’s Cookie for lunch. I did this not for the exercise, but so that even as I began to notice improvements on my body, I would not become complacent. Going outside still resulted in stares and whispers from people on the street. It was a harsh reminder that I was still unwell, so that I continued to force feed myself rather than stopping after some minor changes – which I have done so many times in the past during failed recovery attempts. So even when it was 35 degrees, I would go outside in my baggy jumper and pants to hide my body, and assess how well I really looked by the number of stares. Every time I did though, I wanted to die, my self-esteem plummeted to rock bottom again. I will say, there is a serious lack of understanding in society. Saying that you ‘understand’ anorexia because you’ve dieted a few times is like saying you know what it’s like to be decapitated because you’ve had a paper-cut. And it was horrible, because I realised that if the whole world was blind, or if everyone looked like me, I wouldn’t have a problem. I felt physically well, mentally was certainly improving, and had no reason to be unhappy. My severe depression was facilitated solely by societal expectations which dictate how a person ‘should’ look, regardless of how they feel. I was unhappy because I looked different. Although, I don’t necessarily blame the general population for this misunderstanding – before I developed my own, I could not comprehend why a person would ‘want to’ develop an eating disorder. I also questioned why these sufferers would not ‘just eat.’ Only now do I realise that there are so many factors contributing to a person developing a restrictive eating disorder. They may include guilt, low self-esteem, a sense of achievement from restricting, feeling unworthy, needing control, an obsessive compulsive personality which thrives on ‘rituals’ – there is no one single cause, and it is never ‘wanting to be skinny.’ It is too easy to negatively judge people based on something we ourselves are not personally experiencing and do not understand – so we must all be willing to listen to others’ perspectives before judgment or blame. Eating disorders are not a choice. They are a serious illness which require medical treatment. Moving on. However, slowly the number of stares decreased. It would be some time before I was confident or healthy enough to dress appropriately for the weather – I was terrified of being seen in shorts and a singlet. This is not a sob story, or a ‘poor me, see how I suffered’ personal tale. It is an accurate recounting of the mental turmoil, the physical effects, and the reality of years with such a disorder. It is easy to blame past events – to say that this was not my fault, that perhaps if I hadn’t suffered from sexual abuse, if I hadn’t had an abortion, if my soul mate hadn’t committed suicide, if I hadn’t been a failed elite athlete, if I didn’t feel unloved and unworthy of success, if … perhaps I would never have developed depression, anxiety and an eating disorder. Perhaps I wouldn’t have destroyed my life, my family, and my future. There is always a ‘perhaps.’

 

Yet, focusing on the could haves and would haves and should haves will never aid recovery. Instead, focusing on making it through each day, taking one step at a time, and believing that I do indeed have a future, is the way forward. However, you cannot think your way to a state of awareness, because the self is created from the play of opposites. Every time I choose A over B, I am defining myself by the choice I make. Large or small, it is the choosing which keeps the game going. The brain is trained to accept, record, remember, and install the choices which made me who I was – who I am. I do not believe in the Eastern tradition concept of ‘choicelessness awareness’. Our choices define us. For me, recovery is about always assessing whether A or B is best for my health, my happiness, and my future. This involved identifying my three enemies: perfectionism, self-hatred and self-doubt, and living in extremes. As I made a choice, I would ask three questions: does this create sustainable vitality in my life? Is this me showing me love? And does this move me closer to my dreams? Every time I chose to smile rather than cry, to eat rather than starve, and to sit outside under a tree rather than walk obsessively for hours, I was choosing life and love. While I was still incredibly self-critical and frustrated by the fact that even after a month of force feeding myself, I still looked skeletal, I reminded myself that I am worthy of love and full recovery. I often recited this quote by Erin Hanson: ‘Never trust a mirror, for a mirror always lies. It makes you think that all your worth can be seen from the outside.’ I stopped referring to it as ‘my eating disorder’, as this implies possession, which is a choice. I did not choose it, and it is not something I own. It chose me, and I fed it, allowing it to grow stronger. I called it ‘the disorder’ to begin to dissociate my identity from the disorder itself. I thought it may have been too late to achieve this. Yet I reminded myself of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s words: ‘it’s never too late to be whoever you want to be. I hope you live a life you’re proud of and if you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start over.’ Life is short. All those plans you have? Act on them. The stories we want to write, the songs we want to sing, all the things we’ve been thinking about doing, we should go and do them.

 

Have you ever seen a photograph that someone else took of you without you knowing it – and it showed a different side of you? It doesn’t matter if you deemed the picture good or bad or okay. The picture made you feel peculiar because it felt like a different you, but it was also you. There are indeed sides of us that we don’t acknowledge or accept, or aren’t even aware of yet. Consciously, perhaps mostly unconsciously, the sides of us we tend to avoid make us feel uncomfortable, require effort or deep inquiry, so rather than doing the work, we desperately try to disown such traits, pieces and parts, yet they remain tightly intact, longing for our attention, and tainting our perception of reality. This is called ‘projection.’ Projection is often triggered by what we perceive to be an imperfect quality in others, and this little bit of imperfection activates our own little bit of imperfection and we’ll often try to fight it out of the other person – judge them, set them on fire, ridicule them and berate them. In reality, we are refusing to see our own reflection. Carl Jung said that the shadow refers to the entirety of the unconscious or an unconscious aspect of the personality which the conscious ego does not recognise in itself. These projections, according to Jung, insulate and cripple individuals by forming an ever thicker fog of illusion between the ego and the real world. Projections of all kinds obscure our view of ourselves, of others, of all life forms. They come into possession of all parts of you. Stop doing things behind your own back that support the crippling of your own personal awakening. Consistently inquire within. Meditate and internally reflect. Listen so intently that your peculiar instincts start to surface. Let them. Set the intention of being open to receiving all parts: nourish, heal and hold a space for the unveiling of the wholeness of you. Breathe deeply in times of distress, controversy and requested effort. Connect before proceeding into action or non-action. Discuss matters without fear, greed, violence or hostility. Rather than assigning rigid meaning or facts to your life or anyone else’s, invite an element of expansiveness and possibility. You are the creator of your own battles, experiences, stories, perceptions and reality. You cannot change what you refuse to acknowledge. You have the power to exercise your abilities of perception in every circumstance, and every circumstance can be an invitation to see who and what you are more clearly.

 

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Mid-December, I was offered my first teaching job at a reputable school in 2017. The conflict was deciding whether to follow the logical path and turn down the job, apply to do my Masters course online, return home and admit myself as an in-patient for treatment. On the other hand, I could be brave for another half a year, complete my Masters course in first Semester, and teaching at the same time while undertaking an Inquiry Project to achieve full VIT registration. I chose the latter, and doubted the decision until the week before I started with my new school in Term 1. It was at this point that I realised I was psychologically and physically stable enough to overload with teaching and university, and maintain my strength training, without relapsing. For the first time, I knew I had progressed enough to remain on track. Although each day was still a struggle, I cried constantly, and absolutely hated almost all of the four thousand calories I had to shovel in on a daily basis due to my broken metabolism, I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. I still hated my appearance, but to be honest I can hardly remember what I looked like so many years ago. Perhaps I was so accustomed to despising the person in the mirror, I would not even notice when I looked normal again. The active practice of self-love became integral to my daily routine. Learning to love my reflection and not be deterred by the stares of strangers. One of the texts I will be teaching in Term 1 is Wonder, by R. J. Palacio. I read it during December to prepare. The story of the young boy, August, born with a facial deformity. It is a brutally honest account of the bullying and social isolation he experiences for being different. Early in the book he shares with readers, ‘My name is August. I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse… If I found a magic lamp and I could have one wish, I would wish that I had a normal face that no one ever noticed at all. I would wish that I could walk down the street without people seeing me and then doing that look-away thing.’ I related so acutely to the suffering he feels throughout the novel, although my isolation was my doing, not an unavoidable genetic mutation.  Yet, I feel it is an important story to share, as there are so many others in the world with this illness who experience extreme ostracism due to the stigma surrounding mental health issues. These people need someone in their corner, telling them that they will make it, that everything will be okay, and offering help and support. Instead, many are left alone and afraid, with little chance of recovery.

 

Not only this, but those alone become accustomed to repeating the word: ‘fine.’ Let’s talk about ‘fine’ for a moment. One of the greatest and deadliest ironies of eating disorders is that the eating disorder voice often tells you, ‘You’re fine.’ No matter that trusted and loved people in your life say how worried they are and point to evidence both physical and psychological that you’re not ‘you’ anymore, the eating disorder voice whispers so convincingly, so cruelly, ‘Actually, you’re fine. There’s no need to let up on your rules. In fact, tomorrow let’s take it further.’ Your mother might have been crying earlier that day about how worried she is, your doctor might be threatening to hospitalise you, you honestly aren’t feeling that great, but just one call from one poorly informed doctor’s clinic that briefly tells you, ‘Your blood tests came back, and it’s all fine,’ and bang, the eating disorder says, ‘See? I told you. Push onwards.’ This was my eating disorder in a nutshell. It would use any available evidence to prove to me that I was fine: you’re still scoring the best grades, you can still exercise fine, your blood tests look normal, you still sometimes have admiring comments from (terribly misguided) people on the street about how thin you look, you’ve seen sicker looking people than you online… or the greatest argument of all: you yourself have been sicker than this before (however you measure that), and see? You’re fine right now. That was the voice of my demon, day in, day out. Without a doubt, this denial of illness is one of the hallmarks of eating disorders, one of the greatest barriers to seeking help, changing behaviours, and confronting coping mechanisms. Feeling ‘fine’ is one of the devastating cruelties of this disease, both to sufferers and to their loved ones. It’s a torment to be restricting, compulsively exercising, absorbing yourself in study, withdrawing from the social setting, and still have that deep belief that you’re not enough, not ‘there’ yet (at whatever goal the disorder set that day), not sick enough to stop. And it’s a torment to those who love you, hearing you insist that you’re fine, when it’s so clear that you’re not. I only recognise this now, as I emerge from the haze of the disorder. To combat the return of the ‘I’m fine’ voice of the disorder in the future, I have two techniques. Firstly, I will never compare myself today to my sickest day ever (thinnest, lowest potassium, weakest, days forced to be in hospital last year). I am comparing myself today with either a truly well past version of myself, or an imagined potential well self. Everyone’s vision of this is different, but let’s imagine that someone who is truly fine can do some or all of the following: eat joyfully, enjoy a wide variety of foods in a wide variety of settings, have room for spontaneity and connection, not worry about your body’s shape or size, not use a critical inner voice, keep emotional challenges separate from body image, is not triggered by physical touch from others, has overcome PTSD and depression, and does physical activity for joy and strength, rather than as an atonement. Now compare yourself with this vision of fine. Depending on how far off you are, that’s how not fine you are. My other technique is the ‘house on fire’ metaphor to challenge my ‘I’m fine’ tendency. Imagine someone standing outside their burning house. The fire department roars up and says, ‘We’re here to put out your fire!’ The person says, ‘Oh, I don’t have a fire.’ The fire fighter says concernedly, ‘I see the smoke, I feel the heat, I see the flames. What do you mean?’ The person says, ‘Well, if I had a fire, it would be so hot that the sidewalk would be bubbling, and because my sidewalk isn’t bubbling, clearly I don’t have a fire.’ At this point, the fire fighter understands the person to be mentally ill and proceeds to put out the fire. I like this story because it sheds light on how absurd (even if, in the moment, compelling) many of the ‘I’m fine’ arguments actually are. In the future, I will listen to those who love me if they are concerned I may be relapsing. Ultimately, look at yourself as a whole person. Not one single number. If you have an eating disorder, no matter what shape or size you are, no matter what your blood tests say, you are not fine. The more you fight the eating disorder’s attempts to convince you you’re fine, the sooner you can move back towards the things in life you truly care about, and return to being a whole you.

 

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The brain disease model, also known as the Polyvagal Theory, focuses on the physiology of the brain to explain trauma and mental illness. The Dutch psychiatrist and PTSD researcher Bessel van der Kolk, states that, ‘Being able to feel safe with other people is probably the single most important aspect of mental health; safe connections are fundamental to meaningful and satisfying lives.’ I know that for myself, I rarely felt safe around anyone other than my brother after some of my traumatic experiences, and after some time, when the eating disorder developed, I no longer felt safe with him or even myself. Here is the catch with the brain disease model. It overlooks four fundamental truths: firstly, our capacity to destroy one another is matched by our capacity to heal one another. Restoring relationships and community is central to restoring well-being. Secondly, language gives us the power to change ourselves and others by communicating our experiences, helping us to define what we know, and finding a common sense of meaning. Thirdly, we have the ability to regulate our own physiology, including some of the so-called involuntary functions of the body and brain, through such basic activities as breathing, moving, and touching. Finally, we can change social conditions to create environments in which people can feel safe and where they can thrive. The problem with those suffering from trauma and other mental illness is that the ostracism prevents any form of connection with the world to enable the healing process. These people are left alone with the worst person possible to assist recovery – themselves. I felt chronically unsafe inside my body. The past is alive and is a gnawing interior discomfort for me. I learnt to hide from myself. And in the process, I learnt how to vanish entirely. Loneliness is a subjective feeling – you can be surrounded by family or colleagues and still feel emotionally or social disconnected. Other people are not guaranteed to shield us against the raw emotional pain that loneliness inflicts. Beyond the emotional suffering, it impacts health by activating physical and psychological stress responses, and the long-term risk to our longevity is so severe that it has been suggested to increase risk of an early death by 26%. Emerging from this loneliness is challenging, as the psychological wounds it inflicts create a trap from which it is difficult to break free. It was some time before I realised that my loneliness distorted my perceptions, making me believe that the people around me cared less about me than they actually did. Feeling emotionally raw and convinced of our own undesirability and of the diminished caring of others, we hesitate to reach out even as we are likely to respond to overtures from others with hesitance, resentment, scepticism or desperation, pushing away the very people who could alleviate the suffering. Breaking free is possible, but it involves a decision to override the gut instinct telling you to isolate yourself and play it safe. Just as I learned not to listen to the voice of my disorder, as I should never trust something that wants to kill me, I also learned not to listen to the voice of my fears.

 

Different people come to anorexia by different roads – if I wrestled with it in ways connected to a particular literary tradition and sensibility, that’s not necessarily how it goes for everyone. But I think we are all alike in our search for language to explain what happened to us, or what we did. We are caught in a biologically based practice that begets more of the practice. Yet we layer over it a struggle that everyone experiences – the drive to express our identities and become who we are. Anorexia both is and isn’t a choice; the anorexic both is and is not herself. How do you make sense of that? I keep hoping that if I find the right words, I can earn a do-over, or at least transfigure the problem with meaning. Anyone searching for the biological underpinnings of anorexia will eventually arrive at the insula. This is a brain region deep within the cerebral cortex that is responsible for (among many other things) monitoring one’s interior state. A 2008 study determined that anorexic and nonanorexic volunteers show similar patterns of brain activation when they look at unknown men and women. Yet after researchers presented the nonanorexic subjects with pictures of themselves, a whole different geography of cortex lit up. Not so for the anorexic patients: gazing at the photographs of themselves, these women displayed the exact same map of brain excitations and dormancies that they had while looking at images of others. They were literally seeing themselves as strangers. Perhaps it’s not surprising that certain types of hardship estrange us from who we are. Does the insula hypothesis tie into the anorexic penchant for narrative – for imagining oneself as a character rather than an autonomous individual? What if the disease asserts its identity because nothing else has?

 

My ‘word’ for 2016 was ‘intention,’ as you may recall. Unfortunately, it was not until the final month of the year that I truly understood the depth of that word. I was approaching work and study with intention, and was incredibly successful, but did not have the intention within my heart to address my deepest fears and become a whole person again. Perhaps my word for 2017 will be ‘evolve.’ As with metamorphosis, the definition of evolve is ‘to change or develop slowly, often into a better, more complex, or more advanced state.’ To unroll from a source. To be content with the person I was, but acknowledge that there is potential for more, for greatness. I like the inclusion of the word ‘slowly’ – this is a transformation wherein I will gradually discover aspects of myself, and evolve into the person I was meant to be. Or perhaps my word will simply be ‘freedom.’ After five years, I am finally free. As anyone in eating disorder recovery knows, it takes more than one day of waking up and making the decision to recover. No. It is making the decision to recover every single day, every hour and even every minute. Recovery is a constant choice as each new moment presents the opportunity to go back to old ways, patterns, habits, and mindsets or to keep moving forward towards health. In order to thrive in the future, I need to choose recovery in the present moment. Not tomorrow, not next month. Right now. And still – I must continue to recover. There is no such thing as ‘partial recovery.’ Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder. The rate of recovery is estimated to be around a third. But what recovery is remains unclear. Some people believe that you can never fully recover from an eating disorder, and that the best that can be hoped for is ‘management’ of it. Whilst it is true that no wonder cure exists, the idea of settling for management is one that encourages partial recovery and that’s a dangerous place to be. I believe that I can, and all people can, fully recover. Reaching a middle ground is not really recovery, as there is always such a high chance of slipping back again. Each relapse becomes more difficult to fight back from. The longer the eating disorder remains in place, the more impact it has. The body adapts to being malnourished and ceases body functions that are not ‘vital,’ causing amenorrhea, osteoporosis, organ deficiency, and endocrine imbalance. Relationships break down, social engagements are difficult, holding employment or studying becomes harder and mood is impaired. All this makes life seem tough – and the eating disorder more attractive. The longer an eating disorder goes on, the more entrenched it becomes, and remaining in a semi-recovered state is only perpetuating that process of entrenchment. This is my story, in a nutshell. For people who fall into the category of having a Severe and Enduring Eating Disorder (generally defined as suffering for over five years and aged over 26) chances of recovery are lowered. New guidelines suggest that the focus should be on quality of life and social integration rather than weight restoration and regaining a healthy body. Well, I fit both those criteria as I am now 27 years old, but I am not giving up on myself. The eating disorder will always be present if it is allowed to be and it will sneak back if the door is left ajar for it, because that is what partial recovery is. It’s better than dying, sure, but it’s never committing. It’s never letting yourself be free of the illness. It’s trying to reach the wall on one side of the room without letting go of the other. If your quality of life is impaired because of the presence of eating disorder behaviours or depression or trauma in your life, you are not recovered. Partial recovery is stopping just before the finish line. Imagine what lies beyond it. It’s hard, but that doesn’t  mean there is no hope. It just means you have to keep pushing forward. Don’t just settle. Live the life you are capable of.

 

Though it makes me sad, I love to imagine the alternate world in which I never had anorexia, where I didn’t experience trauma, in which no circumstances held a match to my biological kindling and convulsed the life I should have led. I love to imagine all the things I would have accomplished already, the relationships I would have nourished. I love to envision my mother and father without the lines of worry on their faces from years of watching their daughter fade away. I love to see my brother, whom I miss deeply every day, acknowledging he has a sibling, in a world where I didn’t fail him as an older sister and best friend. I imagine the relaxed holiday visits, the unique interests I’ve cultivated in so much time not spent obsessing about my self-worth. I know this disorder has led me to hurt many people I care about, and to act in ways which cannot be undone, but I only hope that some day these people will realise that it was never my intention. Even my younger self has been wounded by my own actions more than the actions of others. Yet now, I picture my childhood self standing next to me, as an adult, our bond unbroken, two parts of a whole. Memory, though, has furnished me with the artefacts I have, and I can’t help seeing them through the gauze of the old story. I search through the boxes in my mind, recalling my youth and better years. Gingerly I take out every memory and examine them delicately. Each is light as an insect, its surface worn and luminous with use. I stare at the boxes, sadness opening in me like a flower. Rather than fearing what the future would hold if I decided to gain weight, become healthy, and fully heal, I decide to embrace the future and believe that I will reach my vision of a better self. Each small decision to recover has created new boxes in my mind, for new memories. I am no longer frozen in time. I close the lids of these boxes and push them deeper into the crevasse of my mind. There are new boxes waiting. White, glowing. Ready for new memories. Anticipating the future eagerly. They say sometimes the hardest person to walk away from is the person you’ve always assumed you were. It takes great strength to evolve. But remember this: if an egg is broken by an outside force, life ends; if broken by an inside force, life begins. Great things always begin from the inside. That is the strength of human courage and determination. The title of my life story was always going to be ‘And Then She Disappeared,’ but now will be, ‘And Then She Recovered.’ All I needed was to believe I was worthy of love, above all – my own love. Then simply to never give up hope. Emily Dickinson wrote, ‘Hope is the thing with feathers … that perches in the soul / And sings the tune without the words / And never stops at all.’  I love myself – the quietest, simplest, most powerful revolution ever.

 

I will leave you with a poem by Derek Walcott, ‘Love After Love’

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

 

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Photos below were taken on 19 November 2016 (height 179cm, weight 36kg). My worst point had been a month earlier, but even here, I am amazed that I was even alive. [*Edit: I removed these photos as I think they are too confronting. However, you can see my face on the video uploads to give you an idea*] I made a few video logs earlier in 2016, during my first half-hearted recovery attempt in May (the last video was in July 2016). I stopped making them and I think this reflects my lack of commitment to life in general. However, it does give you an insight into the workings of my mind at the time (I’ll admit I cried a bit watching these today and remembering how horribly lonely and unwell I was). The good news – on 20 January 2017, I weighed 49kg. 14kg in 7 weeks (and at 11% body fat now). I didn’t reach my goal of 54kg (although that was somewhat ambitious) and I’m disappointed with that, but this is still my greatest accomplishment to date, although there is still a long way to go. And really, what is the weight of freedom? Of happiness? No number on the scale will ever encapsulate that (although hopefully higher numbers will come soon). I will not post a photo here of my current size yet, because this is not a Before/After story. My journey is not complete, and I am not ready to write the ending before I reach my goals. But I wanted to reassure you all, those of you who have never given up on me, that I am in recovery. Full recovery is on the horizon, and while I am still learning patience, I will never give up hope. What will I do now? All the things. That’s what I will do. All the things. Per ardua ad astra.

 

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