Rebuilding myself and my life after decades within an abusive family situation. I survived, but I plan to thrive … blogging about physical and mental health; wellbeing; social justice; creative arts; and more
On Saturday I published a post called #WritingMyselfRight. Not many people got to read it because later that same day I somehow managed to delete it, leaving only a much earlier draft.
I’d only hoped to alter a couple of words that were ‘bugging’ me, when I began to faff about on the WordPress app on my phone! Tired and unwell, with little capacity for concentration, I should have left well alone.
I’ve made it back to my desk just now and I’m going to start the process of rewriting what was lost. Wish me luck!
As at today, all Priority 2 tasks are now either complete or underway … yay! I have also taken a couple of tentative steps towards actioning some Priority 3 tasks.
I have had no further support since my friend’s unexpected intervention on the 10th June, except for the monthly visit of the woman I pay to help with cleaning tasks. I had three relatively good weeks then had three very challenging weeks due to a number of stressful events and by the end of the week before last was again struggling with suicidal feelings partly because I was overloaded and lacking support, but also because of the apparent impact of perimenopausal issues on my mood (I’ll cover this in a separate post). However, I managed to hold on and pulled through. Last week was altogether better and had a moment of real high! I’ll cover that in a separate post.
I am writing most days – if not here, then in my journal. I haven’t done any work on my novel project recently but still without support my capacity is much reduced and there’s only so much that I can do. I am doing as much as I possibly can.
I have felt much less lonely overall, although I am aware that I am still largely isolated. In the seven weeks since my friend’s intervention, I’ve had one other visit from a friend and maybe five phone chats. I have taken the initiative and I am connecting much more with friends (almost all of whom live at a distance) via social networks. I post daily updates. I reach out when I need support and usually receive comments with virtual (((hugs))). Sometimes someone will chat via a messaging app. I am keeping in touch and not allowing myself to withdraw. One friend hopes to visit in September/October which would be lovely. Today has been difficult. I reached out specifically asking for contact yesterday and today, but there hasn’t been anyone around for anything more than a virtual (((hug))) or wave. When loneliness creeps in it does make things harder, but I keep busy and distracted as much as my ‘spoonieness’ will allow. At the worst moments I hunker down for a while. My calendar is as full as I can sensibly make it for the coming month. Perhaps by the end of the month or the start of the next, we can hope, social care support will finally be in place to pick up the slack, allowing me more freedom to get and out and build more of a life, and giving me regular twice weekly contact at home.
Rarely are two days the same so daily routines do vary but are generally good now. I’ve only failed to shower on a handful of very difficult days. I am mostly on top of chores – but need help to catch up with the mountain of laundry and some cleaning tasks. Luckily, I am very tidy and organised and that helps a lot.
Self care has improved steadily in the last seven weeks and exponentially so in the last week following a couple of significant appointments (more in a separate post)
My ability to get out and about has also approved steadily and continues to do so. I am happy with my progress.
The routine inspection by my landlord’s agent was successfully carried out some weeks ago. My landlord himself, who lives overseas, will make an annual visit at the end of next month. If support isn’t in place in time, I will no doubt stress and overstretch myself ensuring that the flat is in entirely immaculate order.
I’ve been to the GP a couple of times and had the necessary tests. There are ongoing issues, I’ll cover that in a separate post at some point.
I am still without support for my eating disorder. However, I have made progress by myself. Progress has been steadyish and, more recently, certainly significant. I hope to join a local branch of OverEaters Anonymous but at the moment I don’t have the ‘spoons’ to attend its evening meetings. Evening outings are only possible if I rest for most of that day and each Tuesday I’ve had other commitments. I’ve recently discovered that Beat, the eating disorder charity, runs an weekly support group online. I’ve registered and I’m waiting for my registration to be processed. I will write a separate post about my weight and eating issues; they warrant it.
Psychotherapy/Trauma Therapy – there is a lot to say about that! Suffice to say for now that some significant progress has been made both in terms of provision and with my interim therapist.
I have resumed physiotherapy treatment – again a separate post is warranted. My treadmill routine got derailed by a lack of ‘spoons’ and being so busy elsewhere with appointments but I am determined to restart it on Monday.
I saw my dentist last week, had a fabulous appointment, I will blog about it soon and its relation to my recovery from abuse. I have a further appointment next month.
I’m due to have my eyes tested and get much-needed new specs next week.
I should be making a renewed application for Personal Independence Payments (P.I.P) in the next two weeks.
I have tried to return to a weekly support group for women who’ve experienced mental illness/trauma in the last couple of weeks but was thwarted by my ‘spoon’ count. Third time lucky this week, I hope.
Still without support, it is very difficult to keep all the necessary balls in the air. Some things are working well, while others are not. Some things work well for a time then fall by the wayside because something else has to take priority. The advent of support should see the emergence of some consistency and sustainability … both of which currently feel akin to the fabled gold at the end of the rainbow!
Thank you for reading. I’m sorry that this turned out to be more than a bite-sized post. Either I am just a waffler or there really is masses going on! I actually feel like I’ve written a lot but failed to convey all that is going on. Perhaps because I am tired.
Comments as ever are very welcome and appreciated. Do let me know that you are reading and that I’m not just talking to myself 😀 .
With me, there’s ALWAYS a plan. I discovered Bullet Journalling last year … and was as happy as the proverbial pig in muck/mud/sh*t – however you choose to term it, having discovered a cool system to both simplify and maximise my planning activities!
I was in some pretty deep doo doo at the time and struggling to keep afloat, 2016 being my annus horribilis, but at least I had a ‘customizable and forgiving organization system’ to help me… And one, according to the creators of the system, that will ‘teach you to do more with less,’ surely that’s got to be a goodie for a spoonie?
Tea is oft purported to be the cure for everything. Personally, although I like tea, I think stationery is the answer to everything. A nice new notebook, PENS, lots of lovely PENS, and paper, and labels and stickers too … oh the joy! Give me those and I’ll scribble and doodle my way to a master plan. If you’re a stationery/planner geek, you probably already know the joy of just doing a Google image search for ‘bullet journal’ …
A Bullet Journal is essentially – diary/planner, journal, to do lists, notebook, budget tracker … and anything else you need … in one. For me, a bullet journal keeps me on track but does away with the need for a multitude of ‘systems’, and it’s simplified approach does allow you to ‘do more with less’. Click here for a quick lesson if you want to learn more or start your own.
I hadn’t named this latest plan until it just struck me that I usually do – others have been Operation Self Care and Operation Fight Back – and then I knew that I wanted this one to be called Operation Thrive. I feel a bit emotional having just written that, because thriving means so very much to me. I had a taste of it earlier last year – when I had some support for a time. I survived but I plan to thrive is this blog’s tagline. Thriving is my recovery goal. Abuse recovery to me = thriving. I can’t wave a magic wand and cure my chronic health issues but when I’m living my life to the fullest alongside them, that’ll do me! When I’m thriving I’ll know that I’ve won, that despite all the pain, and grief, and terrible terrible loss, and so much time spent just existing let alone living, I’ll know that I’ve made it. I know that I’m already a winner in that I’m not bitter, and because I’m a good person and I am, by choice. very different to the people who abused me. BUT thriving, that’s the ultimate WIN.
Operation Thrive – plan initiated 10th June, 2017
WRITING – finally this is coming top of the list and it’s staying there.
Ending isolation and reducing loneliness by increasing connection
Reinstating routine and regaining function
Being able to get out of my flat – and then get out and about locally
Getting my flat ‘immaculate’ ready for a routine inspection by the landlord’s agent
Re-engaging with GP and getting vital health checks done
Taking steps to begin to tackle disordered eating
Psychotherapy/Trauma therapy – it’s difficult to know where to place this because of difficulties/delays with the provision of it
Starting to rebuild fitness – and taking steps to resume physiotherapy treatment
Visiting dentist both to resume my treatment programme to restore my smile devastated by a dental phobia caused by abuse, and also to assess damage caused by latest crisis and create further treatment plan. (Delayed by illness and financial difficulty)
Optician – have overdue eye test and purchase new specs. – also delayed by illness and financial difficulty.
P.I.P – make a new application for Personal Independence Payments
PRIORITY 3: – can only be undertaken once a support worker/P.A. is in place (assuming the local authority awards funding)
Back onto a calorie counted diet
Increased exercise – talking walks and going swimming – and once physiotherapy is complete joining an 10 week exercise management programme for people with disabilities/chronic illness – assuming I can get onto it, if not I’ve got a Plan B 🙂 !
Getting out and about beyond my immediate area and support groups
Restarting hobbies, building new ones and making new connections – join a choir (September) and an art group
There are sub-categories to some of the above – but you get the gist as it stands! Priority 1 is all now either underway or complete.
Getting back to work is a HUGE goal, but as I am not to try to run before I can walk, for a change, I’ve not yet included it on this plan. Once I’m settled into Priority 3s, I’ll add more!
The bulk of my Bullet Journalling is at the moment centred on ‘Daily Logs’ – a list of what’s happening and what’s to be done on any given day, and daily recovery focused journal entries that I’ve called ‘Recoverlogs’ – a term shamelessly snaffled from mental health campaigner and vlogger, Jonny Benjamin. You may have seen the brilliant Channel 4 film Stranger on the Bridge about his own mental health story.
To do lists keep me on track but are also a great motivator. It feels SO good to tick … ‘done’ ! Budgeting goes in there too, shopping lists, ideas, thoughts and plans for blog posts, notes for and on therapy sessions, and so on. This plan is no small undertaking. There is no one working on it with me, no one to oversee it. My social worker is classed as my ‘key worker’ but is only involved with me as far as carrying out a social care assessment and managing the application for funding to pay for some support. My GP doesn’t know the half of it, as there is never enough time to fill him in on all that’s going on for me. I hope there’ll be an opportunity to share the plan with him at our next appointment on 3rd July.
Throughout the last week I’ve wanted to write, write and write. I’ve had to work hard to resist the urge to do too much either of writing or anything else.
It’s been a momentous week with a sea change that’s swept me along, low ‘spoons’ and all. I’ve felt productive and counted many accomplishments.
Today, I’ve recognised that both my body and mind need rest. I was awake at 7am and showered soon afterwards to await the arrival of the postie and a parcel courier..I began to feel ‘off’ and now feel poorly unless lying still, so that’s what I’ve mostly been doing this afternoon. I’ve napped, watched a lovely film about Billy Connolly, played some word games and read a newspaper online. I’ll continue to rest this evening. I would really like to be ‘up and at ’em’, so this is frustrating but I’m hoping that a quiet, very restful weekend will see me able to me more active come Monday. I still want to write but the fact that doing so right now feels like wading through treacle is a sure sign that intensive rest is required.
WordPress loves to remind me how many posts I’ve drafted but not published. I know this, dear WordPress, it’s not for the want of trying. Today, I decided that I would prioritise writing a complete post AND publishing it, over just about everything else.
My current situation is so complex and there are so many things happening that it’s impossible to explain it in a few lines, even though writing about it and sharing that writing is very helpful to me. Doing so takes a lot of time and even more energy, and ‘spoons’, that’s chronic illness shorthand for energy and ability to function, click the link for an easy explanation), are currently in very short supply.
Yesterday, I managed to shower and dress in order to be ready to answer the door to receive a delivery from a parcel courier. I have had to force myself to allow ‘Pharmacy Bob’ (who I’m certain is the antithesis of his more famous namesake) to see me in smelly dishevelment but fear negative judgement too much to ever make a habit of it with others. Afterwards I had to get back into bed because I was so physically depleted by chronic fatigue and pain. I longed to be productive, there were things to do, so much I wanted to do; it was a struggle to limit the impact of my lack of capacity on my mood. I managed to get a bowl of cereal and kept hunger at bay for the rest of the day with dry crackers, risking a flare up of a painful stomach issue that occurs if I get too hungry. That seems to have been triggered when struggling so much last year I went, at worst, eight days surviving on only sips of water. (I ended up in A&E some weeks later with urinary retention, a complication thereof, which is, I discovered, a medical emergency.) I didn’t sleep after my return to bed, despite having only managed a little over three hours the previous night, but I rested and by evening, had at least the capacity to watch the BBC Question Time election special and engage in some lively political ‘repartee’ on Twitter, as it aired!
I’m aware that to some people that much of this post could sound like I’m moaning, feeling sorry for myself, demonstrating narcissism, or focusing on the negative. Actually, anyone really getting to know me understands that I am relentlessly positive and also hugely enthusiastic about grabbing life by the horns and making the most of it. Call me a snowflake, but sometimes it hurts to be thought of as otherwise.
We so often shy away from hearing difficult stuff, we hyper-focus on the positive, often because we realise the difficulty or horror of something, and perhaps that a positive outcome may not be possible, and sometimes we don’t know what to do or we can’t deal with that so we shut it down, don’t really listen and we fire out the positive platitudes.
I love blog comments, tweets and interactions in general. I really do. I love hearing from you. Please just don’t tell me to be positive, if you’re tempted, even though I know that you mean well. If you want to be supportive, hear me. Tell me that you understand that I’m facing grim circumstances. Tell me that you appreciate my determination to try to keep going. Offer help if you’re able, and I appreciate capacity for this can be limited in all sorts of ways, anything from a friendly word on a postcard, a poem or a film you think I might love, or a chat to a ‘care package’ or a visit. I’m fighting the urge to delete that last line – and I’m going to leave it there however uncomfortable it makes me feel, the reasons for that are for another post.
I’d woken, yesterday, with a very red, swollen and itchy face. It’s the second time that’s happened in the space of a month, but it hadn’t ever happened prior to that. I’ve had eczema, relatively mildly, since I was child, although as a child my family didn’t recognise it as such. I was screamed at when I scratched, punished if I dared to get blood on my nightclothes or bedding, and asked if I had fleas. It’s only really been in the last few years, since I entered my forties, that I’ve begun to experience severe episodes of eczema, at first on my hands, later on other parts of my body, and then on my face, particularly around my eyes. At first I assumed that this month’s sudden flare up was eczema, only the worst to date. The skin was red, itchy, and a little scaly. The area around my eyes was also puffy and swollen. I used the usual emollient treatment for eczema but it burned and felt sore. It took several days for my skin to begin to settle and clear up. The episode that began yesterday got me thinking. Severe redness and swelling/puffiness were the main issues, the majority of the area was not itchy and it isn’t scaly. I suspect I’ve developed an allergy to a skin product that I’ve happily used for some time, and is in fact the only thing I found that actively helps to reduce the impact of my Acne Rosacea. (Yep, I’ve got that too. Apparently, chronic conditions like to party together.) I’ve only used the product twice recently, the night before the two reactions. Phooey! I would get it checked out by a doctor or a pharmacist – but getting to see either is an issue just now, one that I’m working hard to surmount – more on that, again, in another post.
My fingers are also being attacked by pompholyx, and feel as though they’re getting more raw and painful to use by the second. I also have the more usual eczema on the rest of my hands, although that flare up does, mercifully, seem to be easing. Added to that I’ve had a infected thumb for a few days, and I’ve had an extensive flare up of something – again, I think this is eczema – on my neck and chest for several days. My skin is a rebellious teenager – raging out of control.
My ‘spoon count’ is generally very low just now because a series of challenges including bereavements, divorce, low income, the emergence of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – involving flashbacks, dissociation, nightmares, depression and suicidal feelings, and the absence of sources of support. These have left me unable to maintain the rigorous regime of self management that keep me ticking over as best as I possibly can while still living with chronic illness – that’s ongoing illness for which there is no cure – it’s not my fault I got it, it’s just something that can happen to people. I’d barely been near a doctor bar the odd routine visit until it happened to me, then suddenly my medical notes looked like War and Peace in triplicate. Chronic illness can become acute and be life-threatening, often it’s debilitating and life-altering. It may not kill you but it can decimate your life. My self management regime includes physiotherapy exercises (very many ‘reps’ per day), graded exercise, diet management, medication, meditation, and a lot more. Without that rigorous regime, and with added stress, difficulty, lack of available support etc, the conditions flare up and begin to rage. It’s fair to say that I’m far from at my best just now … she said in the best tradition of understatement :-D!
Today, I’ve managed to shower and dress in order to receive a further package. Beyond that I’m prioritising this blog and keeping in touch with friends online because isolation is a major issue just now that’s jeopardising my safety. More on that too in another post!
Taking a break just now to nip the loo stole another a ‘spoon’ because, as is often the case, I needed to clean it due to the, shall we say, explosive emissions associated with the condition Bile Acid Malabsorption. Sometimes I leave it a while, when just getting to the loo was challenge enough, sitting on the fear that someone somehow will want to use it in the meantime!
I have no compunction about discussing toilet ‘doings,’ pain, ‘oozings’, ‘leakages’, ‘blisterings’ and boils, despair, compulsive binges and skin picking, and urges for self destruction; I make no apology for doing so. That’s not to say that it’s easy to do. It can be really difficult because you’re often met with negative judgement and a lack of empathy. It’s not the most fun when you’re positive, enthusiastic and determined in the face of adversity, hearing that you’re lazy, boring, narcissistic, not trying hard enough or ‘milking’ the system …
I believe that education, communication and understanding of experiences outside of our own are vital to society, and speak and share accordingly.
I need to have something to eat today. I can make a bowl of porridge, but if I want to eat more than that then I will have to cook more extensively. I have the ingredients to make a veggie chilli ‘non carne’, but it will require a lot of ‘spoons’. I hope to have a phone chat with a friend later. I also hope to manage to do a load of laundry and ‘reboot’ (empty and reload) the dishwasher. I’ve yet to have a drink (Edit: I’m drinking a cup of tea as I do a final read through) and, much to my discomfort, I left my bed unmade to save a ‘spoon’, but finally I have something to publish, and another step on the road to telling my story has been made.
This has taken longer to write and waaay more ‘spoons’ than I hoped. Even telling you where I am just now, with little mention of how I got here takes an age. Arrrrgh! Admittedly, fear of people not ‘getting it’ probably does lead me to say more than I need.
Thank you for reading, I really appreciate it. I hope to continue with more frequent, shorter posts. Things are happening. I have a lot to say! x
I came across this statement on Twitter recently. It pulled me up short.
I hadn’t gone looking for it or anything like it. It appeared in my timeline, ‘retweeted’ by one of the people I follow.
As I read the words of the tweet, I remember thinking that I’m a ‘self-styled’ survivor. I also remember that I didn’t have the slightest urge to rage at this tweeter and that made me smile. There have been times when I would have felt very angry indeed, as were many of the people who replied to the tweet on Twitter, hurt on behalf of all ‘survivors’, and so got myself very worked up in spirited defence.
It’s perhaps a measure of how far I’ve come that I was able to quietly reflect and focus first on reaffirming for myself why I sometimes choose to declare that particular status and, with another smile, realise that I feel confident in it. I have gone on to wonder in the days since I read it what might have prompted such a statement from the author of that tweet. It could simply be the work of a ‘troll’, someone who gets a kick out of making inflammatory statements online seeking a reaction, particularly one of hurt, from others. I deliberately chose not to look up the author of the tweet, for the sake of self-preservation, at a vulnerable time. However, since writing the bulk of this post I have now taken a look. I saw that the author defines herself as someone who writes about false accusations and ‘pseudo victims’. Sometimes people make things up, some people do generally like to play the ‘victim’ in life. I’m not deriding the woman, I haven’t looked deeply enough to know what she’s really about. I’ll just say that I think the tweet that prompted this post was misguided.
However, this post isn’t really about that tweeter. This post is primarily about me. I know, I am such a narcissist …
I wanted to write this post because communication is hugely important to me. I believe that good communication is fundamental and can be a real force for good by facilitating greater understanding, Unfortunately, in the years since my status as a survivor of abuse became apparent I’ve learned that many people don’t care about much beyond themselves and their own. Empathy and understanding are too often in short supply, while intolerance and ignorance proliferate. What are prejudice and intolerance if not a lack of knowledge, more specifically a lack of understanding and the absence of empathy? Add fear to ignorance, and watch intolerance and prejudice spread like the proverbial wildfire.
I want to reach out to those people who do care enough to want understand more than their own immediate experience … those who can see past the end of their own noses. I know, now who’s making inflammatory remarks?! What the hell: I’m not perfect and I do despair of reluctance to take a broader view.
I don’t wear the label ‘abuse survivor’ like a badge. It’s not who I am or what I’m about but it is a large part of my experience. I was abused for many years, and beyond childhood. The effects of those abusive experiences have been devastating and have pretty much decimated my life – wrecking my health and costing me, among other things, a career, relationships and a family of my own. I don’t say that lightly. For me, to ‘whinge’ is to cringe; I’m relentlessly positive, driven and upbeat and find it difficult to be otherwise. I’d rather pull out my own fingernails that have anyone think me a negative or downbeat sort of person.
I don’t declare myself abused and decry the terrible impact of it for fun or attention. I say it because those are the facts and because the impact was so great that recovering myself and my life became a full time occupation. I use the term ‘abuse survivor’ when I need to begin to explain my circumstances and also to connect with other survivors.
My Twitter bio. includes the phrase ‘abuse survivor’. Despite the title of this post, I actually don’t see myself as being a ‘self-styled’ abuse survivor. I am a ‘self-styled’ Wordsmith. That word, a cheeky nod to my love and life of writing, also appears in my Twitter bio. Describing myself as an abuse survivor is nothing more or less than a statement of fact. I use it on Twitter because it’s there, and via WordPress blogs, where I’ve found it possible to connect with other survivors – for mutual support and learning. It’s not to say ‘oh poor me‘ or ‘oh look at me‘. Given the amount of shame that survivors feel – that one is pretty much universal – that’s hardly likely. It is to say here I am, this is a part of my experience and I’m here if you’d like to connect.
Where does pride come into it? Well, I imagine that ‘survivor pride’ … no, as far as I’m aware that isn’t a thing nor am I trying to make it one. I use the term loosely for the purposes of this blog post only … is something akin to Gay Pride. Once again, it’s not about narcissism. We don’t have ‘Heterosexual Pride’. We don’t have it, because we don’t need it, anymore than we need ‘White Pride’. Homosexuality, however, has long been the subject of oppression, abuse, ignorance, intolerance and prejudice. It remains illegal in parts of the world, and persecution is not uncommon.
If I’d held on to my sense of self faced with that lot, I’d be damn proud too.
And that’s how I feel about being proud to be an abuse survivor. I can’t change what happened to me, it was vile and appalling and has come close to killing me more than once. I’m not proud that it happened but I’m proud that I am not bitter, that I am a kind, caring, empathetic, inclusive, creative, vital … and witty(!) … person in spite of it. I’m extremely proud that I’ve achieved that after such terrible experiences and in an ongoing fight to thrive in the face of a scarcity of empathy and appropriate support and resources.
Like so many things in life, a ‘one-size fits all’ approach does not apply to ‘abuse survivors’. We are not a homogeneous group. Each survivor’s experience of abuse is different – abusers too have abuse in common but are otherwise varied. Abuse is often a life-altering experience with recovery sometimes life-long, but there are some for whom the impact is smaller. There’s no right or wrong way to be an abuse survivor. It is what it is according to each individual’s experience.
I have encountered enormous strength of character, courage and kindness among survivors. But that’s not to say that these people are ‘saints’. They are real people – as complex and varied as anyone else – who happen to have also endured something truly terrible. Abusers don’t discriminate, they’ll abuse whomever or whatever they can get. Abuse happens in all areas, all walks of life.
I could describe in graphic detail some of the abuse that I have experienced and that of other survivors I have got to know, either through work or friendship. I have knowledge that bleach couldn’t sanitise, but bluntly disgorging it here to attest to the veracity of the ‘abuse survivor’ would be crass. That’s not to say that I don’t think greater awareness of what people have to endure, survive and how they can struggle to go forward in life, and why, wouldn’t be helpful.
I believe in freedom of speech. That author of that tweet exercised hers. I’m happy to say that I’d fight for any abuse survivors right to declare themselves as such, and for their freedom of speech.
I slept well, extensively actually – fot around 12 hours – that’s been the way of things during this crisis. I either sleep a lot or I don’t sleep at all.
I’ve changed my bedding today, showered, cleaned my teeth, dressed, aired the bedroom and dusted the bedroom furniture. I’ve folded some clean laundry, washed a few dishes and emptied the dishwasher.
I read for a while, and I’ve played a few games of Mahjong. I haven’t played any computer games for years, but when an ad for a free version popped up on my tablet, I remembered that I had once loved playing Mahjong on some device or other. Within days I’d whipped through the 40-odd levels, finding it an outlet for my natural drive. I’ll admit I was disappointed not to receive onscreen fireworks or some sort of fanfare to mark the achievement :D! I’m still hoping to beat previous times but mostly now play because I find it mindful and therefore calming.
I’ve just shot about a foot in the air at the sound of my buzzer, I have a ridiculously exaggerated startle response. I pressed the button to open the street door without speaking into the intercom assuming it to be the early arrival of supermarket delivery of groceries that I’m expecting between 9-10pm. Delivery charges range from £7-£1; this slot is the cheapest.I haven’t eaten today so I’m looking forward to it arriving and having some supper. I thought my wait was over but with no sign of the delivery person nearly 10 minutes later, it looks like wishful thinking. I’ve stopped hovering by the front door, peering at intervals through the spyhole for signs of my shopping being lugged up the two flights of stairs to my flat.
The rest of the evening holds promise of further writing, making notes ahead of a planned meeting with my advocate tomorrow, and catching up with MasterChef before reading then sleep.
Note: I wrote most of this post on Sunday but became swamped by trauma symptoms and wasn’t able to finish it until today, Wednesday 5th.
My belly is full of wholemeal toast, eggs scrambled with spring onions and cheddar, seasoned with a dash of sea salt and lashings of black pepper.
I’m not a food writer nor do I aspire to be one, but I am inspired by at least two of them. My favourites, Jack Monroe and Ella Risbridger started out as bloggers, before books and the world of traditional publishing beckoned.
Until I reached ‘middle-age’ I had no real cooking confidence. I blogged about that and how that changed, here.
I have a difficult relationship with food. I have an eating disorder. There, I’ve said it, that wasn’t all that difficult was it? Actually, you know what, it really was; it’s difficult for me to be open about it.
I’ve probably had a tendency to struggle with food for most of my life, but there have been two periods where that struggle became a full blown eating disorder.The reason it’s so difficult for me to discuss isn’t because I feel ashamed about it in myself. I recognise it as an illness and accept that the trauma and abuse that I’ve experienced lie at the root of it. However, I am aware of the stigma that it carries.
Many people, including some medical professionals, scoff (I know, I couldn’t resist the ironic pun) at the very idea that binge-eating disorderis described as an eating ‘disorder’ at all. I’m just fat and greedy, right? If you don’t agree with that last statement, you might be surprised by how many people would.
Beat, the UK’s leading charity providing support for, and campaigning about, eating disorders, has this to say: “Binge eating disorder (BED) is a serious mental illness where people experience a loss of control and overeat on a regular basis.” You can read more on the Beat web site, here.
In recent years ‘fat-shaming’ has become ‘a thing’ and some have fought back against those who seek to mock, deride or in any way bully someone who is overweight. An element of ‘fat pride’ has emerged, with a rise in plus-size bloggers and models.
I’d like to be fat and proud. That’s not because I’m happy being so overweight, I’m not in the least, and that’s entirely because of the impact that it has on my health and fitness. I’d like to have that ‘fat-pride’ while I remain this size because I do not want to feel shamed or otherwise negatively regarded because of my size.
I’m never going to be without curves, that’s the way I’m built. I’m a pear-shaped woman with an ample bosom. I’ll gladly celebrate those curves, in the way that I’d encourage anyone to be body confident; body positive.
I want to beat my eating disorder and lose weight. I want to regain, and revel in, my fitness because of the positive impact that is has on my life. I did beat the disorder the first time around. I did it without help, not because I was trying to go it alone but because I wasn’t offered any. After regaining some control over my eating patterns, it was some years before I was able to lose the weight I’d gained as result of the disorder. I did it between 2011 and 2012, losing five stone.
I was inspired by the ‘Hairy Dieters’ television programmes, they focus on that old chestnut, a low calorie diet and increased exercise. The hairy ones aim to make low calorie options that taste good and satisfy. It takes effort to lose weight and every bit of incentive you can muster really helps.
After leaving my husband, I took up running in early 2014. In reality I took to walking on my treadmill and slowly built up to being able to run a mile a day, but ‘I took up ‘treadmilling” doesn’t have the same ring to it. (Click on ‘treadmill’ in the tag cloud on my blog homepage, if you’re interested in reading about my route to running.) I’ve NEVER been ‘sporty’ but I really grew to love running, or more likely the endorphins that the activity released, that and the vast improvement in my fitness and my body confidence.
I’m probably not quite back at my heaviest ever weight, I can’t be sure because my scales have broken and I can’t afford to replace them, but as a result of this relapse into an eating disorder, and so months spent in the grip of compulsive eating, I’ve gained at least six stones in weight over a period of around 18 months.
Last year I asked for help via my GP surgery and the Intensive Home Treatment Team (mental healrh out patient crisis service) many times, and with increasing desperation. I knew that this time I needed help to beat it. Despite my massive weight gain in a short space of time and a new diagnosis of very high cholesterol levels, I’ve been offered no help ar all.
My trauma therapist said we could do some work around my eating issues, but given we already have so many other high priorities stacked up, that’s not practical. The Intensive Home Treatment Team psychiatrist promised to speak to the local eating disorders service about the possibility of support for me there. She told me that she’d get back to me. I chased it up when she didn’t and was rudely told that I’d already been told “NO”. I wasn’t in a position to argue and didn’t receive any fuller explanation.
At least my GP’s urgent referral for trauma therapy had got me onto a two year waiting list … I love the NHS but have long found its mental health services to be chronically underfunded and often poorly staffed, and it’s trauma services (that’s the psychological version not A&E) rarer than hens’ teeth. Again and again I’ve turned to the voluntary (charity) sector, itself often cash-strapped with services oversubscribed. As a result, services often receive scant advertising.Many hours of research can be required to uncover what might be available, and then often complicated application processes follow. Recently I bagged a place on a waiting list for a ‘trauma support worker’ – essentially, someone to meet once or twice a month who can provide moral support, guidance and practical help as you work to rebuild your life. I’m due to reach the top of that list in early 2019.
But back to the impact of the eating disorder, I think that I’m now the most unfit that I’ve ever been, and that does not feel good AT ALL. In fact, it’s really rather frightening, the detrimental impact on my health is evident.
I am beginning to cultivate a more positive connection to food, and the beginnings of this new relationship were nurtured by those food bloggers, Jack and Ella.
Jack’s engaging blog began when poverty forced Jack to feed themself and their toddler son (Jack identifies as non-binary and so prefers the gender neutral pronoun ‘their’) for £10 a week. Jack’s no-nonsense style and inventive recipes are budget-conscious and also an excellent resource for.anyone seeking the confidence to cook from scratch.
Ella’s writing is more lyrical, hers is the poetry of food writing. Sometimes high-falutin’ ingredients could be off-putting if you’re a beginner or more especially if you’re low on funds. I’ve yet to try an Ella recipe, but still I savour her blog. I’m along for the ride, vicariously living her altogether nourishing relationship with food and cooking, and learning from it.
What both Jack and Ella have in common is that they have both introduced me to the idea that preparing nutritious food for myself can be a healing endeavour. The process of preparing and cooking food, chopping, stirring, whisking, can, and should be, a mindful, meditative experience, allowing for calm concentration and a break from a traumatised, troubled, or simply busy mind. You savour the process as much as the end result. There’s also achievement and satisfaction in both admiring and eating your creation, however small or simple! Cooking for oneself can be a nourishing experience, not just for the body, but also for the mind.
I particularly enjoy making Jack’s easy peasy Coconut Milk Soda Bread. Jack’s description of rocking a warm, snuggly bundle is my idea of a great twist on ‘comfort food’!
This weekend I’ve discovered the joy of baked eggs all kinds of ways.
I also tried a Sainsbury’s recipe for a healthy snack – roasted chickpeas – simply a can of chickpeas drained, patted dry and mixed with a teaspoon of smoked paprika, a teaspoon of chilli powder and a quarter teaspoon of both cumin and ground coriander, then roasted in the oven I really fancied these savoury nuggets but was disappointed with the results. I’d been expecting the promised crunchy snack but in reality felt I could’ve been eating cardboard!
Put chickpeas to better use and make your own houmous, it’s a gazillion times more healthy than shop-bought versions and tastes great. The easy recipe in the Healthy Living Yearbook is another favourite of mine.
I may have Complex Trauma but I’m not a complex cook; I’m a ‘spoonie’! Unfortunately, cooking often falls off the bottom off my to do list when ‘spoons’- a.k.a energy and the capacity to function – run out.Quick and easy recipes are my way to go.
I’ll discuss my efforts to again overcome an eating disorder together with my hopes for and also my reservations about seeking support via Overeaters Anonymous, in a later post.
Distraction was the order of the day yesterday. I’d slept well on Thursday night and woken feeling relatively refreshed, but I soon began to feel decidedly uneasy.
I knew that I was troubled both by having posted this the previous day and by having emailed an acquaintance to ask if she might possibly visit me and help out with a few chores. I felt increasing guilt and shame, and a rising sense of that damn fiend, terror.
I took my digestive meds, ate some generic ‘Weetabix’ and caught up with some undemanding telly. While watching the new series of MasterChef, to keep track of who’s who, I gave contestants names such as Ms Bullock (when she smiled she reminded me of actor Sandra), Mr Citrus Chicken (his dodgy dish), Ms Berry (a dab hand at baking), Mr Rochdale and Mr Experimental.
With terror still making its presence felt and preventing me from doing anything useful, I let myself fall asleep and napped for a couple of hours. I woke after a series of dreams, in the last of which I was having a heart attack.
Despite the anxious dreams, terror seemed to have slunk away while I slept. I ventured into the kitchen and made some Porridge Berry Bakes. They’re quick and easy to make and are a healthy way to satisfy a sweet craving. (Thanks are due to the person who shared her recipe on a Facebook group dedicated to eating well on a budget.)
Beat two ripe bananas (mashed) with two eggs and some vanilla extract. Separately, mix two and a half cups of porridge oats with some cinnamon and one and half teaspoons of baking powder. Now mix everything together then add one and a half cups of milk (I use skimmed cow’s milk, soya, almond etc also work). Divide the mixture into greased muffin tins (or silicone if you prefer) and add your berry toppings of choice (I used blueberries, as my photos illustrate). Bake at 180 for 25-30 minutes. N.B. Choose a non-diary milk and replace the eggs with another banana for a slightly more dense but vegan-friendly cake. These are good for children’s lunch boxes, or so I’m told.
I was determined that today I would work on part two of that significant post (if you’ve been keeping up then you won’t need the hyperlinks 😋) . I also needed to think about how on earth I might proceed from here. I’m a dyed-in-the-wool planner. I’m never without goals and plans of action, at least I wasn’t until now. After much brain-wracking and head-scratching, I felt as though I was languishing in limbo.I had no bloody clue what to do. Terror still lurked and threatened to pounce, somehow I kept it at bay. Somehow, slowly, very slowly at first, I started to write. I made two lists: What Does My Life Look Like Right Now? and How Should It Look? Alternative titles might be Existing vs Thriving or Deep Crisis vs Getting Better. I titled a third list, yet to be written, How Do I Get From One To The Other?
After a catch up with an online buddy and a few cups of tea, I wrote part two of that significant post, ‘Bullets 2016’, roughly in the order that they hit! From there this post began to take shape. While I was writing, an email arrived from the acquaintance I was worried about having asked for help, happily agreeing to do so. When you’ve nowhere to turn and you’re left having to ask for help from people you shouldn’t really be asking, the guilt is enormous … at least it is in my case.
I don’t know the way out of all this, a few days before I found the strength to start blogging again I’d have felt the way out would be ‘in a box’. Now I only know that I think that writing is key.
I’ve just re-read my post Silence Is Not Golden, for the first time since I published it. I’m surprised to find that it’s not quite so together as I felt it to be as I wrote it.Although it’s accurate and my story, it’s almost as though someone else wrote it, and that feels a little disconcerting. By contrast, as I’ve written this post, I haven’t felt as though the words were almost writing themselves nor as though writing was akin to pulling teeth. I just feel like me, writing What that all means, goodness only knows.