Drama Queen & The E.D!
“When I was trapped on my endless eating disorder hamster wheel of exercise, restriction, routine and rigidity, the slightest change of plan threw me into an absolute tailspin.
Five minutes late to an appointment because a work meeting over-ran? Cue sobbing.
Friend missed the bus so lunch date a bit later than planned? Heart-pounding anxiety and fear.
Therapist off sick? Panic attack and exclamations of “Well how can I be expected to challenge myself this week if I don’t have my therapist to help me?”
Partner ate the last of the cereal so forced to have toast for breakfast instead? Tantrums and anger directed at loved ones.
Gym closed because of a staff shortage? Desperate recalculations about what I could/couldn’t eat that day and how I could get my extra steps in.
The list was endless. In a nutshell, anything which even indirectly threatened to disrupt my eating disorder routine or rituals created spectacular meltdowns and distress.
The longer I was ill, the more I, and the people around me, came to view this as “normal”, as just the way I was. People walked on egg shells around me out of fear of acting as a catalyst for fireworks, tears or announcements that there was now “no way” I could eat because of something they had done or not done.
I look back on that behaviour with a whole mixture of guilt, shame, and a determination never to return to that status quo of being a tightly-coiled spring.
But I’ve been in really committed recovery for over a year now, and this summer a few things have happened which have left me feeling really pleasantly surprised and proud at how far I’ve come in terms of flexibility and taking things in my stride. A couple of examples:
Changing holiday plans
Thanks to the pandemic, our holiday dates and plans have changed several times in the past few weeks, but even though that has felt a bit frustrating, I’ve found myself able to accept that, since it’s something outside my control, I just need to be flexible, that in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t matter too much, that our health and the health of others is more important than any holiday, and that I can still make the most of any trips, outings and family visits that we do manage. A trip to see friends in Wales has had to be postponed and plans to venture off on a family adventure to a Scottish island have been thwarted, but there’s been plenty to enjoy, and a last-minute camping trip in the diary for next week. Spontaneity is a wonderful thing!
On a long train journey last week, we were meant to have an hour to get across London to make a connecting train. We’d planned to buy a lovely picnic feast at the station to have for lunch on our next train. But circumstances outside our control meant that we ended up with only just enough time to make our connection, and no opportunity to browse for or buy lunch. Instead, we had no choice but to choose something from the very limited, overpriced selection of food currently available from the train’s trolley service. This would have been absolute hell when I was really poorly. But now I’m well into recovery? I managed to laugh with relief that we’d actually made our train, and then tuck into a fairly uninspiring cheese and pickle baguette, a bag of crisps, and the snacks, chocolate and sweets that we had lurking at the bottom of our bags. The food was far from perfect, the circumstances frantic, but I nourished myself with whatever was available. Reader, the world did not end.
As a parent, school holidays can be a tricky juggle in terms of work, appointments, family time and childcare. This week, my younger child’s nursery closed for ten days with no notice due to a covid case, and my older boy’s holiday clubs didn’t go ahead as planned because of staff isolating. Annoying? Yes. A bit of a logistical nightmare? Certainly. But did it result in a full-scale meltdown, inability to function, a lapse back into restrictive behaviours or family fearing that irreparable damage had been done? No. I am very thankful to report that we have all just muddled through together and I have been able to accept that perhaps I won’t be able to achieve 100% of what I set out to this week, and that that is more than ok.
I don’t mean any of this to sound flippant or reductive. The intensity of my rigid thinking and disordered compulsions was, for several years, terrifyingly strong. I’m not here to tell you that moving away from that and rebuilding a more flexible, self-compassionate and rational mindset is easy. But I do want to give you hope that it is possible.”
- Jul 2021