Distorted reality

distorted image

Whenever I am in the company of another female friend, I feel obscurely ‘large’. As if I am hovering over them, standing a head or 2 taller. The giant in Jack and the beanstalk comes to mind. I might as well be sliding down the beanstalk, grotesquely shouting “Fee-fi-foe-fum, I smell the blood of an Englishman” (sorry, no offend to any of my British acquaintances). And I suddenly become very aware of my size.

Now I do not consider myself small, never have and never will. If you have read of my earlier entries, you will see that I have been referred to as “thin”, “small”, “tiny” by fellow work mates which I resent and despise, and what a laugh really! Yes, I am 5’3 and the last time I weighted myself I float around 57kg. And to be honest, that doesn’t matter one little bit, because in my head, I am huge. I know that my self-image struggle manifested during my battle with eating disorders. Convincing myself that I am no good, a failure, ugly, unimportant, fat, was a daily occurrence, but I honestly would have thought that after all these years living as a recovered anorexic/bulimic, that logic and common sense should prevail?!

I have a lovely friend who is of Thai decent and naturally petite. She has the perfect skin tone, amazing cheek bones, always dressed well even if she stayed at home all day in her slacks. Please note that I am NOT jealous. Jealousy is a character that I have outgrown. I notice her looks, but when we are together, visiting, I certainly do not ‘see’ her in this manner. At that time she is just a dear friend and we can have a relaxing (and often funny) conversation. No, it is my own stupid insecurities that silently sits and waits until it is time to show themselves. And it is always when I ring the door bell, she opens the door and we are now face-to-face, often standing and talking for several minutes. This is the time when I feel the most discomfort, as if I overshadow her small stature with my huge body frame.

I hate feeling this way, and I hate admitting it.

 

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Chapter 2 – part 1

I was discharged from ICU a few days later which was also the same day the doctor diagnosed me with Anorexia Nervosa and depression. I was no longer myself, but instead labelled a ‘depressed anorexic’. I wasn’t told the reasons for his diagnosis, but I knew that something was wrong with me. I weighed 65.2kg at the beginning of 1998 when my obsessive behaviour started, and on the day of my discharge I weighed 57kg. Within four months I lost 8.2kg, controlled what I ate and how much I ate and started to have an unnatural relationship with food. Surely this isn’t normal?

The April school holiday was well into its first week, and with two more weeks left before school starts there was no rush for me to get back on my feet. Once I was home my mom told me that one of my friends called while I was in hospital as she was concerned that I didn’t attend our last day of term. To be honest I can’t remember what my mom told her happened, but the realization that she or anyone else at my school might hear of my suicide attempt left me with a sense of embarrassment and fear. At the time I didn’t know that this realization became a pinnacle moment, as that was when anorexia’s voice resurfaced and a decision was made that this will be kept a secret. She will be kept a secret.

Most of my friends went away on holiday so the first few days was lonely. I was in bed most of the time as I felt weak and had several dizzy spells throughout the day, and had difficulty eating. My dad decided to send my mom and I away for a long weekend so that I could get out and that we can ‘bond’, because apparently that’s what I needed.

We booked into a resort in the Free State called Thaba Nchu Sun. It is very warm there and being inland the surrounding area is flat with not much greenery. There is plenty of wildlife and often the local monkeys and ducks will help themselves to our food.

I found this to be a very awkward time between my mum and I. I didn’t know what to talk about, and was not interested in answering her many questions about the incident. As much as I didn’t want to be alone, I didn’t want to be there with her. Meal times were the worse. I ate what I found to be manageable, but that usually started arguments between us as we both had our own opinions of what is a suitable portion of food. I believe this is when she consulted my dad and the idea of a dietician and a visit to a phycologist is needed. I didn’t have any say in this, and was not too thrilled with the thought that I have to talk to a stranger about my secret, about anorexia. Was I really that sick that I needed help? Surely I can do this on my own.

To be continued

 

 

Chapter 1 – Part 4

I was empty. Mentally. Physically. Spiritually.

I spend 3 days in the Intensive Care Unit where the nurses were monitoring me 24/7. I was send to ICU because I lost consciousness once the nurses administered the medication to force me to vomit and clear my stomach of the pills. I can’t remember much between the time I was administered and taken to the ward. My body’s convulsions woke me constantly but I was in a drugged state of mind, not knowing what is happening and why it is happening.

The more I vomited, I more aware I became of my surroundings. And finally 12 hours of my head slummed over a bucket came to an end. I slept most the time and had tubes running to and from my body.

During this time no one really spoke with me, they all spoke about me and to each other but not really to me. The doctor will ask “How are you feeling today?” and I will respond “Better”. My parents will ask “Why did this happen?” and I will reply “Don’t know”. My pastor will pray and say a blessing to which I humbly said “Thank you”. In all honesty I needed a someone; not my parents, the nurses, doctors or pastor. A someone who either understood, or just wanted to be there for me, not because I was sick or needed help but because they wanted to. I didn’t want to admit to any problems or discuss functional outcomes, I just wanted to be near someone, be still in their presence and if needed, talk about stuff. Preferably a stranger who wouldn’t need to report to my parents or teachers, and who couldn’t be bothered with the social politics at my school.

But instead I found myself alone with my thoughts. I know, I know, I could probably have spoken to those around me but I didn’t want to think of excuses and explanations. I needed comfort, not judgement. I needed a someone.

To be continued

Inked (part one)

Confession time … I LOVE tattoos! Ever since my husband (then fiancé) and I went to a tattoo parlour on a whim when we were 21, I have been interested in body art. We each selected a tattoo, mine on my lower back and his on his back between his shoulder blades. The tattoos themselves don’t have a specific meaning as I merely choose an image that appealed to me the most, but the event itself was memorable:

On our first holiday together, a little pre-honeymoon in the making, we stayed in a small cottage called Duck Tree Cottage on the Southern Coast of South Africa. It was idyllic, peaceful and a few steps from the beach. We fell in love with this quint cottage and its surroundings. We made several early morning trips to the beach, walked endlessly picking up shells, talking about our future and planning a life together.

One morning we decided to go to the township and local shops. Down one of the side streets there was a famous tattoo parlour…famous because I think no one leaves their holiday without making a pit stop here to permanently savour the memory of their time away in paradise. Once inside your eyes are immediately drawn to the 1000’s of samples, from animals, to skulls, to flowers and new age shapes, and in all sizes. I was captivated! The decision of what to get was lengthier than actually deciding on getting a tattoo. I felt lost amongst the walls of endless body art. It wasn’t until I thought about what I would like to get, something with a heart symbolising my love for my fiancé, that my focus turned to a particular tattoo. It wasn’t a personalised designed tattoo but it was good enough to have it placed on my body for eternity.

What I took from that experience is not only that my fiancé and I did something together set in time, but that I braved the then unknown pain. I didn’t doubt myself. I put my mind on a set target, and I saw it through. I grew. I understood my own pain threshold. I didn’t look back.

My battle with anorexia and bulimia left its own permanent mark; emotional scars that resurface when I have self-doubt, or am under immense pressure. Battling these eating disorders taught me resilience, not to give up when I am overwhelmed with negative thoughts. I am not trying to make light of the distressing effects of an eating disorder, but I am convinced that my recovery from these grappling mental disorders gave me the necessary tools to overcome such internal and physical challenges.

I will forever bear the marks of triumph over pain.

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Fromance

I went to our local dairy this morning to buy a loaf of bread, as it was already 9am and my stomach was begging for breakfast. I am reasonably casual when it comes to eating breakfast and having a slice of toast with my peppermint green tea is as good as it is going to get today…that is until my nose smelled the sweet lingering aroma of freshly baked something. My eyes followed the scent to a shelf filled with baked pastries, but it is the deliciously golden croissants that matched the mystery aroma. Instinctively I asked for 2 (1 for myself and 1 for my son) and immediately my thoughts were filled with Nigella inspired ideas for this little buttery gem.

I admit that I have a food romance, or as I call it a fromance. I never thought that it is ever possible for someone who has suffered from eating disorders to feel a connection with food, other than pure loathing. I can’t say that I am always comfortable around food, especially when my insecurities convince me that I can do without, but I honestly and truthfully LOVE it!

So arriving home with my little parcel of scrumptiousness, I lathered the croissants with butter, blueberry jam and grated cheese and placed it under the grill. My tea was brewing and the combined smell made my tummy turn inside out from excitement! The minutes following was pure bliss. I sat down at my desk making sure that my son was occupied because I do not want to be disturbed as I take crunchy mouthfuls of sweet, salty, buttery goodness. I was immediately transported to our local French market La Cigale: sitting in the warmth of the sun as a cool breeze swirls the flavours of baked breads, French cheeses, smoked fish, fruit chutneys and the all familiar croissant. Birds rejoicing in the overhanging branches of nearby trees and people enjoying each other’s company.

Food is meant to be made with love, shared amongst loved ones and given as a gift of thoughtfulness. It can arouse the senses, awaken a playfulness between partners and fulfil desires. Food is romantic!

I hope that today you too will be sitting at a market place, or in a park at a picnic or walking along a vineyard during your fromance.

 

 

Chapter 1 – Part 3

A new year dawned, new years resolutions were made but nothing seemed to have improved.

I had been binge eating/starving myself for approximately 6 months. Our final exams were long over, and my friend had since stopped fasting. Before I knew it I was caught in a vicious binge eating cycle, and was trapped in a down spiralling, out of control eating disorder. I was in denial that anything was wrong at the time, because I only knew of 3 types of eating disorders: anorexia, bulimia and obesity (and I had none of these, so therefor I am okay). My friend often asked me whether I was still fasting, to which I lied and said no…honestly lying had become far too easy of a thing to do. I felt bad for not telling her the truth, but by then my ED had convinced me that if anyone finds out, they will try to stop me.

By the end of our first semester I felt extremely alone, even though I was surrounded by school friends every day. I felt sad even though this was meant to be the best year of my school career as we had our school ball to look forward to and the ever rebellious 40 days. I became more socially distant and easily distracted during lessons. My thoughts were often interrupted by images of death, my death. Self-loathing soon filled empty gaps. Why are you allowing this to happen? Why are you eating uncontrollably? You are fat! You are ugly!

I developed a fear for food, yet I couldn’t stop myself consuming every last little morsel whenever I ate. That fear grew into a panic, a panic so severe that I felt as if someone is trying their utmost to stop my heart from beating, forcing its last beat upon my breath. I was in a dark pit of loneliness and entrapment, and the only way out was to not be anymore.

*my blog entry Blank Space is a follow up event to the above, but I will use an edited version to highlight what took place. Please read with caution and an open mind as the wording depicts the impact depression and the onset of an eating disorder can have on ones behaviour*

The school semester has come to an end and it was not mandatory for the senior students to attend the last day. Mom left for work but reminded me that she will stop by early afternoon. I pretended to eat a small and healthy breakfast but I binned it as soon as she left. I made myself comfortable on the couch and did a bit of channel surfing. Not long after I remembered dad’s whisky collection in the kitchen cupboard and thought now is the perfect time to try it as there are no adults around, and I am not out in the public eye. I have had sneaky sips before but didn’t know anything about single or double shots and myself a generous helping. I drank with ease and on an empty stomach I felt lightheaded with a hint of courage. I used this new found enlightenment to make myself a sandwich filled with the goodness of peanut butter and crisps. I also helped myself to all the leftovers from the night before.

I had another drink, a stronger mix, a second sandwich and a plate of chicken. By lunch time I had consumed a fair share of alcohol and had eaten more than I could stomach. I had a sense of utter disappointment, and that all familiar voice repeated telling me you are worthless. You can’t control what you eat. You need me. You can’t life without me. Just look at you, you are ugly, fate and don’t deserve to eat. In that moment I had what I can only describe as a blank, a feeling of nothingness and I didn’t want to feel anymore. I didn’t want to wake up the following morning knowing that I can’t change how I feel and what I think. I wanted out.

The next hour in this state of nothingness seemed unreal. I went to my parents’ bathroom were I found my dad’s blood pressure and mom’s kidney medication. I also found a box of pain killers. I leaned in a crouching position against the cold wall tiles and consumed as many of the pills as I could. The motion was automated, no thinking was involved. A daze of uncertainty dawned on me and I felt sudden panic. I crawled to my dad’s bedside table and found a pen. I felt a sharp pain on my wrist and realised that I was trying to scratch the words HELP and GOD into my lower arm. My pain was silent yet visible. Shivering and feeling cold and numb, I lost consciousness.

Darkness, emptiness and a sense of freedom engulfed me.

to be continued

 

 

 

 

 

 

We matter!

You Matter

I recently came across this image and it resonated with me. The idea that I matter is often not instilled in me and I have to convince myself that merely being me is okay. Yes my children matter to me, my husband and my family, friends I love (and miss dearly) matter to me, but do I matter?

My counsellor who helped me through my battle with both anorexia and bulimia, had once made a list of the things I am. We were discussing skills that I have acquired throughout my counselling sessions (coping skills as he would call it), skills that I can use as part of  my weaponry during ED’s attacks. He started the list by adding the first thing he believes I am, helpful, and asked me if I can think of others. When I got stuck he reminded me of all the things we have discussed, the things I have achieved. And with his guidance the list grew:

I am …

Gentle and mild spirited

Caring

Determined

Adventurous

Different

Curious

Sensitive

Creative

Respectful

My own individual

I soon discovered that I am many things separate from my eating disorder. I do not need to be defined by anorexia’s voice. In all honesty it was very hard remembering this list in times when anorexia convinced me that I am nothing without her, but having the list as part of my coping skills made a huge impact on how long her voice lingered in my head.

Today this list looks very different. I am a mother, which makes me a nurturer. I am a wife, which should make me loving and understanding. I am an employee which makes me loyal and hard working. I am a blogger and therefor I am imaginative and speak my mind.

I would like to believe that I matter because of that who I am today. And because I matter, my words matter, my presence matter, my knowledge and guidance matter, what I have to say matters.

And I would like to encourage you that you matter, no matter what!