There are an awful lot of barriers in my life, most of which I have created myself. I am slowly working my way through, and trying to break the barriers which I have constructed.
Some barriers are fairly large, some small and seemingly insignificant, others are more like little rules and routines which I have been trying to get out of. A lot of people with eating disorders find them selves repeating the same rituals day in, day out, almost on autopilot. It is these rituals I am trying to eradicate.
I don’t remember when I started eating my cereal with a teaspoon, and I don’t know what it was that made me change from a normal sized spoon to one which is half the size. I can only imagine it was an attempt to make the food last longer, because I’d have to take twice as many spoonfuls. Weirdly, I didn’t consider this unusual, and it wasn’t a conscious decision to use a smaller spoon it was just something I did one day and have repeated every morning since then. It’s only a small thing, but it is something I need to stop doing because I associate it with my eating disorder. I need to divert my autopilot to the larger spoon compartment of the cutlery draw.
We have a lovely matching set of bowls/side plates/dinner plates – and yet I have 4 separate bowls which I use. 2 of them are used for cereal, the other 2 for desserts. I am able to eat out of other bowls, but given the choice I’ll always go for my usual because I prefer the shape and size of them The bowls my family use are wide and shallow, mine are narrower and deep – now I don’t know if this is something I need to change, or if it is just a preference. Food is prepared in a certain way, whether it is a method of chopping tomatoes or peppers or the order I assemble my sandwich. I get uncomfortable if people (including family) are around me when I am preparing my food, because I know they’ll think I’m a crank. These barriers need to be broken if I am ever to live with people other than my family which I seriously hope to do!
There are certain foods I will eat at certain times, and at no other point in the day. I wouldn’t dream about eating the foods I do in the evenings during the day time – and these self imposed restrictions are things I need to change. If I want to eat melon after my dinner, I should, and likewise if I fancy eating a Cadbury’s flake at 10am, why not? Because I’m disordered, that’s why. Each food has its time and its place. There are a huge number of foods I haven’t yet allowed myself to eat – but an increasing number of those I have reintroduced. Pop Tarts being one!
Another psychological barrier I have created for myself relates to ready meals. We eat these fairly regularly in our house (yes, I know, we’re lazy) because if one person is going to be out we don’t tend to cook. It’s either a ready meal or a takeaway. If we’re having a takeaway, I’m fine. I ate them even in the darkest days of anorexia and I don’t mind having them, for some reason the calorie/fat content doesn’t bother me as much as it probably should because there are no numbers attributed to it. A special chow mean could have 200 calories or it could have 2000 – I don’t know, and I don’t want to know. It gives me freedom to choose food I like without seeing a number attached. Now ready meals are a different story. I have a ‘safe’ ready meal for each local supermarket, none of which exceed 380 calories or 5g of fat. This is ridiculous. It is ridiculous because I’m trying to recover from anorexia – there shouldn’t BE a maximum. It is also ridiculous because during this recovery, I am eating minimum 2500 calories per day. As our evening meal is usually the largest, if I’m only getting maximum 380 calories – there’s an awful lot to catch up after dinner. I can spend what seems like hours staring at the boxes, comparing grams of fat against calories – the whole time not actually understanding whether I should be trying to get a higher calorie or higher fat meal – the whole thing overwhelms me, I get stressed and angry with myself because I’m incapable of making a simple decision and revert to the usual safe meals.
I broke that barrier today. Not by a huge amount admittedly, in fact I broke it by so little that it’s hardly worth mentioning – but when you have eaten the exact same meals for 7 years, it’s a step forward. At the moment, I’ll take any forward step I can get. This barrier is completely nonsensical. I will stress so much over choosing a meal, petrified if I see a meal had 8 grams of fat in and decide I can’t possibly choose that when there is another meal with 3 grams in, in my world – why would you choose a higher fat meal? Because it may taste better. Because you might actually prefer it. Because you need it. That’s what I told myself today. It is frustrating because straight after this meal, which has caused so much anxiety – I will have the muffin I bought which has more fat and more calories than my main meal. Following that, there will probably be a Peanut Butter KitKat Chunky (slight obsession) and almost definitely a scone (huge obsession).
I can eat a piece of cake with twice the calories and 5 times the amount of fat but struggle with choosing “main meals”. There is absolutely no logic to this whatsoever and it’s frustrating. I will eat 1000+ calories of complete junk after dinner rather than choose a decently calorific main meal.
Another barrier I have found relates to employment. This, to some extent, is out of my control. There have been 200+ applicants for teaching posts I have applied for and as a Newly Qualified Teacher I don’t exactly have the experience these schools are after. However, NQT’s are cheap – so hopefully that can begin to work in my favour. I have not had a job in a long time, and the longer I go unemployed the less motivated I am to find a job. This is the exact opposite of what I expected to happen – I thought I’d go completely crazy being holed up in the house all day (and don’t get me wrong, I definitely am) but the longer I sit here, the more confidence and motivation I lose. I genuinely don’t know if I’ll ever be employed as a teacher because I really don’t think I’ve got what it takes for a number of reasons. Despite my personal statement professing my ability to adapt to different situations, and detailing my flexibility…these are not entirely true. (Don’t shout at me! Everyone exaggerates on their personal statements right?!) There are timing barriers I have created and one by one, they are disappearing but it is taking a lot longer than I’d hoped.
Being a teacher means arriving at school around 8am, and the fact I previously would not eat my breakfast until 10.30am at the very earliest proved to be a problem. It wouldn’t matter that I had been lying awake since 4.30 or 5am, breakfast was not until 10.30. I am so much better with that now, I eat my first breakfast within 30 minutes of waking and the 2nd a while after that.
Eating at unspecified times doesn’t always work well with me
Being an infant teacher might mean your lunch time starts at 11.45am, if you’re in juniors you might be lucky to get a 12.30pm lunch time and again, this would not be possible in my world where lunch time is 1.30. No earlier. I don’t think the head teacher would take too kindly to me leaving the kids to run riot in the classroom while I eat my lunch during teaching time. Again, this is something I’ve worked a lot on and I’m trying to listen to my hunger cues. I ate lunch at 12pm the other day just because I wanted it, despite 2 breakfasts and a morning snack I ate my lunch early – I would NEVER have done this before. I would clock watch and as soon as it ticket to 1.30 it was ‘time’. Now I am able to eat when I am hungry, and if I’m not hungry by 1.30 I’ll eat anyway.
Despite working on breaking my time barriers, they are still there to a certain extent. I tend to eat my morning snack around the same time regardless of whether I’m hungry or not, because I can’t trust myself completely and if I’m not hungry I won’t eat even though I need to. I worry that if I did ever get a job, my concentration would still be partly focussed on when it is “snack time” and when I can eat my lunch. Now of course these are hypothetical worries because I don’t actually have a job to disrupt my meal times. Although…I found out today I have an interview in a few weeks (eeek!)
As far as recovery goes, it’s so-so. At my Doctors appointment last week I told him in no uncertain terms how angry I was with the lack of support. He was, and I quote “astounded” with my weight gain and asked where this drive to recover came from? I told him it came from anger. 100% anger. If nobody was willing to help me through this, I would have to help myself. The “astounding” weight gain was not quite as astounding as I’d hoped to be honest. I have exceeded my pre-ed SIZE, but not my pre-ed weight.
I find this completely bizarre. I was only 3lbs under my pre-ed weight, but I am 1-2 sizes larger. How is this even possible?! Is it possible to be fat and light? Well, yes it is. Because I am. Although I’m not *quite* at a healthy BMI, I’m not longer classed as anorexic (woop-de-fucking-do), but I have never entered the healthy BMI before so it’s uncharted territory for me. Mum actually joked yesterday that I was 8lb 6 when I was born, and not much heavier at 1 year old! I have always been on the small side – until now.
Having accepted that I was no longer a UK size 6, I tried a pair of size 8 jeans on a few weeks ago and I was WAY too optimistic. I was disheartened, because I had never been a size 10 in my life but I am now, or at least – I was. A glutton for punishment as always, I went shopping again today. The size 10 jeans were far too snug and if I wanted to be able to actually move my legs in a pair of jeans I will have to get a size 12. I’m honestly so confused and frustrated with this – how can I not yet be at a healthy BMI but wear a size 12 jeans? Why have my thighs decided to take every single calorie I have eaten and chosen to keep them all there? Why not give some to my upper body, to perhaps hide my collar bone or give me some bloomin’ boobs (even an A cup would do – I’m not greedy!)
I hate this. I hate how disproportioned I am. Unbelievably bottom heavy and STILL not “healthy”. This seriously sucks. In recovery, apparently people gain weight around their torso and stomach because a lot of repair needs to be done to the organs – what kind of organs am I storing in my thighs for them to be this bloody big?
Yet again, I’m signing off a blog post with a rant. As per usual. I’m off to eat my higher-calorie ready meal…it better be worth it!