Quantifying Excuses

There are a plethora of reasons I could give for letting my recovery slip. I could sit and tell even the most cynical of people how I’d officially ended my marriage and parted ways with my estranged husband just over a month ago and maybe, they wouldn’t be disappointed with me. I could tell them how I’ve had no choice but to send my children to live with my parents and I’m no longer even allowed to see them. It drags hard in my chest every day. I could tell you my job has changed overnight and I walk into work now to begin each shift feeling physically sick. I could tell you I’m scared of how the coming months will change me, even more petrified of who I’ll lose. I can tell you each day feels like I’m waking up in a completely different world and some kind of nightmare. I can tell you even the strongest of people in my life are crumbling in front of my eyes and I don’t know what to do to help. I feel useless, directionless and empty. Is that enough? I reckon I can be forgiven for putting my now seemingly insignificant bullshit on the backburner, that is, by everyone but myself.

I remember the first morning that I heard the word Coronavirus mentioned in the 5:30am news while I got ready for work. I heard it again the next morning and thinking to myself what a bleak start the year it was for China, but it was still pretty abstract. I joked when I got ill a few weeks later that it was clearly Coronavirus. I joked how a couple of weeks isolation would be the break I needed. It still didn’t register that it could affect anything in my life and I continued on my path of reinvention, determined and excited for a new beginning. My recovery was going great guns in terms of efforts I was making. Efforts to eat everyday, to stop daily weighing and try to look in the mirror without cringing. I hadn’t made it to 3 square meals and ok, I found avoiding mirrors more successful than the no cringing but this was the furthest I’d come and it spurred me to just keep shutting my mind down and slowly shuffle forward and see where I landed. I deeply resented it some days, others it made me feel empowered. I literally had a sense though, a visualisation even that I was letting go. I was giving it to the universe and asking for some freedom.

I was quite annoyed I didn’t get immediate results. I kept catching colds which I was annoyed with my body for, I was giving it more calories than I had been for a very long time so why was my immune system not making me superhuman overnight? How dare it be so ungrateful! Physically I didn’t feel better. I felt heavier and cumbersome. My skin kept breaking out really bad, it still is. The weight didn’t lovingly distribute to my boobs and bum as hoped, more my tummy and thighs. I read around and followed the advice to keep going, it would all take time to heal and level out, be patient. So rather than focus on my present self, I focused harder on my future self and visualised where I could be further down the line. I wanted to try and like myself. I could start exercising when I could trust myself not to abuse it I thought, re-mould my body and cash in on the psychological benefits once I’d given myself a good time frame to heal my mind too. I spoke to a psychotherapist who said they’d be willing to help me, on the proviso I had my band removed. She said they would be ‘in my corner’ till that point but if I really wanted to heal and recover properly, it had to come out. I bit the bullet and began to make arrangements.

I confronted my flailing marriage and took a deep breath and found the words to say it was over. From the perspective of my recovery at first, I questioned whether this was me or my ED talking. I was eating more while sat round his on a Saturday night and resented it. It was the food that screams in my head when I eat it. He’s a veg phobe and a takeaway lover and his fussiness over my home cooked healthy dinners rivalled those of my children, to the extent that I’d cook one lot of food for them and another for me or just cherry pick the safe bits when we lived together. Eventually I stopped bothering. But no, this wasn’t about enabling my ED.

I knew it wasn’t coincidental that I truly began to confront it until we’d separated. It didn’t shock me that he was uncomfortable with me bringing it up at counselling, or that the conversation ended there, or when he told me that writing about it and talking to others maybe a bad idea. He didn’t celebrate the progress I was trying to make. I knew my ED kept him safe. Not bad enough to raise eyebrows so he couldn’t be questioned, not alright enough that I had any shred of self worth to get my ass outta there years ago when the abuse began. I knew what it was, but I provided the excuses and kept his secrets while he kept mine. No one ever knew the extent of what went on behind our doors, on my part because I was too ashamed to admit what I’d stayed through. It was my choice. I am to this day ashamed, although I’ve learned to be more compassionate to that past version of me and even to that part of him. I knew I wasn’t what he wanted me to be, I didn’t like who I was when I was with him and I felt completely indifferent when I considered he would carry on outsourcing his needs elsewhere. Since all my pouring over making him happy stopped, my focus shifted to me and the truth was I didn’t know who I was at all. The paralysis of separation was that I was left with a total stranger, his dreams became mine, his wants became mine and I didn’t know what that left me with. In the time since we’d been apart, I began to find out. I knew I couldn’t go back. I was given the opportunity to embrace the right kind of love around me, enough to finally call out the wrong kind. Although I may never find myself in a relationship again, it no longer scared me at all to imagine that. The alternative in going back and living in that torment was finally worse. With literally no hard feelings anymore, I hugged him tight and walked away.

The life I was picturing was beginning to become a reality. A new home in the pipeline, a fresh start for me and my babies and I felt excitement for myself that I truly never thought was possible. I had clarity on level I’d never had. This was it. I was doing it. This is what flying felt like.

The horror of Covid-19 started to dawn when I realised we were on Italy’s trajectory, of which I’d become obsessional about following. Quick decisions had to be made. I knew my children had to be isolated along with my significantly high-risk parents. It had to be then, ahead of time and when people still thought I was over-reacting because if they weren’t safe and cared for, I couldn’t do my job on the healthcare frontline which was about to be heavily relied upon. I wasn’t even taking a chance on risking them and I needed to keep a roof over their heads. I pulled them out of school, spent one last weekend with them, delivered them to my parents and said a heart-breaking goodbye, not knowing in all truth how long this would be for. I had an idea what it would feel like to be without them, in reality it’s a thousand times worse than I ever could have imagined. They are my happiness. They are my love. They are what make me everything I am. Not being able to hold them, not being able to smell them or kiss them, not looking in on them before I go to bed, not hearing them bicker over who’s turn it is to wash up, not having them invade my bed on a weekend… what the fuck sort of life is this? Hearing them laugh makes me laugh in the hardest of moments. They are my reason to fight, always. They aren’t here. I can’t be there for them and they are hurting. I’m told over and over I’ve done the best possible thing for them, but my instinct says pick them up and run. Now. Every remote fibre of my being misses them. I ache so much in moments I find it hard to breathe. I don’t feel like a mum anymore.

Walking into a post-raided supermarket was the first food-related trigger. Even before this, shopping was always a loathed task that I avoided until I absolutely had to. As I stared at the empty shelves of where my safe foods should be, it was the first time I felt scared about something else other than the obvious. It was the first time it really hit home that I wasn’t ever that far away from my ED and I wasn’t as strong as I assumed I had been. I spent I good couple of hours there pacing the aisles and then stopping and staring, considering what I could stand to eat and getting angrier with myself by the second. This shouldn’t matter. THIS SHOULDN’T MATTER. I should be grateful there is any food left at all. I’ve always struggled to food shop, I find it overwhelming to do and I can’t do it without a specific list or the kids there to tell me what it is they want to have. They help me face it without even realising. I hate having to think of what it is I’m going to eat. I’m getting more stressed out every time my dad sends along a list because even though I want to help and I want to provide for them, his idea of ‘essentials’ are a far cry from my own. The frequency is also something I struggle with. Is this really how a normal person shops? Do people really need all of this? I guess I’m not ok then.

I have to eat. At the very beginning, still determined I planned and cooked my meals for work. I felt good that I was taking control. I took pictures of my meals and sent them to my family to prove I meant business on taking care of myself, that they could trust that I knew how important that was right now. I painstakingly calorie loaded. It lasted a week. No one is home and I don’t ‘have to’ anything. They don’t know me, they don’t know how I survive or how I cope. The lies slowly returned. The waking up and reaching for my hip-bone before I opened my eyes returned. The earning calories returned. The rules returned. One last time I tell myself, this will be the last time. If I ever needed to not feel, to not be present, to surrender and retreat it’s now. My ED has always been my armour. This feels safer for me. How can I look to future self with any amount of conviction when I don’t even know what tomorrow looks like? This is certainty. This is control. I gave this up to the universe and just look at what it gave me back? I’m furious that I even believed there was another way right now, a different life. I feel the anger of my ED as I go creeping back. I betrayed him. I thought I was stronger than him. I’m apologetic and I can feel him laughing. You fucking fool. I knew you’d screw this up, not so ballsy now are you?! I’m disgusted by my own submissiveness. This was a part of me I thought I’d left behind and now I’m welcoming the grip back, offering out my neck and pleading for the squeeze to be harder. It’s hateful but it’s known. It’s all I’ve known. I don’t need to worry about what’s on the shelves if I don’t have to eat. I don’t need to worry about how I will cope if my mind is engaged in something else. I can be back in my bubble, at my strongest, mentally at peace. If the whole world is fighting an invisible war, now is not the time to be fighting against my own.

I realise I sound like a petulant child. I feel like one. Everyone is hurting, everyone is scared, everyone has had their life changed overnight and yet I have to make this about me. I know of people far worse off, the whole world is in crisis for crying out loud… really? Am I really doing this right now?

This. Shouldn’t. Matter. I can’t contain my anger that it does. I can’t contain my disappointment that I failed, again. A better person would have ignored the excuses. I’m not a better person.

One thought on “Quantifying Excuses

  1. Only just saw this in the early hours of this morning since apparently a good way of dealing with not being able to sleep is to check why your phone hasn’t been giving you notifications for one of your email addresses only to find out you haven’t checked it in a month..

    First off, no one with any empathy or understanding would/should be judging you, no matter the external factors going on. Taking into account the family and relationship issues and especially with your work which I can only imagine must be horrific and bring things to a whole other level.. The fact you’re managing some semblance of putting one foot in front of the other is definitely impressive to me. That said, your ‘bullshit’ as you describe it is far from insignificant. Adding extra weight to your burden doesn’t magically remove whatever was there previously, it just makes you have to carry a much heavier load.

    I don’t know a lot about ED recovery but all those issues you had sound like the things that most people deal with from the little I do know. It also sounds like you were dealing with them in the best way you could and making it work which is something to be proud of.

    I know, like so many things, shame is often a feeling beyond our control but it’s great you’ve managed to mitigate it a bit. I feel a bit stupid saying all these things because I’m sure you already know anything I could tell you but maybe it helps convert it from an intellectual knowledge to an actual belief to be told by someone else. Anyway, you have nothing to be ashamed of. You tried really hard to make things work for someone you deeply loved and with the best interests of your children in mind as well. The fact you put up with such horrible behaviour on his part isn’t a failing and how he behaved isn’t your fault. I hope some time you can get the love and support you want and deserve from another partner but it definitely sounds like you’re better off alone than with that person.

    You are making a big sacrifice not being with your kids but the fact you’re such a good mum is why you’re making that decision. I did a much compromised version for a couple of weeks and it wasn’t great but mine were still with their mother and I’m not as involved and good a parent as you seem to be. They do seem to appreciate me being around again much more now though. You’re not going anywhere long term though and you’ll make it up to them when you can. When they’re old enough they’ll understand better what you had to do and realise how amazing a role model they have to look up to!

    I did food shopping for my parents for a short while and it was disorienting how different it was to doing it for my immediate family and made me question our diet a bit. I’m not a fan of food shopping and all the queueing and restrictions now in supermarkets makes it way worse. I can only imagine how distressing it is for you. I did see a few other people talking about availability of safe foods and so on elsewhere too. It must be so hard right now for everyone with any sort of ED.

    You don’t sound petulant and I don’t think focusing on your own problems and writing about your own experiences on your own private blog that no one has to read if they don’t want to is taking up space you’re not entitled to! Other people being anxious or upset or in crisis doesn’t invalidate your struggles. If anything it makes it harder for you to avoid it. The fact you’re still thinking of everyone else at all shows how much you care about other people though..

    You are a really good person. Two steps forward and one step back still leaves you one step ahead of where you were! This shit is excruciatingly difficult and the fact you got so far the last time is amazing. That was a major success, not a failure. You’d have to be superhuman to have maintained that under these conditions. I don’t know anyone who could’ve done it. I certainly wouldn’t have managed what you did in your situation. You may have not managed to keep making progress but what you did achieve isn’t wiped away. You’ve laid foundations, some of the changes you made will stick and you won’t be starting from where you did the next time. You know now what you can do and that will help when you get back to that stage again, which I’m positive you will. If nothing else, that period of doing better and your body having a rest will help you get through this hard time. I’m sure it doesn’t feel that way but I think it makes sense.

    Anyway, I don’t know how much what some random stranger who doesn’t know what he’s talking about means but I continue to be so impressed with how you deal with things, how you manage to analyse your situation and thoughts, your honesty and your eloquence. I appreciate the privilege of being allowed to read these posts and comment.

    Liked by 1 person

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