Uncharted Territory

I’m all about the mindfulness in my life. I am someone who willingly walks for miles and takes every part of it in, breathing the air in as I stroll and smiling at the smell of fresh earth, breathing out with my head tipped back to thank the sun hugging my face. That’ll be enough to make me feel so lucky to be here, it tops up my appreciation tank for days. My senses are present. A good smelling person can stop me in my tracks to sniff the air as they walk passed me. A song can reduce me to tears or make me glow inside in the space of 3 mins. I can get high on moments with people and it can change my entire day. I am present and love being able to feel those things. In fact if anything, I’d say my ability to take solace from the simplest of things is my favourite thing about me.

I always know something is really amiss when I can’t do that. In the same way I immediately knew I was pregnant from just sipping a cup of tea and it not tasting as it always had to me, I can take a sip from the cup of my senses and it’s the same feeling. One thing, bad day, shake it off, move on. A few things, do I know why? Is it an event rather than me that I need to grieve over or work out? Do what I gotta do and keep going. Everything, not going away, numbness = I’m in trouble. The feeling at the moment is like I’m at the top of a rollercoaster when it stops at the peak of the highest drop and my body hangs forward, my heart thumps, my palms sweat and I wait. I actually equally love and hate that moment and in some aspects this comparison translates for me perfectly. The main difference here right now is there is no excitement and I know I don’t get to disembark this ride laughing. I figured I’d been doing a good job of this recovery lark as I’ve been eating, even in the face of all the excuses I could have used. I’ve been doing the thing that to anyone watching says I am fine, even telling myself the same. Yet I’m sitting here with this crippling dread running through me because I know not only am I not, but I’m perched in the seat looking down from that highest peak and I know, something is about to let go.

One thing I’ve noticed in this bid to learn more about my ED and how to get passed it is that I am mindless rather than mindful in my recovery efforts, specifically the eating of the food. I truly don’t invest anything when I eat at the moment, any attention, any enjoyment or suffering. I put food into my mouth and chew because it’s food and I have to eat and if I think about it too much, I just won’t and I’m supposed to be recovering. The suffering delays until after it has gone down and I read the nutritional values but what’s done is then done. Take away the mindlessness, I now realise just how long this has been a chore to the extent that I truly don’t enjoy any food. I don’t taste what I eat and I haven’t eaten anything I’ve really enjoyed in so long that I haven’t seen the problem with it before now, that’s my normal. It’s now to the extent I’m not even identifying food as a substance I should be putting in my mouth and into my body. It doesn’t feel right chewing, it feels like it shouldn’t be there, like trying to eat paper or plastic. I never noticed it to this degree before, the feeling of torture to eat felt different, predictable even. But something has drastically shifted in my mind.

Since I began my recovery everything around me has changed and I know I couldn’t help that but I’m still running around the supermarket like I’m playing ‘the floor is lava’ and leaving with not even a bag full of groceries. In my bid to be good, I don’t want to get things that end in a purge or guilt so I’d usually have settled for safe foods as it was better to be eating something rather than nothing. Safe foods have been based around keto, or generally low carb if I’ve been looser with the rules. With everything changing as it has, the new rule was to eat at work and fast at home as there was so much food there and it took the away anguish of what to buy, or what to eat out of my hands. I figured fasting counteracted the guilt I’d feel for eating whatever it was I was shutting my eyes to and channeling that mindlessness to push into my mouth. I was still eating and more than I would have before, so I had to be doing the right thing, but the control had to shift to allow something to give. If I couldn’t bring myself to shop then this could be the control.

I’ve broken most of my own rules on the food itself that I was eating, I figured this is what people do so all the bad feelings I had about eating it, I just had to keep pushing through till it felt normal and then that would be it, maybe that I’d wake up one day and not question it anymore. I’ve made so, so many rules over the years and banished different foods/drinks depending on what had triggered that particular fear, or what went with what diet, that there is now no food that ticks the box of completely safe… except lettuce maybe which just isn’t worth the effort with pretty much zero nutritional value, but I always had something in some region of a safe food if it went with a rule. I knew I’d put on weight and hate it, I knew I’d struggle with my reflection and how it felt as I always had and I prepared myself and expected those things to happen. What I didn’t prepare myself for was this whole new fear of absolutely any food, any diet, any anything that has suddenly developed. In letting go of any rules I thought I was doing what I should, however what now seems to have happened instead is that I have absolutely no safe food left. Food isn’t even food. I don’t want to eat at all.

I’m trying to work out why and I’m stuck between the whole focal point of shopping or maybe the weeks of what has felt like torturous force feeding myself or both. I’m thinking maybe I’ve just completely underestimated my own ED that I thought I knew so well. And I really did think I had the shape of it, knew exactly what it was and even why it was, even if I didn’t know for sure how to stop it. I knew how to keep it managed most of the time. This… this is a side of it I do not even remotely recognise to the extent that I don’t even know if this is my ED. I can’t work out the exact trigger, which sounds ridiculous given everything that is going on, but in spite of all of it all I’ve eaten. I’ve pushed. It seems in response to trying to close the door on those thoughts and rules, I’ve left it too long and come back to a monster and I have no idea what questions to ask myself, how to work this out or how to even explain it to anyone. I don’t know how to explain that it’s not even the weight or the shame or the ‘you’re a failure’ narrative when I eat, it’s just that my brain seems to have decided all food is dangerous. I don’t recognise it as food right now, it will all hurt me somehow and I can’t even explain why. It’s bigger than anything I’ve experienced before.

I have learned in the last few weeks just how much I relied on and equally hated other people to feed my guilt enough to make me eat meals. I obviously used to have to eat with my husband because that what I was meant to be doing as a good wife. I felt bad when I didn’t and couldn’t stand the arguments that came with that haunting question ‘what do you what to eat?’ because I couldn’t ever think of anything I actually wanted and I tried to say so many times, my brain didn’t work like that and he would still never, ever chose. So I adapted safe foods around everything I knew he liked; kebabs I had no pita, plain chicken on a bed of salad with cheese depending on whether I was just doing keto or low carb. Curries, anything I could pick the meat out and scrape the sauce with no rice. I had rules on everything but enough that allowed me something to feel social, even if it was just a fasting period beforehand if it was planned. My dad would cook food and they’d know not to make me a plate, I had to make my own on a side plate or small bowl and pick my foods, avoid the potatoes and carb heavy veg out of the stews, but I ate it round the table. I adapted everything in the name of trying to live a normal life, so much so that it really was my normal and their normal with me. I had this bubble and I could live inside it even though I felt resentful that it was to make everyone else feel comfortable with me, rather than because I wanted to. So now being on my own, I thought this would be easier as I had no one to adapt anything to but the reality is, I think I was better with the rules and pushing that way rather than this. I don’t even know. I’m so fucking lost.

Everything has shifted and I really am struggling between cause and effect. In my mind, if I knew what and why; that’s an element of control on it. I genuinely did expect it to all be exacerbated somehow, but in ways it always has done before and I’ve gotten through on my own. That feeling I described in one of my first blogs about it feeling intrinsic, this feels so different. I guess I always had that feeling that this was a part of me and who I am, but right now and very suddenly it doesn’t feel like that at all. It honestly feels as though there is a complete stranger in my head. Now, rather than having to tell myself its something else and not a part of me, I’m feeling the intrusion of this thing that actually isn’t. I am not working out what I can have to eat and how I can rationalize it, overnight my brain has decided I simply cannot have anything and I’m trying to work out how the hell I stay alive if I can’t fix this thought process. Conversely, I feel a slight sense of relief that it is out of my control, that I’m just standing to the side with hands up looking at an enemy I can’t even land a punch on. My hope is, this leaves as suddenly as it came. My fear is, I’ve unlocked something somehow that I won’t be able to silence until I know why. I’m scared to even get to know it in order to attempt fixing it. After everything my ED and I have been through together, all the times I’ve even considered it my friend and my armor, I almost feel a little betrayed by this side of it I’ve never met. Did I do this to myself thinking I was above needing help or trying to ignore it for so long? Trying to freestyle an unsupervised recovery? I have no idea.

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