Saturday, October 27, 2012

Mirror Mirror...

"Mirror Mirror on the wall who is the skinniest of them all...?"

When we look into the mirror we expect to see a true reflection of ourselve. We look into it with a certain expectation, with the hope to see exactly the kind of reflection we have created in our mind. A reflection of perfection. At least that's how it was (is) for me.
How close to reality is the reflection that we see in the mirror though? Do we see what our mind is telling us to see or do we see what truly is? And because of this expectation attached to our reflection will we ever be truly happy with the reflection starring back at us? Is it the physical reflection we reject or do we reject the reflection of who is looking us back in the eye?

I use to stare in the mirror for hours on end, counting every protruding rib, measuring the width of my waist, arms and legs. Having to be able to grip around my upper arm with one hand and having my fingers touch, having to grip around my thigh with both hands with ease and the same method of measurement counted for my waist. I would spend hours analyzing the shape of my stomach, bending over forwards so I could count the amount of 'rolls' that formed and measure how thick they were. I would stand tall, straight spine, shoulders back, anckle bones touching to measure how big the gap between my thighs was. I would lie down, get a ruler and place it from hip bone to hip bone and measure how big the gap from my stomach to the ruler was. I would tie my hair up, get another mirror and count my protruding vertabrates.
Eventhough I could count every rib the mirror reflected, I could see my spine as though it was about to cut through my skin and could see the gap between my legs being big enough to make them look like nothing but two twigs, and although there was barely a gram of fat on my body, my reflection, the one that I saw, told me I was fat.

"Mirror Mirror on the wall I hate you so but love you more..."

I hated to love looking in the mirror because I knew that I wouldn't find that perfection I was looking for. In some way I hated that frail, shapeless and lifeless being that was starring back at me, but on the other hand I felt incredible pride and satisfaction, even comfort, at what I saw.

I so often felt like I was trapped within the wrong body. I felt so disgusted at my reflection, because I was never Skinny/Perfect enough. All I could do was spit at the mirror, at myself, to give me a sense of relief. I wasn't only spitting at my physical reflection, but also at me, the person I saw. I was no longer Belle, I felt like I was taken hostage by some demon that had taken over my body and my mind. That demon was Anorexia.

"Mirror Mirror on the wall are you real at all...?"

My reflection to the outside world was seen as skinny, frail and lifeless. My reflection in my world was seen as fat, unworthy and so very imperfect. Even at my lowest weight, 31kg, I still saw a girl who needed to lose weight, who still had a roll around her stomach and who had a double chin. I would try and eleviate some of my frustration by lathering my face with make-up, a way to try and distract from my body.

"Mirror Mirror on the wall please tell me I can stop, that I have reached the goal...?"

That point never came. I never felt, and as perverse as it may sound, still don't think I ever got skinny or light enough. It's irrational thinking I still can't comprehend. The reflection I saw was never at that perfect state, the state that would allow me to stop. Ask me what that perfect state looks like and I couldn't tell you because it's and illusion.

The reflection that I saw and believed for so long shows that our comprehension of that reflection is linked with the frame of mind we are in. We feel good, we generally like what we see. We feel down/bad, we generally don't like what we see eventhough the reflection has stayed the same.

"Mirror Mirror on the wall, be my friend don't let me fall..."

I am learning that its not actually the mirror that is my enemy, it's my mind. I'm learning to see the mirror as my friend, as a tool that is there to help me learn to accept myself and like myself. And not as a tool that only wants to expose my flaws.

"Mirror Mirror on the wall give me a smile, that is all."

I still struggle with my reflection. Very rarely do I actually like what I see. There are times where I wish I could still count those ribs, just for reassurance, but I know it's not a reflection of reality and its just a trap. That way of thinking and living is too tiring and self distructive. Now, when I look in the mirror I look myself in the eye, because they are a reflection of my soul where true beauty is found. I give myself a smile and accept myself, body and mind, for the way I am at that moment. It's not always easy, but its far better to smile at your reflection than spit at it.

Next time you look in the mirror smile at it, you might be surprised to see that it will smile back at you too.

Note: Using the term 'we' is used as a general term, obviously not relevant to everyone.
 I am aware that this way of thinking can be hard to comrehend for some people reading this. Anorexia is an addiction and evokes irrational thinking and behaviour. If by writing this I can help broaden the understanding of the issue, help other sufferers and give hope then I will feel like I am making something positive out of my experience.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Daddy's girl

Dear Dad,

remember when we use to go skiing together, or when I pretended to be asleep when really I just wanted you to carry me home from the restaurant? I was always "daddy's girl" and will forever continue to be "daddy's girl".

Some people say that Anorexia is a cry for attention, which isn't all that wrong. Some would say that my Anorexia was a cry for your attention, to regain my spot as "daddy's girl" in your life. The spot I felt I had lost when you left home and moved in with your "new" family. Maybe that isn't all that wrong either.

Losing weight, the pain from hunger and the torment in my mind brought me a distraction from the inner pain I felt from feeling like I was no longer "daddy's girl". I started going to the gym and lifting weights, going for runs and playing tennis because I knew that they were things you were passionate about and took pleasure in, something I admired you for. I thought it would make you proud if I enjoyed the same things as you did. I became obsessed.
I still admire you for those, and many more things, Dad. What I love even more is, that now, we can do those things together, share a passion that you, in one way or another, ignited in me.

For quite an extended period of time you weren't present in my life. Lucky for you I'll say, that way you didn't have to put up with the obsessed, moody and manipulating Belle. When I was around you I worked so hard to put on my "strong" face and act all in control and problemless.

Deep down I thought you'd be proud of my lean and "healthy" looking physique, because in my mind being skinny reflected success and an adult image. I thought that by showing you the restraint and control I had over my life, it would make you think I was growing into a mature woman. Oh the irony in that, because in reality I was physically turning myself back into a 10 year old girl.

I remember when we, just you and I, went on a holiday. I was bad, but not yet at my worst. You saw me in my bikini and blankly said that I looked like a skeleton. I was shattered. I wanted to hear you say that I looked great, that you were proud of me, that I was growing into a fine young woman. That week was such a struggle for me. I didn't want to show you that I had a problem with food, but at the same time I didn't want to lose Anorexia by gaining weight. Frankly, I couldn't wait to get home and back into by own secure routine of exercise, calorie counting and weight control.

We lost touch. I lost weight. I was no longer "daddy's girl" I had become "Anorexia's girl". She gave me the comfort and company I needed. She encouraged me and complimented me. She cared about me... or so I thought.

When you did see me you made concerned comments about my weight and always encouraged me, sternly, to eat more. That enraged me, because it felt like an attack, like you didn't understand me, didn't understand my struggle and I guess a part of me felt like I would simply never be good enough.

You weren't there when I was battling through the mud, patially because I never reached out to you or let you into my world, and partially because you were oblivious as to how sick I really was, until you saw me that day... 3 months later.

From that moment on you were there every step of the way. You took the reign into your hands and made me go to the doctor becuase you believed you were looking at your "dying daughter". Looking back that was a scary reality.

It was the first time you and mum united in peace since you left home. You united for your daughter and for a short while my family was re-united and my world was in harmony... and then I got admitted to hospital.

Dad, you were the silent hero. You never said much, but you did say that you knew I could beat this, that I was strong and determined. I wanted to prove you right and make you proud.

When you visited me in hospital you left me little gifts that I would find hidden somewhere after you had left (although gifts were against treatment policy, did you know that?).
You never questioned me, never got angry at me... you were just there, ready to catch me if I were to fall.

A cry for attention was only another component that fueled Anorexia. It's like a spiders web, many threads interwoven to make her stronger and more resistant. Once caught in that web however, its hard to get out and Anorexia keeps finding new threads to add to the web to entangle you even more.
Thanks dad, for being there to help untangle me...

'Daddy's girl' xx

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Dear Mum

Dear Mum,

It has taken me this long to realize that it wasn't me you were actually challenging, you were challenging Anorexia - The Bitch. In doing so, I can see now, you ignited the fighter within me, the only person who could take Anorexia down.

I hate to tell you this mum, but I say it with the hope that other Mothers might see through the games Anorexia plays, even on them. You were easy to manipulate in the beginning and I even pulled you into my game by asking you to tell me to stop eating when you, yes you, thought I'd eaten enough. By doing that I was ridding myself of any responsibility regarding food, and should I gain weight at least I'd have someone to blame. I took advantage of your willingness to help me out.

Do you remember when I was about 10 years old and we saw a documentary on TV about that girl who had Anorexia, who would walk 10km each day and eat no more than 500 calories, just enough to survive day by day? Remember how I said 'Mum, you won't have to worry about me ever having anything like that... I love my food way too much...'. Well irony bites you in the butt sometimes, and three years later I was that girl and you were her desperate mum.

You noticed things early on; you noticed how obsessed I became with swimming and going to the gym. You noticed how I would quietly make my way to the toilet after every meal, not to purge, but to weigh myself and carefully examine any changes that may have taken place on my body from the food I had just consumed. You confronted me about it, yet I always had an explaination at hand, no matter how far fetched, and you, giving me the benefit of the doubt, decided to believe my words.

I know, or rather Anorexia knew, that if there was one person who would stand in my way, confront me and challenge me it would be you. I had to be well prepared if I wanted to 'outsmart' you on this one. For some reason Anorexia gives you this amazing 'skill' when it comes to manipulating people, and so, eventually I managed to get you off my case.

I attempted to be the 'perfect' daughter, trying to be as unobvious as possible in order to also make Anorexia seem unobvious. I was desguising her. I was hers, she was mine, and no one was to come between us.

That summer, when I got really bad, I was out of your sight. Lucky for Anorexia and me I was surrounded by people who would bend over backwards to make me happy. I took advantage of them too. They didn't question my obsessive training regime. My obsession with food. My gradual change in mood and general being. My rapid weightloss.

I came home. You were shocked. I admitted to having a problem with food. You took me to the doctor. I promised to get better. We ate McDonalds. Nothing changed.

Mum, I remember your desparation, your overwhelming desire to fight the battle for me and just have your girl back. I also remember your 'head in the sand' attitude (the one anorexia favored), because I kept convincing you that I was working on it and that you had nothing to worry about. I told you I was seeing the doctor and gaining weight... Well, they were all lies. Lying to you added to my dispair, but I just couldn't stop.

After hiding the real state of my body for many months, the volcano suddenly errupted. You 'outed' Anorexia. It was that night I was trying on clothes that use to fit me and you got a glimpse of my legs and reacted with panic and disgust. You confronted me about my wasted and bony legs. I told you I'd always had skinny legs. You confronted me about not having had a period for a year. I assured you that it was normal for girls my age. You confronted me about the shower drain being blocked because I was losing so much hair. I told you that hair goes through cycles, and I was in the 'malting' cycle. Again, to ease the situation, I promised to work on myself. Again you believed me.

I just didn't want to let you down mum, be a burden on you. I don't know what it was that I wanted. Maybe I was simply striving for a better version of myself, a perfect version, but instead I created the opposite.

You alone could never have won the battle with me or for me, it needed more.

Ending up in hospital, where they had a free bed to my life saving luck, with a great team of professionals joining force to help me battle, was my saving grace.

Thats when the point came where you had enough of my games and were sick of feeling like I was wasting the time of all these people willing to help me. So you confronted me and set me an ultimatum infront of the whole medical team. You exposed Anorexia yet again. At first I saw it as a challeng to challenge the strength of your ultimatum, but over time it triggered a fight mechanism within me. I felt like a traitor to everyone around me, a traitor to myself.

From that moment I began to fight and you have been there every step of the way. It has been a long fight. It has been a tough fight. Sometimes you felt like strangeling me. Sometimes I felt like strangeling you. You let me cry, talk, laugh and understand. You helped me let 'The Bitch' go. You continue to help me keep myself 'in-check'.

It takes a strong person to overcome Anorexia, but it also takes a strong person/people to take up the battle with you.
Thankyou mum, for never giving up, eventhough it would have been easier to walk away at times.
Thankyou for showing me unconditional love and for loving me just the way I am.
Sorry for hurting you, manipulating you and fighting you. I'm so grateful to have you as my mum.

I loveyou x

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Dear Girl

All I ever wished for when I was physically and mentally at my lowest, was to hear from or meet a girl who would tell me and show me that I could get better, that I wasn't the only one affected by this, that there is an after life, a life without "The Bitch" - Anorexia.

Dear Girl,
I once was you. Worried and obsessed about my weight and appearance, worried about not being good enough for my parents, worried about not living up to their expectations.

I don't know how it was exactly for you, but with me it started slowly and subtly; Anorexia and "the voice" slowly and slyly started to take hold of me, luring me into a false reality, one that was so destructive not only to myself, but also to my family and the people around me.
But Dear Girl, I stand here now to tell you that you can fight "The Bitch" and eventually beat her. I want you to know that you're not alone, and that not only myself, but many other girls/women have have over come it. Here is my story...

If I were asked to describe Anorexia in three words I would use:
  1. Manipulative
  2. Selfish
  3. Destructive
Once you let Anorexia into your life, this is what you also become. The thing with Anorexia is that it doesn't become you, but you become it.

Do you make up excuses saying you ate at a friends place or will eat later just to get yourself out of eating a meal to avoid consuming extra calories?
I did, constantly... It made me a compulsive liar.
Are you afraid to look in the mirror and see your reflection because you are convinced you'll see a fat reflection of yourself?
Well, its not reality. Your mind is playing tricks on you.
Are you obsessed with seeing other people eat and cooking for them, because it brings you comfort and reassurance to see other people eat while your aren't?
Watching people eat made me feel full, strong and in control. It made me feel proud of myself.
Do you keep thinking you can stop this when you've reached a certain weight or point, but find yourself never finding that point?
I never found that point, until I decided to seek help and get healthy.
Do you feel incredibly lonely and empty and lost?
I did for years, and sometimes still do. But you have no reason to be lonely. You can fill your emptiness with love, laughter and life. You can find yourself, sometimes it just takes patience, alot of patience.

I still wonder what the trigger for my Anorexia actually was, and there are a few things I could list that I believe could be a factor in contributing to me suffering from Anorexia; like my parents breaking up... being bullied at school... low self-esteem... being a perfectionist... social pressure..., but then theres that theory that maybe it is simply something that 'just' happens to you, for no tangible reason.

I became obsessed with my weight and the shape of my stomach. I loathed my body because it didn't reflect that of the "perfect" body that so many women sported in magazines and on TV. I believed that losing some weight would bring me that bit closer to being ideal, being good enough, which would automatically generate approval and acceptance. Dear Girl, I learnt that the one and only person you formostly need approval and acceptance from is yourself.

Losing that first Kilo was like a rush of adrenaline and a boost of endorphines. I wanted more. I wanted to see the numbers drop. I wanted to see bones poke out. I wanted a six pack. I wanted nice boobs.
The numbers never seemed to drop low enough. My stomach never got flat enough. My hip bones never protruded quite like the girls I idolized. It wasn't really that the images of those girls drove me to lose weight, they simply acted as a benchmark.

After a while I started hearing voices. Voices that lured me into deep self-conversations and mind battles, all revolving around food, calories and weight. I began to call them the 'Angel' and the 'Devil'. The Angel was the voice that was still fighting for me, Belle, fighting for me not to lose myself to Anorexia. The Devil was Anorexia. So strong and loud, constantly setting me new challenges that I found so inviting, that I thought if I'd meet the challenge I could stop. But now I can see that by starving myself I was feeding the Devil, making its voice stronger.
On reflection I feel so incredibly sad about what I put my family through. I became a real Bitch. I played games, I manipulated so I could get my own way. I isolated myself, letting no one into my world, and by doing that, I convinced myself that no one cared about me. When someone wanted to offer me a helping hand (of which there were many) I would shut them down, eventhough I really wanted to reach out to that hand, but "The Bitch" wouldn't let me.

By physically wasting away I felt like I was becoming invisible. By being invisible I wouldn't have to face the world, be a burden on anyone, I wouldn't have to see my reflection in the mirror.

I loved to hate food. Everything about food became a game and so controlled.
Do you eat at set times? Do you weigh your food? Do you cut your food into small bites and chew for ages? Do you time yourself when you eat? Do you secretly throw away your food or give it to the dog?
It's a tiring game, isn't it!?

You're probably growing a fine layer of hair all over your body... Are losing hair that use to luciously grace your head... have dry skin and sore patches... Bad breath. Is that really more beautiful and perfect than before? Are you a better person with Anorexia? Is this who you want to be?

Oh Dear Girl, I wish I could tell you how to get better. I know you can though. You need to be STRONG, ACCEPT HELP and start LOVING YOURSELF. And remember, just because you have reached a phyically healthy weight again, doesn't necessarily mean your mind has reached a healthy state.
I have to work on myself every single day. Life is worth living. Begin to Fight back, its an investment in life. Don't be afraid. I understand you.



Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The autumn leaf

As I glared out my dining room window my eyes were spoilt with the beautiful colors of autmumn. Green turn leaves turn into a vibrant red, red turns into many shades of brown, beofore detaching themselves from the branch they are anchored to and gracefully float to the ground, to cover it in a carpet of leaves.

As a kid I was always aware of autumn, but I never took real notice of its beauty. In my mind it simply marked that winter was near and it wouldn't be long until we could jump on our skis and hit the slopes. I do however, remember a tree near the playground that use to have a mountain of leaves just beneath it, making for the perfect matress to jump into as we flung ourselves from the branch.

That day I glared out the window my running blood was pumping through my veins, and I simply wanted to engulf myself in the whole energy nature was offering me at my door step. I laced up my shoes and started running aimlessly and without a plan, all I wanted to do was run.

I ran along a trail that lead me up the valley along the gushing river. Everything seemed more alive than I had seen in a long time...  Yet ironically, while everything seems so alive in autumn, it is slowly dying as well.

I stumbled upon a mountain of leaves and I couldn't help but launch myself into that magnifcent nest. As I was laying in that moutnain of leaves, I felt like everything ├óround me was melting away, it was a moment of peace, a moment of being in tune with nature.... thoughtless, worryless, careless. until a damn ant started dancing around on my face, upon which I jumped up and quickly started to run again. Ahhh that stupid ant, but instead of being annoyed that it interupted me, i was thankful that i got that moment of solitude and peace.
In autum nature strips itself bare and dies, only to be revived and start afresh with the next coming spring. So its not death, its just a temporary break, to strengthen and be ready to be lush and beautiful for the months its needed to be. Maybe we need to allow ourselves such a break too, to strip ourselves bare, regroup and be ready for the next season with a fueled and calm tank.

I hit the valley, where I thought I would stop and go back with the train, but I couldn't. I just couldn't get enough of that day, of living in that moment. So Forest Gump style, I stopped, turned around and kept running. At that point it started to dawn on me what people mean by "living in the moment". We get so caught up in planning ahead, trying to create and ideal life, an ideal world that we forget to appreciate the things that are right infront of us. They are simple things that can bring so much joy into your life.

A leaf on the tee branch has no other choice than to live in the moment. It flutters in the direction the wind blows, it showers itself in the drops that the rain pours onto it, it grows and creates its own unique shape, it changes in color as it matures. Maybe we should all take a leaf out of the leafs book and enjoy "the moment".