What’s the point of my story anyway?

I often wonder why I bother to blog about my journey through an eating disorder.

Who really cares

Who’s going to actual read it

What difference will it make

Will it even make any difference

But today someone reached out to me and God gently said…

“This is why I asked you to do it”

My story, are you sure?? Um, ok then God 😯 I’ll get to it!

I think I grew up with a tricky relationship with food. Food was comfort, food was forgetting, food was hiding, food was reward and it was punishment.

What it should have been was JUST FOOD!

Why couldn’t it have just been food?

Do you know what I discovered just this week? Food is neither food nor bad! REV…E…LATION!!

I have lived for so long, far too long, with a black and white view that some foods were “bad” and others were “good” and if I ate too much of the “bad” then I would need to punish myself by either restricting food or using exercise as a retribution.

Who can live like that?

I’ll tell you who…NO-ONE!! If you live with a lens of “bad” and “good” then the foods that are “good” become less and less and the foods that are “bad” become more and more so that all your left with is celery! And who really like celery? (If you really do then that’s fine., no judgement here 😆).

That isn’t living, that’s just existing, and that is no way to live! (Side note, when I typed existing it came up with exhausting, coincidence? I don’t think so!)

So why do I write my story? What is the point of going over painful, dark times? Why not just leave it in the past?

Truthfully, It still helps me in my own journey, it brings healing to the parts of me I’ve neglected, it brings me wisdom and growth and it bring moments of clarity.

But it also serves a purpose, what a waste it would be to journey through all of that and then hide it away, what good does that do? For me or anyone else.

I’ll tell you something, I’m not ashamed of the eating disorder that tried to destroy my life, I won’t give it that power. It tried to steal so much from me and for a long time it got away with it. But now it’s out in the light, it still does have a little hold on me, it’s claws still try to pull me back down into secrecy, shame and hiding but in the light I can see it for the insidious thing that it is and I won’t give it that satisfaction!

Skinny=Beautiful

This is the lie that an eating disorder and a distorted view of body image has left me with.

Well I’ve just jumped right into it haven’t I. No point beating around the bush is there!

I’ve said before that after having kiddo number 3 I became obsessed with exercise and my diet. In my life I felt out of control so I tried to find areas I could control – food and exercise, and then I went extreme! The thing about eating disorders is that while you think your in control it’s actually the eating disorder slowly taking control of you. It turns you into a secretive deceitful shell of yourself. I know this because it still whispers “go get some laxatives, but don’t tell Carl, he’ll only be disappointed in you…AGAIN!” You find yourself believing the lie, that somehow this time you will remain in control, that things won’t get out of hand, that you’ll only use them once, ok maybe twice, that you won’t risk your health like you did last time. And then your on the bottom step, covered in sweat thinking your going to throw up or pass out and you’ve fallen for the lie again.

INSANITY!!

He’s pretty smart isn’t he. How annoying!!

For the past 9 years I seem to have tried the same things over and over and over and yet I’m still surprised when the results are the same. Why do we not learn? Or is it just me?

Even now, 9 years later I still swing violently from depriving myself to splurging. Thankfully not quite to the same extremes but still with the feelings of guilt and shame attached. For me it is still all or nothing. And the message on loud repeat in my head is that being skinny = beautiful and confident and because I’m not skinny I must therefore be fat, disgusting and repulsive.

I read the statement this morning “Deprivation will never lead to lasting results”. Well that sucks doesn’t it because that’s the only tool I have and if I don’t employ that tool then I’m only left with what I had before – overeating and purging.

So where do I go from here? To be honest I’m not really sure.

I know that balance and moderation are the key but I find it hard to see how that works for me in reality. I know that laxatives are not the answer and nor is restricting my diet any further.

So you’ll see that this isn’t a post where I can share some lesson I’ve learned, because I don’t seem to have learnt anything from my past behaviour. The goal still seems to be skinny over healthy, skinny over sensible, skinny over maintainable. I wish it wasn’t like that but it is. I can’t give the scales up and just be happy in my body even though the scales torment me.

I think I need to work on honesty, both with myself and with Carl, less of the secrecy and shame behaviours and possibly some external wisdom. Trusting that I’m not alone in my mess and that some good can and will come from my struggles. The big thing for me is to try to be open about it, to remove some of the shame, hopefully both for myself and for others.

I think I might be racist , are you?

I haven’t written a blog post for months, to be honest lockdown has just ticked along and there hasn’t been much on my heart to write about, who really wants to hear me going on about homeschooling and overeating?!

Until the last few weeks that is. This blog post has niggled away at me for days now, I’ve tried to ignore it but it just won’t go away, it refuses to be silenced.

So I have to put pen to paper and here I sit, writing down the thoughts and feelings that twist inside and make me feel uneasy and ashamed. Things I don’t want to admit to myself let alone to you.

For me, this quote summed it up perfectly. I, like you I’m sure, have watched events unfold in America and here in the UK, I have felt anger and pain at the suffering of black people, I have tried to educated myself more on the #BLM and yet I have said nothing. I have eased my conscience by following more black men and women on twitter and Instagram but I have said NOTHING! I have not used my voice!

Because what is there for me to say? A white, middle class woman in rural Sussex. I mean come on!! But then this quote popped into my head this morning and I could avoid it no longer.

How many racist stories have I listened to in the past week where a black person has been targeted by a white person and other people have stood by and said nothing. They felt uncomfortable by a situation they knew was wrong and yet they said nothing or even worse they simply walked away.

This just isn’t good enough, in a world where we fight for equality how can this still be happening? Why are people still being discriminated against because of the colour of their skin? Why is it still ‘ok’ for racist and offensive slurs to be made against another human being? Stories of monkey noises and people being told to “go back home”. I listen to stories and hear countless accounts of racism, it’s not just a one off here or there, it’s repeated again and again. Children frightened for the safety of their parents?

And it’s not acceptable!!

Yet all the while we stay quiet and say nothing what message do we send? What is my silence saying?

Chrissy Rutherford ( BAZAAR contributing editor) said “I think if you are not Black and you are not sharing what’s going on and talking about it, to me, you’re sending a message that you agree with what is going on.”

And I most definitely do NOT again with what is going on. I hate that we live in a world where a message of ALL LIVES MATTER is being preached and yet people don’t truly believe that message, how can all lives matter if black lives matter less than white lives? I hate that we live in a world where I am treated differently based on the colour of my skin. I am less likely to be stopped by police, less likely to be followed in a store and the list goes on. You just have to watch any of the ‘check your privilege’ videos

How can all lives matter when violent protests take place and innocent lives are caught up in the middle? Like so many have already say, ALL LIVES MATTER cannot be true until BLACK LIVES MATTER is true.

So I’m not going to continue to stay silent, I not going to passively agreeing with what is going on in OUR world because I most certainly do not! I will continue to educate myself and my family more, I will look for more diversity and I will use my voice.

What are you going to do?

Is it really ok not to be ok?

It’s a statement I hear and see a lot. I even say it to people on a regular bases.

But today, having felt pretty low for a bit I wondered whether it’s something I actually really believe to be true.

Is it ok not to be ok?

Let me go back in time just a little…

A couple of months ago I noticed my mood taking a bit of a nose dive. Linked I think to the fact that I hurt myself running and wasn’t able to get outside running.

It was incredible how quickly my mood went downhill and other forms of exercise just didn’t seem to give the same boost as running gave me.

During this time I started to get angry very quickly and over silly little things – there was a lot of overreacting to things and getting hurt by petty little things.

I reached a point where I realised something more was going on and so I self referred for some CBT (thanks to Carl’s job and a good diocese!)

I have now had a handful of sessions of CBT and she is right when she said things would get worse before they got better! I’m emotionally drained and tired, I get angry and snappy very quickly, I’ve emotionally and verbally shutdown as it feels letting people in and talking is too much of an effort.

I know what your thinking, (or I think I know what your thinking 🙂) she sounds depressed and maybe she should go on medication.

Been there, done that, got the T-shirt!

(That sounds flippant and it isn’t meant to)

I don’t want to go back on medication, and that is a personal choice! Everyone is different and while it works for some, it doesn’t for others. Some people are happy to be on antidepressants long term, others use them to lift their head above the cloud to get some clarity. This time I want to try the CBT first, I want to try exercise as a way to boost my mood. Like I said, personal choice!

So we come around to my question, is it ok not to be ok?

And you know what, I don’t think it is!

It’s not ok to feel shit

It’s not ok to shut people out

It’s not ok to just survive

It’s not ok to feel like you’d like to press pause on your life

It’s not ok to feel like your just holding on by a thread

It’s not ok to feel like you’d just like to leave for a bit

It’s not ok to feel angry and isolated and numb all at the same time

It’s not bloody ok!

But you know what is ok? Letting other people know! Being vulnerable and open and taking the mask down and letting people see what’s behind it. That is ok!

So this is me doing that, it’s scary and it makes me feel a bit sick but it’s me sticking two fingers up and saying

YOU WONT BEAT ME!!

Things I’ve learnt from my journey with mental health

Before I start I feel like I need to punctuate this by saying I can only speak from my personal experience with depression and anxiety. And even if we have both walk through depression our experience will vary enormously. There are many areas of mental I have no direct experience of so can only try and listen and empathise with your story in a bid to learn more.

Having said that, one of the things I know about struggling with your mental health is that it is a liar and it will do it’s very best to isolate you.

It will strike at the very core of you and tell you that you are alone in what you are facing. That if you are courageous enough to reach out for help and support that you will be rejected and judged, looked at and treated differently. That in the very act of asking for help you are somehow weak and pathetic, unable to ‘fix’ whatever has ‘gone wrong’, whatever it was that you must have done to end up in this place of suffering. That the God in whom you put your trust has turned his face away from you, unable to even look at you and unwilling to rescue you.

It will target your confidence, your self worth and identity. It will tell you that you are failing as a wife/husband, mother/father, daughter/son, sister/brother, teacher/friend/human being. It will tell you that you have failed and let down those you are supposed to love the most.

It will be ruthless and unrelenting in its pushing, poking and prodding until you feel you have nothing left, until you feel completely broken, and that you truly are all of those things it says about you.

But here is the truth. What we believe to be true and what is actually true is not always that same and what we feel cannot always be trusted as being truth. Just because I believe something about myself or my situation does not make it truth!

When our mental health is not in a good way we may believe we are better off alone, shutting ourselves away, not burdening others with our problems but that is not how we would expect someone else who was struggling to behave. We encourage others to reach out and talk to people, to seek help where needed but we rarely take that onboard for ourselves, yet the Bible says

How would I want to be treated by those around me when I am struggling, what would I want them to do with and for me? Why is it so much easier to be the helper and supporter than it is to be the one receiving those things?

I was reminded this afternoon of the Footprints poem, about how when life is going well we can clearly see God walking with us, it’s easier to live in his blessing and trust in the promises for our lives and yet when we face trials, struggles and darkness we can often wonder where God is in that. Why are certain things being ‘allowed’ to happen and what will God do through it all. Will we even come out of the other side.

When I am finding things difficult and hard I cling on to the truth that God is in it, that I can trust him and he will never, NEVER abandon me. I may feel alone but that does not make it true.

So whatever you are facing, you are not alone in it. God is guiding and carrying you. He is and has placed people in your life ready to listen to your heartache and offer comfort simply through their presence not necessarily by offering solutions but by offering of themselves.

What a wonderful gift we can be onto others and can also receive for ourselves.

Brittany runs a marathon

Last night I watched this wonderful heart warming movie about turning your life around, believing in yourself and wanting something better for yourself.

It tells the story of Brittany, an overweight and unhealthy almost 30 year old who is told by her doctor that, for health reasons, she needs to lose around 50lbs, she jokes that this is the size of a Siberian husky dog!

There is this scene near the beginning where Brittany is psyching herself up to go for a run, the strength and courage it takes for her to just open to door to the street is massive, but she does it. She is bold and pushes through the fear to something amazing on the other side.

I found myself relating to a lot of this movie, unlike Brittany I don’t need to lose 50lbs but I fully understood how obsessive she became about running, how she became so focused on what she was eating and drinking, how she pushed herself beyond her limits and ending up with an injury which meant she was unable to run the New York marathon (the goal she had set herself).

There are moments in the film where Brittany suffers set backs with food and drink but somehow she finds it within herself to put those things down, knowing that ultimately she is worth more than the quick fix they will bring her.

Oh how I would love to get to that place!

I got how a lot of Brittany’s friends saw her as ‘the fat funny one’ and mocked her for running and believing that she could be a serious runner, one of her ‘friends’ even said to her that she shouldn’t throw away her fat clothes as she would be needing them again. Why do we often feel that in order to make ourselves feel better we have to tear down others around us? That we find it so hard to celebrate others achievements?

But the thing I related to most was how Brittany struggles to believe that the people around her actually care about her, not from pity or sympathy but out of genuine love for her and wanting to support and encourage her, time and again she turns down their offers and kindness and she pushes them away. Why do we often push others away and think we can do better on our own? When in reality, being on our own just leaves us isolated and hurting?

I know that running gives my mental health a boost, and I know that since hurting my knee my sense of well-being has dropped, my mood is low and I’m frustrated. But I also know that it is now that I need to reach out to others, knowing that I am not a burden to them but that actually they would want to support me, if like Brittany in the end, if I can let them in and give them a chance!

I love you Brittany!!

What’s your motivation?

Last week I decided that I was going to begin a runstreak. I had signed up to do RED January (which is where you are active everyday during January).

“What’s a runstreak?” I hear you ask. Basically it’s when you run everyday, any distance over 1 mile, but you go everyday, no rest days.

So your second questions is probably “Why would you do that?”

Back in October I did my first half marathon and even though I’d put the training in I didn’t manage to run all of it and I ran it slower than I had hoped to. Because of that I didn’t really allow myself to celebrate the achievement of travelling 13.1 miles, which really should have been a huge achievement. My dad reminded me afterwards that not many people do park runs or can run 5k, fewer people manage to run 10K and even fewer people do half marathons or more.

So after the half marathon I felt quite flat and low (which is why I signed up for RED January, hoping it would boost my mental health), I didn’t even run for a couple of weeks, then, as I said, last week I decided to get back to it. My aim with the runstreak was to improve my stamina and endurance and to hopefully pick up my pace a little.

However, by day 6 my knee was complaining about the extra running and despite having only started the streak less than a week ago I was already feeling like I couldn’t stop and if I quit I would be some kind of failure.

Today I started to panic about what might happen if I missed a day due to being ill or having some family commitment. Would I get up crazy early or go out late at night just to get my runstreak in? And I realised that my thinking was starting to become a little obsessive about the runstreak. Maybe you’d already noticed that by the number of times I’ve written ‘runstreak’ in this post!

This shouldn’t have really come as much of a surprise to me but it did. I know I’ve had obsessive thinking in the past when it comes to exercise and food, but every time I tell myself that I will be able to manage and stay in control this time, that it won’t go to the extreme that it did last time.

And then I’m reminded how when we are trying to control and manage our lives that is when things start not going so well.

Why do I always think I can do God’s role far better than He can? Why do I not trust Him for my life and why do I feel like I need to be in control for things to be ok? For me to ‘be ok’?

Because at the moment, with me being ‘in control’ things aren’t going that well. I’m pushing myself to do something which has caused my body to suffer and still all I think is

Just push through it, keep going, because if you stop you’re a pathetic waste of space, you’ve told everyone that your doing a runstreak and you’ve failed, how humiliating and embarrassing, don’t you look stupid

So I think as hard as it is, I may need to let go of this runstreak and not allow it to hold me prisoner to it. I need to give myself the permission to stop, to not force myself to run in the pelting rain like some badge of honour and not to force myself to keep pushing even when I’m in pain. That is the surest and fastest way to get me to hate running and at the moment I do love it, it is my time to clear my head, boost my mood and chat to my running mummy friends. But I don’t think I need to do it religiously everyday in order to get that, because that is putting my faith in the wrong thing! Running is not my religion!

I just ran a half marathon but…

In the days leading up to my half marathon I was thinking about the post I would write afterwards. Full of positivity about how we can achieve anything if we are willing to put the time and effort in. How we should never listen to those who say we can’t do this or that or mock us for even trying.

In honesty, I was planning on setting myself up as the champion of the underdog. #teamunderdog

Yet in the moments after crossing the finish line I did not feel a soaring sense of pride of achievement but of deflation and sadness. A feeling of frustration as the thoughts of how I could have done better, been better/faster/fitter.

I faced a barrage of disappointment and a sense of shame, all from myself, telling myself the lie that no one believed I would actually be able to do it and thinking that to truly prove myself then I would have to do another and do it faster.

One was a fluke, she’d never manage to do that again

It wasn’t a marathon though was it

Though if I did a marathon I’d tell myself it wasn’t an ultra marathon. It’s never good enough is it!

Yet this morning it dawned on me that all the while we measure our sense of worth against what we achieve we will always fall short, we will never make the grade or meet the expectation. We will always be disappointed and desperate to have another go just to give us a sense of worthiness and validation.

In Church this morning I said that we are all called to run our individual races, the pace and distance set by God.

Am I running my own race in line with what God is asking of me or am I looking for approval in the wrong places? Maybe also not helped by the questions of what my finish time was or whether I ran it all.

Listening to myself and minimising the success and not to God has robbed me from celebrating the massive achievement of running 13.1 miles.

I achieved something not many people do. I put the training in for months and I earned the medal just as much as the people who finished before me and after me. We all covered the same 13.1 miles!

Will I do another half marathon? Yes I most likely will. Will I want to do better than I did last Sunday? Yes probably, and my hope is that I will look to God to tell me how I’ve done and not to others.

Laxatives are not my god!

It would be quite fair to say I have not been in a good place for a few months now.

I think it probably started with some critical voices creeping back into my head; you know, the good old ones that tell you your so insignificant that you could never be of any use to another human being. And from there triggered the old physical self loathing. Which is pretty annoying as I had been in a good place of believing God loved me as I was and not more if I weighed less of the scales!

So self loathing and disgust crept quietly back in, “look at your tummy, your thighs, your enormous bottom, your wobbly arms and double chins, you make me feel sick! 🤢

And then a couple of weekends ago I did my 10K with my Dad aka Mr Coach, it it was a great weekend, a bit slower than I would have liked (I blamed the heat of London) and then I got to see my race pictures! And they confirmed all the horrible thoughts of been thinking about myself. There was no ‘good’ picture, I looked hideous in everyone of them, you could see the shockwaves run up my leg as my foot struck the ground. In one picture I looked like I was about to die my face was so contorted. I was mortified and humiliated and I hit the bottom. And all the things I should have believed about myself were pushed out by all the lies that swarmed around the outside.

That was all it took to rush to the shops and get that packet of laxatives, knowing immediately that I wouldn’t stick to the recommended dose. And I used them for a couple of days. If I’m truly honest I loved the feeling of it, the post high but I also felt deceitful so I told Carl and handed them over, both relieved and disappointed that I could t keep taking them.

Then we went away and had the ‘blow up’ I mentioned the other day, and that just ripped me apart and sent me straight back to the laxatives. This time not telling Carl and hiding them from him.

I was low, hurting, feeling rejected, I’d pushed Carl away, I was ignoring God and all the ways He was reaching out to me, my running wasn’t going very well post 10K and this was a small way I could claw back some control in my life.

Only this pack of laxatives ran out this morning and we are due to go away again tomorrow.

I forced myself out for a run this morning, planning to do some hill and speed work as I know my endurance is rubbish at the moment. As left the house I was working out how to sneakily buy laxatives today and where I could hide them while we were away so Carl wouldn’t spot them.

I know, excellent wife and mother!!

I got to the place I was going to use for my speed work and scrolled through my music library for something to get me going. And I landed on this (which I haven’t listened to for months)

Hannah Kerr – Warrior

Staring down the face of fear
Gotta keep breathing
When the negative is all you hear
Gotta keep believing

‘Cause in the dark there is a light
Your truth it keeps on burning bright
Brave enough to fight the fight
And shout the battle cry

You’ll never stop me, I’m a warrior
When I fall down I get stronger
Faith is my shield, His love is the armour

Every scar on my skin
Is a beautiful reminder
Of a moment when I didn’t give in
And I walked through fire

I will keep the hope alive
I will find the strength inside
I will keep the hope alive
Warrior

And in that moment God gently said to me

All you’ve done is fall down, and it’s your choice if you stay down, I can help you get back up and oh my girl you will be stronger for it

In that moment it felt like after all those months of brokenness, that something finally broke in me, something was released. Everything I’d been holding so tightly to keep me ‘safe and protected’, the shutdown emotions, everyone I’d been holding at arms length, God just gently washed over it and breathed life back in. I can’t really explain it but I know in my walk home from my run that there were some breakthrough tears (awkward, thankfully there was no one around to see). But it was healing and refreshing and lightened my spirit.
So I packed up my idea to continue being deceitful and my plan buy laxatives this afternoon. Will I be tempted again? Probably, will I buy them again? I don’t know.
All I know right now is that, yes I stumbled and fell over, and for a while I wasn’t able to get back up again, I couldn’t see how to, probably because I was trying to do it in my own strength and that NEVER works! But this morning, in Gods grace I was able to get back up again, and I’m stronger for it!

Lord, let my story be a glimpse of Your glory

Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me!

I don’t think there has ever been a more untrue, careless or stupid saying!

Sticks and stone may very well break my bones but words carry far more power. They bring life, they can uplift us, they build you up and encourage, they can motivate, inspire and bring hope or they can bring death, they can tear you down, they can rip you to pieces, they can discourage, demotivate, crush and destroy us.

I was reminded of the power of words just recently and it highlighted just how fragile we can be when someone speaks life or death over us.

A short time ago I was spending time with someone who felt I did something which deeply upset them, and BOY did they let me know how rude and insensitive I was in my disrespectful behaviour towards them and in their home!

It’s fair to say I was knocked sideways!

Now I have no problem with someone letting me know if I’ve hurt them, if they can do so in a loving manner but this was something else, it was extremely emotional, it was bitter, excessively critical and harsh and it was deeply hurtful to me.

I was reminded of something we’ve used with our children and I try to implement it myself whenever I’m speaking with others.

Now this was none of those things! And it ate at me for days afterwards. I replayed it in my mind to see if there was any justification for it, for ways I could have acted differently to prevent it, while the other party carried on as if nothing had been said.

Now this person knows nothing of my mental well-being, my history with depression and eating disorders or the fact that I have and still do use food as a form of self soothing when I’m hurting. They had absolutely no idea. They just reacted.

And it just makes me this how we can do often speak things over others with no idea of what may be going on for them privately. This person had no idea that I was already feeling vulnerable and how I was already engaging in destructive forms of behaviour. They simply reacted to something they believed I had done. They had no idea that in response to their treatment of me that I would put barriers up around myself to keep not only them out but also caught Carl up in the exclusion. They had no idea that in protecting myself from further hurt that I would go out and buy laxatives as a coping mechanism. Something I haven’t turned to in YEARS!!

Now none of my responses are their responsibility, I don’t blame them for the choices I subsequently made but I do hold them responsible for the way in which they very poorly dealt with a situation which could have been resolved and explained much more gently and for the fact that my children overheard every word spoken and yet didn’t fully understand what was being said, for that I’m incredibly angry.

So it’s a reminded not just for myself of the power our words have when directed at other people.

SO PLEASE…