Tuesday, June 26, 2012

June challenge 26: purpose

Purpose (or lack of it) is crucial for the function of the ED. After I handed in my PhD thesis (exactly 2 years ago, give or take 4 days - 30th June 2010), instead of the joy and celebration that I'd been expecting, I was hit by a strong feeling of pointlessness and worthlessness. The thing for which I'd been working over the past 3 and a half year was over; I'd not been successful in any job applications so I had nothing pencilled in for the future. My life seemed totally empty and had no purpose. The corollary to this was believing that I had no purpose. There was no point in being me, no reason for me to live.

It's easy to see how this absence of purpose allows anorexia to strengthen. If you wake up in the morning unable to face all of the hours in the day, subconsciously, ED thinking enables you to get through those hours. It sets its own challenges and its own rules. Living up to those lessens the feelings of desolation.

In 2010, I wasn't well enough to sustain myself through the desolation. Six months after handing in my PhD, I was in hospital again. Funnily enough, my discharge date was 29th June 2011 almost exactly a year after handing in my PhD. Since then, I've been having to work on believing that there is a reason for me, that I'm not pointless, even without those external things by which other people measure success or value.

It's incredibly hard. Especially because the current government's desire to carry out welfare reforms involves a lot of spin about how people on disability benefits are often scroungers. The more you hear it in the media, the more you believe it about yourself. I've set myself up as a freelance proofreader for my  "permitted work" that is part of ESA (up to 16 hours per week or up to £97). My aim is to make the transition to supporting myself without ESA. However, I'm following the medics' advice and taking things one step at a time.

Of course, the most important thing is to believe that there is value just in being me. I would tell a friend that they have a purpose simply in being alive, whether they are currently unable to work, or a stay-at-home mum, or a top academic, or a teacher, or a dinner lady: whatever. We all need to believe that about ourselves: because that belief would make it much harder for the anorexia or ED to set itself up as our purpose.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

June challenge 23: soul

The word 'soul' makes me think of spirituality. In hospital last year, some of us asked whether it would be possible for the hospital chaplain to run a group on EDs, recovery and our spiritual life. In the UK, it's not possible for nurses and doctors to discuss matters of faith; there are examples of people being struck off or reprimanded for offering to pray with a patient, for example. However, if religion has been an important part of someone's life with their ED, it's vital that issues of spirituality are addressed on the road to recovery. I have made friends of various religious backgrounds through ED treatment: Judaism; Islam; Hinduism; Christianity; atheism; agnosticism.

My own experience is Christian so my writing today will focus on that. For me, there are aspects of Christianity that underline ED thinking, from lines in the Communion service ("We are not worthy to gather up the crumbs from under the table"), the notion of social justice (it's not right for me to participate in a society of vile consumerism while there are people in the world who are suffering), guilt (when we confess to God "the sins we have done and the good we have not done"), etc. Most interestingly for me, as a medievalist, is the history of Christian ascetics, especially women, whose spiritual "excellence" is predicated on their ability to fast. I remember reading the Life of Christina of Markyate for my MPhil. Even though she lived in the first part of the 12th century, I found the account of her life to be triggering: it described in great detail the extent of her restriction and the physical effects on her body. Indeed, there has been research over the past few decades on the notion of "holy anorexia".

For me, my background means that I feel more kinship with the 12th century 'holy anorexics' than with the notion that the fashion industry may be a contributing factor in EDs. I've always had a shaky sense of self worth and I have realised that I internalised a lot of the self-denial and guilt aspects of Christianity as a child. We even sang a song in our children's choir whose chorus went 'Deny yourself, pick up your cross and follow Jesus' (a quotation from Matthew's gospel). Therefore, self denial in all its forms (restriction of food intake, not allowing myself to sit on comfy seats or watch tv, etc) became a way to replace my absent self esteem.

I think that those involved with treatment and recovery, even if they themselves have no experience of religion, need to be conscious that various religious traditions can impact on the way that someone experiences their ED. Without addressing those internalised beliefs, it is hard to make recovery lasting and meaningful.

Friday, June 22, 2012

June challenge 22: home

I started writing something here. Then felt unsure of posting my initial thoughts (home made me think of moving house and the impact that various moves in my childhood had on my sense of self); I didn't feel able to bring up all those emotions tonight.

So I closed my blogger.com page and went to Google Reader instead. The first thing to appear was this post by Tracey at Just as I am.

Her words give us all something to strive for: if moving house shatters a fragile sense of self, we need to realise that the only home that matters is inside us.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

June 21: fight

Today I've been part of a fight. It has nothing to do with EDs but is connected with one of my most important hobbies: knitting (and most of the earlier entries on the blog are knitting related).
Last night, it emerged that the US Olympic Committee wrote a 'cease and desist' letter to Casey, the founder of Ravelry, about our wonderful event 'The Ravelympics'. Gawker picked up the story and so did Hot Air (and their coverage of the story enables us to forgive them for characterising all knitters as 'old ladies'). #ravelympics was trending on Twitter. The USOC Facebook page was inundated with comments; their email address was removed from their website after the volume of messages caused their system to crash.
Earlier on, an apology was issued. It was then updated to reflect further outrage that the USOC seemed to think that their 'show of support' for Ravelry would be to ask us to send them knitted items. Raveler "Jinniver" wrote a great post about it on her blog. The latest apology is more acceptable. But no one knows whether Casey and the Ravelry team are going to continue to face further action over the Ravelympics name.

None of this is ED-related. BUT it does show that fighting brings progress - whether we are fighting against the petty brand enforcement of an organisation that's terrified of losing support of its corporate sponsors, or whether our fight is the day-to-day internal struggle to allow ourselves to eat, to rest, to be well.

June challenge 20: compliment

More Big Bang Theory (I was so chuffed to get comments on my last post from other June challenge bloggers who also love BBT!):

Penny: Your hair looks very nice.
Amy: Are you a homosexual?
Penny: No. No. I was just giving you a compliment.
Amy: Oh. I would have been more flattered if you were a homosexual.

Compliments are tricky because the sentiment of giving one does not guarantee the sentiment in which it will be received. The most frequent misinterpreted compliment in EDs - and most particularly in recovery - is when someone says 'You look well.' This seems to translate directly into 'You look fat' in the head of someone with an ED, especially if we know that we've been working hard on recovery and have put on weight. It was something discussed often in my ED unit, especially in Monday morning support group when everyone was talking through their weekend leave. Nurses would point out that, to friends and family, looking 'well' could mean anything: being less pale, having better hair condition and brighter skin, not about to die, etc., etc. .... and, yes, looking as though one has put on weight. But, if you've become ill enough with anorexia to be hospitalised, you probably need to put on weight and even though it feels impossibly difficult, as recovery happens, this is something that people will say. Even if every single time it happens we have to go through all the reasons why it's ok to hear this, we must do it. Otherwise 'you're looking well' can be fuel to the fire of the illness.

Monday, June 18, 2012

June challenge 18: Laughter

I've recently started watching The Big Bang Theory. I love it! And when I read today's prompt, I decided that a video was the way to go. I can't watch this without laughing, even if the laugh is a quiet smile in a day of feeling low or tired. I hope that it brings smiles to your faces too :-D

I'd like Sheldon to speak for himself.

But to stay on track with the challenge I will just say that laughter has been an important part of my own recovery path, whether communal infectious giggles with friends in the hospital over stupid things nurses or doctors have said or even laughing with hindsight about some of the ridiculous things that the ED has made me do in the past such as my firm belief that hot water would make me fat because of the kinetic energy (*headdesk*), or feeding my rabbit soda bread in the early hours of the morning because I couldn't stop baking and I had no idea what to do with all the food...

Those things were horrible to live through. I suppose I can laugh now because recovery *does* help us get our humour back. It's something that professionals at hospital have said to me: when I am first admitted, I am a shell of a person, frightened to be, scared to take up space. In a few months, more *me* appears... I can allow myself to share my humour with other people. I want to hold onto *me* and not to return to that shell.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

June challenge 17: End

Endings are hard. I associate the word with pain. We moved house first when i was two and I could only cope by sitting on the floor with photo albums as the removal men packed up the house around us.
Since then, there have been many more endings: leaving Harpenden when I was 9 and the anguish at being separated from my friends; leaving Solihull at 16 then a month later leaving home to go to boarding school... two years after that, the pain at leaving that school and my very close friends was just as bad. I could go on.
However, in typing this, it is clear that each painful ending has been followed by another one precisely because that ending has been a new beginning. If I'd remained deeply unhappy at leaving Harpenden and had not been able to move on and make new friends and find a new life in Solihull, my pain when leaving there at 16 would not have existed.

This kind of reminds me of the metaphor of anorexia as a life raft in a shipwreck. It manages to keep you afloat in a time of deep turmoil but you have to let go of it in order to swim to the ship that has come to rescue you. But letting go is terrifying: how do you know that you will reach the ship? isn't it more likely that you'll drown in the space between the two. Yet the ship represents safety: a new beginning.

The ending point of an ED, the start of the recovery process... these things are terrifying. They will cause all sorts of pain and anguish. But we have to trust that time will allow us to find safety in something better: in life; in living; in finding and being ourselves.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

In the news/ June challenge 16: beginning

I wanted to get back on track with the June challenge but I've been very affected by a story in the news today. The BBC has summarised it thus: "A woman with "severe" anorexia who wanted to be allowed to die is to be force fed in her "best interests" by order of a High Court judge.
Mr Justice Peter Jackson declared that the 32-year-old from Wales, who cannot be identified, did not have the capacity to make decisions for herself."
This has raised all sorts of questions in my head. Clearly, the resonances with my own life are huge. I was 32 when I was sectioned under the Mental Health Act so that the hospital had the power to make me stay and to give me nutrition via an NG tube. It was not my first hospital admission; however, even though assessment under the Mental Health Act had been mentioned in previous admissions, on those times, I'd somehow been able to make the decision to stay and to assent to NG feeding if I was not able to feed myself.
I'm not certain why this particular case has reached the High Court. The Mental Health Act is usually enough to resolve things. One psychiatrist interviewed on Radio 4 news earlier said that the Mental Capacity Act is also available in such situations. The article suggests that the lady (known as E to protect her identity) and her treatment team had been following a palliative care plan. I think it implies that her family had reservations and this is why the case has reached the court system.
I'm incredibly torn about this. I've heard friends screaming as they are force-fed with an NG tube. It's distressing even if you aren't physically fighting against it. The judge has said "I have been struck by the fact that the people who know E best do not favour further treatment. They think that she has had enough and believe that her wishes should be respected.
"They believe she should be allowed a dignified death." He also points out that forcefeeding "does not merely entail bodily intrusion of the most intimate kind, but the overbearing of E's will in a way that she experiences as abusive".
But this judge also notes that while E is gravely ill, he does not believe she is incurable. And this is so, so crucial to this case: while E may not currently have any hope for her life, I know from experience that, after the horror of starting treatment without any sense that one's life has a point or is worth saving, life begins to open up possibilities. I'm still scared of the future; I'm scared that I will never get any better and will never have a family of my own or be well enough to work in a fulfilling career that can sustain my independence. And sometimes my low mood makes it hard to get through all of the hours in the day. However, I can't express how glad I am that the doctors and nurses thought it was worth taking over for me when I was unable to help myself get better. A year on and I have new friends, two dogs snuggled up on my lap as I type and I've met three new babies (belonging to friends) whose lives I would have missed if I'd not made it through the end of 2010.
So finally I've realised that this does relate to today's word: beginning. The High Court ruling is a new beginning for E. I don't know E but I hope and pray that this moment marks the start of hope for her. Even though she can't hope for herself right now, Mr Justice Jackson has hope for E. I have hope for E. I hope that the horror of facing the first weeks of refeeding passes without too much pain and trauma. I hope that gradually she begins to have moments of joy, whether it's from the sun shining on a summer flower or a smile from a friend's baby or a shared laugh with a friend in hospital. And I hope that she begins to believe that recovery is possible.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

June challenge 13: Perfect.

My perfectionism is infamous. I've been seeing the same psychologist (off and on) since 1999 and he's told me that he uses me as an example of perfectionism when he's teaching. One of the stories is when I did my final exams at Cambridge for my undergrad degree. Overall, I got a first, which meant that I achieved a double first as the grade for my degree, which is the highest possible grade. However, all I could focus on was the one exam where I had not achieved a first. The mark for that paper was the lowest in all of the exams I did as an undergrad; obviously, it didn't affect my result. However, even now (7 years later), I feel bad even writing about the results of the exam. Logically I know that it's nothing to be ashamed of... it was a mark within the 2.i boundary...blah blah. However, my perfectionism stops me from being happy about my degree result because of the one paper in which I failed to meet my expectations.

This psychologist is pretty perfectionist himself (he admits to once asking his 9 year old son 'What did you get wrong?' when he got 19/20 on a test.... then remembered that, psychologically speaking, it would have been more preferable to first of all say 'Well done'...); in and of itself, it doesn't have to negatively impact on someone's life. I think my perfectionism is one of the reasons why I've been able to achieve academically and it's currently enabling me to work, part-time, as a proofreader.

But the perfectionism intertwines itself with the anorexia. If I am at a point in life where I feel unsure or insecure of my self (I don't know who I am or consider myself to be pointless or worthless) the temptation is to set myself standards in terms of food, weight or shape and then pressurise myself to meet those standards. Of course, the nature of anorexia is to keep shifting where the standards lie and once the standards become too extreme, the spiral can only be downwards.

Since it's clear that sometimes it's ok to demand high standards of myself, in terms of work or even in hobbies like my knitting, I've been working on identifying where it doesn't have to be perfect. That might just be using a different spoon to eat cereal or choosing another mug to have my coffee in. It's easier to make those choices myself because otherwise life becomes a big mass of anxiety about when things aren't right or I can't control them.

Instead of spending a lot of time worrying about the perfect way to end this post and the perfect segue from the previous paragraph, I'll simply finish with the advice my maths teacher gave me before the GCSE maths exam: "Linda, you mustn't come out of the exam and get depressed if you realise you've done something wrong. The examiners only have 2 digit boxes to write the mark in, so even if a student got 100%, it would only be recorded as 99. The examiners aren't expecting perfection so you mustn't expect it of yourself".

Monday, June 11, 2012

June challenge 11: force

I am trying to be organic with this challenge and write about the first thing that pops into my mind when I read the day's word. Today, I saw 'force' and it immediately conjured up memories of time in hospital. The nature of anorexia and the infamous ambivalence towards treatment means that anyone who's been in hospital will have known people who've undergone compulsory treatment, even if they have not, themselves, experienced it.

Compulsion can be merely the threat of use of the Mental Health Act to force someone to comply with the ward's routines and regulations. Rarely, force is used physically. If a patient is being held according to a section of the Mental Health Act, nurses are able to restrain them in order to ensure that they comply with treatment. In the sphere of EDs, this is most often manifested as staff holding down a patient in order to site an NG tube and provide nutrition through the tube. (sometimes NG feeding is done on voluntary patients or on involuntary patients without restraint, because as an involuntary patient, you know that if you refuse the NG feed, restraint will be used).

I have never had to be restrained myself but know from experience that the atmosphere on the ward becomes very strained when someone is "refusing", and therefore (possibly) being restrained and tube fed after each of the 3 meals and 4 snacks in the day. The alarms will go off at several times through the day and staff from other wards respond to the alarm to assist with the restraint.

All the patients feel wretched for their friend/peer who is experiencing such a difficult time and also feel bad for the way that it affects them: feeling guilty for not refusing; feeling abandoned by the staff; just wanting not to be there.

In a way, these situations throw the whole experience of treatment into sharp relief and force us to examine our motivations for being there and whether we are complying with the demands of the staff simply because we are people-pleasers or avoiding conflict or to keep our families happy... Treatment is successful at keeping people with anorexia alive but often has little to do with the active process of recovery.

Recovery can't be forced on anyone. It's a gradual process that needs to come from within.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

June challenge 10: emotional

I find emotions hard to deal with. And therefore the experience of emotions can impact negatively on recovery. The past few months have been particularly tough in terms of life throwing up emotions : I've suffered a bereavement; the birth of a family baby has forced me to confront my own childlessness and its inextricability from my ED.
In fact, the main emotion that I find myself experiencing is sadness.

But I can recognise happiness too: when I held that baby, even in my sadness, I enjoyed being close to her tiny life and seeing her calm down when I sang to her.

And one of the worst feelings is the flatness. Flatness from low mood. Flatness from the medications.
Maybe even the difficulty of intense emotions is preferable to not being able to experience any emotion at all.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Catching up

I'm behind schedule with the June challenge. But for good reasons. Yesterday I was down at my brother's celebrating his birthday a day early. We played Top Golf and I baked him a cake. It was decorated like a camp fire (he's a cub scout leader and, if you like shouty silly slightly rude songs, he's quite a legendary campfire leader).

It was a milk and white choc chip madeira cake, iced with choc fudge (Betty Crocker) frosting, decorated with Cafe Curls and homemade honeycomb/cinder toffee. It seemed to go down well :-)

Today I have been at Edgbaston watching the test match with my father. Despite the rain washing out Thursday and Friday, we had a full day's play today and it was a nice atmosphere. 

I will try to write about some of the missed prompts over the next few days. I'm enjoying being part of the June challenge and seeing different viewpoints on recovery from people at different stages of recovery.

Friday, June 08, 2012

June challenge 7: honesty

Is it the best policy?
Sometimes. During the May HfC challenge, I challenged myself to share one post with my FB friends. This, to me, was scarier than sharing it within the HfC community. My FB friends know that I have anorexia but I have never before been able to be honest about the reality of my life, my darker thoughts, the way that the illness has impacted my experience of every day over the past few decades. My insides still flip over at the thought that I actually allowed people to read it.

On the other hand, the responses I got from people, whether in comments to my post or in private messages, was overwhelming. A few people wrote words of support that brought me to tears. By sharing, by being honest, I seemed to enable friends to be honest with me. Through this, I learned that various people truly value my friendship and even (perhaps) value me ... just for being me.

This is something to hold onto: being honest about my darkest times (when I don't like me, and don't want to be me) enabled people to say that they do value me.  And that's one step in learning to value myself.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

June challenge 6: warrior

I'm in the hate camp with this word. It's problematic in terms of many illnesses (I've read quite a few discussions of the word 'fight' in relation to cancer - and the way that it can unintentionally imply that people who don't survive simply didn't "fight" as hard as other people which is, of course, ridiculous).

With EDs, there is definitely an element of fighting. But I never feel like a warrior. To be honest, warrior brings to mind images of Beowulf and dramatic battles... and of victory.

Whereas my fight with anorexia is a tedious, on-going, unromantic struggle. There are no dramatic victories. The day-to-day battle with negative thoughts sometimes leads to a step forward. Sometimes it feels like I'm either going backwards or stuck in a painful stasis ... like the feeling of treading water to keep afloat and getting a stitch, being in pain, finding it hard to breathe. You know that you could just let go and let the water absorb you and at least the pain would be over. But the way that I am a warrior is, I suppose, in carrying on. And on. And on. And believing that one day, I'm not going to be treading water but will be moving, dancing and somersaulting, full of energy, reaching towards the shore.

Monday, June 04, 2012

June challenge 4: crazy

When I was a postgrad, some friends and I used to have a conference game: who could find the weirdest new literary theory. Many branches of theory seem to be concerned with taking the voice of a previously marginalised group and tracing it in works of literature. While feminism and post-colonialism have fairly neutral names, other groups have purposely reclaimed previously derogatory terms to identify themselves. So you have 'queer theory' and 'cripple theory'... and, memorably in one session at Leeds, 'queer cripple theory'. Apparently one scholar posed this question: "Are we queering cripple theory or crippling queer theory?" Even as literary students ourselves, we found this level of navel gazing to be rather amusing.

By now, I am pretty sure that there is a distinct genre of mental health literary theory. I'm not talking about old-fashioned psychoanalytic criticism, but rather about the idea of examining literature through the lens of marginalised characters with mental illness. If such a theory were to be added to existing branches of theory, 'crazy theory' would be as good a name as any. (My own contribution to this genre would be my analysis of Margery Kempe's crying as an articulation of self.)

I've never been 100% sure about the merits of "reclaiming" pejorative words. I'd be happier if words like 'cripple' were banished from our vocabulary; the negative associations are so great and the danger of childhood (and adult) bullying too real for such words ever to be used neutrally. And there's also a danger of hypocrisy: 'it's ok for me to call myself "crazy" but it's offensive for you to call me that'.

I read Arielle's post on this topic today and really like the way that, instead of "reclaiming" the word, she draws our attention to its other, more positive, meanings. Take a look.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

June challenge 3: power

(this is going to be a short post: I want to catch up before the end of the day)

Power. It's a jumble in EDs.

The anorexia has unspeakable power over you when it's at its strongest. And even when someone is fighting hard for recovery because those powerful anorexic thoughts don't want to let go.

Whether or not we want it, when we are in anorexic crisis periods, we have awful power over our families. Their lives are turned upside down and I can't even imagine the emotional impact on parents.

Paradoxically, when in treatment, the power that the anorexia holds over of us is replaced by the power of the nurses and doctors. That shift in the power balance is often the only way of forcing the anorexia to loosen its grip. But it can lead us to resent the very people who are trying to help us and to question the rules, sometimes even rebelling against them.

What we need, of course, is to find a way of reclaiming power for ourselves. In recovery, we won't need to be subjected to the power of the illness or the power of the nurses and our illnesses won't disempower our families and friends.

I want to be able to say "I take responsibility for my choices and for my life". When that happens, the power to live my own life will be mine.

June challenge 2: invisible

My dog Benji likes to hide, especially in the mornings when he would rather be asleep than awake. (Just for light relief, here's a video of me trying to get him out from hiding one morning!


These photos made me think about the desire not to be seen: to be invisible.

In the first picture below, it does take a minute to find him. 

But the final photo shows the same situation from a different angle:

With his bum sticking out, it's clear that Benji isn't nearly as invisible as he hopes. I think that this situation can be a metaphor for invisibility and anorexia. 
Over a decade ago, I was talking to a dietitian about my clothes. I was wearing 'a size nought' in GAP trousers (this was before the phrase 'size zero' had entered the vernacular). She pointed out that, in wanting to stay as size nought, I was essentially saying that I wanted to be nothing : I wanted not to exist. There's a certain truth to her logic: the act of starving oneself and of trying to decrease one's size is a rejection of corporeal being. 
However, as life has shown me several times, anorexia fails to make one invisible. You end up as the noticeable figure that people whisper about or even point at; I can remember going to a coffee shop with a friend who was also unwell and when we sat down, the people on the next table looked at us, picked up their things and moved elsewhere. We were the opposite of invisible. Our visibility and strangeness made it impossible for other people to ignore us.
And maybe that's the other strand to the dietitian's truth: we are rejecting corporeal being and trying to become nothing. But we are doing so in a way that articulates distress all over our bodies: an invisibility that attracts attention, attracts notice and cries out for the pain to end.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

June challenge 1: change

To follow on from May's Hungry for Change challenge, Arielle Blair has started a June challenge in partnership with HfC. Anyone who looks back on my blog archive will realise that I've never been the most regular blogger in the world. So I think participating in these challenges is good for me: it gives a focus for thoughts and helps prompt me to write.

The June challenge is a word a day. I couldn't blog yesterday because of a (lovely) obligation to babysit for my baby godson ... but (better late than never) here is my response to the first prompt:

We joke in my family that "I don't do change". It's been a scary thing always, from the first time we moved house when I was just 2 years old. I wouldn't let my parents pack the photo albums and sat in one room surrounded by photos while the removal men loaded up our furniture into the van. My family had to move several times during my childhood, as part of my father's job; I've come to realise that moving into new towns and having to start all over again with attempting to make new friends and to establish myself in a new group of people is one of the factors that made it hard for me to have a stable and consistent sense of self. The particular house move that impacted me most happened when I was 9, nearly 10. I don't know now whether it was my reluctance to make the change and leave my friends in the other town that made it so hard to be happy in the new place, whether the children in the new school were simply unwilling to accept a new person in their class, or (most likely) a combination of all the factors. Whatever the reason, just after a year after that house move, I was admitted to hospital with a variety of physical and psychological problems .... including not eating.

Lots of changes have happened in the years since that first hospital admission. I've grown older, though not necessarily much wiser; I've gone through school, university and post grad; I've been in hospital more times than I should have done. My parents have moved house many more times and I've had to go into new situations and new places .... I don't think I've got much better at "being myself" with new people. I still retreat and withdraw, ending up in the vicious cycle of becoming more isolated because of being too shy/socially anxious to talk to anyone.

The danger is, of course, that this fear of change in my world means that I become more reliant on the one thing that seems to be within my control, the one thing that has been a constant for 20 years: anorexia. What needs to happen is for change to stop being the thing to fear and, instead, for it to become the thing I desire. With change, life will have the potential to stop being limited by illness, fear, anxiety.

Maybe one way of reclaiming change and making it positive is to list some good changes that have happened in the past 12 months:

  • Getting Midge: I'd known for a while that I would one day get another dog but (as with Benji) the arrival of Midge in my life at the end of July last year was unexpected. A friend sent me a webpage so that I could advise her on a dog she was thinking of adopting. She didn't end up getting that dog. But I did end up looking at all the other adoptable dogs on that webpage, noticed little Midge, applied to adopt her and 10 days later had my little girl. She's a very different dog from Benji and her difficult background has led to many challenges, especially at the beginning. She had to learn to trust humans, as well as learning some basic skills, such as walking on a lead and house training. As I write this, she is curled up snoozing by me on the sofa. She now trusts me completely and trots round with me as I go about my daily routine. She adores Benji and follows his lead. The fact that she needs me so much, as her stable person, her rescuer whom she can trust, has given me extra reason to live and carry on fighting.
  • New friends: I met some wonderful people in hospital last year. We connected and have formed a support network. Some other friends (who I previously didn't know) have also become part of this network and I now have people to see every day, who understand the challenges of living with an ED and of fighting every day to get well and stay well. It's actually quite hard to articulate the extent to which these friends have made it possible for me to see hope, even in some very difficult times. They know who they are and the only way I can repay them is to try to give back the same support to them. 
Good change in action: Midge on her first day, too scared to come out from under the Papasan chair

Last week, making herself comfortable on my knitting!