Dead Time

It is the final day of another year. It has been a while since I’ve written anything, despite it being the time of year for snow globes to come into their own. Unlike the outside, the inside of my snow globe is blanketed in white. Icily beautiful. I’m sheltered in the muffled stillness of my hollow tree. For the last week, time has stopped. The world inside my snow globe has been held in the pause between the end of the exhalation and the beginning of the breath in. Still. Muffled. Buried under snow. I have needed the dead time. I have needed time to sleep, to let my thoughts gather around be without having to go to the effort of sifting and arranging them. I am ready for the clock to tick once more, the state of inertia is beginning to bother me. I can feel the thrumming of anxiety beneath the surface, slowly heating the ground beneath the snow.

Inertia is not the only thing giving fuel to that simmering anxiety. On Christmas day – which was as it often is, wonderful and stressful in almost equal measure – after a drawn out mental battle, I decided to give in and let myself eat whatever I wanted. After all, I eventually reasoned, it’s only one day. No. There exist people for whom it would only be one day. There are certain circumstances under which perhaps it would only have been one day. It has been a week. I know that there are people who will read this and roll their eyes because everyone overeats at Christmas and hey, I needed to put on weight. I want to try to articulate why those statements are wrong. I’ve lit a small fire in a pit just outside my hollow tree, do make yourself comfortable and try, please, to put down your preconceived notions and listen to what I am actually saying.

People overeating because it’s Christmas and there are lots of delicious festive treats to be had and me spending a week in binge mode are two very different things. On the surface, it might appear the same, grazing on chocolates and biscuits, nibbling on left overs, saying yes to offers of food instead of no. That is the part that other people see. The part that nobody else sees is that I don’t stop. I’ll eat until I feel sick. Until it hurts to breathe. I won’t even taste what I’m putting in my mouth, I’m getting no enjoyment from it, it’s a compulsion, it’s automatic, it’s always, always just one more mouthful, one more day, one more binge then I’ll stop. I’ve been here before. It’s terrifying. To feel so utterly out of control of something so simple. To have less self-control than a child. To people on the outside who think I’m too thin, it appears to be a solution. It appears that I’ve turned a corner. No. This is not an answer. This is not how to get back to a healthy weight. This is not getting over my food issues, this is the paradox of an eating disorder. It’s terrifying because if I can’t make it stop it and I will spiral back down into the pit I’ve spent the last year clambering out of. Me eating too little might be what scares you, but me eating too much is far more damaging. That is what I wish people could see.

The fire is warm, it casts cosy shadows over the hollow tree, I’ll end on something more positive. I have come so far this year and this week of dead time has not reversed that, it has simply been a reminder that until I can draw up and face a problem head on, it will keep coming back. Things are in a constant state of flux and the way that I think can be flipped on its head in an instant. Instead of being a reason to despair, I think it’s a reason to be all the more grateful for all the moments my head is in a happy place. For all the times I can make good decisions. For every morning I wake up and actually want to get out of bed. So I’m going to end one year and start the next with a list of 10 things to be grateful for.
1.      Narnie – For all of the cuddles and fuzzes and phone calls. For listening to rants, for giving me advice, for taking me places, for bringing me back to life.

2.      Going back to university. It is still hard. The thought of next term is still terrifying. I’m still scared that I won’t do well enough. But I’m going to try my hardest and give it all I’ve got because despite it all, I love my subject.

3.      Being born in the right time in the right place to the right people. When it comes down to it, I was really lucky.

4.      The internet, the place the socially awkward can have a voice

5.      Harry Potter. In the new year, I will write a blog about it.

6.      Jado Kuin Do.

7.      Non – you wonderful, wonderful woman. For giving me a reason to smile, so much hope and changing my thoughts on autumn.

8.      DAMSA – the Disabled and Mental Health Students Association at uni, for giving me somewhere to belong. For friendship, understanding and cups of tea.

9.      My Autism mentor Caroline and Mental Health advisor Sandy, for making point number 2 possible.

10.  Ayla, because everyone needs a friend on the other side of the world to share a love of Remus Lupin and 19th century England with. 

Twisting the Apple Stem

I’m sheltering inside a hollow tree stump, a huge fallen tree has split my clearing in two and I don’t yet have the energy to do anything about it. My pixie hood is drawn up over my head and my knees are hugged close to my chest. On the ground beside me I have a red and green apple.

The apple you see is part of my confession. Though you may not have realised it, given all the topics I have nimbly scrambled over, wallowed in and waded through over this past year, food has been conspicuous by its absence. I am not, have never been one of those girls. Or so I have been told. Those girls referring of course to girls who obsess over weight and appearance, over calories and carbs. Girls who fall into the trap of eating disorders. It matters not if I simply forget to eat at times. That’s a side effect of hyper focus and nothing more surely? The people who said that to me were half right. I am not a girl. I am a pixie child and that is part of it all.

I’m twisting the stalk of the apple now, it’s uncomfortable to be opening up about this, more so that many of the things I’ve so far written about. Why? Because it’s something people don’t apply to me. I am not one of those girls. Perhaps because I’m afraid of being so mainstream. Perhaps because it’s something I still deny to myself. Whatever the reason, I want to open up, because there have been so many times when people have praised me for being so open on this blog, for being so brave and yet I’m constantly concealing something so huge. There were two very brave people who have inspired me in this by the things they have shared with me. Their stories are their own, but I hope they know who they are. They struggle but they are not shallow. They proved to me that saying ‘those girls’ is an utterly unfair generalisation that barely skims the surface.

I was still quite small when the seed of the desire to be tiny implanted itself in my brain. In my mind’s eye I was small, not weak, but tiny and delicate. For years there would be periods of time where I would use food or lack thereof to deal with anxiety. The periods were never extended far enough or to enough of an extreme to be a problem throughout most of my childhood. It wasn’t until I was 18, in my First Year of university that restricting became a conscious decision. People who knew me then know how thin and washed out I got then, not quite enough to worry but close. The years between then and now have been a cycle of binging and restricting, more or less maintaining a healthy weight in an unhealthy way and hating myself for it. Hating myself because underneath it all I am that tiny, genderless pixie child. Hating myself for not having control or focus or discipline or any of the ‘enoughs’ I’ve talked about before.

Right now I’m thinner than I was at 18, despite being half an inch taller. For most of the week it’s difficult to eat for fear that it’ll turn into another binging spiral of depression. It’s hard to eat because maybe if I just lose more I’ll become the pixie I am on the inside and escape the snow globe. The sheer lack of logic is not lost on me. It isn’t helping my focus, my concentration, my happiness, my energy levels. All of this I know. Yet still I starve. I eat more over the weekends; I can’t help myself. I mentally justify that I need it and sometimes that is enough to keep the guilt at bay. There is no simple solution. That, as the stem of my apple finally snaps in my hand, brings me to my final point. I have been honest with you. I have opened up. I have filled in one more piece of my puzzle. Please don’t use that against me. Please don’t nag me, push food at me or try to make me eat more. It will add to my stress levels and ultimately won’t improve anything. If I choose to eat with you, let me do so without comment. Bear in mind that something is better than nothing. Know that despite this, I do very much want to be alive.