The day that they left, I thrust myself into my new schedule with desperate gusto. It was a carefully-planned timetable of sorts. Writing in the morning. Walk the doggies at 9.30 am. Mid-morning would be spent pegging out washing and other jobs. After lunch was designated for going into town, when I would hop on my bike and pedal into Mountmellick or Portlaoise, buying a few groceries and necessaries as required, going into my local library for a chat with the librarians and to pick out a book or two.
Then, having got home, I'd hurry out with the doggies again. On returning I'd have my snack and then sit for a bit reading over what I had written earlier that morning. Then the rest of the day would be spent doing more chores and cooking my dinner, before some knitting and then finally, bed.
It was a hard week from the point of view that I felt even lonelier than I usually would - hence my writing of my post about loneliness - but it was the being busy which essentially got me through it. And I didn't fail to notice, at the end of each of those days, the curious ecstatic buzz that I got as I sprawled on the sofa sipping a steaming mug of hot chocolate, and could feel a slight stiffness in my muscles. A feeling which I only ever recall getting, on having done a substantial quantity of exercise. It was akin to that I felt when I hiked the Wicklow Mountains in transition year. I knew it meant that I had done alot.
That buzz. There was no denying that I felt better, even uplifted by it. And I guess that's what's making defeating one of my oldest demons so very, very hard and challenging. Whereas I am fully willing to eat as well as I can - the thought of eating less actually repels me, now - I know I do not want to stop doing my set amount of exercise. The willingness is not there. I'm trying, but each day I find myself unable to do it.
And I know why I can't do it. It's because of that feeling - that feeling I get when the Voice in my head comprehends that I haven't done what he regards as "enough". I get as fidgety as I would if I were sitting on a cushion full of needles. I get as anxious as I would have if someone had just shoved an enormous 1 kg steak in front of me, tied me down and told me to eat it. I get as miserable as the dullest December day, grey clouds fogging up every piece of rational sense within my head. Oh my God, Em, you haven't done enough today. You have to do more! Now! When we get in from this walk, you have to go into your room and jog on the spot for ten minutes to make up for what you haven't done.
But I feel so agonisingly confused. What's right and what's wrong? Whats normal and what's abnormal?? It's just so hard for me, because what I learned about how I should exercise as a recovered anorexic in hospital is essentially contradicted by the world around me, from what I hear and see every day.
One thing that I know is that the secrecy feels wrong. Nothing makes me more afraid then the thought of Mam becoming angry with me, on learning that her daughter does, on that rare occasion, do bouts of jogging in her room for very short periods, all because she can't just let pass a mere ten minutes not completed on a walk. Or the fact that I cycled 30 km last week all in one single day. Having done it, I felt ecstatic, overjoyed, formidable, powerful. But simultaneously there was a tiny, tiny part of me, knowing in my heart that it was wrong. What would Mam and Dad have said if they had known? Would they have smiled at my enthusiasm; or would they have just shaken their heads in concern?
I have to ask myself. Is my body truly ready for this? Am I healthy? No, I've come to the conclusion that it is not so, just yet. I have no idea what my ideal bmi really is, but I'm inclined to wonder as it really is this "magic" number of 19 at which I currently stand.
This is one of the few last demons that remain. But this one has a hold of me and it has a hold of me fast.
I look over the comments of my readers on my last post on compulsion, and they give me a sense of some comfort and direction in this directionless, comfortless mess.
If only I could calm the raging torrents of anxiety in my head. Because God knows I don't want to live like this. I want to exercise. I want to run, I want to walk, I want to climb hills and hurtle along the country lanes on my bike with my hair streaming behind me.
But what I don't want is this constant, niggling anxiety. This Voice which plagues me like a screaming banshee, every time that - because of the weather, because life got busy, or whatever reason crops up during the day - I don't do what it grudgingly accepts as being enough.
What can I do?
Should I just go for the easier option of giving into it? Remain at this place; this place of half recovery, that little outcrop upon this huge mountain, an outcrop from which I have never been able to ascend any higher?
But this isn't the way I want things to be.
I want change and I want it now. And change is coming now. In less than two weeks I depart for Barcelona.
More than anything, I need to fight this compulsion right NOW. Otherwise my Barcelona experience might well too be marred.
Certain images often pass through my head; imagined scenarios, so jewel-vivid in my mind's eye. as if they actually happened, or are real. Of finishing work, at 5 pm on one particular day, and being asked by a co-worker to join her for a drink, perhaps.
The girl who is me, in the image, smiles and shakes her head. Her mouth forms the syllables of words which in turn formulate into some sort of excuse. She would love to, but she's ever so tired. She's going to go and have a lie down for a bit. The other worker nods and walks away, leaving the girl standing there. She watches the other go anxiously, beads of perspiration upon her forehead, her heart throbbing like a drum as the lie resonates through her blood.
And then she goes off for a...powerwalk. Because that's what the ED is telling her to do. To forget about being social and to go and do some exercise.
That's not what I want to happen. That's not what I am going to permit to happen, either.
Rather, I have to do something which at one time I never once thought I was fully capable of being.
I have to be strong.
I have to believe in myself and realise that I can do it.
I can beat the compulsion. I have all the tools that I need.
I have the bravery and I have the perseverance. I have the strength. What's stopping me? Didn't I do the unthinkable? Didn't I conquer some of my greatest fears about food and weight gain; fears which at one time, for me, seemed so powerful, so undefeatable, so infinite?
As one of my readers reminded me, I have come too far now to just stop, right here.
The road ahead is as frightening - as terrifying unknown - as the darkest corner of space. But I know I have to do it. So I lift my head up, take and deep breath and carry on.
I don't know exactly how I am going to do this. But I know I have to follow my heart; to shout louder than the demon inside my head.
They say old habits die hard.
I guess that means one has to fight harder than ever to make them die.
So today I created some new rules for myself. Rules which will defy ED's. Rules which I hope will allow me to weaken the final few clutches of his fingers across my throat.
- Until I am certain that I am at my healthiest bmi (I am going to take my old consultant's advice, and aim for 20.) , I will not allow myself to run - a form of exercise I have always longed to do, but have never been able to because of my weight - or engage in any other kinds high intensity exercises.
- I am still going to adhere to the old rule of the more I do, the more I must eat to compensate. This one actually shouldn't be too hard, as I find that the more mobile I am, the more hungrier I am anyway. 😉
- On rainy days, or when I am simply just busy. I know I need to be extra strong and ignore the voice telling me to go out and do my usual walk and get soaked, to still go and exercise despite being exhausted etc. And I know that this is going to be the hardest one. The thought of not doing my usual amount now terrifies me, but I know I am just going to have to try.
- As mentioned before I fully intend to try out therapy when I return from Barcelona. I really hope this will help me overcome exercise compulsion for good and set me well on the way to full recovery.
- To start focusing on what I really want to get from exercise and walking. To cease seeing it just as how ED sees it - a way to burn calories - and to value it for what it really, really means to me. That being a chance to be outside in the fresh air, surrounded by all the treasures of nature's rich bounty. To spend time with those I love, doing something which I love. To feel the rush of air against my bare skin and relish that feeling. That feeling of being strong and healthy again. That feeling of freedom.
I used to be the prey, the victim. And ED was the remorseless, parasitic predator.
But now the tables have been turned.
Now it's me who is the predator..
And I know that I must seek out and hunt down every last trace of ED..
I will never let him prey on me or those I love ever again.💪