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ED Hell
Aids in Recovery
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Aids in Recovery
In this section I am going to offer advice, tools and/or aids for helping you on your path to recovery.  

Writing As A Tool In Recovery
I have found writing to be an invaluable asset on my journey.  It gets out what is boggled up inside, amongst all the chaos and confusion.  I have found that there are times when the pen has greater power than we realise.  There have been times when I have just sat down and written - I have just let the pen rip not knowing what was coming, as I had absolutely no idea what I was feeling - but writing gets it out in a clear and concise way.  I find that free-flowing writing is best.  Unedited of course, because by editing you really are just lying to yourself.  You do not necessarily have to show anyone if you don't want to!
I believe, that for me, writing has played an important role in my recovery, due to the fact that I am not a very forthcoming person.  I find it so hard to divulge any information to my consellor - without being prompted in some shape or form.  So, instead I will drop hints, on occasion, in my letters to her on what I would like to talk about.  Hence, if I do not volunteer the information myself, she can (hopefully) then steer the conversation towards a specific topic.  I know that this is not the ideal scenario, especailly as our time together is limited, and if a lot has come up for me since I last saw her, she would not necessarily know which topic(s) are of greater importance to me.  I do not know whether or not, I will ever be able to willingly, and openly, just volunteer information.  Time is the key to that I'm afraid, and I am no fortune-teller.
I am by no means saying that writing is easy - in fact far from it!  But for me, it is safer than bringing something out into the open through talking.  I think, that this is probably due to the fact one of the main causes of eating distress is not talking/saying what is on our minds.  We come experts at keeping things to ourselves.  I guess this could be a reason as to why writing is so much easier for me - it seems a far safer option.  Besides, I can always edit a letter before sending it, but you can't take back what is said.  There are days, and/or weeks that I simply CANNOT write - I may end up writing today on what happened yesterday.  This is particularly the case when I feel despondent, yet, that is probably the time that I should be writing.
Currently my writing takes many forms - my regular letters to my counsellor, my journal, my attempt at poetry, and as of late, writing letters to the media, to help bring awareness to those in the media on how harmful/helpful their articles relating to body image, eating distress etc can be. 

Photography: Me And My Camera

I have always had an avid interest in photography, but it is only recently that I took the plunge, and bought myself a decent camera.  Even though it cost more than I would have liked, it has been so beneficial for me.  Photography is so therapeutic.  During times when I have felt as if I were drowning, and went out with my camera, it did pick me up a little, even though it was only for a short while.  Granted, it did not last, but aren't those few seconds of peace of mind worth it!?!

Personally, I prefer taking landscape pictures, than pictures of buildings and/or people.  Photography really does make you focus on the task in hand, despite what else is going on.  Peter Lik, an Australian photographer, is fantastic!  I admire Peter Lik, and his work so much.  I will never be of the calibre he is, but I still enjoy photography.  Photography can indirectly, make you appreciate the finer things in life, but it can make you hate some of the simple things too!  As a photograher you can come to hate the sun (even in the Irish climate), because it can ruin what would have been a nice picture, by coming out at inappropriate times!

For photography you really do need patience.  Some of the best photographers in the world (Peter Lik, for example) do get up in the wee hours of the morning, and then wait patiently for that "ever perfect" picture.  Patience is a requirement of photography, especially if you take a picture of something that has been taken countless times before you - you want to give it that extra something.  Peter Lik took a fantastic picture of the "Golden Gate Bridge" in San Francisco.  He said himself that there are numerous pictures of the "Golden Gate Bridge", so he wanted to give it something else, that would make his picture spectacular.  This particular picture was taken in the early hours of the morning, and it truly is a fantastic picture!

I think that hobbies are so beneficial in recovery.  Hobbies, can take you away from whatever is going on with you for the moment.  Granted, some say that is avoidance, and that it will need to be tackled sooner or later. But by taking some time out for yourself, it might actually better prepare you for dealing with the muck.  If you feel better internally, isn't it natural that you would be better prepared to face whatever is going on head on.  At least, that is my viewpoint anyway!

Reading and Eating Distress
Even as a child, I was always an avid reader.  My family could tell you many a tale, where I would be carting no fewer than six books around after me!!!  Even back then, there was many a time where I would hop from one book to another, not having yet finished the previous one.  Once my eating distress started taking over though, reading no longer held any interest for me.  It seemed more like a chore, rather than something to do for pleasure.  The books that I did read were ones that foucsed in on the eating distress, which I used counter-productively.
At this stage in my recovery, I am slowly trying to read books for pleasure.  It is so difficult though.  When I feel low, nothing holds any interest for me.  I just seem to lack the motivation for anything on those days - and it is hell!
Reading, because it makes you focus on the task in hand, can actually slow you down.  It is one way of "grounding" yourself.  This is probably due to the fact that it is difficult to concentrate on the book, if you are doing other things.  I know for me, that there are times when I would read pages on end, but because of everything that is racing through my head, I would have absolutely no idea as to what I had just read.  Maybe in time, I will be able to just sit down and read, without having to re-read a chapter or ten, all because of the fact that I was not concentrating on the task in hand.
There was a time when I would have enjoyed general fiction, such as Josephine Cox, but I prefer a story with some action.  A good old thriller, or crime is what does it for me.  It gets the adrenaline going!  One author that I really do enjoy is Lynda La Plante.  Her books are easy to read, but at the same time, are gripping.  You get wrapped up in the story.  I would highly recommend her Elaine Paige novels.  I find that because she is so easy to read, that even during times when I really don't feel like reading she has the ability to entice you into the story.  You don't need to concentrate too much on the story to know what is going on, and that is always a plus when you suffer with eating distress - at least in my book!
 Pet Therapy

Animals can indirectly play an important role in recovery.  Just the mere task of petting an animal can be so calming and therapeutic.

Growing up, we always had an animal of some kind or another.  When I was young we had a cat, but she was much more of a wild cat, than a household cat.  She did not care to be around people too much.  Sometimes we would not see her for weeks on end, she was most definitely a self-reliant cat.

Some years after we moved from that house, we got another cat - a blue-eyed white.  We only had her about two years, before she ran away never to be seen again.  I am probably the reason she ran away, because there are pictures of me holding her, and I am nearly strangling her with affection, and won't let her go - despite the fact that she is trying to get away from me.  Isn't it any wonder that she ran away - I think not!

Then shortly after the cat ran away, we got a dog (a golden labrador).  I loved him so much.  I don't care what anyone says about him being the family dog - I beg to differ, he was really my dog.  I chose his name afterall.  I was the one who used to take him for his walks, but I did not see that as being a chore - it was a great way to get away from things that were going on at home.  Also, when I was studying for my Leaving Certificate, it was as if he knew what was going on.  He used to lie outside my bedroom window when I was studying.  He was indirectly giving me some support.  I was also the only one of the family who could control him in certain situations.  For example, he used to hate motorbikes, and would attempt to jump out at them.  But with me he never did, I used to talk to him in a calm way, that calmed him down - not only that, I used to hold the lead in a certain way, that would make it impossible for him to jump out - I had the greater power in situations like this.  He used to always get a sense of when I was upset too, and he would try to kiss me - thanks, but no thanks.

Also, when I was younger I used to go horse riding.  I used to find horse riding to be so calming.  It was a great way to get away from my troubles too!  Bareback riding, and cross-country riding was what I loved best about riding.  I loved the sense of freedom I felt when catering through the fields, and going over the jumps.  That has got to be one of the greatest feelings!  Even the mere fact that I would arrive home afterwards with muck all over my hair and face did not matter - that was the whole fun of it!  I used to compete in various competitions too, but it was not the winning that mattered to me (but that was always a bonus), but the sense of accomplishment, just by the mere fact that I competed was worth it.  Being around the horses was so therapeutic for me.  I used to help out at the local stables too, and the actual work to me did not matter - it did not feel like work, because I loved being around the horses so much!  Even mucking out the stables was fun!  Many people, I'm sure, would disagree with me here though.  During the summers I used to go on a pony camp, and they were such fun - riding on the beach, riding bareback, swimming on the horses.  They were experiences that were worth it - looking back, there is no way that I would have missed those for the world, despite some of the hardships that arose at them.

I currently have a cat.  Not officially though - my neighbours cat has adopted me.  She is great at giving hugs too!  She is definitely one cat that demands your attention.  Despite the fact that I am allergic to cats, I am not allergic to this particular cat!  I have always had trouble with my allergies and cats.  This cat is such an attention-seeker too, but I don't mind.  I love petting her, and holding her etc.  She is such a babe/sweetheart.  If I ever move, my neighbours better watch out, just in case their beloved cat goes missing!  The cat comes to me for the affection, and goes to her (official) owners for the food - I think I have the better half of the bargain.  I don't have to fork money out on food, or veterinary bills!

During my recovery, my love of dancing was reignited.  I find that dancing at various stages has helped me so much in regards to my recovery, particularly in regards to the body image.  When dancing I may not always get the moves/steps right, but to me that doesn't matter - it's the enjoyment of it that counts. 
When dancing (and feeling comfortable with the type I am doing) I feel so alive, and at peace with myself.  When dancing, I always tend to feel so in tune with my body.  I tend to feel so connected, and at peace.
I do feel, however, that having the right instructor is paramount to the enjoyment of dance.  I went to a class at one point, and it wasn't the usual instructor.  I didn't get a sense that I was "feeling the music".  For me to feel connected in my body, I need to feel that I'm feeling the music.  It's not about the music, but how motivational and inspirational the instructor is.
I feel that dancing is paramount to my ongoing recovery, as it has helped a lot with my self-consciousness, especially in regards to body image.  In the dance classes I've done so far, there have always been people of all shapes and sizes.  I did feel very self-conscious doing an African dance that I embarked upon some time back, but I suppose part of that has to do with the culture of living in Ireland - in that, we tend to be more inhibited than those living in other cultures.
I find that trying out different dance styles and/or instructors can be fun, as through that I can find out what suits me best.  I also find the social aspect an added bonus, in (hopefully) getting to know new people etc.
Friends and Friendships

Just wanted to write something on friendships, as they are important - and are what make us human too.

Ever since I was a kid, I've always found it dificult to make friends.  In school, I was one of these kids who was afraid of her own shadow.  I remember times in class where I was the only one (or so it appeared) to know the answer of something, but was so afraid of saying it, as I was too shy, but also afraid of the sound of my own voice.   I always feared that others would riddicule and laugh at me (which happened quite frequently anyway), hence I kept very much to  myself.   It always seemed easier that way.
Throughout the years I have made friends from different avenues of my life - sadly, a lot of these are now part of my past.   I know that I did push people away when I was in the depth of my ed, but I also felt that I was always the one who tried to maintain the contact, whereas they did not.   There came a time then, when I got fed up with this, and gave up.   Any friendship that is to last, needs to be a bit of give and take from all those concerned.   Whereas, in many of my past relationships I always felt that I was the one making the effort.  It transpired, that as soon as I stopped making the effort, in maintaining contact, that all contact broke down. 
There have been times where I've got an e-mail out of the blue from one such friend, wondering about tickets for all-Ireland matches.   She always thought that I'd have easy access to tickets.   Even when we were  in close contact, I never managed this, so don't know why she thought I would, especially after not hearing from her in over a year.   These type of situations always had the effect of me feeling used etc.
Over the past year or so, I have made some amazing friends - and yes, there seems to be a bit of give and take.  For the first time in my life, I really do feel accepted for being me!   I have found that I can talk to them about nearly anything, and not feel judged etc.   It's been reassuring in one way, and it has also had the effect of encouraging me to seek out other ways of meeting people - be it through a hobby or some other means.  I did try one such thing last February, but I found the travelling to be too much - so did not stick at that.   However, I am always looking for new ways to meet people. 
I do feel that I need to do things where I will meet a few guys (just as friends), as that is something that bothers me.   Girlfriends are good in one way, but I feel that how you relate to male and female friends are so different.   I've always been able to have a laugh easier with my male friends, as they don't tend to judge you based on materialistic things (clothes, make-up etc).   Because their sense of humour is so different, I connect on a different level with them.   I tend to feel more at ease with male friends, when there is nothing else attached (this usually changes if he communicates more than a passing interest in me - I run 90 miles an hour in the opposite direction.   I am now at a place in my life, no matter what any of my family says, I am happy being single for the moment. 
I do believe that all relationships are something that you have to continually work on, as when we wake up tomorrow we are no longer the same person as we are today - different experiences tend to happen us (no matter how seemingly significant), that do impact on us in some way.   I sincerely believe that as human beings, we are continually changing and evolving.

The good life is a process, not a state of being.  The journey is the direction, not the destination.  [Carl Rogers]