Diary of a Disorder . . .

Firstly I’d like to state that this post will be in relation to an eating disorder I developed last year.

I wanted to forewarn anyone before reading, as this is not necessarily something that is classed as ‘easy’ or possibly ‘light reading’ for some and this way you can choose whether or not to continue reading; I wont be offended if you stop here and wait for the next post. In fact I would prefer that than to never read further posts as a result of this one.

Last year I went through an eating disorder.

I realised I had an eating disorder possibly four months into it.

I lost nine pounds in the immediate seven days following my break up. That in itself was fairly extreme but nothing new considering the pattern I develop after a break-up is loss of appetite as I ponder my thoughts and feelings. Eating slips my mind and the thought of continuing with regular meals when something so drastic has occurred in my life feels abnormal to me.

So after each break-up I usually lose a few pounds and gain them back naturally within a few weeks.

This break-up was different.

I lost nine pounds from an already small frame and liked the way I felt and looked.

I had gotten over the break-up in a few weeks; new for me entirely. The following weeks I began working on my happiness. I believed I was the happiest I had ever been – in fact I possibly was at the time. Looking back I was superficially happy. I loved how I looked – how many people, especially women, can say that in all honesty? I was lucky. I felt comfortable in new and old clothes, attractive in my body. I liked the way my face looked – sunken cheeks and raised cheekbones – however I would never be seen without makeup. I would rarely be seen showing my flesh. On the hottest day of Summer last year I have a photo of myself in A’s garden drinking wine wearing a long baggy black top, thick jeans, and chunky black boots. I was melting.

The day after my birthday in August of last year I can be seen in further photos with A wearing a long-sleeved top pulled up to my elbows, black jeggings, and long boots. I was my thinnest; I felt attractive in my body, and yet I hid it under layers entirely in spite of the rising temperatures.

Out in America I have gained weight with a vengeance. My UK size six shorts cut into my thighs and pinch my stomach when I attempt to wear them. My size eight shorts (a size I envied just a few years ago) are now comfortable for me. When discovering my size eights were needed I almost burst into tears in disbelief; ‘Please! I can’t possibly be this big!!’.

I am not fat. I have fat on me, but I am not in any way fat.

I know this. Thankfully.

My thighs wobble in some instances, they are dimpled in certain lights from certain angles. My stomach does not go inwards, yet it doesn’t protrude outward too much. It wobbles when prompted and I often feel as though I am ‘leading with my stomach’ when I walk but it, again, isn’t fat. My arms no longer show the definition they did – oh my gosh I loved my arms. And yet I hid them.

In America I have had no choice but to wear shorts. The heat when I arrived in Boston, New York, and Washington DC was too much for my English-frame to handle in anything but shorts and vest-tops.

I have also had no reason to wear make-up in the day. The heat meant any make-up would show on my top more than my face, and so make-up has been scarce. I had thought this would mean my skin became flawless; quite the opposite. It seems the less make-up I wear the worse my skin becomes.

A few days ago I was walking through Hollywood with a friend I made in Santa Monica the week before. SL and I spent a total of twelve days together as roommates in both Santa Monica and Hollywood Blvd. She came to Hollywood because I was going to Hollywood and we enjoyed every minute together. During a stroll down Hollywood Blvd one day last week we turned onto Sunset Blvd. We had no idea what was on Sunset but considering so many songs have been written about this particular street we allowed our curiosity to lead us and went for a walk.

Five minutes into our walk I was complemented by a complete stranger walking past me by himself on my legs. He went out of my life as quickly as he entered. He chose the 20 seconds it took to walk past me to simply complement my legs and continue with his day.

Around an hour later SL and I found ourselves back on Hollywood Blvd. We were collared into signing up for a club-night by some of the people on the street.

Myself wearing no make-up and having not done my hair I paid little attention to the attractive guy taking our money and promising us an amazing night. With SL enjoying the sound of his voice enough for the both of us I simply handed over my money and took the ticket. He stared a little longer at me than SL which I passed off as looking at my bad skin. He was looking at my eyes though. I never saw his eyes see the cluster of blemishes on my chin. He continued to smile at my eyes. I believed he was well trained in seducing all kinds of ladies to the club-nights and continued on with our adventures in Hollywood.

The next day, the afternoon of the club-night, we passed him again looking just as glamorous as we had the day before. He hadn’t recognised us and tried to get us to sign up again. We faked insulted responses and laughed that we would see him tonight. SL commented a few moments later “He lights up when he see’s you!” to which I replied that he hadn’t even recognised us.

The club-night wound up being a huge let-down.

When we passed another representative for the company two days later he attempted to get us to sign up again for that night’s club-crawl. We laughed that the last one had been dreadful and we wouldn’t do it again. So he gave us free tickets…and we went again that night.

While SL won the drinking competition and I laughed from the sidelines and batted away the attention of a guy telling me he was a rap producer, K, our original sign-up rep, came to my rescue. Asking if I was ok because I looked miserable I replied that being hit on was fun a few years ago but doesn’t interest me now. I was simply happy to watch SL work the room like a PR genius.

After a while of talking K asked me the type of places I actually like to go to, as the clubbing scene he had gathered was not really my thing. I described my perfect night out to be a game of pool in a dive-bar laughing with friends and singing and dancing to good rock and alternative music on the jukebox while drinking beer. He then told me about a bar he wanted to take me to; a dive-bar lots of rockers go to where there’s a pool table, good music and an amazing atmosphere.

Still holding my invisible wall in front of me I took each word with a pinch of salt.

It wasn’t until I asked him about his story that I realised he may be being sincere. He instantly opened up, he didn’t have any walls; having watched guys at play for a few years now I can see the players from the nice guys – call me naive, a dreamer, delusional, whatever. I believed his sincerity.

When he was handed the company camera from another rep that needed to use the restroom he tried to take a photo of me; my instinct kicked in and I ducked from the camera and said “No I don’t like my face!” I hadn’t even realised I had said that until his reaction.

He repeated it back to me as a question wearing his stunned reaction without awareness. He then scrolled through the photos on the camera and came across the first photo of the night. One of myself with two other English girls I had met at the first bar. He zoomed into my face and showed me the photo. In a very cheesy and sweetly sincere move he then said “How can you hate this face?! You have beautiful eyes and look at that smile!!” – the two features about me I hear repeatedly to be my best. Now anyone can take from this conversation what they like. They can consider him to be a very good player. They can consider me to be a gullible child. In those moments, knowing that this guy had seen me makeup-less, having not done my hair, wearing shorts and a tank top over my growing frame, sweating in the LA heat, and was looking at me in the same way dressed-up as he had in that earlier state, it melted me.

Nothing happened. Well actually a lot happened. In me.

I was stood in front of an attractive guy telling me I was beautiful. I told him about my weight-gain and that I don’t usually go out in the day without any makeup whatsoever and he laughed then said that the lines from a Drake song were perfect for me; “Sweat pants, hair tied, chillin’ with no make-up on, That’s when you’re the prettiest, I hope that you don’t take it wrong”. He was good.

Since meeting K I’ve felt a lot more comfortable. I still don’t like my weight-gain. But I am too happy to starve myself, so I won’t.

A workmate wrote on my social media photo album of LA “You look so happy and glowing in every pic”.

I can now say I am the happiest I have ever been.

Last year I really was the happiest I had ever been, and looking back that makes me smile and also saddens me. I have been through a lot in my years; you might get to know more about that as I discover further more about myself. I was truly growing in happiness then.

As Buffy Summers stated during an episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer “I’m cookie dough, I’m not done baking.”

I’m not done yet . . .

xxHBxx

20130918-211722.jpg

20130918-211748.jpg

20130918-211756.jpg

20130918-211801.jpg

20130918-211831.jpg

Advertisements

Finding Me

Travel.

This is the first experience of my life where I am fully accepted as the person that I am. Not as a ‘traveller’, simply as me.

I don’t have a past here. Or if I do it is irrelevant to the present. My new friends along the way have not asked about the person that I was, other than the basics of why I chose to travel in the first instance. They care about who I am now as that is the only person they are experiencing.

I am only judged based on the words I speak at present and the being that I am today.

For a person that has had to battle to stay afloat for a large portion of her life this notion is a new style of thinking that I am having to get my head around. The idea that my past is not defining me has only just occurred to me.

I have been in the States for seven weeks now and during a conversation last night with the family friends I am currently staying with (that I met for the first time when I arrived in their city two days ago) I found myself looking at the person I am out here in a new light.

They laughed lightly when I stated that I am discovering along this journey that I appear to be a “people person” to which my new friend JC sweetly giggled “you didn’t realise this before?!” followed by AC’s endearing comment following our discussion about possible job prospects once I return to the UK in the new year, where I mentioned that I had loved my previous workmates more than the work, “I think the person that you are you will make instant connections with whoever you work with wherever you choose to work…I think that they will become instant lifelong friends to you that would bond with you so well in no time at all that they will end up doing anything for you.” Hearing this after talking about the strong friendships I have made in no time at all (one friend I met at breakfast, spent the entire day and nighttime with in Boston, and he left the next morning; we are still speaking every few days since we met seven weeks ago and he is planning a visit from Australia to England to stay with me for a few weeks in the new year) made me smile inside in the most comforting way I can imagine.

Today, in Colorado Springs where I am currently staying with my Mum’s best friends’ brother and sister-in-law (and their beautiful four month old daughter), I rode a ‘Cog’ rail ride up their highest mountain ‘Pikes Peak’ 14,110 feet up which took a little over an hour on that Cog train to get to the top. In that hour, now that I think of it, I could have sat quietly watching the incredible scenery as our conductor made us laugh our way to the top telling us tales of the views we were experiencing. Instead I made friends with the people sat next to me; a Mother, a Son, and a Son-in-law. Once at the top for the half an hour we had up there I took and posed for photos along the mountains’ edge with my new friends while chatting away as if we had planned to take this trip up the mountain together for months. We then spent the next hour train ride down the mountain taking in the views as we continued our conversations and exchanged names, numbers and email addresses. Once at the bottom our goodbyes were said and I started on my walk down to the local town.

Five minutes into my walk a car drove past waving at me as I happily waved back not actually able to see who I was waving at, then stopped and out came DA (the Son I had met on the Cog) who asked if I would care to join them for lunch; he then jokingly acknowledged the fact we had only just met by stating “we won’t kidnap you I promise” as I was already crossing the street to their car.

An hour and half later we really did say our goodbyes after a laughter-filled lunch full of stories. I then continued as I was before to view the amazing little mountain town we were in as they went back to their lives also.

This tale of lunch with my new friends being no surprise to my Colorado hosts, JC and AC, after my two hour horse ride yesterday where I instantly made friends with the only two other riders in our group, along with the cowboy leading us, to the point where the couple took my details so that when I am in Los Angeles they can let their daughter who lives there know to perhaps show me around while I am out that way.

Before travelling I believed I was ok only really in my comfort zone in making friends. I had limited experiences of making friends outside of my comfort zone I believed however when looking back I am realising my comfort zone was in fact making new friends. I have never struggled to make new friends and often bond with others quickly which I thought had a lot to do with the fact I was comfortable in my surroundings. However while travelling I am in a new city and State every few days, a new hostel every few nights, and a new journey each day.

Without a care for the ten pounds I have gained since coming to America, the texture and random colour my hair has turned from the intense heat and sun, the blemishes that appear daily as my skin attempts to adjust to the new environment I am placing it in along with the new foods I am feeding it, or the accent I am picking up along the way; my new friends care little about anything other than the person and personality standing in front of them today. That form of acceptance, the fact that they choose to befriend me for the person they see before them, is heartwarming for me.

I thought perhaps the ‘like me or lump me’ girl was back and this was where my confidence in approaching new people had found itself, however I don’t think that she is. In her place currently stands a new form of that girl not fully established yet.

This girl doesn’t have time to change to suit the new friends she is making because the friendships are often created within hours. This girl is simply the girl she is, and the friendships are developing around that.

With four months to go I am excited for the developments to come.

Smiling contently.

xxHBxx

20130823-044848.jpg

20130823-044854.jpg

20130823-044900.jpg

20130823-044906.jpg

20130823-044911.jpg

20130823-044921.jpg

20130823-044930.jpg

20130823-044940.jpg

20130823-044946.jpg

20130823-044952.jpg

20130823-044956.jpg

20130823-045001.jpg

20130823-045005.jpg

20130823-045036.jpg

20130823-045114.jpg

20130823-045133.jpg

20130823-045138.jpg

Final Days . . .

I am at Heathrow Airport waiting to board my plane where I will fly across the Atlantic on my own. – Well I’m Dublin-bound first and then on to Boston.

I have been spending the last month wrapping up my time at work, seeing friends and family, and organising my things to pack (I now hate packing).

Monday night I went to the theatre with one of my best school friends, S, to see a favourite play of ours that we had performed together during our A-Levels. (S described the fact that this play was unexpectedly being performed on the exact date we had chosen to say goodbye to each other before my travels as Fate!) It was perfect.

Before seeing the play S and I went for coffee and then for our Pre-Play ritual (established before seeing the same play we were going to see that night in York six years ago) of cocktails.

I hadn’t seen S for a few months so our catch-up was packed with gossip on both sides. I explained to her about my time in Spain for A’s wedding – A, myself and S being members of our close 5-person friendship group in school – to which S was horrified at my time there and also in hysterics at my storytelling.

As mentioned in my last post I had lost myself in the last year. Something S (who has never been one to tell anything but the direct truth to your face even during our awkward teenage years) was all too aware of during our catch-up.

She listened to my epiphany-moment stories (as I like to call them) and after I had finished speaking told me with a beautiful smile that she was glad to have me back; something I almost cried at hearing.

S has known me since the first year of High School. However it wasn’t until four years into our high school experience that we become close.

The exact moment I knew I had an incredible friend came during a typically dramatic High School moment in our common room where I was in the middle of an argument with a girl that I had fallen out with. S and I were friends and in the same friendship group at this point but we were not close. We had been thrust together in a Performing Arts assignment but had not established a close friendship in the slightest; to be honest her frank honesty and confidence at times scared my teenage-self.

It was during the argument with the other girl when our friendship suddenly solidified and S became one of my best and most consistently loyal friends to date.

When another girl joined in the argument against me I was ready to defend myself further when, from behind me, S immediately stepped forward and stood herself next to me, she then proceeded to defiantly defend me against this new attack. I was blindsided and simply watched in awe as this girl I barely knew behaved as my most loyal protector and took charge. She explained, fairly, to the second girl that this argument was between myself and the first girl and had nothing to do with either herself (S) or the second girl, however she would not stand by and watch me being attacked two against one and therefore the second girl jumping in had made S jump in.

I had never had anyone but my sister ever jump in to defend me in the heat of the moment. To this day S is the only person that has ever done this for me.

I was bullied a lot through both primary and secondary school and therefore defending myself in arguments became a common occurrence for my school years. I had needed to look after myself so often I had no doubts I could defend myself, and having never had anyone step in for me before I had never expected it.

S undoubtedly became one of the most important people to me after that day. My friendship with her was fun, silly, filled with laughter more than any other friendship I have had, and it was secure. I had found possibly the truest friend I have ever known.

I don’t see S often. But when I do see her nothing changes. She is still S and I am still me. She treats me as she has always treated me since our school days; with complete respect and love.

Monday night was no exception to our experiences together. We spent our time embraced in hysterical laughter, tears, hugs, and silly comments and stories.

During our Pre-Play cocktails S handed me a small gift and a card for my travels. My gift was a guardian angel pin – to which I cried when opening. But it was the card that really caught me. The most caring and true words written with so much love that I again burst into tears (S is very used to my emotional state, as I am known as one of the most emotional people my friends know). She even stated during one of her stories “I’m sure you would remember me telling you this because YOU would cry!” as she was attempting to remember where in our storytelling lives we had last left-off on. True to form she told me and I cried – in my defence I am more emotional than usual given that I am leaving for six months, plus it was a really emotional story!

Friends like S do not come along often enough in life.

I am now awaiting my gate number to my adventure beginning. With friends covering my back each step of my life’s journey, and only a Video Chat away, I am the happiest I have ever been looking at my future.

I have incredible people in my life, each with his or her own incredible story to tell in my life story already, and now I am about to open the gate to new friendships, new experiences, new prospects, and a new but still the same ME.

Only time will tell what the next six months brings me.

Smiling as I type this; I cannot wait to find out . . .

Happily

xxHBxx

How Hope Travels

… The countdown …

Today I take another small step for myself.

Nine months ago I was about to buy a house and settle into a life with the wrong person for me, in the town I grew up in and had grown out of seven years before. That month changed everything and in that month everything was changed.

I broke mine and my ex’s hearts to move away from a life I never wanted, towards a life I had forever dreamt of.

Two months before my epiphany-moment I had plucked a question from seemingly nowhere and asked my ex if he ever had the urge to just get up and get on the next available plane and go anywhere it happens to be going. His answer stunned me as much as my question had stunned him.

No. A plain and direct; No. Never. Not a single part of his body had this ache.

I had assumed, naively, that each and every single person had this urge in them; it had never occurred to me in the slightest that anyone did not feel as trapped by society and the regulations as I did. I believed we were all effectively victims of a shared external pressure for normality.

I was wrong.

My ex stated, after what devastatingly felt like too long of a silence, that all he had ever really wanted was a career and a home.

More silence.

Even the thought of this conversation now brings the same sorrow-filled expression to my face. We were worlds apart.

His words that broke that silence broke my heart; I take it you do.

He was clearly swallowing a lump in his throat as he said them as I was fighting back tears to hear them.

Along with the realisation that we wanted completely different paths in life came the somewhat more devastating realisation that after so many years together we didn’t really know each other. We knew what we enjoyed and didn’t enjoy day to day but knowing what drives a person, what their heart cries out for and their soul aches for to feel fulfilled in life is to truly know a person. And we didn’t.

During the rest of this awkward conversation my ex said that he would wait for me if I wanted to go travelling, he would still be here, we would still be together, and he would wait until I got back and had it out of my system and then we could get our house. I kept it to myself that if he did this he would be waiting a while. To get it out of my system would take longer than the few months he was thinking.

A few months later our relationship was ended; due to matters unrelated to this conversation and yet including them with the others. We just weren’t meant to be together.

A few weeks after the break up my mind was set, my friends and family were informed, my route and budget was planned, and my dream was on its way to being my reality.

Four months after the break up I found myself alone inside the Embassy talking to fellow travellers about nothing but adventures while waiting excitedly for my Visa interview.

Last month my travel insurance was purchased through another burst of excited smiles and joy, and today I am currently on route to my Uncle’s trusted travel agent to book my flights.

July to January.

Six months travelling around America.

Alone.

And I have never been happier . . .

xxHBxx