Recovery™/recovery?

Here’s what I had in my draft for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week:

It’s mental health awareness week and the theme is body image (yikes).

Monday – did not apologise for body hair to nurse

Tuesday – was happy to have takeaway even though that wasn’t the plan I made

Wednesday – no bra, big nipples

Ah, yes, excellent. That week I was thrilled to find myself practicing Recovery™ activities. Let’s unpick this for World Eating Disorder Day.

This post can’t be called ‘what they don’t tell you about recovery’ because, for once, I think they do tell you. I find it hard to believe someone can turn around and say ‘recovery is easy, get cracking’! The behaviours sure, maybe we’ve all read or heard the ‘just eat the damn thing already’, but recovery itself? Nah. The sheer amount of willpower, the choices (great and small – all relative), the amount of money, time, patience, diligence, the internal power struggles, the defence you have to put up for yourself – all in a world where in fact, your disorder may not be an irrational reaction to have. So why don’t we hear about the intricacies of how very hard it is? Where are the personal narratives? Whenever I read [short] recovery stories in a newspaper or online news publication or even in academic literature it’s about Entry and Exit. That’s how the eating disorder or behaviours began (the Entry) – then a bit of you middle re: how terrible life was – and recovery !! life is so much better now !! hear about my achievements !! (the Exit). Usually written by someone who is, or is presenting themselves as, very comfortable and confident in their status of Recovered Person.

The entry/exit story is irritating. As are many highly publicised, too-good-to-be-true recovery stories, even if they are real and genuine. I sound bitter because I am! Stories like this make me second guess where I am in my own recovery, and sometimes even if I am recovered at all (and then we have the whole ‘well who gets to determine that anyway?’). I’m recovered in that I’m disengaged from behaviours, so much so that I wouldn’t fulfil any clinical ED checklist, but I’m still not having a very nice time, which I find very disappointing indeed. From where I stand, I sometimes seemed a lot more productive as an eating disordered person. At least, if anything, I was “working on myself”, as they say (please do see Orbach, Bodies, for comments on working on the body as labour). I also don’t seem to have achieved very much, in any sense. At the end of a day of doing sod all, no revision, not teaching myself all the stats class content I missed because I was busy being a recluse, the messages I haven’t replied to and emails I’ve ignored for weeks, I can’t really turn around and say “well, I didn’t throw it up!” Who cares. The banality of recovery is real, though apparently not real enough, seeing as above I was going to write a whole blog post on my personal victories of not apologising to a medical professional for not shaving, eating a takeaway and choosing to not wear a bra. Between the body hair and bra refusal it may as well be the ’70s. Is a sense of achievement deserved for such tiny victories, is trying to celebrate them sincere or just distracting me from a bigger picture?

The reality for me, and I imagine the reality for a lot of people who have (or had?) eating disorders or some form of disordered eating, is our experiences have, overall, been fairly mundane. I had an eating disorder for a very long time but there were phases when it wasn’t particularly present. It used to bring me a shame that I could feel in my actual joints to say: I have never been underweight. I have never been an inpatient. Some of us will never receive formal treatment or a diagnosis. Some of us will never tick all of those boxes (that some of us care very much about, some of us don’t know about and some do not give a single shit about). It takes indescribable willpower to not crowbar in symptoms or lengths of time or things I did or weights to try and justify the severity of my eating disorder. But does an eating disorder need to be severe to justify a need for a recovery, are some recoveries smaller than others and if so, does that make them less interesting or impressive or important?

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Stewing

One of the reasons I don’t write posts anymore is because I’ve spent the last few years writing them continually in my head and now they’re all a big mess and I have too much to say. Nothing is neat. Everything allows for a tangent. In my drafts folder are post after long post of gibberish, all under titles of ‘Mental Health Awareness Week’ and ‘EDAW’ and a suspiciously long one called ‘How About … Bulimia?’ (Don’t really know what to say about that one, the bits I’ve skimmed seem very Angry with a capital A).

I don’t exactly know what the argument is in any of the drafts but I can hazard a couple guesses. A la ‘not all men’ we have ‘what about bulimics?’ (The ED literature leaves me feeling very hard done by). We have Recovery™ but then also recovery sucks and sometimes I hate being in this weird limbo (and then the ‘once you go through the looking glass can you ever actually go back?’) I’m likely to add a new draft on the anti-recovery narrative. A misnomer it seems to me, as it’s more a shift away to the realities and grittier stories of recovery, including ones that people (doctors) maybe don’t want you to hear .. is my very limited understanding as I’ve only just started looking into it. As ever I am utterly Furious (capital F, please note) that fitness bloggers and raw vegans and every other food-focused lot gets the societal OK to exist online and promote their values and overshare, yet people with eating disorders are censored out of the picture. Anyway. I needed to get this out and down before moving on to something even vaguely constructive and interesting. Onwards !

Me (a woman) and my head (angry)

Today, standing in the kitchen, I realised that if I were a man that most of the damaging things that have happened to me most likely would not have happened at all. In fact, scrap ‘most like’, I am sure they would not have happened. In the early stages of eating disorder recovery feminism played a big role for me, it taught me to get angry. I realised that the relationship I had been in had been abusive, and I got angry. I realised that I hadn’t just woken up one day and decided to stick my head in the toilet, that it was a reaction, a product to a succession of events and a context that acted as an ED incubator that had gotten me there. And I got angry. Standing in a different kitchen, four years ago in a North Melbourne suburb, airboot on one foot, orange and black patchy bob and a skirt slowly becoming too big again, I told an old school friend of not one but two incidents where boys had assaulted me. A year ago, age 24, I actually learn that a forced blowjob is actually, legally rape, not ‘just’ assault, and I’m stunned. And then I’m angry.

When I think of the real catalyst, an anonymous bullying shitshow, it would be easy to fall into the girls are catty, girls are the real bitches here, sure boys tease but girls can hurt trope. I’m bored of that. The group of girls in question, spearheaded by someone who this summer tried to add me on LinkedIn, seemed to have walked out of the OC, with eating disorders and self harm issues to boot. The way they felt about themselves, the things they said to me, were as much a product of tragic self-esteem and forced narcissism as they were internalised misogyny. I am sad for little me, in her too tight clothes, rolled skirt waistband and poorly applied eyeliner. I was the easiest target in the world.

The need to be thin, the need to be liked, the need to be desired, the need to be just right. This has been the first summer in 12 years where I haven’t tried to lose weight. The last two weeks I’ve powered through More, Now, Again and Girl, Interrupted, and re-read Wasted. All I want to talk about at the moment is the injustice of being a woman, and its effects on my health and my wellbeing and my sense of self. The concept of ‘woman’, was so completely alien from my 19 year old identity (and it was a proud identity) of ‘bulimic’, but they are so obviously connected now. Too much, where the boundaries of my body blurred and I poured myself into the world and the world poured itself back into me. 17 and pokey bones, in love with how poetic I was and how creative it felt to very slowly set myself on fire, for everyone to see. I’m pissed at the literal years I wasted, but I’m more pissed at how much I still want to be back there.

I’ve typed out a tweet, it’s just sitting there, world mental health day now technically over, and it reads: this has been the first summer in 12 years where I haven’t tried to lose weight. that’s my happy #WorldMentalHealthDay for you x. I can’t figure out where it comes from, am I showing off? If I’m showing off why do I feel ashamed. I’m embarrassed to have not attacked my body. I’m reflecting and trying to find something to call myself out on. Last summer I was vegan and in the gym for almost two hours a day. Summer of 2010 is one of the more memorable, I discovered the world of pro-ana and consciously tossed myself into a 16 kilo-loss, lanugo-filled, friendless pit. 2008 I’ve started throwing up properly again, the dresses I got for a wedding are too big and I’m pleased. 2006 I come back to school and the girls who sent me paragraphs on who I was a bigfatslut are in the changing rooms telling me how good I look before we go to PE.

The pride women take in how little they eat is disgusting. I came home and played with the idea of going straight to bed, 8pm, with no dinner. Boyfriend at work, no one to know or ask. I played with how good that made me feel, I imagined waking up in the morning and feeling emptier and my stomach flatter, any feelings of fullness, of substance, gone. I made the conscious choice to have dinner. That’s recovery, to be honest. You can spend years and hundreds and it boils down to standing in the kitchen pantless and alone making a small but very important choice. I get to make that choice several times a day. Sometimes but rarely it’s not a choice, in that walking out the office I find myself in the Co-op, and I am pleased to find that my choices are not eat or not eat but falafel and hummus or a ploughmans or maybe an all day breakfast because fuck you I’m not vegan anymore. That’s a cool day and I don’t think anything of it at the time. That’s recovery too. You let things go and you don’t sit in bed at almost 1 in the morning writing a blog post about your Choices afterwards (oops).

Hornbacher’s right you know. Recovery is this place, it’s not an end point and then you’re done, you’re in this weird place bopping around. The intensity of every day is turned up just a lil bit because if you’re not in the zone where you are capable of choosing which sandwich you would like then you have to force yourself into it. The mental energy required is astounding and exhausting. It is tiring to make good choices. It’s tiring to feel sad about making ‘good’ choices. I have the right to starve if I would like but I don’t think I have the capacity anymore. A friend once said “I don’t hate myself enough to do that anymore”. The we said “sometimes I wish I did”. I wish, sometimes, that I hated myself enough to not eat. Why. Because, I think, I am a woman. And again, now I am angry.

Make London Glossier!

We aaaaall know who Glossier is! How could we not? The cruelty free brand has taken instagram by storm with its millennial pink packaging and skincare-first attitude, and it’s a definite favourite of mine to read up on (along with Milk makeup, I gotta say! They need a lil mention, too). Glossier’s essential products replace the drugstore storm of too much choice. Rather than every colour in every formula, they’ve found the handful of Best-Ofs that work for as many as possible. It’s back to make up basics – the white tee for your face. It’s an approach that must be effective, cos I feel like more and more brands are doing this, and not because they’re just starting out or want to eliminate risks, but because it’s a totally effective and marketable approach. (Asos face and beauty, for example! Makeup staples only, for now).

Anyway, the aesthetically pleasing Glossier has popped over to London and has been pleasing us W1 dwellers with velvet settees and fresh flowers the last five days. I’ve been watching queues to their previous pop ups on their insta story, and desperate to get a look in I walked up to Portland Place today (the last day of the pop up, tragedy!) for a little looksee, and to swatch products that I’d been positively gasping for via screens. One of my friends had put an order in a couple of weeks ago (free shipping over £25, and they’re very generous with the freebies and samples) and I’d just done lots of staring instead of sampling, so was very very ready to get hands on.

I don’t know much about merchandising or branding or the real power it plays on consumers, but it must be a lot. Glossier is two parts pink one part a white that’s so bright it’s almost antiseptic. The historic house of 34 Portland Place had been taken over with velvet furniture, all real signature pieces, flower displays, a massive mood board, and mirrors with lil slogans on. Downstairs was the room seen above plus the shopping space, and upstairs was a room dedicated to their heady and delicious perfume, as well as another shopping space. Orders were placed via iPad, and their staff were dressed in pink jumpsuits.

The two rooms with the products were big and bright white, and as Glossier doesn’t actually have a huge range of products there were lots and lots of repeats on the tables – which was perfect seeing that it was quite busy, and it gave you the chance to have a quick try of everything.

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Damaged: hot oil hair treatment

As someone who four years ago had a black bob .. I’m pretty tough on my hair regime now. Having really long and thick hair is a total blessing and though I get a weekly urge to either cut it all off or bleach it again, I keep myself in check and remember that I’m lucky to have great quality hair, and also have a really lovely natural colour. The one thing I do need to do is keep my hair moisturized, particularly the ends which are still the remnants of my bleach/bleach/colour strip/bleach/box dye cycle (eek, eek). I have a lot of broken hair (baby hair) and so I have found myself blow drying and straightening my hair more often than usual, and that really adversely effects the quality of my hair, even if I’m using protector sprays.

I went into my favourite little Lush (in Waterloo Station, it’s the smallest Lush in the country!) and was looking to branch out in my Lush products anyway, so asked the lovely girl (Amy, we now follow each other on Instagram haha, oops!) for some recommendations. I came away with Damaged, a hot oil treatment priced at £6.50, and a little tester pot of R&B (which by the way, I really did enjoy and actually preferred to Damaged – found there was a more immediate difference and I preferred the scent). Anyway! Here’s a bit of a photo journal of the steps it takes to use the product, and then a little before and after.

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3CE’s Back to Baby Glow Beam in #White

Yeeeessss back on the bblogger train! I miss you guys. Going home for Christmas means a couple things, including: SEPHORA HAUL. Except I was so restrained, my god! I only picked up one product (!!), and just two in duty free (!!!!!) Though I did also try and swatch a couple out and am currently keeping my eyes on three new foundations (..not excessive at all): Estee Lauder’s double wear with the cushion applicator, Clinique’s blemish corrector, and Armani’s latest silk finish. My goodness, too lovely. But, foundations aside, I’m back to priming properly, and this Korean, Sephora-exclusive got me just so excited. My skin’s been really clear recently – cue me vigorously touching wood – and so I’ve been enjoying wearing thin foundations for minimal coverage and just light colour correction. So, to keep things a little more exciting, I picked up this baby: 3CE’s Back to Baby Glow Beam in #White, and oh man it is an utter delight. Just look at that shine!

A look at the packaging. Minimalist box (with instructions for use in English on the back), product in a tube reminiscent of watercolour paint (everything on the back in Korean), and then a twist cap. You only need a tiny amount of product, and as its brand new you really don’t even have to give it a squeeze to get any out:

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Bath cocktail: Comforter, You’ve Been Mangoed and Yoga

Two of my main things in life: I have to smell good, and I have to have soft skin. As I harp on about, I am so proud of my super soft skin! Keeping it soft isn’t something I necessarily need to work at, but it’s something I really enjoy working at. After a 9-5 I was very ready for this.


Some plant life had to be involved (of course). Candles because I’m a sucker for a good candle. And wine, because .. because wine. Always wine.


The Lush products on show today: The Comforter (one of the quintessential Lush bubble bars, also comes as a shower gel), You’ve Been Mangoed (a bath oil, and definitely smells like mango!), and the Yoga bathbomb.

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