A year since a coffee chat turned into a clear cut (ISH!?) campaign.
So! What have we learnt so far?!
1. We don’t know everything. We’ll NEVER know everything. We’re learning alongside all the wonderful people who interact, engage, listen and respond to workEDout. Everytime we open a seemingly brief conversation, it opens up MANY more and for this we’re so grateful. Our experiences AND your experiences…that’s how we learn, right?
2. People want to talk. People want to listen. People WANT TO LEARN. Professionals. Sufferers. PT’s. Clients. Friends. Strangers. This conversation has been quiet or non-existent for SO long, yet give people ‘permission’ and a means to communicate…and many will!
3. Campaign co-founders need coffee.
4. Campaign co-founders need cake.
5. Campaign co-founders CONSISTENTLY NEED BOTH COFFEE AND CAKE.
6. My recovery is on-going. My recovery will always be on-going. My relationship with food, exercise and body image continues to change and grow, and I hope that workEDout and our story reflects and brings more understanding to those changes. For us, for me and for you!
7. Running a campaign with someone else is better than running it alone. When one is short of time, the other takes time. When one is tired of life, the other gives them life! When one talks too much…the other tells them “enough”. It. Just. Works… and we’re just happier for it!
8. The best plan is no plan. The best structure is YOUR structure. The best pressure is no pressure. Who knows where workEDout will go, who knew where workEDout would go (Russian TV FFS?!?!)
We’ve always said…if we can reach one person. Make them feel heard, understood and/or able to speak out to someone they trust and say…
“I’ve got this thing I want to share with you”
…workEDout has, and will continue to achieve what it set out to do. From when I first shared my story with Carly in a chocolate shop nearly two years ago…to when we first shared our story with you (now a whole year ago!)..we just want to say a big ol’ THANKS really!
Are you ready for year two? No doubt…it’ll be unprecedented…(Ok. Seriously I’ll stop using that word now).
So, I’ve signed up to do my Level 3 Personal Training qualification.
How on EARTH did I get here? (Apart from MANY hospital based treacle tarts and MANY pleas to the ‘sane’ members of society…that I was in fact…also sane)
Well. This will be a summary. That can’t be called a summary. Because, it likely won’t be short.
I didn’t think I’d ever be in recovery from my eating disorder. At first, I didn’t think I’d survive it at all, but after my final admission I was able to regain aspects of my physical health, allowing me the first real opportunity to work on my mind, once discharged. Currently, eating disorder units tend to base their admissions/discharges on weight, meaning people often leave the hospital with their mind and body in two very different places.
I really saw it as my last chance. If I didn’t die from it, I genuinely believed I would spend my life in and out of hospital, and the longer I lived with it, the more ingrained it became. It was my identity, and I wholeheartedly lived up to being ‘the anorexic’. It gave me purpose in my otherwise empty life.
While regaining physical health is essential to recovery, it’s one piece of an intricate puzzle and with my ‘new larger’ body I’d never felt so disconnected from it. I had no idea what it needed. No idea what it liked. No idea of the person within it. I just knew I was mostly a miserable sarcastic b****. That part of me…remains!
My recovery care plan had been full of prescriptions, charts and graphs. I had been ‘mapped’ to an agreed weight (which was still not where my body needed or wanted to be), and now I’d reached it and been discharged, I felt like the connection between my body and mind had never been more disjointed.
I didn’t even hate my body before, but I really felt like I did now.
I moved back to Bristol in September 2017. It was my last chance at a ‘new life’.
Since I was 18, this was all I’d done. Move, start again, re-learn, get sick, be admitted, be discharged, move, start again… I was a revolving door patient…maybe it was the £600 a night room I was lucky enough to have been given or maybe recovery was just something I’d never see.
I started trying to re-integrate things back into my life that I hadn’t attempted before. Exercise was high on my list. Millennials exercise and drink coffee right!? I wanted in!
Yet, exercise was the most dangerous re-integration of them all (and combined with coffee…it turned into the most expensive!!)
All exercise had ever been to me was punishment. It was punishing at school when I was forced to go swimming on my first period when I didn’t have a clue how to ‘work’ a tampon. Punishing when I was taught how each piece of gym equipment could help me burn the exact amount of calories to sweat off those ‘break-time sausage sandwiches’. Punishing when I was plagued with gym adverts at the start of University reminding me that a membership would help me fight off the inevitable ‘Freshers Flump’. Punishing in the grips of my eating disorder when it complimented starvation in the quest for thinness.
Therefore, when a friend suggested I attended a Discoaerobics class with her, I was understandably reluctant, and thought to myself ‘OH HERE WE GO AGAIN!’
What was the point? My mind had never been able to experience exercise in any sort of positive way, and in my opinion, for my own safety, I was better off without it altogether. Yet, I hadn’t initially told any of my ‘new’ friends about my past, so in an attempt to fit in I went along.
I’ll never forget that first class. I’ll never forget the alien feeling of moving my body because it felt good, rather than moving it in an attempt to manipulate my weight. In fact, I didn’t even think about my weight. For that whole 45 minutes, it didn’t matter.
For once, I didn’t feel small and insignificant. For once, I didn’t want to feel small.
The only thing that mattered was that my body was functional enough to allow me to move safely. It felt…freeing. When most people my age were stumbling home from their Friday night at 4am with a doner (shout out to Harriett who doesn’t “do doner”), I was on a high from dancing around a room for 45 minutes and being home and in bed by 8pm. I didn’t care. I felt blissfully happy!
Now that I was tentatively nourishing my body, I was able to continue attending Discoaerobics and feel the benefits that joyful movement brought. Before, sweat had always been a sign of calories leaving my body. Now it felt…different, this ‘new’ sweat felt…exhilarating…exciting…addictive…
This addiction made me want more, and Carly’s other classes provided me with this option. Yet, I knew this was dangerous, I knew I was dipping my toe into triggering territory. Having come so far, and risked so much, I wasn’t prepared to jeopardize my shaky recovery.
So I made the decision to open up about my anorexia. If exercise was something I wanted in my life, I had to be honest with the person I was going to engage in it with. I had to lay my cards on the chocolate shop table and openly admit I had never know how to safety and intuitively move my body.
“What do you like doing?” She had asked me.
I honestly had no idea.
I’d never before considered what I might like, as all my movement had been dictated to me through others, through the lens of diet culture. It had always been a means to an end.
Carly never judged me. She never claimed to understand, but more than she’ll ever know…she really did. She never made me feel like I couldn’t do what everyone else in the class could do, just because she knew I had a mind that had wanted to punish, and a body that had long been punished.
Her classes brought me friends, community, an Oat Flat White addiction, (I’M A MILLENIAL!) laughter, understanding…connection…to each other and our mutual experience, but also a connection between my own body and mind. The exact link I’d needed all along; the one which finally enabled me to understand, respect and listen to my body for the very first time.
It wasn’t about what we did; it was about how we felt…what we needed. It wasn’t about punishing our bodies; it was about listening to them.
It didn’t matter where we’d come from…what we did outside of those classes. We could have been anyone, from anywhere. In those moments, we were just happy little humans, revelling in our own low brow humour, lack of counting abilities, and collective endorphins.
This post was meant to be about why I want to be a PT. I’m laughing…because I’m not even sure (in all these words!) if I’ve actually fulfilled that aim. I suppose I’ll sum it up, probably leave you confused and exhausted (if you’ve even survived this far) and equipped with the reminder to never again read one of my blog posts. But hey, I wrote this for me too.
In my 7-year battle with anorexia, I had worked to heal my body; I had worked to heal my mind. But I had never created a connection between the two. Carly’s belief in me, combined with the ethos behind her classes, the incredible community we’re a part of, and the joyful, intuitive movement we engage in, did this for me and it changed the face of my recovery.
Why do I want to be a PT?
Because maybe…just maybe… I could give this to someone else too.
When we were told we had to isolate ourselves, avoid family and friends, social gatherings and social connections; there was a collective sense of fear and distress amongst us.
We’re humans. We’ve evolved into social beings. Some require it more than others, but essentially it is at the core of our humanity, and we need each other for psychological survival.
However, in the midst of my eating disorder, isolation was what I strived for. I needed it. By being isolated, I could allow my eating disorder in.
My anorexia thrived off loneliness and segregation in an attempt to be my only, and my best friend. I avoided friends, family, eating with others, exercising with others…any form of community or gathering I actively opted out of.
I needed to feed my eating disorder, rather than feed myself.
As a result, social distancing is something I am very used to.
In contrast, in recovery it’s the people and the connections that I have made that helped me recover, and keep me well.
I had to go out of my comfort zone and put myself in situations, which at the time felt impossible. Eating with others, allowing others to make meals for me, opening up to others about my struggles with exercise…essentially I had to let people in, so I could get anorexia out. I had to stop trusting the illness, and start trusting the people who really loved and cared about me, and ultimately put trust in myself.
Since being both in recovery and in the best physical and mental health I have ever been in, I’ve always had these people around me. Checking in, being aware, and making sure that the choices and the life I am living is mine and not anorexia’s.
Yet, I’ve had this niggling fear that my recovery, and my happiness is based on those around me, on the life I’ve created and the people in my life that make me happy, and want me to be well. I’ve actively avoided considering whether my recovery is based on external factors, rather than my internal being. I’m safe eating with others and exercising with others. I can let them take control, allow them to look out for me, and keep me safe.
Suddenly, for the first time since being unwell, I am alone again.
I don’t have these people in close proximity. I don’t have many of the things that I believe are the scaffolds of my recovery. The external factors have temporarily gone, and I finally have to sit with my internal ones.
Am I well because of my friends? My family? Those that love and care about me?
Am I well because of the things I am passionate about?
Am I well because I surround myself with people who are good for me?
Am I well because of the life I have created?
People come, people go, situations change, time passes…ultimately external factors are out of my control, and I know I can’t base my recovery on them. Perhaps this is where my fear lies.
So, am I well because of something deeper? Something internal. Something which is stable and permanent, and has longevity.
I feared a time like this. I never wanted to be alone again.
But as this goes on, and the dust settles and we all find a new level of norm. I’m realising I actually need this time. I can’t base my recovery on others, on situations, on factors outside of my control.
workEDout is made up of Carly and I. A fitness professional,
and an eating disorder survivor. I am the latter, and calling myself a survivor
rather than a sufferer still feels surreal. It’s not something I ever imagined
myself being. In fact, I thought anorexia and I would be best of friends for
the rest of my (likely) limited days.
If I did ever imagine myself in recovery, I thought I’d be running
a mile from anything eating disorder related.
“If I recover, I will never utter the word anorexia again”
I wanted shot of it. I wanted out. And if that meant death,
then so be it. If that meant life, then god forbid if anyone ever mentioned it
again I’d throw my doughnut at them…because recovery meant eating doughnuts all
day long right?
Little did I know, that if I was ever lucky enough to
experience this illusive thing they named ‘recovery’ I’d wake up every day not
just with a incredible functioning body, but also with a burning desire to talk.
workEDout is the product of one of those talks. For me,
recovery isn’t just about moving on, getting on with your life and forgetting
what happened. It’s about talking, sharing, learning and developing in ways
that can support and comfort those who are where I was.
I got ill aged 19. Anorexia took five whole years away from
me. And every single day of that I was bitter, lost and full of regret. I swore
I’d never be the same. That I’d never get over what had happened. That I’d
never value life or myself ever again.
Grief. Anguish. Sadness. Pain. Anger.
I believed all of these emotions would define and leave me
crippled in a life that anorexia controlled, whether it was directly killing
me, or just living quietly beside me.
And yet…as I got better, and defied the silence…I gained back
Yes, anorexia plagued my life for five horrific years, but I
wouldn’t change a day of it. What I’ve learnt and what I’ve gained both
mentally and physically is worth every single one of those 1,825 +/- days.
workEDout is more than a passion project for me. It’s proof
that from suffering comes solace. From pain comes growth. And from experience
How can I regret what happened when I have a life and a
purpose that I never had before?
Recovery is not easy Recovery is not what you imagine Recovery is not being in love with your body 100% of the time Recovery is not being happy every single day Recovery is not just about food and weight Recovery is not avoiding what you went through Recovery is not going back to the person you used to be
Recovery is appreciating your functioning heart Recovery is learning to love you for you Recovery is sitting with discomfort Recovery is strong friendships Recovery is open conversations Recovery is spontaneous decisions Recovery is internal and external growth Recovery is about gaining life Recovery is and will continue to be the best choice I have ever made.