What is a time of joy for many women was my darkest hour.
I try not to bother too much with the whole New Year thing. If I think about it too much, my depressive personality and the fact that the last few years have been pretty rubbish lead me into a pit of negativity that I can’t get out of. Not a great way to start a New Year.
Yet, despite trying to ignore it, I feel pulled between a pressure to launch into 2013 with a more positive mindset and a plan of action and a desire to just stop trying - that way, I can’t mess it up.
But a failure to try at all is a failure in itself so maybe I should give the New Year some cautious, realistic thought.
Like many sufferers of anorexia, I am someone who loves order. Plans and lists help me to feel calm and, whether I follow them or not, I love the neatness and order I see on the paper.
Meal plans have featured prominently in my life in recent years. They can be done in different ways and serve different purposes and I have always enjoyed printing off a grid in which to neatly plot planned meals and snacks, sometimes allowing space for analysis of what went well and what didn’t work.
To be honest though, there may have been a spaces for positive comments, but I doubt I’ve ever filled them with anything that wasn’t self critical.
At times meal plans have been a friend of anorexia, allowing me to work out calories and make the number decrease each day. I’ve found that, if I have to write down what I’ve eaten, I’m less likely to eat it as I don’t want to face the fact in print.
Even when trying to use them positively it is important to refer to an example meal plan as I can look at mine and genuinely believe it’s okay when, in fact, it’s seriously restrictive and imbalanced.
I remember comparing a list of food I’d eaten to that of my psychologist and being unable to assess whether my breakfast of a very low-calorie yoghourt was more or less food than her breakfast of cereal, toast and a latte. I knew the calorie content of both, but my mind plays tricks, doubting itself, so, for a meal plan to be helpful, it must be used objectively within healthy parameters.
When I’ve achieved that, they have helped me to stay on track and make a bit of progress. Until I fall off that track and can’t find the courage to get back on it.
Of course, meal plans are just one way of approaching recovery. There are other practical tools such as food swapping, portion control, implementing cognitive behavioural techniques and countless more, and that’s without even starting on psychological and social recovery.
The problem facing me this New Year is that I’ve tried them all and failed as many times. I don’t mean I’ve tried sticking to something for a few days and given up easily. I mean I have really tried. I have persisted, started each day afresh, picked myself up when I’ve fallen down and been as bloody-minded as I can (and don’t underestimate my bloody- mindedness) in order to change my behaviour, my thoughts and my feelings for the better.
How many times should I try again before conceding defeat? If there’s a numerical answer to that question I’ve already passed it. Constant effort and failure have worn me down to the point that I don’t want to try any more. I can’t face the failure.
I know that a New Year’s resolution will just result in further erosion of my self-esteem and I want to take the easy option of existing within my eating disorder as it is and accepting that no-one can help and that I can’t help myself.
However, some irritating bit of me, my human spirit or something, just can’t accept that. To accept hopelessness and to accept staying like this forever would mean that life wasn’t worth living. If I have to live, which I try to believe I do, it has to be better than this. Not perfect or wonderful, just better.
I will have to remind myself of this all day long and I am doing what I can to help myself. I have discovered some interesting material on the practice of mindfulness, which, at a basic level it encourages me to be aware and thoughtful of all I am doing, whether I am about to stuff a cake into my mouth, or take a handful of slimming tablets.
If I continue to stumble through life in survival mode, as I tend to, I am not conscious enough to make wise choices. So my first step is to become a bit more conscious of what I’m actually doing. I’ll give up more times than I’ll succeed. But, I’ll keep going.
So I am not setting any major goals this New Year. I am just starting it by reminding myself to keep on trying, however futile it may seem. Keep trying because that is the essence of life and humanity, and because it seems to be the only choice I have.