SITTING WITH IT

What happened during those three weeks tested my stability in recovery. The flashbacks, which I’d had to induce by choice, were indeed overwhelming as I had feared, and I was completely alone with them. With my mind finally going to the places I needed to write about, I couldn’t run away, distract myself, eat (or not eat) as I always had done before. I had to sit with it, sit with it, sit with it.

And write it down.

Write It Down

This post is the fourth in a series about a writing retreat I took in 2010. Please click here if you’d like to read from the beginning.

TRIGGERS

For years I avoided triggers. For me, that meant avoiding anything specifically relating to eating disorders and recovery, any information about dieting or weight loss; anything that might upset my long-fought-for fragile balance of not hating my body to the point of wanting to obliterate it.

It also meant avoiding sex. Not only the physical act but books, movies, anything that reminded me of its existence. Sometimes even the word was enough to trigger a flashback, and words like rape or abuse had even more power. (As a result of thinking about triggers, I’ve given some thought as to whether I should give ‘trigger warnings’ for posts on this blog. This cautionary note explains my feelings on the matter.)

When I was on my writing retreat and finding it difficult to reconnect with those emotions by choice, I decided my best way forward was to try and trigger myself. I set about reading a stack of books I’d diligently avoided for years…

Triggering Myself

It worked.

This post is the second in a series about a writing retreat I took in 2010. Please click here if you’d like to read from the beginning.

FEARS

This post is the first in a week-long series about a writing retreat I took in January 2010, to work on the first full draft of Lighter Than My Shadow.

Looking Back

I was afraid of being alone with all of my ‘stuff.’ I was afraid that putting myself back into an eating disordered mindset in order to write about it would make the behaviour all too tempting. I was afraid that in three weeks without anyone to check on me, I would find myself fully entrenched in a relapse.

I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to cope with flashbacks or anxiety attacks, and that the pain would become overwhelming and result in a complete nervous breakdown.

I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to work at all.

This illustration was created in 2009, before I signed the contract with Jonathan Cape. Some variations on the concept have appeared in the book, but this exact image didn’t find a place. However, it seemed perfectly fitting for this blog post.