I was planning on posting my next Alexandria recap tomorrow (sorry, later today), but my brain wouldn’t let me sleep until I wrote this.

It started Saturday evening (which is another couple of posts away), but really hit me the following afternoon. I was sitting in the hotel lobby waiting for the shuttle to the airport and I caught myself scanning the room for people I recognised, knowing full well that the few who had still been there at breakfast Sunday morning had either gone home or out for the day. It was the same at the airport – I knew of a couple who were catching a flight an hour before me, and although I hadn’t gotten to know them very well I semi-consciously hung on to the idea that maybe I might get that one last visual reminder of the friendship and support I had felt over the last few days. As I became aware of what I was doing it struck me – just how lonely I still feel, nearly three years into recovery. I have such a strong urge all the time to prove that I can cope by myself, to make people proud of me, so they will accept and include me. I still don’t like to show vulnerability to anyone and I don’t like people offering advice, because in my head it feels as if they are judging me as incompetent and weak. I am tough in all the wrong places, because that’s the only way I have been able to survive.

Last week I felt part of something special, something progressive and important. More than that was the sense of community. I felt accepted and valued, and for longer than I can remember I didn’t feel like my life was something to apologise for. If anything my history was seen as a strength – that I had lived through such things and come out the other side with something to offer in terms of activism and advocacy. And I felt so moved by the fact that everyone in that room had come because they wanted to save others from the same illness which tried to destroy my life and kill me. I didn’t have that support when I was ill, and that was devastating. I’m not trying to lay guilt on my parents here, or the friends who were too young to understand – but the teachers who turned their heads, the therapists who should have helped my parents help me, the doctors who swung between telling me I was attention seeking and childish or conversely, that I was hopelessly and chronically sick. I needed someone to stand up for me then. I needed someone to tell me that they loved me, believed in me, would never give up on me, would not let me die and would not make me face this alone. At the grand old age of 27 this thought – this grief – still makes me curl up like the suicidal eleven year old I used to be, and cry.

I hadn’t realised the extent to which I still carry that loneliness with me. And I will devote the rest of my life to this cause if I can stop just one child from having to go through that.


19 responses to “Interlude

  1. Hi Katie –

    It was lovely meeting you at the conference and here I am commenting like I promised. I just wanted to say that I have felt this way too since leaving the conference. An almost all consuming feeling of grief for everything my younger self went through and for all the years I lost and a huge, huge loneliness. Almost no one in my real life knows about my mental health struggles and I don’t think I had realized fully how hard that is. I have been sad and stressed and weepy this past week about just about everything.

    Just wanted to say that I’m right there with you.


  2. Charlotte Bevan

    My dear cyber daughter

    Just remember you are not in the fight alone. Sometimes you can let some of us take the burden or at least share it. One thing that being ill has taught me is that I need to put myself first sometimes. So do you. You just breathe. And cry. Crying is allowed. xx

  3. Hello there. I haven’t commented on your America posts yet because I haven’t had time to properly read and digest – I’m just about to leave for work too, right now, so this is just a quick drive-by comment. This post just really struck me. I don’t really know what I’m saying here, other than “I read this, and I listened to this” and wanted you to know that.
    Right! Off I go! But I’m coming back when I have time for a proper catch up read with a cup o’ tea.
    Hope your saturday treats you well : )

  4. One of my shorter blog posts confused the heck out of our dear Charlotte when I said that “I dare” (meaning I dare to get involved in the ED world, to challenge received opinions, to speak out when my view is not wanted….) “because I have to”. THIS is why I have to. I have let my own daughter down many times through ignorance and weakness though not through deliberate fault, and no doubt I will get it wrong numerous times in the future too, but I know that every time I need to pick myself up from my failures and keep going because, like you, I need to do all I can to make sure that fewer and fewer people have to go through this and no one has to go through it alone. You don’t have to at 27 and I don’t have to at 50, the dear lady I met recently doesn’t have to at 76 either.

  5. You are so brave and i am so glad that you are making this effort to reach out and help others… i often feel very alone in this illness. not quite being able to cope by myself, yet not wanting to force my issues on others, i try to forge on alone, trying desperately to cling on to the independent, proud person that i was. i dont like to admit that i need help, but sometimes i would like someone to stand up and say…. im doing this for you, regardless….
    You’re not alone and you ARE important, you are making positive changes for the future of others, that is significant beyond words

  6. One of the hardest things for me to come to terms with is the fact that when I was at my most ill, I didn’t get the help and support I needed from the professionals. DIY recovery (from self-harm in my case) and rebuilding my life was so empowering but the fallout from having been essentially neglected by the mental health services has been huge.

  7. I too dislike showing any vulnerability to people and always want to come across as someone who is trying hard and coping well, which didn’t help me access services at the time and doesn’t help me feel less alone now. I can really understand why the comedown after the conference has affected you so much. Thinking of you. xx

    (Posted in two comments as my phone was misbehaving!)

  8. I empathise with everything you write here… I still feel incredibly lonely at times… It’s strange, because when I was buried in the depths of anorexia I felt no loneliness whatsoever. I didn’t want other people and my only focuses in life were my studies and my anorexic behaviours. That has all changed and leaving behind anorexia nervosa means entering into the ‘real world’ and trying to cope.

    I am so very grateful to the FEAST mothers for ‘adopting me’. My parents didn’t cause my anorexia but they didn’t know how to handle it and for a number of years it drove us apart. My mother still doesn’t know how to handle my residual and co-morbid difficulties.

    We’re all with you Katie. Having a community is so important.

    I am not sure whether I am commenting under the name ‘Cathy’ or my new, developing blog. Anyhow, it is Cathy here! xx

  9. Hello! I found your blog through clemmy’s and I wanted to say that it’s actually pretty nifty! I stole some of your recovery tips and it is helping me think in a different way a little. So thank you for posting this stuff, it’s pretty useful and your attitude is pretty great.
    Mental health problems are pretty isolating and it can make it difficult to look for support – especailly as a lot of people have very little experience with them and hold views that are entirely wrong. But your story is entirely brave and shows a lot of strength. You won’t feel lonely forever as long as you keep trying to reach out. You’ve come so far it’s inspiring, but it is a slow process and you can’t always notice what you’ve lost straight away. You’ll get it back with time and conscious effort.
    I hope I’m not over stepping the mark here by commenting. Just thought I’d say x.

  10. Two things stuck out to me about this post. Firstly, (and I know this is probably missing the point) there is no way you should ever feel like your life is something to apologise for. As far as I can tell, you’ve done really well to get to where you are today and you should be proud of it. Ironically, your blog is often what I turn to when I feel most alone in recovery. I don’t think anyone who knows you could *ever* judge you as incompetent or weak! It’s normal to need help with things, and whenever I’ve admited to weakness/vulnerability (or things that I see as weakness, anyway) I’ve been surprised by how happy people are to help.

    The second thing that stuck out was what you said about lonliness. I feel as though I’ve been lonely as long as I can remember, long before I had an eating disorder. The intensity of the feeling varies but it feels like the normal state of things to me, and I sometimes wonder if everyone feels like this and I’m just extra-needy and pathetic for finding it so hard to cope with. (It’s not exactly a question you can drop into everyday conversation.) I’ve forgotten what the point of this paragraph was now… I guess it’s a wonderful feeling to not be alone, and even now you’re home you’re still part of something.

    Since I doubt any of the above is any use whatsoever, I’m going to stop rambling and send you virtual hugs and cookies. I hope today goes better for you.

  11. beautiful post. we are fighting for the same cause, for the same reasons. i am happy to have a similar force, halfway across the globe. x

  12. Other people have managed to put my thoughts into words with their comments, which is fortunate because I don’t think I could express myself nearly so well. Thank you for writing this post, I think that many people can relate. and I think that identifying and expressing your feelings around loneliness and belonging is important for you too. Warm caring thoughts headed your way and I look forward to catching up with you properly soon.

    x x x

  13. I have struggled with the same sense of solitary existence my entire life. When I was a bright, bubbly, happy-go-lucky girl in primary school I would be left sitting on my own in a corner, trying to make myself look like I had something to do when I was crying inside. Then I fell ill, and everyone remained distant from me like I was some strange creature unlike any human species. Now, even when I try to push myself into the world when my mind feels the capacity to do so; I get rejected and people naturally do the same things to me.
    It’s like I give off a aurora. So many years, so so many different people, and they all know secretly that they have to exclude me.
    And I don’t think it will ever change. I tried being myself, I tried being somebody else, I tried being happy, I tried being my ill, depressed and dying self, I tried being strong; nothing worked.
    I’ve never had a friend more than a year, and I’ve never, ever, had a single intimate relationship.
    Maybe one day I’ll come to accept this is who I am to the world,
    But till then … I’ll be alone with you, together.
    If that makes sense.

  14. Hi, there. Life has kept me away from the world of blogs until today. Just posting here to let you know, at least cyberspace-wise, you’re not alone!!!!!!

  15. Dear Katie, and Hannah, too! It was wonderful meeting you both at the conference I just want to thank you both for sharing so much of yourselves with me. It was a privilege to spend time with you. You both have written so eloquently about what is going on with you post-conference. I have a young adult daughter who has suffered mightily and long from these vile illnesses, and I grieve along with you for the unfathomable pain you have all felt, for the opportunities and time lost, for the unfairness and cruelty of it all. We must grieve until we can’t grieve any more, or we can’t move on. I will, too, do everything I can to promote quick intervention, diagnosis and effective treatment for everyone, of every age, and both genders, who has an eating disorder.

  16. I know that loneliness and that grief. I’m on a similar but different path to you and I know something of how important it feels to be able to use your experience as a most valued asset and to be part of a solution. I hear you. Louisa (H) x

  17. Laura Collins

    We are a village, aren’t we? Poor, poor ED, with a village like this to hear one another and care and fight him. I care about you, Katie, and appreciate you.

    I, too, felt so alone once, and for a long time. Connection and purpose and courage and kindness in the face of it all – it really works. It is an honor and daily pleasure to be part of the community. Thank you, Katie.

  18. Oh honey. I’m just reaching through this keyboard to give you a squeeze.


  19. Pingback: Photograph of the week (28): Geology rocks! | Giant Fossilized Armadillo

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