When Overnight Oats Become All-day Oats

Getting my breakfast out to finish my breakfast at 18:14

It has occurred to me fairly recently that something which I really want/need to develop as I try to manage my disordered eating is a sense of regularity and routine. At different times throughout my life I’ve had different patterns, but one thing that’s always been a struggle is eating in the morning. Feeling stress and anxiety upon awaking can definitely contribute to me not eating, as well as a pervading sense that I have something far more urgent to do, like go to a lecture, or write an essay, or get to work on time. Any excuse, really, but the reason is often linked to the idea that ‘I don’t have time’.

Perhaps this is because I have poor time management skills. Actually, no, I definitely have poor time management skills. I leave all my university reading til the last possible moment – cue me today eating my lunch at 13:45, trying to finish the required reading for my seminar at 2pm. This habit of leaving things till the last possible moment seems to translate in to my diet as well. For a long time when my feelings towards my body shape were more violent, I forced myself to delay my eating for as long as I could stand it. These days, quite a few years into practicing the rituals and techniques of restriction that I developed for myself when I viciously hated my body, I find myself in a strange position where mentally I want to restore my diet and body to health, and yet in action I often make many of the same choices I made when I was actively restricting, in a king of strange, unconscious, habitual manner. I’m not sure if I would even notice it if it weren’t for my boyfriend having to ask me the question “Do you think you might want to have something to eat soon?” many mornings in a row.

To try and combat the issues this irrational thinking creates and give myself no excuse not to have breakfast, I’ve recently taken to making overnight oats. The main reason is that I can easily take these with me in a lunchbox if I can’t make myself eat it before leaving the house. It’s literally no effort, so time isn’t an excuse.

Today I had lunch at about 1pm: 3/4 of a basil and tomato pasta salad. I started to eat the oats before a seminar, but after 2 spoonfuls the professor came in, so I put them away and forgot about them. I finally finished them this evening, just after 6pm.

I feel like I should’ve eaten my full breakfast and lunch by 2pm, not at 18:15. Now I’m obviously no expert on regulated eating (duh) but I feel like breakfast at around 8-10am, lunch at maybe 12-2pm and dinner at 6-7ish sounds about right. Maybe a little earlier, maybe a bit later, and fairly flexible within those hours. So yes, it seems I am aware of around about when you’re supposed to feed yourself throughout the day. And I supposedly want to be doing this properly. Yet still, in the moment where I should be thinking ‘oh, it’s, 9:30am, I should probably have breakfast now’, I’m thinking ‘ I have uni at 12, here’s a list of every single thing I need to do before then in order to get ready for the lecture, except eat.’

I think part of this is that I’m really good at ignoring hunger cues – so good, in fact, that I don’t even realise I’m doing it. Either that, or I have affected my ability to properly feel hungry by the mild abuse of my digestive system in the form of restriction. Whatever the cause, it seems that either I’m not listening to, or simply not hearing, the call which tells the average human that now it’s lunch time, and now a few hours later it’s dinner, and now even more hours later it’s breakfast. I seem to hear a panicked voice say “shit, it’s 10pm and I haven’t had dinner, what can I whip up out of a cupboard of dried ingredients that need soaking and a piece of ginger?”

The truth is, I have to get organised. And since I’m disorganised in every aspect of my life – my room fluctuates between being pristine and submerged in discarded belongings, my sleeping pattern hasn’t been regular since I was a toddler, etc etc – this is going to be very difficult. And I think it has to be a holistic, slow, “it’s a process” type change. But the impatient perfectionist in me that has become used to instant gratification is not so thrilled by this concept. I’d like to start getting up earlier, eating earlier, and going to bed earlier, rinse and repeat, but I’ve fantasised about that since I was about 15 and never been able to enforce it.

All in all I’m not really sure what the point of me writing this was. I suppose I just wanted to air some thoughts, seeing as I haven’t written a post in months. Articulating these thoughts should, in theory, help me track/document/chart my progress or journey in the long run. But it’s also quite cathartic during the writing process too, so I suppose the point of this post was really to get me writing, and thus processing, again. Thanks for reading, if you got this far through these neurotic ramblings.

The Importance of Reaching Out

I have learnt something amazing in the last few weeks since I wrote my last blog post and decided to share it on my personal Facebook. I didn’t share it straight away – I didn’t have the confidence – but when I eventually decided I had nothing to lose something unexpected happened. People from various different stages of my life – secondary school friends, university friends, random acquaintances I’d met once or twice and even people I’ve not met – began to fill my inbox with the most caring, supportive and helpful messages. Some shared their own similar stories, some offered a hand to hold should I ever need it, and many people praised me for my openness and honesty about something which I have kept very private for so long.

When I pressed the “post” button, I was filled with dread, thinking that my friends list would see the words I’d written as attention seeking, an overreaction, or pathetic whining. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I keep learning over and over again that the section of my psyche that causes me to perceive my physical appearance and my worth so wildly inaccurately also warps my perception of more subtle aspects of myself. Although I am training myself to interrupt the thoughts of self-doubt and shut them down before they establish themselves as “truth”, learning how to recognise which ones are not true is a tricky process.

What I have learnt is that when you reach out, other people will help you in this process in ways I never imagined they could. Some will do this by reassuring you that you’re not all of the things that your mental illness, in my case my eating disorder, will try and force you to believe. This reassurance is a great comfort and made me feel loved, appreciated, and worthy, which of course are all very nice things to feel.

There is something even more effective than praise and reassurance, however. Something which I was not ready to open myself up to for the entirety of my “struggle”, until this year. When you live alone with your mental illness, refusing to open up to anyone about it, it becomes easier and easier for the destructive thoughts to delude you, convincing your impressionable, vulnerable mind that they are worthy of taking up space within it. On the other hand, when your friends know about the defective aspect of your brain, they can actively identify your mistaken thoughts and, to put it bluntly, call them out on their bullshit.

For example, my ultra-caring boyfriend, who has had this part in weeding out my starvation-mode thoughts since I told him about them, has recently altered his approach. I was being stubborn, I didn’t want to eat before we went out, and after a few of his attempts to change my mind, I snapped at him “I’ve gone without food for (x amount) of days, I’m pretty sure I can handle another hour.” He replied “that wasn’t you talking there, was it?”. The way that he gave me no choice but to acknowledge that I was experiencing disordered thoughts was, while uncomfortable, extremely effective. Like a dog with its tail between its legs, I gingerly made my way back into the kitchen and had a bowl of cereal.

Now that I am honest with him, I have a boyfriend who supports me, argues with my disorder, and encourages me every day to give myself the nourishment that I deserve. Not only this, but after making it public that I have this problem, I have real life friends,  Facebook friends, instagram followers, and other online support who check up on me  and are there for me when I need them, and when I think I don’t (thank you Joanne, especially, if you read this!).

The point of this post is that I would never have received this abundance of help and experienced such an increase in my support network had I not made the awkward decision of publicising my mental health problems. It is scary, it goes against the isolation that so many mental health problems force their sufferers/survivors into, and it gives you no choice but to face your reality – you can’t hide it anymore or ignore it when you’ve told everybody. But the benefits that I have reaped from being truthful about my issues surpasses any initial minor anxiety I had about others knowing that I’m wired differently upstairs.

Noone has treated me any less kindly than they did before they knew the specifics about my mental health. Noone has bullied, shamed, or mocked me for it. Noone has tried to tell me it is a weakness. All that has changed is that now people know I need encouraging sometimes, and so I have received encouragement. It really has been that simple.

I would like to take a moment to thank everybody who has been there for me throughout this journey of learning to stand up to my own misprogrammed thought processes. If it weren’t for the care and support of my family, friends and my partner, I would be a lot further away from self-awareness and health, both mental and physical. I would also like to wholeheartedly encourage anybody who reads this and is struggling, to REACH OUT. It could be to your parents, a mentor at school, a friend, or if you think “f*** it” the way I eventually did, your entire Facebook and Instagram friends lists. And if you don’t want to talk to someone you know, you can talk to me – just please don’t suffer in silence.

Contact:

email – eve.michell@googlemail.com
instagram – evelloydeats or evemichelley
twitter – evemichelley

Feel free to reach me on the above accounts if you need support.

Love,

Eve xxx