Before I start
I had been terrified about starting my new job. For weeks, I was filled self doubt and convinced that I couldn’t do it. I wanted to pull out and stick with the safety of my current life as I knew it. That was the easy option. But I also knew that if I didn’t give it go, I would never know. And I would probably end up living with regret. So as terrified as I was, and as much as I desperately wanted to quit before I’d even started, I knew I had to do it. As my start date for my new job came ever closer, my anxiety grew stronger. Before I knew it, the day for starting my new job was here.
New Job – Day 1
Alarm is set for 5.30am. Thankfully, I wake up two minutes before and to my surprise, I don’t actually feel too tired. I get up, get dressed, put my sun cream on (as I always do) and head downstairs to the kitchen. I have my usual half a litre of warm water, take my medication, clean my teeth, and head out the door at 5.50am to walk to the station.
My train is at 6.15am and I arrive in good time. I was surprised to see that the platform was quite busy. I have commuted at that sort of time a fair bit in the past and it has always been very busy – like squished sardines. It was nowhere near as busy as that, but I was expecting with Covid that it would be pretty quiet, especially at 6.15am. However, once we had all got on the train, there was plenty of room and I found a seat where I could socially distance.
Now for me to sit down at this point is actually quite a big deal. Whenever I have commuted in the past for work or university, at this stage in the journey I would always stand up. Yes, quite often it would be too busy to sit down, but even if there were spare seats, I would never sit down. I HAD to stand up for this part of the journey.
But with starting my new job, I did not follow this rule that I had religiously followed in the past. I did feel a bit stressed and anxious but, I as I have progressed in my recovery, my thinking has become flexible. In previous years, my rules had been so rigid, so inflexible, and it was inconceivable that I would ever not follow one. But now, with increased flexibility in my thinking, some rules are easier not to follow. Some rules have become more flexible. And this is one of them. It was 6.15am and I wanted to sit down. So I did.
The underground was stressful. I have got used to commuting a lot over the last few years but with covid, I am out of practice. And I found it hard work. It was busy, I was apprehensive about the clear lack of social distancing and potential spread of covid, and it was tiring. I wasn’t used to it. When I arrived at my final stop, I then had to a short walk to my work place. But I had no idea how to get there. The directions I had looked at beforehand did not seem to match up where I was, and Google was not updating to my location. Stress overload.
After about 10 minutes of panic, standing on a street corner feeling absolutely helpless and convinced I would never find my way there, my Google Maps starting working. Thank god! It was actually really simple to get there (but it’s a bit like – questions are always easy when you know the answers)! I found my way to the correct room and waited for a member of staff to let me in.
Meeting New People
I met my new colleagues who all seemed very pleasant and welcoming. Generally, I really struggle with meeting new people as I have always been someone who is very shy and quiet. I never know what to say and believe that I am useless at making conversation. But actually, the more I have put myself into these types of situations over the years, the easier it has become. And I didn’t realise it had become easier until today. I didn’t find it quite so excruciatingly difficult to meet new people. That’s not saying it wasn’t hard, or that I was anxious or scrutinising my every word and move, but it was easier than it had been in the past.
In order for me to get to learn the new job, my first six weeks are more like shadowing. My first day at my new job went as well as I could have hoped for. I still believed that I would be useless, but at least I had made a start. I had broken that initial fear. My first days were due to be consecutive, Thursday and Friday. So I had planned to stay in a local Travelodge (which I had stayed in many times before and was familiar with the area) to reduce the amount of travelling and so I didn’t have to get up quite so early the next morning.
The Evening – What to eat for dinner?
Once I had checked into the Travelodge and got to my room, I then had to decide what to do for dinner. Whenever I have stayed away from home in the past, I would always either pack food with me for my dinner, or buy food for my dinner from a supermarket. And I would always buy the same food from the supermarket – I would basically construct myself a salad with some meat. But recently I had been thinking that I didn’t want to do that anymore. My digestive system struggles a bit with salad, and it also quite a mission to buy all the ingredients I want and prepare them in my room. So I knew this was an eating disorder habit that I wanted to change, I just didn’t know if I would be able to.
I had spent a lot of time over the past few days thinking about my options for dinner. What I really wanted to be able to do was to stay overnight somewhere and be able to order a takeaway. To me, that is more ‘normal’ than buying and constructing salad items, and I want to be able to do that sort of thing. I looked up places nearby that I could order food from. Literally, after hours, and days, of deliberation, I decided I wanted to have a Nando’s.
But when I got into my room at 5pm, I started to panic. It would be so much safer to just stick with what I knew and go to the local supermarket and buy my salad items. “There is no way I can order a takeway,” my head was shouting at me. It was even more of an issue because I was on my own. This made me feel even more guilty. It wouldn’t have been quite so bad if my mum had been there and if we decided together that we would have a takeaway. She would have been there as reassurance, and I could tell myself that I was doing it because she was there. But now it was me on my own. Me planning a takeaway. My decision. My responsibility. All the guilt came to me.
I decided that I couldn’t do it. It was getting later and it would just be easier for me to do what I always do. But I desperately wanted to be able to do it. There were two main reasons why I wanted to do it. Firstly, my hero, inspiration and friend Nikki Grahame, died recently from anorexia. Since then, I have been determined to keep pushing with recovery for both of us. I’m doing it for her, and for me. She is my biggest inspiration and I know she is with me every step of the way. Secondly, there are a couple of Great British athletes who I find really inspiring. They often post pictures of their food and, as someone who is trying to train and return as an athlete, I wanted to be able to eat food like they do.
For Nikki, and for my recovery dreams, I went onto Nando’s website, selected my meal, and ordered it to collect for 30 minutes time. Done. No going back now. It was a relief that the decision had been made, but I was terrified that I had made the wrong one. I needed to pop to the shop to buy some water and also my evening snack.
I bought a pot of porridge and a yoghurt, along with a protein bar which I was going to eat when I got back to my room. Now it was time to get collect my Nando’s. I went to collect my order from Nando’s and while I was waiting for them to bring it to me, I was convinced that they must be thinking what a huge amount of food I was ordering for myself. What a greedy person I was. I headed back to the Travelodge, had my protein bar and watched the TV.
Dinner Time – Nando’s Takeaway
For my Nando’s dinner I had ordered two grilled chicken breasts (plain, as I don’t like spice!), and sides of broccoli and super grains. When I put all my food on my plate (which I had got from reception, along with cutlery), I panicked. It looked like a LOT of food. I couldn’t believe that I’d had the greed to order so much food. “Who the hell orders two chicken breasts!” I was shouting at myself, and I stared at the plate wondering what the hell I’d done.
I sent a photo to my mum as she had asked me to send it because she wanted to see what the food looked like, just out of interest. She replied saying how nice it looked. I told her I was stressing about the amount of food and having ordered two chicken breasts. She reassured me, and I told myself it was just one plate of food. And I reminded myself why I was doing it – For Nikki, for athletics, for recovery, for a better life.
The food was delicious. Every single part of it. And I ate all of it – not a single piece of chicken or grain of barley left. There was an athletics event of the TV which I watched while I was having my dinner. Some may say a coincidence, I say a sign. Later that evening I ate my porridge and yoghurt and the overwhelming anxiety that I had felt when I looked at my plate of Nando’s had nearly all settled down. Proof again that anxiety doesn’t continue to rise forever.
If I’d have chosen not to eat the Nando’s, or restrict my intake in order to relieve the anxiety, it would reinforce the belief that I needed to do that in order to stop the anxiety. But by eating my Nando’s and all of my food despite the anxiety, I challenged that belief. I didn’t need to do that restrictive behaviour in order for the anxiety to stop. It settled down all on it’s own. And it settled down pretty quickly.
I had an early night because I was super tired. The bed was so comfortable, and I had my ear plugs in, the window open and the fan on to give me a nice breeze. I had a great nights sleep – so much so that I overslept my alarm!! It was because my ear plugs are really good at blocking out sound! I leapt out of bed at 7.20am when I woke up. I got dressed and headed out for my train at 7.45am.
New Job – Day Two
My journey to work wasn’t smooth. It should have only taken 20-30 minutes but there were severe signalling problems and train delays. I thought I was never going to make it to work. In the past, I would have crumbled in this situation. The panic and distress would be overwhelming. I would have cried and been desperate to give up. Whilst I did think that this was a sign that the whole thing was destined to fail, I remained calm as best I could. I did make it to work on time via an alternative route. I was ready to take on my second day at my new job.
Change, starting new things, a new job, going into different situations and environments can be really scary. Believe me, I know. For so long I have hidden away from any change and have stuck with the safety and familiarity of my routine. But by doing that, I have also lost many years of my life.
As I write this I am getting ready for my third day at my new job tomorrow. Am I still terrified? Yes. Am I still convinced that I can’t do it? Yes. Am I dreading tomorrow? Yes. But I also know that I am terrified of a stale and stagnant life that never changes or gets any better. As much as I am dreading work tomorrow, I dread losing more years of my life even more. And yes, the job might not work out. But we experience, we learn, and we grow. Anorexia has stopped me growing for so long. Don’t let anyone or anything stunt your growth. It is time to start growing.