It is the leaves that make the tree.

It is the leaves that make the tree.

Look what I have done for you
My body is bare before you
My leaves fly into the air
My arms are knackered branches
Stranding exposed before you.
These are my leaves collecting around our feet;
I have unravelled in front of you,
Like you asked me to.
Can you see these tiny solar cells cascading,
Swirling before our eyes
Can you see them?
I have unpicked every one of them
(My secrets)
And you can see them
You can read them and feel them in your palms
Those stories that have kept me sheltered,
They held the parts of me I wanted to keep for myself
And
Who am I
now that you have seen every part of me?
Who can I be
Now that there is nothing left of me
That you have not touched?
You asked me to tell you who I am.
And now that I’ve told you the answer,
I cannot exist anymore.

-Emma Catherine

thelilaclysander.com

Chase

Chase

I can’t seem to sit still anymore

I don’t want to sleep anymore

It’s all a huge chase

That’s the game

Keep moving and it won’t catch you

When I am seated I have to watch it take over my body

I have to sit with people dancing around my head

(When it’s quiet

I can even hear them)

My legs that move with the waves of feelings

A neck that cracks to zap some of that friction

Between my stomach and my brain

I can’t seem to sit still anymore

I’m that irritating foot-tapper

Don’t let it be silent

Don’t make me listen to those muffled slurs and groans through that goddamned bedsheet

Don’t make me hear those shouts and those words

That have cut like knives into my exterior

Don’t let me relive it

I don’t want to sleep anymore

It’s like I can’t bear the waiting for another day

Let me keep going

Let me keep running

Make the days go faster

Make them go so fast they blur into nothing and then they’ll stop for good

Let me keep running

Don’t let me be human anymore

(A cheetah will do just fine)

Let me keep running

No sleep, no stopping

If I stop

I won’t be able to cope with the feeling

I can hear it catching up with me goddamit

What have I told you about slowing down!

I can’t stop running or else it’ll catch me up

And crash into me

I just want the world to turn faster

And the sun to rise and set like the tides

Anything that will make the running quicker

I’ve just gotta keep running

Keep your eyes on the ground ahead

I know when I stop I’ll have to face it

I’ll have to ask myself:

 

Who am I running from?

 

Am I running from them?

 

Or am I running from myself?

 

And where the hell am I running to?

 

 

~Emma Catherine

thelilaclysander.com

 

My Anorexia Story

My Anorexia Story

Okay, so, I have absolutely no idea where to begin.

Hi, my name is Emma, and for the past 6 years I have been recovering from chronic anorexia nervosa. I say recovering, what I mean is I’ve recovered and then relapsed, and then recovered and then relapsed, and yep then I relapsed again (hopefully for the final time) and that leads me to where I am today; I am in Strong Recovery.

I make a whole song and dance about classing myself as being in ‘Strong Recovery’ but it’s actually really important to me. For a long time, I was terrified of being recovered from anorexia. It was the main part of me for my teenage years, actually, instead of me being a normal teenager growing and learning, I felt trapped in time. I was very poorly, malnourished and weak for much of these years and I always felt like the embodiment of anorexia, one that went by the name Emma. But for so long I never wanted to let go of anorexia. I never knew how to survive without it, as much as being ‘in’ it was torture, it felt better than being in a world that I could barely stand, a world that I felt utterly powerless in. Now, I am the most ‘recovered’ I’ve ever been. But I will probably never call myself ‘fully recovered’. Not because I still have anorexia within me like some kind of foreign organ or a parasite. But because anorexia has greatly changed me, and to call myself recovered would be to say I am the same person I was before I got sick. I am not. Through all the pain this illness has dragged me through, I am now colourful, articulate, passionate, deeply caring and empathetic, and wise. Anorexia has changed me, but now that I’ve freed myself from its grip, I can firmly say it’s for the better.

But there are a whole 6 years before that. Before I get into the events that began this descent into anorexia, I would like you to note that I will not be sharing numbers (weight, BMI etc.) and I will not be sharing any details of hospital admissions during the past six years. Why? Well, I know these numbers are completely insignificant to the severity and recovery of an individual with an eating disorder. By disclosing these facts, I would be fuelling the fire of eating disorders that compete and become bullies to the sufferer. The same goes for hospital admissions. I don’t want to support the competitive culture we live in where people will only listen and hear the suffering of the most ‘severe’ cases of an eating disorder. Who are we to say that one case of an eating disorder is more severe than another? And why do these numbers that we obsess over dictate the perception of how ‘severe’ or valid an eating disorder is? Someone who suffers with an ED and has never been medically underweight or in hospital for it is just as valid as someone who has.

One thing that stands out to me about my journey and recovery from anorexia, is the way I never, as much as you may assume or professionals may try to make me say, thought I was fat or overweight. Like some, I never began losing weight or restricting my eating because I thought I needed to. In fact, I think it may have been because I knew I didn’t need to that made it so appealing to me. Self destruction was something I would become obsessed with to make myself feel good and manage my emotions. And even though I wasn’t purely starving myself for 6 years, it dominated my life, self destruction would also come in many other forms, such as self harming, poisoning, isolation and later on, alcohol abuse and reckless sex. But I won’t blanket over my developing of anorexia as just being a way of self destruction. I was obsessed with losing weight and becoming deathly thin, it was a way to allow me to fixate on something, and losing weight became some kind of sick way to see how far I could push my body. As I said earlier, I did feel very powerless and scared in the world, especially in my childhood and up to the age of 13. As saddening as this is for me to admit to, I wanted to be in control of the pain that I felt as a young person, and this meant losing weight to numb and manage my intense emotions. All of these reasons made me very vulnerable to the force of anorexia.

I will never 100% agree with the idea that anorexia is caused by pressure from social media and popular culture to be thin and to conform to the body standards our society seems to bow down to. I think it can add to the pressure of many young minds to fit in and feel adequate. But do not be mistaken, all eating disorders are very complex and I personally feel it would be doing an injustice to ignore the deep emotional turmoil and difficult life circumstances that can lead to an eating disorder. I believe both genetics and environmental circumstances can lead to anorexia developing, and in my case, I know that from a very young age I was painfully shy and worrisome, and sometimes unhappy.

From around the age of 12 I had a shift in my mindset, I knew that I wanted to start losing weight, but I cannot pinpoint the exact trigger that caused this. Although, I remember around my first month into these behaviours, reading Cathy Cassidy’s book Summer’s Dream in which the main character develops an ED, and this first introduced me to eating disorders. I realised, these thoughts that had plagued my mind actually had a name. From then on till spring/summer of 2014 (when I was 13) I had these thoughts in my head and it was only then when I started to feel very depressed, have panic attacks and started self harming that I went to the school nurse. I was referred to CAMHS at the end of June, but by this point I was barely eating, stuck in a relentless routine of hiding food which I was expected to eat on my own and I had become physically very unwell. At this time, one night stands out to me, when my dad found a bag of uneaten food I had been keeping under my bed from each time I pretended to eat my dinner, the same night I would see my dad cry for the first time. I think he could see he was losing me. I don’t remember much about my referral and CAMHS experience when I was 13/14, all I know is I was diagnosed with anorexia amongst other things and I gained some weight very slowly. A lot of the focus at this time was on the way my family problems affected me. An unstable home life with a lot of tension and unhappiness, strengthened my reliance on the illness, and I felt I needed it for stability.

In November 2014, after some therapy and support, I seemed to want rid of all professional help and be allowed to have some time away from services. At the time I did feel more positive, but looking back it was a bit *too* happy and an early example of these riptides of moods that would be sprinkled like seasons in my life. So, I decided I didn’t want any support (yep, pretty sure that was self-destructive Emma talking) and continued with school. My GCSE studies followed and my eating disorder was still very much thinking for me, and I just could not shift the thoughts about food and weight. Around May-July of year 11 things started to go wrong. I was self harming almost every day, home life was tumultuous and I was sad, and then all of a sudden very very happy again (later identified as mania/hypomania). As well as these worrying swings, I was starting to become reckless and I had my first relationship with someone. I loved and hated life at this time, I felt brilliant but my brain wouldn’t always cooperate. In my relationship I became very insecure with crippling fear of abandonment and I gave this person everything I had because of how much I loved them (but really I needed them to be okay with life). The relationship was so intense and unstable in the end that it lasted just over 1 month. This cluster of symptoms regarding my bumpy relationships with other people and myself would later be known as Borderline Personality Disorder.

But on the outside I looked okay, I was clearly an emotional teenager but I managed to do very well in my GCSEs getting 7 A*s and 3 As. All of these symptoms emerging, rocky relationships at home and an extremely traumatic event that happened when I was 16 led to a huge relapse at the start of Year 12. I lost a lot of weight very rapidly, and again I became very poorly, perhaps even more so, since I still had never been at a medically healthy weight all my life. I was sucked into the vile world of pro-ana content online which fed on my vulnerability and became delusional with ideas of needing to be pure and serene, something I was told could only be achieved by starvation. And so, I began to fade away once again. On Halloween night of 2016 I told my mum I was relapsing (yep, sadly the prefect horror night for her) and I was again referred to CAMHS. This time there was much more weight to gain. I slowly did it thanks to a good therapist and an antipsychotic to help me cope and antidepressants to lift my mood. But I did it. Sometime in 2017, my weight finally became stable (*pause for applause*).

But my memory of being really unwell is important to note as well. I don’t want anyone to ever think of an eating disorder as anything other than pure hell. (I’m not even going to address the ignorant lot who believe it’s a glamorous illness that pretty girls have). It is pure hell. I was sleeping at 8pm till around 5am when my body would wake me up (something that happens to your body in starvation mode in order to try and get you to find food) and then I would begin exercising until ‘breakfast’. I would sit like a broken lamp in all of my lessons, thinking, dreaming about food and making plans for my weight loss. I would have a sore back and hips from where my bones would sit on chairs with no muscle or flesh to protect them. I looked like a malnourished child and I felt like one. I could barely talk to my friends and my family (except arguments with my mum about meals). I remember walking to lessons and not being able to keep up with my friends because I was so weak and exhausted, and I found it so hard to laugh. I didn’t want to live like this, and as much as anorexia taunted me, who could blame me? There is no end goal for this disease, it wants you dead. So I chose recovery.

I got better slowly, and my eating disorder became smaller and smaller and Emma became more lively and whole. From there until now, today, I have dealt with all of my other mental health problems, including PTSD and now BPD. I am still in recovery from those and being supported, but my anorexia is now powerless. It takes one heck of a strong person to beat an eating disorder and, ladies and gentlemen, I am one of them. Anorexia stopped being the sole topic on my mind and I began healing with everyday that I was eating and living. Another note, you must eat to recover, there is no other way and if not now, when? I began to become Emma again and found my love of poetry, cats (all hail queen Suki, my cat), my wonderful friends, reading, photographing the sky and flowers. I gained ambition and purpose beyond anorexia. I sat my a-levels (which were eventful to say the least) and applied to university to study English Literature. I was no longer that embodiment of anorexia that filled my unstable identity and sense of self. I was so much more than that.

I wasted far too much time on the wrong train going the wrong direction with anorexia. I’ve spent a long time walking back from it. I fell miles and miles down into anorexia within weeks, and it’s a place I never want to go back to, and recovery was the long journey climbing all the way back up. There is a person behind every anorexia diagnosis and there is a life beyond its grips. One day I will have my mental illnesses under control. I’ve beaten the deadliest psychiatric illness out there, who’s going to stop me from flourishing? I am the best version of me I’ve ever been and I have spring back in my step.

The future is bright.

 

-Emma Catherine (thelilaclysander.wordpress.com)

Instagram: @rain.on.rosy.cheeks

 

Addiction saved me, and then I had to save myself.

Addiction saved me, and then I had to save myself.

I feel like, since I was young, self destruction has flowed in my blood. Then it’s divided and multiplied like a pathogen or parasite inside me and it’s lived there, among my organs, ever since. I don’t know why I’m so attracted to the prospect of destruction and excited by recklessness. Why do I prefer to live my life in chaos rather than serenity? To thrive in chaos is an omen. This is something I learned only recently, after 5 or so years of starving myself into non-existence. I’ve known a big part of me is an addictive side to my personality, the part that can’t ignore impulses and doesn’t want to acknowledge consequences for my behaviour. It was first the anorexia, then the self harming, then sex and then alcohol- almost like my mind can’t help but find new things to get stuck on. A big part of me is fearful, but somewhat darkly excited by the question: what will it be next?

I think in some ways, addiction is addictive because we know it’s toxic. It’s that kind of mentality that it’s so wrong but it feels so right that the part of my brain that just can’t get enough, bows down to. But no matter how much our brains romanticise the things that are going to kill us there is one thing we have to remember, as much as it feels like a lie, it is an illusion. As much as we repeat the same old thing in our heads, like a mantra ‘to convert a dystopia to a utopia, it must be destroyed’, it is and will always be a lie. There’s that parasite that lives inside us that we mistake for ourselves. It blooms like algae when we feel the most hopeless and the more dependent we become on it, the more is grows and grows into the body of us. And what started out as a problem, finally goes by our name. A shape-shifter of sorts. But the secret that keeps growing inside us can’t stay hidden. It shows itself on the outside, empty bottles of vodka, clothes that keep getting looser and looser around out waist, scars or long sleeves and a sadness on our expression. You see, what started out as something to help tame our unruly feelings, or keep us safe or give us an escape, didn’t just destroy the things we wanted to rid ourselves of, it destroyed us and everything else around us as well.

The long process of recovery and rebuilding begins when we, our family or our body can’t keep it up anymore. Someone or something says ‘that’s enough’ and we come back down to earth much faster than we ever went up. It is excruciating. Learning to restrain the parasite that’s made a home within us. You fight yourself whilst also trying to save yourself, because as much as the addiction saved us from what we wanted to forget about our lives, it will never make it go away. It will never be enough. With help, that impossible process can be made possible. A life that seems too painful to bear becomes kinder, and somewhere we want to be. And with every step towards peace and serenity we take, the air we breathe says ‘welcome home’.

-Emma Catherine

Instagram- @rain.on.rosy.cheeks

WordPress- thelilaclysander.wordpress.com

 

Poem- The Earth Beneath The Canopy

Poem- The Earth Beneath The Canopy

Trigger Warning- Sexual Assault

It only took one right to realise exactly who I was to him
Weeks of sharing and sharing and oversharing
And in that hour all I was to him was a fallen leaf to pick up and take away to wherever he wanted
I learned I was most wanted
When I was undressed instead of speaking
I was no longer a person when my voice was unheard
And I was all his when I gave up and gave in
No matter what I said or didn’t say
I was silent to him
Actually
I was a leaf picked from a growing tree
And once admired
Joined the ones growing brittle on the earth beneath the canopy
And from that place I could see
Exactly how far and how fast I had been pushed
And exactly how far and how long it would take me to climb all the way back up

~by Emma Cunningham

A Caged Bird

A Caged Bird

There are things I will never miss about anorexia.
I will not miss
Staring in the mirror
While the shower steamed up the corners of the glass
Watching my naked body
Like a caged bird
While my eyes began to sting
As I fought to keep them open
Out of fear that
Should I shut my eyes,
I would open them
And be twice the size as before.
I do not miss the freezing showers
Chapped fingers tentatively turning the dial to cold
As I carried out my latest new trick to poison my body.
I remember the droplets shooting off my cheeks
Quicker than I could count calories
As my teeth chattered
From the icy water cascading down my malnourished body.
Blue hands and lips were a reasonable price to pay for skinny.
I don’t miss standing on the golden sacred scales
And hitting rock bottom
Only to realise it was just a balcony
In a 100 story block of flats
That I had yet to fall down.
I don’t miss the feeling of frightening bliss
When every mouthful
Was the most wonderful relief for my tummy
And the most vivid nightmare for my mind.
Sometimes I miss starving myself
But I don’t miss starving my family
Of love
Kindness
Warmth
Affection
And
Hope.
As much as I believed I was soaring when I was starving
I was simply flying a descending plane with my eyes shut
Steering myself towards the ground
With the people I love as the passengers
Sacrificing myself ceremoniously
And bringing the rest of the world down as collateral damage.
Most of all
I do not miss hindsight
I do not miss the perfect irony
Of shrinking myself small enough to hide
From all of the things I was painfully afraid of
When really I was igniting the dead wood of my life
Into a rageful roar of flames
That almost killed me while I was trying to quench the heat.
Although I am warm now, rosy, happier,
The little fires still sizzle in the ashes
Of anorexia.

By Emma Catherine

thelilaclysander.com

Pretty

Pretty

Pretty
Is the judgement they make about me,
Before a single word has floated through my lips.
Pretty
Was the most wonderful complement
To the girl I was when I was seventeen
When I thought that looking like a doll
Was the most interesting thing about me.
Pretty
Is a double-edged sword.
It is a game of roulette
Where the word is loaded like a gun
Either with admiration or hunger.
Pretty
Feels like the debt I owe the world to exist as a woman.
A price plastered to my cheeks with my blusher
So that I can be sold into acceptance
So I can be noticed, not invisible.
Pretty
Is the affliction I have fought with for years,
The same affliction that wore me down to the bone,
The damn affliction that left me running through endless tunnels
Towards the light at the end that I swore I could see
Even when I was blind,
Even when it did not exist.
You see,
Pretty
Is often confused with perfection,
As if beauty can somehow equate
To a concept so toxic
That it is bound to kill when left untamed.
Pretty
Is the excuse that pardons
Assault
When grubby fingers pull at my dress at the bar
And palms graze my breasts
When I never gave permission for them to be there.
Pretty
Is a disease that I never wanted
A mutated quality I resented
When all my friends grew up wanting to be beautiful
And I just wanted to be
Something.
Pretty
Is a gunshot through my chest
When you really do assume
That it is the most spectacular thing about me.
Pretty
Is as ugly as a lie.
Pretty
Is a widow
Trying on her wedding gown.
Pretty
Is a disease I never asked for
So, forgive me when I cry in sorrow
When instead of asking my name
You remind me
That all I am to you is
Pretty.

 

By Emma Catherine

thelilaclysander.com

Vanity is a lie

Vanity is a lie

I look in the mirror far too much.
I fish for complements.
I paint my face, a mask,
I put blood on my lips
I wash my hair of everything bad that lives inside my head
I comb it and curl it
Until you can see every shade of beautiful honey blonde that shines there.

I look in the mirror far too much.
I admire my glow,
My radiance,
My perfect lips.
I see the beauty that everyone tells me I possess
And I ignore the faces of people who have ruined my dignity that I see beside me
The hungry spirits that possess me.
I watch those people staring at me
Thinking
‘god look at that beauty
what a pretty little thing
Look at that vanity’

But really
When I stare into my own eyes in the reflection
I blink back the tears
to stop the black paint running from my eyelashes
And I ask myself
How can this body
Hide the thick repulsive poison that sits inside?
How can it conceal the pain
That burns up the organs inside of me?
Vanity builds the blooming garden of roses across my cheeks
and the sunflowers that reach up my legs
To hide the bundles of stinging nettles that fill out my bones.

I look in the mirror far too much.
So tell me
How can it be that I am so beautiful?
When so much ugliness has been bred inside me?
What a treasure
That people see vanity instead of vulnerability
Vanity instead of years of violation.
What an absolute
Beautiful
Treasure.