Dearest GodzillaPin,

It’s been a month to the day I left France for good, walking out your life definitively.

I shall not go into details on such a public platform, how ugly things had become towards the end, save to say when I left, we were at a stage in our relationship where every conversation spiralled into an argument within two minutes of beginning.

We had an immense amount of frustration, hurt, distrust, loathing, and a lot of unhappiness between us. You may recall I spent the whole month between my return from Singapore and my re-departure hiding at the library trying to avoid you. You’d called me unrepeatable names. I wasn’t pulling my weight around the house; I’d given up trying.

It’s as if we forgot how our relationship started out as friendship. Remember how we met at my place one summer evening in an Australian December, when my German housemate celebrated her birthday? It was themed a Bad Taste Party and we were all dressed to our absolute WORST, and as the evening wore on, after one drink too many, you found it hilarious how I was recklessly rollerblading through the house while I got so excited finally finding a veritable French person who embodied everything I believed of the French language and culture.

We were young. We were innocent. We were naive. We were daydreamers.

Back then, it was just you and I. Our parents weren’t involved. We didn’t have the stresses that came with adulthood. We were carefree and careless. You were a romantic dreamer who taught me how to savour the pleasures of life.

I walked away for many reasons.

You know that for a relationship to work, it takes two hands to clap. Once upon a time we were high-fiving effortlessly, but after a while we weren’t clapping anymore. At any rate, even if we tried, we were missing.

Between Mother Rabbit and Papa Turtle, you know there was too much parental interference. As an Asian I understand the importance of deference to parents, but where we failed was permitting external voices to overpower our own say in the matter. I failed to shield my mind from Papa Turtle’s harsh criticisms of you, while you failed to shield me from Mother Rabbit’s criticisms, full stop. Like dripping water over time, it wore us both down.

Between your continuous unemployment despite many job offers, and my horrific illness of an eating disorder (and various other health issues – let’s not forget my car accident and multiple C. Difficile infections), things just got too much.

When you can’t deal with your own shit, you can’t be there for someone else. I wasn’t coping with my own problems and neither were you. How then, could we contribute and give 100% to our relationship when we weren’t taking care of our own issues?

The day I left, you drove me to the train station and in tears, you asked me how you were going to live without me.

It’s been a month and you’re still there, aren’t you? I know you are OK.

I’d never seen you crying that way before. I’d never seen such pain and hurt and upset, and a part of me died, knowing I was the cause of your hurt. But I hope you can see that I did it for US. I did what was best for both you and I.

All those years ago you asked me to leave it all behind – my job, my volunteer work, my friends and family in Australia and Singapore – to start a new life with you in France. I did that. I took a chance. I loved you with nothing less than my all. And because I don’t do things by halves, and because I still care, I did what I had to. Before your problems, and my own, completely ruined us. Before it destroyed our lives any further.

You thanked me for all the beautiful memories we shared. I thank you for them too. From backpacking through Europe where we visited castles, nuclear bunkers, wineries and beaches, to exploring various cities around Asia and sharing beers and barbecued seafood at the beaches, lazing around pools in villas… All the way back to when you used to pull me out my shell during my student days by packing homemade gourmet sandwiches for picnic lunches by the Torrens River behind the University of Adelaide.

Even back then when I struggled with my food issues, you taught me to take pleasure in my meals.

I left because I have my demons to fight. It’s a battle I must fight alone. I cannot drag you into this. So understand that after 8 years of shared history, by choosing to walk away, I’m not kicking you to the curb so much as I’m granting you a freedom from a flavour of hell nobody should endure.

Go. There is no time, no room, no chance for regret.

Make something of yourself and your life now that you’re not saddled with someone mentally ill. You’re a BAC+5 who went through prepa – your potential is limitless.

I believe in you. Chase your dreams, whatever they may be.

And when you asked me “how can I just forget everything we had, everything we shared?”, my answer is simply – don’t. Do not forget them, because I won’t.

You came into my life for a reason, and for all the pain and suffering you and I have caused, inflicted upon each other, intentional or not, we also gave each other a lot of happiness. So don’t regret any of it, I try not to.

And when you’re sad, when you’re afraid, when you are in doubt, when things get too much, remember.

Remember the happiness and joy of when we were deliriously in love with each other, without any complications. When we were young and stupid and carefree and truly happy. And find the courage you need to get through all the shit you face with these memories. We had too many to count. Let’s not count them. Let’s just be thankful for them.

So, thank you.

I loved you.

In a way, I still love you.

But just as love unites, it can separate too.

Here are some of my favourite pictures of the times we shared. You know we had many, many more. Camping in the Swiss Alps with Matt Damon. Shared meals in our apartment with Mickey Mouse. Racing up the Dune du Pilat with Sonic the Hedgehog.

All those races you drove me around France to, and your beaming with utter pride as I crossed the finish line each time, when my own parents were not there to celebrate these victories.

Remember them all with a smile. I try to.

And in case I haven’t said this enough, let me say this once more.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Fondly,

Ninja Turtle

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Eating Disorders

Bon Appétit!

I looked at my meal this morning
It was simultaneously
Too much, and not enough
Just like me
When I woke up this morning
Asking myself: am I hungry?
Yes. No. Maybe. I don’t know…
I’m full and yet, empty
My mind plays dirty tricks, you see
It says: what does the scale read?
Is the number good enough
For this morning’s feed?
But that’s irrelevant, I know
To eat by earth’s gravity
And not by signals I ignore
From my poor abused body
Yet hunger, how do I honour you?
For years, you’ve frightened me
To feel you is unfeminine
So says our society
To want, to need, is weakness
A shame one must conceal
To yearn, to crave, is wanton
For women, to reveal
My hunger is enormous and
It’s something I can feel
But I can’t go and seize the day
Without a morning meal…

So quiet the toxic voices
That say “no, you cannot”
They’re wrong, because you CAN
Don’t listen to that rot
You can, you should, you will
No fear, just be yourself
You’ll shine like the constellations
When you regain your health
Know that you’re worthy of love
Just the way you are
Embrace the hunger, chase your dreams
Sweet soul, you are a STAR.

 

Breakfast is one of those meals where most people tend to take less seriously, and for those recovering from an eating disorder, it can be particularly hard. The Ninja Turtle skipped breakfast for many years, and during recovery, spent six months making it a habit.

One of the biggest problems and fears for sufferers is “why eat when I’m not even feeling hungry anyway? I’m going to have to restrict later during the day when I actually feel hungry, so shouldn’t I just save my breakfast calories for later?”

No. Oftentimes we don’t have an appetite when we awake, that’s true. And most healthy people can afford to skip their morning meals without dire consequences. But when one is recovering from an eating disorder, every meal is an opportunity. Food is medicine, and mealtimes are training sessions – a chance to be less scared of food, a chance to re-learn what we like and do not like, a chance to nourish our broken bodies correctly, deliciously, happily without anxiety or guilt.

Another concern during recovery is “if I start eating when I’m not even hungry, when do I know when to stop eating?”

This is another opportunity to learn. The Ninja Turtle really struggled with hunger and satiety cues, and she still does now, but it only came with a lot of practice and patience and courage to dare to eat. You cannot know what it feels like to be full if you keep denying it when you feel hungry. Only when you know the two extremes will you slowly learn the varying degrees of in-between.

You’ve been restricting and running on “empty” for so long (it doesn’t matter what weight/BMI you are, as long as you are undereating to your individual physical needs, that is restriction) that your brain and body needs a few, if not many opportunities to recognise it’s-OK-there’s-enough-to-eat-so-eat-to-your-heart’s-content which is for the Ninja Turtle, “full to bursting”. But that’s OK. Eventually it all calms down. The brain and the body are starting to recognise there is no need to eat like one must prepare for a famine, because the mental and physical restrictions are removed.

So one day, maybe breakfast can be pushed off to become brunch (preferably with lots of champagne, eggs and avocado toast, waffles and ice cream) or a simple cup of black coffee. But not yet. Not when one still needs to replenish, rebuild and re-learn.

Eat your breakfast, fellow warriors. Some days you will want it, some days you will not. Some days you will enjoy it, some days you want to fling the darn thing at the wall on the other side of the room. Some days you’ll be awake two hours before it, looking forward to the orange juice, bacon and jam on toast, some days you will wish all the omelettes and oatmeal on earth could just vanish forever.

And one day you will wake up thinking about poetry, fashion, travel, politics, animals, languages, archaeology, volunteering, [insert what you like here] instead, and whatever you’re served up for breakfast becomes irrelevant, and then you realise… this is what it means to be free.

N.B This was a photo taken in January 2011, right back the the “beginning” so to speak, when GodzillaPin and the Ninja Turtle first started officially dating. This was a trip to Saigon in Vietnam, back in a place and time when the Turtle could eat a morning meal without qualms and just get on with the rest of her day (which was exploring Vietnam’s war history in the Cu Chi tunnels).

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Arts and Culture, Eating Disorders

Christmas Poetry

As most people suffering from eating disorders know, the end-of-year holiday festivities is a particularly trying time. Christmas to New Year’s? Ha! More like from Halloween stretching up to Valentine’s Day (heck, why stop there? sometimes it extends till Easter), the entire world seems to be in a perpetual let’s-see-how-much-we-can-feast-or-indulge mode.

Stressful enough for everyone in general, it creates additional anxiety for those dealing with eating disorders as one is constantly surrounded by food, and with all those parties and gatherings come conversations and remarks surrounding one’s appearances, eating, dieting, etc etc etc.

*brain explodes*

When one feels this overwhelmed, it’s dreadfully easy to lose sight of the true meaning of the festive season. Be it Ashura or Bodhi Day or Christmas or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa or Yalda or Yule (apologies if your particular faith has been overlooked in this list, but the Turtle acknowledges there are plenty of religious holidays at the end of the year, not just Christmas), it seems in every corner of the world, people of all backgrounds, skin colour, creeds and faith seem to be celebrating.

Yes, fellow sufferers of eating disorders. It’s a time of celebration, not of stress and unhappiness. It’s a time of getting together with people we love, people who mean the most to us. It’s about sharing the most precious thing in life – moments.

Don’t let the self-loathing distract you from the fact that people are truly happy in your company. Don’t let the critical self-judgement turn into unhappy disagreements with people who truly care for your well-being. Don’t let the lies of the disorder fool you into believing there is anything more important than sharing time with friends and family.

Not your dress size, not the extra bowl of creamy cheesy mashed potatoes, not the third glass of mulled wine or mug of hot cocoa spiked with rum. Not the number of kilometres you have to run before or after Christmas Day. These things don’t matter. They are irrelevant.

Let go. It’s OK.

While sorting through her poetry collection, the Ninja Turtle stumbled upon a poem titled Christmas 2010, written in a period of her life when she was in a much better head space. A time when she could see what truly mattered. For the last few years she’d lost sight of it, but as she continues to claw and fight her way out of the grip of this frightful disease, she’s hopeful that every Christmas will be like this again.

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Christmas 2010

Friends and family, loved ones dear
On this day all gathered here
To celebrate the festive cheer
What a magical time of year

Cards and gifts and wrappers a-flurry
Drinks and nibbles, a feast of plenty
The boys all strapping, the girls all dainty
Music and laughter, all joyful and merry

A time of giving, a time of receiving
A time with others, a time of sharing
A time for loving, forgiving, forgetting
A time to make memories forever worth keeping

A toast all around with cheap champagne
To pleasant company, great to entertain
I think, my friends, it’s rather plain
That next year we’ll be doing this again!

 

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Arts and Culture, Eating Disorders

Change

Of course now I’m different
For nothing stays the same
Not even you, my dear friend
But changes bring no shame

For are we not improved?
By sands of time, refined
Polished by the fires of fear
Like rubies, now we shine

Our daily tribulations
Dull aches of suffering
So sharpen our resilience
To face what tomorrow brings

And crises flung our way
Each battle that we waged
We’ve scaled canyons of grief
Surmounted with great courage

Look back not at yesterday
And wonder what may be
No more are you the same you
Nor I, the same old me

Focus instead of what’s ahead
The journey’s not yet done
But knowing that we’ll make it
That’s half the battle won

So embrace change, fear it not
It’s the only certainty we’ve got

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Eating Disorders, Stories

Lessons in Eating Disorder Recovery: Humbling the Self

In the process of recovering from eating disorders, one learns many lessons. Among those is facing one’s weaknesses, and acknowledging the uglier sides of one’s self. This is not the same as the bullying lies of the eating disordered voices, and distinguishing the two is perhaps the key difference between being stuck in the illness, and making progress in recovery.

For example, an eating-disordered criticism would sound something like this:

“You haven’t ran properly in a few months now. You’ve lost all your fitness, and muscle tone. Serves you right. You’re nothing but a lazy, worthless wannabe who will never make it as a real athlete. You dream about inspiring people to live happy, healthy lives but look at you. Pathetic. Weak. Letting an infection get the better of you so easily.”

That voice is bullying. It is destructive. It is hurtful. It serves absolutely no purpose except to crush one’s soul.

Recognising one’s weakness is quite another thing. For one, it’s sounds a lot more objective.

“You want to know why you’re feeling so bad? Because you’re still comparing yourself to when you were at peak fitness two years ago. Back when you could run 100km a week. Back when you were placing in your age-group category in trail races across the country. It’s not a fair comparison to make when you’re currently not only struggling with eating disorders, but have also been sick with a bacterial infection that saw you hospitalised FIVE times in two months. You feel terrible because you’re too proud to accept that you’re not as good as you once were. You feel lousy, and ashamed, because you secretly dream of becoming the best in everything you try to do, and when it doesn’t happen, you hate yourself. Good enough is never good enough for you because of arrogance.”

Yes. The Ninja Turtle will admit it. Her greatest shortcomings are pride and arrogance, which is also the fuel for her intense self-loathing. It is also why like many others with eating disorders, she often chooses to suffer in silence, rather than ask for help when she needs it. She is too proud, for she is afraid to look weak.

So now that the Ninja Turtle has seen her faults as they are, she’s hoping to move forward in recovery, and hopefully life in general.

Firstly, she’s going to accept that “good enough is good enough”.

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Don’t compete with anyone. This includes the “imaginary perfect version of yourself” and “that glorious version of yourself you used to be”.

Secondly, she’s going to stop rejecting help when it is offered, and maybe even start asking for it when she needs it, because it’s OK to be imperfect. It’s OK to be weak and vulnerable sometimes. It’s certainly OK to say “hey I’m really sick and need a helping hand.”

Which brings her to the crux of the matter. Many people who have loved ones, friends or family, suffering from eating disorders and often they want to help, but frequently are at a loss as to how they can. It’s not easy to help someone who doesn’t want to be helped, for one.

But for those who do, it’s also not easy because frequently, people don’t know what they can say or do to make the situation better. Often, well-meaning advice, or actions driven by love and good intentions get misconstrued, and before you know it, the whole situation blows up into another argument or a fight.

As each eating disorder sufferer’s story is different, each recovery path will also be as unique as its individual. The Ninja Turtle cannot speak for others, but she’s come to identify what she wants and needs the most in her recovery.

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Unhelpful To Recovery

Pity. The Ninja Turtle does not want pity. Pity comes from a place of superiority and the least helpful thing to someone’s recovery is another condescending voice.

Unsolicited advice. The Ninja Turtle appreciates that aromatherapy, cupping, Reiki, sophrology, acupuncture/intermittent fasting/praying/Paleo,vegan, [insert ingredient here]-free, some other special diet/meditation, yoga, Tai Chi, aquagym, [certain type of exercise]/deep breathing in cycles of 16 on certain days of a waxing moon in Libra rising or whatever may have completely changed your life. Congratulations! But it’s OK, the Ninja Turtle is working with medical professionals and in time, she will figure out something that will work for her.

Unsolicited advice of another type. Telling the Ninja Turtle that maybe she should not eat so much vegetables and fruits, maybe she should not eat so much in general, maybe she should not use so many spices,, maybe she should not [a million other things she hears daily] does terrifying things to her psyche. It says:

  1. She’s being observed when she eats.
  2. She’s being judged for it.

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What the Turtle Would Like

Compassion. It’s not easy trying to understand the difficulties of an eating disorder, and that’s OK. The Ninja Turtle doesn’t need you to understand 100%. What she would like however, is a little compassion. It’s not easy to get through the day on most days, and more so when one is in great physical pain.

Patience. “Recovery is a marathon, not a sprint.” If the Ninja Turtle got a penny for each time she’s heard that phrase, she’d be a millionaire. Poor GodzillaPin, understandably, is getting rather weary of the illness, and Papa Turtle posed the question last year “When do you think you’ll be recovered from your disease? Do you think by 2018?” To which she could only reply “well Pa, unlike strategic business plans, recovery from an illness doesn’t come with a 5-year forecast”. Healing takes time. Broken bones take time to heal. Broken souls need time to recover, too.

Forgiveness. The Ninja Turtle is greatly flawed as a human being. She will say and do things that are not so nice, that are hurtful, that may seem callous, that are downright awful at times. Please understand that ultimately, she’s not trying to be malicious. She’s just quick to lose her temper, and is incredibly proud and arrogant. So if it’s too hard to understand 100% what the eating disorder is all about, at least understand that the Ninja Turtle never meant to upset those who’re trying to love and support her. She is sorry. Please accept her apology for all past transgressions, and please forgive her for her present shortcomings.

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And to all fellow eating disorder sufferers…

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Food, Stories

Spiced Plum & Chocolate Yogurt Cake

A while ago, the Ninja Turtle decided to make the most of her countryside life by dragging GodzillaPin blackberry harvesting with her. Not long after, while out on another one of her countryside strolls, she chanced upon a fallen damson plum tree in the next village, Bethelainville. The weather in France has been very bizarre this summer, and in this part of Lorraine, most of August had been dreary, with cloudy mornings, storms and high winds, and lots of rain.

Any chance of wearing summer clothes and getting a tan were out of the question, and even the local flora succumbed to the wild weather, hence the poor fallen tree. Of course, the Ninja Turtle isn’t one to pass up any chance of sampling what Mother Nature has to offer, and since the tree was already done for, she figured it’d be a real shame to leave those luscious fruits to perish in the elements.

Walking the 2 hilly miles home with her pockets loaded with as many plums as she could possibly stuff in them was cumbersome, to say the least. Trying not to squish them made the job even harder, but her heart was bursting with excitement at the thought of what she could do with those.

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Gorgeous damson plums boasting a deep, rich, luscious shade of violet, bursting with flavour and flavonoids.

What’s most peculiar to the Ninja Turtle was that Lorraine is generally known for another variety of plum, a small yellow spherical ball of sweet juiciness known as the mirabelle. In fact, the mirabelle is so popular here that in Metz, there is an annual festival in Metz known as the Fête de la Mirabelle, where the fruit is celebrated to the fullest for 2 whole weeks, with concerts, food and wine tastings, exhibitions, activities for the children, a parade, fireworks, and even a beauty pageant that finishes with the crowning of a Queen Mirabelle!

The Damson plum, in comparison, seems to silently fade into the background.

So the Ninja Turtle decided to do it some justice, and celebrate it in her own way – by turning it into a cake, with a recipe which has proven to be wildly popular among friends and family this summer. Enter: the lazy baker’s guide to making scrumptious desserts with minimal washing up.

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In fact, these cakes are so popular that she has resorted to making double batches each time because they get devoured in a couple of days.

The Ninja Turtle has received a few requests for the recipe, so without further ado…

Ingredients for basic cake

4 pots (125g) plain yogurt of choice (works with Greek, soy, goat’s milk, sheep’s milk, normal milk, low-fat, non-fat… but this one was with soy yogurt)
4 pots sugar
4 eggs
2 pots olive oil
6 pots flour of choice (this version was a mix of rice flour and buckwheat flour)
3 teaspoons baking soda
1 sachet (11g) baking powder

For this spiced plum and chocolate cake, add:

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cloves
200g dark chocolate, chopped in large chunks
300g Damson plums, chopped in chunks

Instructions

  1. Empty the yogurt into a giant mixing bowl. Use one of the pots to measure out all the rest of your ingredients. Mix in the oil, sugar and eggs. Stir vigorously.
  2. Add in the next three ingredients of the basic cake mix – the flour, the baking soda and baking powder. Most recipes will warn against over-mixing the flour if you want to avoid dense cakes because over-mixing wheat flour creates gluten, but the Ninja Turtle has figured out TWO key points – gluten-free flours don’t have this problem, and this is a very moist cake batter, so you can mix to your heart’s content without worrying. Even if you use normal wheat flour, the quantity of baking powder and baking soda ensures a beautiful rise so you’ll end up with a soft, fluffy, moist and light cake.
  3. For this version of cake, add in all the rest of the ingredients and give it a good stir.
  4. Pour into your cake or muffin moulds, about 3/4 full.
  5. Pop them in the oven at 180°C (350°F). The Ninja Turtle used deep loaf cake moulds, and these cakes took an hour to be done. However, if you’re using a shallower cake mould, about 40 to 45 minutes will do. If you’re making muffins, adjust to about 20 to 25 minutes. If in doubt, stick a skewer in the largest part of your cake and see if it comes out clean.

The Ninja Turtle has played with various versions of yogurt cake, using those aforementioned blackberries in one, making a chocolate buckwheat streusel in another (that one was a crowd favourite), and even experimenting with a bottle of dark beer in another. The cakes never last, so she’s concluded it’s a recipe worth keeping (and sharing!)

Best of all? Aside from a teaspoon, you’re only using that one little yogurt pot to do all your measuring. How easy is that?

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The Ninja Turtle ate her cake tonight for dessert with a dollop of yogurt and some blueberries.

How do you make the most of summer fruits?

What’s your favourite easy dessert recipe?

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Stories

The Gift of Pain

Warning: Long post ahead. Trigger warning for sufferers of eating disorders in recovery.

Eating Disorders, as the Ninja Turtle experiences it.

Obsession. It’s when certain thoughts dominate one’s waking hours and preoccupy the mind so completely that there is no space to think or to feel or to experience anything else outside of one’s obsessions. Sometimes, compulsions come into the equation. This is when one feels compelled to do certain behaviours, and these are often highly ritualistic, with specific rules and regulations, and beyond one’s control.

Obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviours are very common in eating disorders, and the Ninja Turtle has experienced the bane of almost all the obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviours that come with the illness.

Weighing and calculating food to the gram? Check.

Only allowing herself to start eating her meals at very specific hours? Check.

“Balancing” out her food groups to rigidly defined ratios? Check.

Not permitting herself more than what’s prescribed in a meal plan, but ferociously guarding every last bite she is entitled to whether or not she’s still hungry, or really wants to eat it? Check.

Running a certain distance or time measured on her GPS watch? Check.

Not permitting herself to rest until she’s fulfilled her prescribed amount of daily walking, even if it means doing meaningless laps around the block or taking the least efficient route to go somewhere and feeling incredibly foolish? Check.

These are some of the ugly realities of eating disorders that people don’t necessarily want to know about. It’s tiring. It’s exhausting. It’s completely ridiculous, makes no sense to others and frequently, it makes no sense of the sufferers either, and yet we, or at least the Ninja Turtle, engaged in these behaviours for one very important reason –

They reduce her sense of anxiety.

The compulsive behaviours, with their rules and rituals, help reduce this inexplicable sense of panic and fear, an undefinable dread that bad things are about to happen if she breaks the rules. The obsessive thoughts, with their frequent looping repetitive refrain, serve as a distraction from emotions too strong and overwhelming that the Ninja Turtle had no courage to face.

So for days that turned into weeks, weeks that turned into months, and months that are now turning into years, the Ninja Turtle’s life has been dominated by this living hell which she found herself stuck in, simultaneously finding comfort and reassurance and yet also being hurt and damaged by engaging in these maladaptive coping mechanisms. It seemed like there was no way out, and that her existence would simply become defined thus.

But for the last two months, the Ninja Turtle’s entire world has been overtaken and thus defined by another demon – Pain.

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On Hospitals and Illnesses.

It all started during the move back from Lyon to GodzillaPin’s parents’ village. While out running one morning, the Ninja Turtle’s guts were not quite cooperating. She tried her best not to think about it, after all, in her recovery efforts she’s started making breakfast a habit again, and she figured it was simply the discomfort of exercising after a meal.

What the Turtle had not bargained for, was for that pain to escalate, and endure. The next few days saw the duo travelling back to Lyon for the Fête de la Musique where she had to go into the emergency as her eating disorder specialist suspected appendicitis. After some scans, she was discharged with a negative result and a prescription for the pain, and that was it.

The duo then continued to Nantes for a 30th birthday, where the Ninja Turtle was once again rushed to the emergency ward as not only has the pain endured, she’d developed a fever and the runs. Not only did she miss out on an awesome birthday bash, she went into septic shock twice as her temperature soared to 41°C, and was kept for a whole week in isolation as the diagnosis was pronounced: clostridium difficile. A highly contagious bacteria that causes endless grief especially in those who are immuno-compromised.

Make no mistake, fellow eating disorder sufferers. You may feel invincible, physically strong, or think you’re simply “not that sick” when the reality is, eating disorders damage your entire body, immune system included, leaving you vulnerable to all kinds of other illnesses. The Ninja Turtle found this out the hard way.

Over a year ago, the Ninja Turtle begged to pursue her eating disorder treatment outpatient, despite her dangerously low BMI. She and her medical team knew they were taking great risks – refeeding syndrome, sudden heart failure, etc etc etc. but at the same time, her doctors agreed with her argument that locking her up in a medical facility, in isolation, is certainly not the best way to recover from her psychological disorders.

Ironically, the very situation she thought she’d escaped, has finally caught up with her. This bacterial infection not only ruined her holiday in Nantes, it came back to haunt her a second time shortly after Bastille Day so she had to pass her 29th birthday alone once more in hospital.

Then, the duo had to cancel a hiking trip in the French Alps as the Ninja Turtle suffered the indignity of a colonoscopy to rule out Ulcerative Colitis, Crohn’s Disease and Celiac. Another hospitalisation.

Just when she thought the nightmare had ended, the pain returned a few days after she was discharged, and another round of lab samples revealed that the bacteria was back for the third time. After 5 hospitalisations, the Ninja Turtle begged GodzillaPin, in tears, no more hospitals.

Hospitals truly aren’t ideal settings for recovery from any sort of illness. The Ninja Turtle was awaken at 5.30am for blood tests, to have her pulse and blood pressure taken (both disturbingly low at points that some of the nurses raised several false alarms). With insufficient rest, it is hard to recover, and nobody can claim to rest well with interrupted sleep and terrible beds.

Hospital food isn’t designed to help patients get better either. The normal food at best of times, is barely edible. Several times, the Ninja Turtle was put on a low-residue diet for her illness, which seemed to translate to crackers, yogurt, and very little else. This of course, meant the Ninja Turtle lost weight with each hospitalisation, leaving her even more immuno-compromised and vulnerable to re-infection, hence the vicious cycle.

Hospitals are circuses of viruses and bugs, quite simply because it’s where sick and dying people go. So what better place to leave one completely open to catching something else that could possibly kill her?

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Perspective.

Once again, the Ninja Turtle pleads her fellow sufferers of eating disorders to accept the reality of their illnesses – there is no such thing as not being “sick enough” to seek help.

You don’t need to be underweight, or have a low BMI. You don’t need to be a white, middle-class, heterosexual, adolescent, ballet-dancing [insert-your-preferred-stereotype] girl to admit that you’re struggling with an eating disorder.

And above all, do NOT be fooled into a sense of complacency that just because you’re getting by day-to-day, that maybe things are “really not that bad”. Eating disorders ruin your life in so many ways – for some it steals their relationships, for some it destroys their finances, for some it wrecks their education/careers, and for some, like the Ninja Turtle, it decimates one’s HEALTH.

The Ninja Turtle is less afraid now of dying from re-feeding syndrome than she is of dying from this bacterial infection, but she knows that if the latter were to claim her life, it would still be dying from the eating disorder, albeit indirectly so. And that would truly be a shame, because the Ninja Turtle really doesn’t want to die.

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The Silver Lining to Every Cloud.

The Ninja Turtle is currently pursuing a course of antibiotics at home for the infection. The fun thing about her medication metrodinazole, is that the Ninja Turtle suffers all the same effects of the bacteria infection – gut-wrenching pain, cramps, diarrhoea and constipation, fatigue and headaches. On top of that, she’s also got the worst nausea, loss of appetite, back pain, dark urine, bouts of confusion and dizziness. The only seeming benefit is the absence of a fever.

But the pain, oh the pain.

Faced with such pain, the fear of dying and a whole lot of possible regrets, the Ninja Turtle’s obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviours have been forced to take a back seat in this entire episode.

With this degree of pain, running is out the question. Heck, even walking a few minutes can leave the Ninja Turtle squatting by the side of the road, hyperventilating.

With this level of pain, the Ninja Turtle congratulates herself for going through the basics of each day; showering is a victory. There isn’t enough energy left to obsessively weigh out quantities of food.

With this type of pain, the Ninja Turtle has no room for perfection, good enough will have to do because it’s hard to accomplish anything when your entire waking existence is dominated by pain.

With this amount of pain, the Ninja Turtle has to choose what she puts on her plate each meal because much as she loves her salads, too much raw vegetables or fats irritate her guts, and too much fruit worsens the diarrhoea, too much sugar feeds the bacteria, too much meat constipates her, and suddenly when she is forced to pay so much attention to detail in her food that is NOT related to the eating disorder, she’s FED UP.

Frankly, it’s tedious, it’s boring, it’s soul-sucking and it’s thanks to this bacteria infection that she sees how ridiculous those obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviours are. Above all, she’s also realised that eating disorders are a form of self-harm, self-punishment, self-loathing and yep – inflicting pain upon oneself.

So while the Ninja Turtle cannot wait to recover from this awful bacterial infection, she is in some strange way, grateful for the experience and the valuable lessons it has taught her.

No more self-inflicted pain.

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