Sunday, 29 May 2011

Made in Chelsea : Destroyed in The City


Made in Chelsea
'...the scandalous lives of London's elite'

Well, I was certainly not made in Chelsea.
My friend Harriet however, is a purebred 'Sloaney'. Her mission in life (and she won't mind me saying this because she admits it herself) is to find her perfect Sloaney husband - signet ring compulsory.
(A signet ring, I had to learn, is a ring with the family crest, and according to Harriet a true Chelsea Boy hallmark.)

I wrote a few posts back that I was going to become more like the girl I had made friends with at law school a year ago who had dug her claws into all the right people to drag herself to the top. Socially, I have already been a climber. I've cut almost all my ties to my working class South London roots - everything from my accent, to my clothes, to the friends I have made, has been changed to reflect my move up the social ladder - albeit superficially.

If I were to 'class' myself today then I'd put myself quite comfortably into the 'young graduate professionals' crowd of London - the 20-30 somethings who work and play in and around Central just as they did at University.

Last night, Harriet invited me to join her at her favourite haunt on Kings Road, Chelsea. Never one to turn down a new adventure I accepted and anticipated what was in store...
Now, I'm not usually one to be outwardly intimidated once I've put on my costume, but this stage was one I'd never walked onto before. Sure, last year at 'The Club' I was friends with a lot of extremely wealthy, upper class people who had been educated at the best boarding schools in the country (Alex being one) - boys who wore tweed jackets and red corduroy trousers, chinos and pink shirts - girls who rode horses, played polo and wore Barbour jackets. I wasn't one of them, but I still fitted in somehow and had the confidence to wind the boys around my little finger regardless of what school I went to. I guess it was a University thing, and maybe University is a world of its own.
But last night, as I walked into the Chelsea Venue, walking behind Harriet and holding her hand gingerly, I felt all my confidence and black swan plumage fall flat. This was out of my comfort zone - I didn't belong here, this wasn't a stage with an audience I could hold.

I had put myself through my usual paces of course - fasting, exercise - my legs and bum were toned within an inch of their life and I wore a clingy pale pink wrap dress with a clinch belt and pale pink studded designer shoes. Harriet informed me this wasn't really 'Sloaney' and I should wear a more casual dress. I told her I wear casual dresses all day everyday.

I spent most of the evening wondering if the men could tell I was a fraud. Harriet definitely got more attention than me - I realised my hair was wrong, it wasn't big enough.
I did get my fair share of attention I suppose but I was in super bitch mode. I wasn't having any of it. I turned my back, pulled my arm away, removed hands from round my waist, scrunched up my nose, shook my head and pointed to Harriett. No.... no... no... NO.
Am I so ridiculously fussy or have I just completely lost all interest in men? No, to be honest, I don't like getting with guys I don't know in clubs, simply because I hate being objectified and targeted only because of how I look. I mean, I want to look good and I want to be wanted because I like power/ego trip rather than because I want a man to grope me and stick his tongue down my throat.

Here's what happens when a Chelsea Boy puts his hands away and actually tries to talk to me:

"You come from a really rich family don't you - a really wealthy background - I can tell."
"Err... ok."
"Yes, you're from a long line of bankers - am I right?"
"Right... Whatever."

"Do you like polo?"
" like it - but I don't play."
"Are you going to The Veuve Clicquot?"
"Err... the what?"
"The Veuve Clicquot."
" is it?"

Fucking hell. This was one act I was not interested in putting on. Just as Harriet wouldn't settle for anything less than a man with a signet ring and a country estate, I knew some of these men would recoil in horror if they knew the only photo I have of my ancestors is of them standing outside their corner shop.

I was haunted all night about my weight. Despite stepping out having reached a new low number on the scale, I still saw myself in the mirror and knew it wasn't enough. Sure, I had a 'good figure', but I wasn't fucking skinny. I wasn't fucking skinny. I was muscular and fit and toned, curved arse and a flat tummy. Nope. I'm not settling for that. Good Chelsea girls are thinner.

Destroyed in The City

There is a pretty good argument to say that I was destroyed in The City - London's financial district. But, as you all know, I'm utterly desperate to go back and work there again. I hate the heartless greed of that world, and yet it is that greed culture which makes it the only profession that can feed my ambition.
The last week I've been interviewing non-stop...

On Monday I came out of the interview and held my hands over my face. It was lunch hour and the cobbles of Leadenhall Market were teeming with rich boys in crisp banker-blue suits. I tugged at my bun to pull all my hair loose over my shoulders - I was pinned in, I had to break free.
The image was immediately ruined.
45 minutes earlier I had strode up in patent heels and my own well-worn blue suit.
"Great body darling!"
"Nice legs!"
It's just a fucking image. Fucking men.

As I stepped out of the interview and back on the street it hit me clear as day. I couldn't maintain the image. That's why I had had to leave The City 7 months ago - because I didn't have the strength to be that girl every day. I can act for 45 minutes, shiny, professional, confident and polished, but I can't keep it up.

All those old feelings of failure and worthlessness came flooding back. I wouldn't get that job. I'd seen a man look at me that way before - my old boss - looking at me like I'm a pathetic, naive little girl who will never have what it takes to be as successful as him. Disdain and arrogance. And I couldn't hate him because I knew he was right to feel those things.

I was starving. I walked in and out of every salad bar and coffee shop I passed, round Liverpool Street, Monument, Bank, Moorgate... The voice in my head wouldn't let me eat anything. I was starving and miserable but I couldn't eat. I press my fingers to the space between my eyebrows and scrunch up my eyes repeating under my breath, fuck this... fuck this...
I couldn't bear feeling those emotions of worthlessness again.
Everything wasn't supposed to get this fucked up. My life was supposed to be perfect.

The boys in blue suits. I wanted one. I wanted to play them at their own game. Fuck them. Fuck them.

The next day; another interview. I sat for an hour being attacked over everything on my CV and every answer I gave. I asked questions at the end only to be told to my face that they were stupid - why would you want to know that? - what's it to you? - I live on Kensington High Street, do you even know what a mortgage there costs?
I came out stunned. Even if they begged me to take the job (which of course they didn't) there was no way in hell I would ever work there and be subjected to abuse from such an utter bastard. The experience highlighted to me how I was still not mentally ready to face the harsh dog-eat-dog-greed-is-good world of Commercial London. I want to be ready, I can pretend to be ready, but the truth is that I am still so incredibly fragile.

For the last six months I've been so far away from that world. I've been living in a lovely Boarding School and I've been so completely safe from the world - from men, from society, from expectations and pressure. I've been able to repair my body and mind - not to being 'cured' but certainly to being the happiest I can ever remember in my adult life.

But I said everything I needed to say in my last post. Something drives me, a voice I can't ignore. Something unspeakable.

In my last session with my therapist I had it out with her.
"I need to achieve. I don't understand why that's considered wrong."
We drew up a list of what my life would be like if it was average, good and perfect.
"Is that perfect life really achievable?" she asked me.
"Yes," I said defiantly. "It is!"
Somehow she managed to convince me I was wrong... I could make concessions, I could aim for some of it but also let go of some it.
She gave me a book called 'Overcoming Perfectionism' which I will write more about in my next post. On what I've read so far, it has become clear that I don't have an Eating Disorder, I'm simply a Perfectionist aiming for the top.

I wish I could let go of The City, but that's definitely not one of my concessions. More interviews this week...

Saturday, 21 May 2011

The best version of who I am

When I was 15, I used to wear a laminated tag around my neck, tucked inside my school blouse to remind me of how fat and worthless I was. I must still have it somewhere, hidden away in my cupboard, even though a few years ago I made an effort to throw out all my old notebooks and memories of self-hatred.
I made the tag myself, put a picture of the beautiful Scarlett O'Hara on it, wrote about how I could be like her if I tried hard enough, laminated it, ran a long piece of string through to make a necklace. I wore it every day for months.
When I was 13 I had to get dressed in the dark, never exposing my body while I changed. I had to lie face down in the bath - I couldn't stand and shower. I had to wear jumpers everywhere to swamp the curve of my growing breasts.
When I was 8 I cried alone and in agony because I wasn't pretty. I decided I was the fattest in my class and I never let go of that.

However high I hold my head, the truth is that this eating disorder has destroyed me. It destroys me now, it will destroy me further. And yet I believe, I will always believe, that it will bring the happiness that I've longed for my whole life.
In all the years that I've had an eating disorder in one form or another, I have never gotten better. Even though at 23, I have never managed to reach this glory of happiness, I cannot help but fall for the promises that my evil angel whispers in my ear.

Clytie summed up something perfectly in a comment a few posts back saying: "You are the unattainable in view, but out of view you are so alone and fragile."
When I put on my dress and make up, when I perform on my public stage, I am powerful, smart, strong, brave, confident, aloof, desirable, fearless, envied. But it is an act. I tortured myself to play the part. The other side of me cuts everyone out, exercises, avoids people, never smiles, never chats, never socialises, never goes to meals, weak and shy, dark, tearful, nothing.
The people I work with here at the school would never recognise the bold and shining girl who has been interviewing back in London this week.

Yes... I'm going back to London in one and a half months.
I was born to wear a suit and high heels.
It felt so good to be out of cardigans.
I am desperate to go back to London, absolutely desperate, So much of me wishes I had stayed, that I was working in the great shiny Investment Bank, being taken out on dates by bankers, working out in the swankiest gyms. So I'm interviewing again and I'll be back in July, thinner, fitter, stronger, fuck it all, I BELIEVE in the unattainable. I didn't take the job in the Investment Bank back in December because I was fat and suicidal. I'm not fat and suicidal anymore - I'm thinner, fitter, stronger.
I will never stop being ambitious. Most jobs won't give me the adrenaline and pressure that I need. Being happy and enjoying my job has nothing to do with the girl you see at interview in a polished suit and polished hair. My job at the school has made me realise that content, comfortable, relaxed and average isn't what I want. Ambition, competitiveness, drive, pressure, hunger, materialism. I shouldn't have tried to change who I was and what I wanted. Being those things didn't make me a bad person. I'm sick of my therapist trying to make me believe that it's good to be average. I'm sick of it. Why the hell should I change who I am and who I want to be. I worked so hard at school to be the top of every class, I work so hard in the gym to keep my body toned and strong, I put myself through hell so I don't get fat. And doing those things are who I am, who I understand and who I need to be to achieve my ambitions.

I was supposed to come here to work in this boarding school to 'recover'. From a medical point of view, I've got worse. I still have a full blown eating disorder, just a different kind.
The latest piece of paper stuck on my bedroom wall reads:
"For as long as you maintain any of your BULIMIC characteristics, you will always be FAT and SECOND-RATE."
I had a period of bingeing last weekend because I ran my 10k race on Sunday. Although I'd done most of my training over the last two months without any carbs, getting a good time in the actual race was paramount to me, so I made the decision to eat well and fuel my muscles for race day.
I ate well. I fueled my muscles. I even replenished them afterwards. I ran the best and most comfortable I'd ever run. It was simply fabulous, having glucose in my body made such a difference to my stamina and I ran the whole circuit comfortably in 53:30. Although I had been aiming for 45-50 mins I feel happy because it was just so comfortable and I loved every second of it. I've got a half marathon set for September, but I might do another 10k before then just to meet that target of 45-50 mins.

Now that my race is over I've decided to cut back on the treadmill and running slightly and branch out a bit more. This week has also included a Ballet Class, Tennis Lesson, Swimming, Spin Classes and Bike, and the only word I can possibly use to describe it is glorious. Exercise is the greatest cure for feeling like shit - which in all honesty is how I feel most days. Once the endorphins kick in I feel invincible.

Nothing will stop me or change me.
I am who I am - and my eating disorder and ambition are a part of that.

The morning walk I miss so much...

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Finally, I remember how nothing tastes as good as thin feels

Let me start this post by saying this is not the thinnest I have ever been. But I'm not too far off.
As I get thinner, the rate at which I'm losing is slowing down dreadfully. It's hard not to beat myself up when I step on the scales in the morning and see the same number as the day before. It's hard not to feel disappointed because I know that I'm working so hard and doing the maths so well.

I sat with a child at breakfast this morning. "Could you have eaten as much as I did?" she asked me when she had finished.
"Oh yes", I said, "Of course!"
"But how can you be so skinny?!"
"I'm not skinny!"
"Yes you are!"
I tried to contain my joy. "Oh, well, I eat loads, I promise. I eat loads."

At night I run my hands along my body with glee, feeling my rib cage grow closer and closer to the surface all the time. There was a fabulous quote which Harlow posted from Crystal Renn's book 'Hungry' in which she says: "I wore my hip bones like a trophy. At night, in bed, I'd hold them as if they were the handles of a loving cup."
At night I hold on to my hip bones as if they are the handles of my trophy.
My dresses hang more loosely off my body and I nip in my cardigan about my waist to show the world how much it has shrunk.

I've been doing well, the strength has returned, the bulimia has been banished. I am the girl I used to be. Now I'm going to surpass the girl I used to be.

I workout every day burning between 200-800 calories depending on the exercise and I consume less than 1000 calories in lean protein/vegetables every day on the Dukan Diet (which I am happy to report is clearly going very well!).
I'm not sure if I just don't feel hungry anymore or if I just can't understand what the feeling of hunger is; all I know is that I couldn't eat more even if I wanted to. I can say with certainty that I am far more hungry for success than I am for food. It is ambition that drives me, the hunger in my heart and soul and not my stomach that controls my actions.

How Did I Get Here?
  • I have to be honest, for almost all of 2010 and until very recently, I would never have thought it possible for me to get back to the wondrous realm of restriction. I just wanted to get rid of the bulimia and the binge and purge monster than infested me. I think the turning point was starting the Dukan Diet, because I am a lazy cook and all I can eat is plain chicken and fish and skimmed milk. I found the ecstasy of control again and embraced it. Control, wonderful, serene control.
  • Maybe returning to restriction was the only choice for me once I got rid of the bulimia - perhaps I refuse to give up having an eating disorder of one kind or another because without it I am nothing and have nothing. Perhaps it is just another form of my rebellion against being controlled and adhering to convention. Nothing makes the anger boil up in me faster than hearing someone try and tell someone else they should be eating. Having an eating disorder is my secret rebellion against everyone - everyone wants to destroy me.  
  • Then again maybe I'm completely wrong. I was thinking today that if I were a child in a school, the teachers would be worried about me, but because I am an adult, I shouldn't need looking after, I should know better, and so, no one cares. But the fact is, I've never been looked after by anyone, and I think it's possible that deep down I want to be cared for and looked after more than anything. Perhaps that explains why I've never gone to great lengths to hide my disorder.
  • Maybe I have an eating disorder because I'm a bitch. I want to succeed so much that I'll destroy anyone who stands in my way - even myself. At law school I was friends with a dreadful girl who had no shame in using people to climb the social ladder and get to where she wanted. She now works for arguably the best law firm in London and frequents the guest lists at all the most exclusive clubs. I find myself being inspired by her. Being nice never got me anywhere, being nice was a weakness and has made me a failure. Ambition rears it's beautiful head.
And yet, as I write all this, I dread the look of disappointment on my therapist's face when she next weighs me.
It's true, I did want to get better, the bulimia and depression made me suicidal. But now I've got hold of something better than the recovery she offered me - I've got hold of control and exercise and restriction.
When I reach my ultimate goal weight - I swear when I reach my ultimate goal weight I'll stop and be normal and happy - I swear. But until then, I must remain unrelenting and closed off in my little world of control.
I have another stone to lose.
at least

Performance Review
Last night was the date in my diary - scrawled in red pen across my bathroom mirror to remind me of my goal.
Last night was the night that I stepped back on the stage, floodlit by the lights of The Strand, after nearly a year away.
The whole week in the lead up I stayed serene and controlled, pushed my body to it's limits, worked out solidly and then fasted for the last 48 hours, clearing everything else out with diuretics and laxatives. The night before I sat on the floor of my bathroom crying uncontrollably with anxiety and fear. All I could think was: what if I suddenly become bloated tomorrow morning, what if the ugly ducking shows up, what if I can't cope with the pressure, what if I still look ugly - it would be impossible. I was petrified of failure.
But the day came and it was fine, my tummy didn't curve out even slightly, my waist was the smallest I've measured, I was doing this, I was holding my head high. I put on my brand new five inch heels and strode.

Before I went out with my old friends from 'The Club' I had agreed to meet a guy for a quick drink first- I suppose if you were being official it was 'a date' - the first time I had agreed to such a thing since I've been single. The idea that I was going on a date would have been a really big deal were it not for the fact that I didn't really know this guy and didn't really care what happened.
As it was, it was much better than I expected. My readers across the Atlantic will be interested to know that he is an American boy, a trader for a US company based in their offices here in the City of London. I felt at ease with him as I leaned happily against the railing, one hand holding my wine glass, the other gently caressing the hip bone I could feel through my dress.
At 27, he's only slightly older than me, but old enough for me to feel the need to be on my best and most professional behaviour... and at times it almost felt as if I was having a drink with a client. For this reason, while I think we got on, I'm not confident of a second date, simply because - as I put it to my friend afterwards - I am more used to the cheeky and flirtatious kind of getting on... In addition, I almost certainly came across as being ordinary, nice and dull - which is really false marketing on my part. But he was nice and it annoys me that I can't seem to get him out of my head now.

Anyway, after I left the American I headed over to where the gang were. This was the main role.
Familiar faces chimed that I was looking 'really well', men wanted their hands about my waist, the head held high, the eyes flashed, Odile danced.
"You've proven to everyone you've lost a load of weight you didn't need to lose," one longtime admirer told me. I beamed. "Hard work and dedication," I replied.
"Every time I see you, you get thinner and more beautiful," said another.
I thanked God; it was noticeable, it wasn't just numbers on a scale, it was visible in the flesh too...

And that's it really, I wasn't there to pull a guy or give the gossips any gossip. I was there to prove a point, to prove that I had made it back to where I used to be, to prove that I was strong enough to fight hard for what I wanted and to win.
I made my way back to the train station on my own, stuffed my starving body with pasta and bread and McDonalds, ran away from a taxi driver who got in the back seat and tried to kiss me, apologetically stuck my fingers down my throat to throw up my binge in front of a nice office, sat hunched at the train station with a newly bloated stomach for two painful hours. But it was ok. All that is irrelevant. Because I can say with complete confidence, nothing tastes as good as thin feels. And that is all that matters and all I will remember now.

I carry on, I want more, I'm ravenous.