28 March 2016
One European City at a Time...
Bruges most certainly did not disappoint. A quaint city with beautiful architecture, it was everything I imagined, and more. Walking for miles, a canal boat ride and a nighttime trip on a horse and cart, allowed us to view the picturesque city from all angles. I was astounded at how quiet it was; no bustling crowds, no queuing, it was just so peaceful. Of course the market square was the hub where groups gathered, but venturing off into the outskirts, you could walk for miles and not bump into another soul. Although, it may have been handy to have met a couple of locals from time to time, as we did find ourselves walking with no sense of direction whatsoever!
The trip started with a 13 hour journey across the water via ferry. I am not going to make out that I was utterly relaxed, as I knew I had the buffet to contend with in the very near future. However, as with all challenges, I tried to focus on how I have dealt with them in the past, using that knowledge to guide me this time round. I suppose the ‘beauty’ of a buffet is the choice. You always know there will be something you will like, and true enough that was the case. In fact, I am not ashamed to say that I indulged in a hearty three-course meal! Following the crowds, I challenged the initially distressing scents that wafted around the restaurant, and viewed the array of foods on display. I applied what I have learnt throughout my time in treatment to make sure that my plate had adequate portions of all food groups. The most prominent battle was trying to ignore the recurrent thoughts that I had ample opportunity to bend the rules, with nobody to challenge me. I didn’t succumb, but the thoughts turned into an argument as the night progressed, and I was left questioning everything that I had chosen. This is just something that I have to get used to, as it happens all too frequently. I suppose I can appreciate my progress at this stage, as I do not act on these feelings, in terms of continuous restriction or over exercising to compensate for the potentially ‘wrong’ decisions I have made.
Arriving at Bruges was quite an experience within itself. I don’t want to say that I was disappointed, but when you pull into a dock and all you can see for miles around is shipping containers and concrete, I think my doubts around our destination choice can be somewhat validated. Fortunately, as Frank (the coach driver, that really did not know how to drive a coach!) dropped us of at the city border, I was elated. A mix of greenery, water and complex building structures, was the confirmation that we had indeed chosen a wonderful city to spend the weekend. Walking to our hotel, cobbled streets were lined with chocolate shops, cafes and waffle bars. This was when I realised that I was going to have to try extra hard to fight the thoughts in my head; but again, I didn’t let this overrule my mood or intent on the trip.
To many other visitors, the eateries and food shops that covered the walkways would bring joy and excitement. However, for myself it awakened a complex mixture of feelings; temptation, frustration and guilt, to name just a few. I felt guilty about being tempted into trying some of the goodies and delicacies on display, but then I was frustrated that my eating disorder was still influencing my decisions. A prime example of this was my desire to enjoy a waffle, smothered in chocolate sauce topped with fresh strawberries. I was set on confirming this decision, but the overwhelming reminder of what I had already eaten, and the fear of not knowing what else I would be nourishing my body with throughout the rest of the day stopped me in my tracks. But this was just one minor niggle of the trip. I am proud to say that I did enjoy a wide range of foods that I would have denied myself of a few months ago; a delicious chocolate mousse, crème brule, chips and a meal that came with a sauce. Although it may seem trivial to an average onlooker, to me these were huge improvements, but even more so for the fact that they did not affect my ability to enjoy the beautiful city we were visiting.
An issue did surface, and I recognise it as one that I now need to conquer; observing other people’s plates. I constantly analyse my own plate in comparison to others. Should I have chosen that meal? Do they know something about my meal that I don’t? Have I made the wrong choice? I need to stop doing this, and remind myself of the fact that I am enjoying the meal that I have decided upon, and that should outweigh any negative thoughts. This is something that I will work on, and I am pleased that I have acknowledged it as another stimulus to the contribution of damaging thoughts.
The trip was a huge success; I enjoyed a wonderful weekend away with my incredible parents and I managed to see another incredible European city! To say that I am excited about my further exploration of Europe in summer is an understatement- I absolutely cannot wait!