I had a pair of size 4 Doc Martens (Sinclair if you’re interested).
You’re probably thinking size 4 is quite small. You’re correct. They were small and wearing them resulted in my feet being literally torn to shreds, bleeding and blistering profusely. (I’m aware this is normal for most DM-wearers at the start but I genuinely just think mine were too small).
Yet every Thursday for about 18 months I would wear them.
Thursdays back then, were days of college with one lesson first thing then a second one later in the early evening. This meant I had a really, really long time of nothing. At my college, it wasn’t really a thing that students would stay in the actual school building between lessons so they might revise or meet up or actually maybe do something relatively productive.
My brain (at the time quite unwell), however, would tell me it was the perfect opportunity for a nice long walk with my heavy-duty textbooks.
This caused me to genuinely dread Thursdays. I did not want to walk for hours, often in the rain and with ridiculously heavy books on my back. On numerous occasions I had exams in the afternoon, which I was unable to revise for beforehand as I was far too busy stomping about all afternoon in despair.
So one day, I had a genius idea. “Hey, if I wear my Doc Martens on Thursdays, my feet will be so sore by the time my first lesson is over that I will decide not to walk!”
Surprise, surprise this was not the case.
In fact, I’d either just destroy my feet and walk anyway or on several occasions, take my boots off and walk barefoot along the high-street of Oxford (which, by the way, is not a good look, as a text from a confused onlooking fellow college-mate confirmed).
I guess what I’m trying to say with this is that there is no shortcut or hack or magic-wand-taking-form-in-a-pair-of-Sinclair-DMs that will cure your disordered brain.
As you are undoubtedly aware by now, your brain a pretty powerful thing. In fact, it’s the only thing that will actually help you face your fears, beat compulsions and stop unhelpful behaviours.
You have to put in the effort to consciously think “this is a thing that I don’t feel in control of, I don’t want to do it but my mind is telling me I have to” and then just do whatever the opposite your brain is telling you. This could be applied to eating a gross low-calorie food, purging, exercising, body checking etc.
That might sound stupidly simple like “just don’t do it if you don’t want to” but it really is that simple.
If the thought of not doing something (or equally doing something) scares you, or just feels impossible, know that it’s not actually scary nor impossible. Your brain is lying to you. To recover you have to gain control back.
Another thing I think the whole Doc Marten affair taught me was that even when I was struggling so much and I found safety in my anorexia, there was always a part of me that wanted to get better.
I didn’t acknowledge it then but I knew I didn’t want to go out walking in the rain.
Although rather desperately and in many ways completely uselessly, I was doing something to at least try and rest. I couldn’t even fathom at the time simply not doing it because I didn’t want to. I thought “if my feet are bleeding, I think that’s a good enough reason not to walk”.
But of course that wasn’t enough for the anorexia and that’s the thing: nothing is ever enough for it. It won’t be happy with any amount of blood pouring from your toes, any amount of weight you lose, any tears shed by whoever. It doesn’t care. It is cruel.
It ultimately wants to kill you and unless you can find the strength to actually beat it and consciously rewire your brain, it will.
I remember saying to my therapist at the time about my compulsive walking, being too ashamed to say I dreaded it but also saying I was trying to stop. She’d say things like “why don’t you try and stay in the library” or suggest meeting up with friends to distract myself. I thought that that was the most ridiculous thing in the world for her to say. I thought things like “well if I could stop, I would!” and “it’s not that easy”.
So let me tell you as someone who has been there and understands wholeheartedly what you are going through: you CAN stop and it really IS that easy. It might not feel easy beforehand, but trust me when I say sitting down and watching TV for a few hours in a cafe or in the library is a whole lot easier than trekking around in the rain with blistering feet, despite the thoughts your brain is telling you.
And no, you don’t have to be doing something super productive in order for your rest to be “worthwhile”. You don’t need the excuse of working for hours or studying all evening to sit down for a bit. There will be times in your life when you need to rest and you don’t have those distractions or excuses. People rest, people sit, people sleep. You deserve to just as much as everyone else.
So sit with it, know you’re doing something AMAZING by ignoring that mean head of yours and be proud of yourself.
ps I have since replaced my size 4 Docs with 5s which fit perfectly and I don’t need to wear just to purposely destroy my feet. Woohoo!