The urge to go north was strong. I hadn’t been back to Inverness since we moved at the end of 2015, so recently I popped up for an overnight visit.
The train ride up is a treat in winter. Cop a load of these views! They are blurry, but hopefully you can feel the love.
I had a few missions for this short visit. Firstly a proper catch up with my dear pal Shona, then to finally meet the wonderful Wendy of A Wee Bit of Cooking in person. It was so good to chat and tell her how many gazillion times I’ve made her ‘Juliet’s Roast Chicken with Sauerkraut‘ recipe.
(Tangent – do you remember when we first moved back to Fife I was fixated on trying spot a Victorian mailbox in the wild? Well the minute to strolled on to the Inverness high street I saw a VR right there, the very post box into which I’d posted many a letter during my Highland stint. I’d even taken a photo of sending my independence referendum vote! Funny how your eyes can glaze over everyday details until you’re in the throes of obsession.)
My other goal was to indulge in a trawl of my old favourite haunts. Leakey’s bookshop, the health food shop where I got my Vegemite, a walk around Ness Islands, etc etc etc.
“Well, that’ll take you about an hour,” Gareth had joked before I left, “What are you going to do then?”
Annoyingly he was right. So I just walked some more, with the snow getting up my nose.
A feeling of unease crept in as I pottered between the shops. It was like a tour of Places I Had Binged. I’d been getting so nostalgic lately about revisiting our life up north that I’d glossed over the less pleasant bits.
Then I walked past the place where I went to hypnotherapy in the summer of 2014.
It was a couple of months after the melanoma business was over. It was like I’d been holding my breath throughout, and now instead of embracing life with a jolly spring in my step, I was numb. And rather embarrassed for worrying so much when it turned out perfectly fine in the end.
My response was to watch all the episodes of Grey’s Anatomy and eat ice cream on a near daily basis.
Binging must sound like a ridiculous thing to do, to those who don’t do it. I still struggle to put its messiness into words. It is the habit of a lifetime; the thing you turn to instead of talking.
I can’t remember how I decided to try hypnotherapy. I wasn’t hoping for a miracle or a quick fix, as back then I saw the situation as my personal failing, my character flaw. I just thought maybe they could dig through my faulty brain and find an off switch. Or at least maybe unlock something to help me start to stop. I was spending a bloody fortune on ice cream!
I remember sitting in a comfy armchair, giving some background then explaining that I could not figure out how to stop doing this thing where I walked to the shops nearly every day and bought ice cream and walked back home and ate it then carefully washed out the container then walked to someone else’s recycling bin to hide the evidence before Gareth got home from work.
Then the hypno action began. It was almost like a guided meditation or visualisation, a kind voice gently encouraging me to imagine creating a different outcome. It went something like…
You are in the supermarket. You’re walking towards the freezer section in that zombie like state that always precedes a binge. You are standing in front of the ice cream. Your eyes are scanning across the rows of ice cream containers. You are able to pause. And you picture what is really inside those containers. Picture the raw ingredients. Just a big pile of fat. All solid and pale and congealed and revolting looking. And there’s a big pile of crusty sugar and chemicals and nastiness brought together by industrial processes. Your stomach turns. You remember you have the power to make a choice. You take a deep breath and calmly walk away…
Something like that!
But all I can remember is my internal chatter…
Oh yeah, fair enough! I really do see what you are getting at, but… the ice cream I buy is the really good quality shit! It’s like organic cream from pampered cows and no artificial colours and flavourings at all, so…
Afterwards I walked outside, squinting in the gentle summer sunshine. I went straight to Tesco and bought more bloody ice cream!
“Hey, do you remember that ridiculous time I went to the hypnotherapist?” I asked Gareth when I got back home from Inverness the other day.
But of course he didn’t remember, because I’d never told him! Back then I’d thought I could quietly transform myself into a normal person and no one would ever have to know my crappy secret. Because that tactic always works so well, right?
These days, it is all out in the light. I’ve found that cheesy old saying that a problem shared is a problem halved is actually true, when you share it with the right people. Change is bloody hard and glacial slow. But the power of the secret shrinks every day. And a scoop or two is all I need.