A FESTIVE TRIP TO SWEDEN

Warning for discussion of my eating disorder. 

So, last week I was lucky enough to take a few days with my Mum to visit the home of ABBA, meatballs (my vegetarianism loved that) and Pewdiepie… or better known as SWEDEN!!! As a gigantic ABBA fan, my heart leaped at the thought of exploring Stockholm, singing along to all the greatest hits and dancing in the museum. And it did not disappoint! Not only was this trip one the greatest experiences ever, I was also able to karaoke, dance and even become a 5TH MEMBER of my favourite Swedish band! Thank you for the music, ABBA!

Day one began with the two and a half hour flight from Manchester to Avanda, waking up at the fairly early time of 6am to arrive at the airport for 7! Getting through luggage checks and security was fairly quick and simple, leaving my Mum and I roughly an hour and a half to relax and wait at the airport. So, we sat inside Pret A Manger, warm coffees providing us a spark of energy before our flight, and my Mum began to mumble about her stresses at work. Everything was unavoidable to her and her mind was consumed with what she would be coming home to in a few days. I tried my best to give her a comforting smile, hoping she’d realise that it would all be okay. She had spent eighteen years convincing me of this, it was the least I could do to try and give back. “We’re literally travelling away from this bullshit.” I joked, watching her huff out a laugh. “It may only be for a few days, but let’s relish in them and make sure what we’re escaping from doesn’t inferre with the escape.”

We spent the first evening exploring the lights in Stockholm, walking past all the illuminated trees and incredible designs. I felt overwhelmed by their beauty, adoring a particular set of lit up reindeers that were not far from our accommodation. I stood in front of them, feeling my heart flutter at the festivity, and for a brief moment, everything felt… okay. For a moment, I had actually escaped from what I was intending to escape from. There’s something truly comforting about being in another country, stood in front of something so amazing in the quiet darkness of the evening. It reminded me how much is out there, that my life is not limited to just the end of my street. I went to bed feeling optimistic.

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What I was most worried about when organising this trip, was the unplanned meals and having the constancy of my Mum’s worried gaze over me. I knew that I couldn’t hide behind my “safe” foods (that ironically were not safe in the grand scheme of health). On day two, after having the time of my life belting out “Does your mother know” and striking my best moves to “Dancing Queen”, we arrived at a cafe to have lunch. I was nervous, unsure what food would be offered to me. It was then that the waiter said something that four months ago, would have caused a public breakdown from me… “We’re only currently serving pizza. I will give you the pizza menu.” My categorising of foods knew fully well where pizza stood, not in the shining green “check”category, but in the striking “avoid” category with neon red signs flashing around it. I felt my body tense and just about heard my Mum mumble if this was okay for me. I nodded, not wanting to cause a fuss; we had been searching for somewhere to eat for a while and I was quite honestly exhausted with looking. We ended up choosing a vegetable topped pizza, deciding to split it between us. I thought back to the beauty of the lights, the beauty of Stockholm in general. I thought about the excitement I had just endorsed through the interactive ABBA museum. I was having such an incredible time, I could not let my mental illness impact that. And anyway, weren’t these issues what I was trying to escape from?

The pizza was delicious and all the fears I had surrounding it never came true. Eating disorders really are deceitful. That lunch gave me the energy for the rest of the day. I left the cafe with the irritating question, why does my brain manipulate energy into being the enemy?

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Day three (final FULL day *sobs*) began with an insightful and fascinating boat trip around the city, getting to witness beautiful sights and discovering so many facts! We then got to explore the Christmas markets and the bundle of festivity that I am just lit up with excitement. I beamed when it started to snow.

After walking for so many hours, we decided to have another break at a cafe despite already having lunch. I looked across at all the pastries and bakes, feeling nervous about how much I wanted one. My Mum asked me if I would like anything and my first instinct was to reject the offer, there was nothing “safe” for me in anything I saw. But instead of rejecting the offer, I forced myself to reject the toxic voice in my head telling me that I shouldn’t have any treats. I took a deep breath and asked for a slice of chocolate cake. I encouraged myself to ignore the engraved calculator in my mind, totalling the fat content and calories, and ate the whole. damn. thing. I thought what would follow was guilt and disgust, but I actually felt proud. For the first time in a while, I did not restrict myself from happiness. I know how silly this all sounds, that I got so happy and proud of myself for eating a slice of cake and being okay with it, but for someone who restricted eating at all a few months ago, this is insane progress for me.

If I already hadn’t been freezing throughout the entirety of the trip, I sure would be that evening,  because my Mum and I went to… the Stockholm Ice Bar! It was an interesting experience, feeling my hands turn numb as I held a glass of a cool cocktail called “Electricty” made entirely out of ice! Unfortunately we didn’t stay very long; it was more for the experience than anything else, and we left with a gentle buzz from the cocktail (god I am a lightweight!)

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Our flight home was around midday, giving us a couple of hours in the morning to enjoy a final walk around the city. I walked past the reindeers one last time, reminding myself of the emotions they gave me on the first night. I walked past all the boats and gazed across at the river that was glistening from the soft light of the sun in the wintery atmosphere. I walked past all the cafes and restaurants I got to enjoy my time in. I walked around the city of Stockholm one last time and noted it down as one of the most beautiful places I had been to.

The flight home was spent listening to ABBA and drinking cups of tea (which I later regretted when I became desperate for the loo JUST as we started preparing for landing!). I cannot fully express to my Mum how grateful I am for taking me on that trip; it was an inspiring, incredible experience for me.

I just wanted to document this trip and what I felt during it… I don’t know whether this post has any message. I guess just that, from what I’ve seen, Sweden is pretty damn amazing and I highly recommend a trip there!!

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