I often get asked how I ‘recovered.’ In some ways I’m not sure anyone actually ever really, fully 100% recovers from an eating disorder. I feel it’ll always be there but it’s about me controlling it and not it controlling me. I guess it’s similar to being an alcoholic, or suffering from depression- the ‘illness’ may actually stay with you, but it just becomes smaller and smaller. This isn’t a doom and gloom, ‘oh good god, I’ll always be anorexic,’ but I think recovery is a very progressive thing
In many ways anorexia is no issue what so ever to me now, but there are still those bits of ‘debris,’ that I mentioned in a previous post, flying round- a few food issues, anxiety, etc. This is when I think it’s really important to acknowledge all the tiny steps you make, because they make up the big steps. In the early days making a salad without weighing it was an achievement, randomly eating a bit of carrot while cooking was an achievement, eating out of a set time was an achievement. All of these things need to be praised and applauded. An ED can leave you feeling like a total life failure, as all your care about is food and thoughts around food. But then the idea of not having it leaves such a void that you feel even more of a failure- ‘I’m good at being anorexic so if I give that up, what the hell am I good at?!’ Fighting something like an eating disorder is a HUGE deal and very hard to do, that’s why these little ‘recovery wins’ need to be celebrated.
I didn’t get through recovery by myself, and I think it’s hard to do that. I went to the local GP with my mum and after a few visit she referred me to an Eating Disorders counsellor. Seeing that counsellor were the darkest days. I only saw her a handful of times as I found her no help what so ever, in fact I found the whole system no help what so ever, and will write another post about this further. Of course I realise many have found their GPs and NHS system a massive help, I didn’t. Between my mum and I we found a CBT Therapist and a Nutritionist. I saw them once a week and once a month respectively to start with, then fewer appointments the more into recovery I got. I could not have got through it without them, and I really think seeking help, as early as possible, is vital. Again I’ll talk more about the therapy and nutrition guidance in other posts but both made me see things in a very different light. The therapy dealt with my mind and the nutritionist dealt with my body- you have to have BOTH. This is a mental illness, gaining weight doesn’t mean you feel better mentally, the mind has to get better too.
With that in mind, if I’m having bad body image days, or times of worry with regard to my weight, I look at what else is going on in my life at that point. Usually there is another factor, which is actually the real course of the negative body image. Dealing with that is then my priority. On the down days I will also try and look ahead at things I want to do, places I want to see, focusing on future ‘goals,’ no matter how small. On the flip side I will also remind myself of all the things I have already DONE. Again these may only be small things but they’re still things!! If there was a point when you couldn’t even take a bite of your friends pizza but now you can go out to Pizza Express once a month, that’s amazing!!! It doesn’t matter about the friend who goes every week because they haven’t had the issue you have, maybe in 12 months time you’ll be going once a week too.
I think the bottom line with recovery is actually WANTING to recover. I wanted to get better- it was bloody hard, and still is sometimes, but I didn’t want to feel so totally and utterly awful anymore. It wasn’t life, it isn’t life, it’s just existence. Recovery is possible, want it, want it for YOU. It will be hard but it’s worth it, it will challenge you but if you can beat this then imagine what else you can actually achieve- the world’s your lobster, as my mum would say