A freaking huge piece of chocolate cake…..a load of shots on a night out…..a large Dominos pizza to yourself. Is this what recovery means? Is the meaning of recovery facing all your fear foods head on and not backing down?! In some ways that’s what I used to think recovery was, now I know it isn’t actually that at all.
I wrote a post on what recovery actually means about a year ago but feel it’s time to recap, and I wanted to post something about my own battle with mental health today, World Mental Health Day. What recovery actually means to me is simply having a life again. It doesn’t necessarily mean you have to eat ALL the foods, or hit a certain amount of calories every day, or face EVERYTHING you once found challenging. It can be those tiny, tiny things, that maybe we took for granted at one point that actually mean the most.
If you follow me on Instagram you’ll know I walked from home into central London a couple of Saturdays ago. It was about a 2 hour walk and it gave me a lot of time to think about things I’ve achieved/ not achieved over the last 12 months. It also made me realise that in some ways even the walk itself was an achievement. I walked into London thinking I’d visit a cafe for breakfast then I didn’t really have a plan. I had a protein bar in my bag (standard!) and that was about it. I hadn’t booked anywhere to eat anything, I didn’t know if the place I was going to would be busy or not, I didn’t know what I’d have for lunch, I didn’t know much really!! This will sound perfectly normal to someone who’s never suffered with an ED but those who have will realise that these things are all quite big. During anorexia you don’t really eat out. If you do, you need to know exactly where you’re going, it’s also likely you will need to know the exact time you will be sitting down for food- not booking was not an option, ever. On many, many an occasion you end up taking what feels like the entire contents of the kitchen with you if you do go anywhere- endless options of things you could eat as you know full well you won’t eat something someone else has cooked. There’s no hope of trying a small independent coffee shop, with their artisan cakes, full fat milk and fancyschmancy bakes. How could you possibly quantify the lattes and cappuccinos there, when there’s no calories guide to back you up. The walk itself becomes a stress. You’re walking fasted so you know you’re really hungry, but what if something happens and you can’t get food when you get to Covent Garden, what if you walk a bit too slow and arrive later than planned- GOD FORBID things going off plan. And then there’s the ‘plan’ of what you’re doing after you’ve had your breakfast- you haven’t planned, so what the hell will you do?! What if you just wander round, not being able to decide what to do, and to make it worse, you’re doing it all on your own, so there’s no one to help you decide. There also isn’t anyone to say ‘yeah of course it’s ok to eat that, don’t worry at all.’ All in all maybe it’s just better if you get a tube in and take some breakfast with you. Or maybe just wait until someone comes in with you, in fact maybe just don’t bother and stay at home where it’s safe, you know what you’re doing and when, and you know what you’re eating and when.
All of that, that’s how the anorexic mind works. I’m not going to sit here and say I don’t still worry about some of the above- I still food prep, but not ALL the time. I still like to be able to book restaurants but not for EVERY meal. I still like a plan, but sometimes I like to have NO plan.
That to me is what recovery means. It’s having a random cake with your mum while chatting about holiday plans. It’s saying yes to meeting a friend at lunchtime even though you know it means eating lunch later. It’s going on a random date and not panicking about the food you may be faced with. It’s having a day of not really doing anything without feeling guilty, or shameful for being lazy. It’s having the frothy coffee with full fat milk that your friend’s proudly made you. It’s having one of the jelly babies you’re BFFs little boy offers you. It’s not having to spend over 2 hours planning your meals for the week, with your mum, at the age of 28, while in floods of tears. It’s actually wanting to meet new people, and be sociable again. It’s about planning all the things you want to do with your life, and actually doing them. It’s about not hating yourself for the person you’re not, and the person you feel you’ll never be and accepting who you are.
Please don’t think the above are things I do without thought, day in day out. Sometimes I feel great, sometimes I feel I’m arguing with my own mind constantly but I know I am so far from where I was. I also know that in another 12 months I’ll be even further. Recovery is long and slow and a part of me thinks you are never actually ‘fully recovered’ from an eating disorder, but I wouldn’t change what’s happened. There are days, just every now and then, when I wish I could go back to how I was pre ED, but in reality I genuinely wouldn’t change the last few years. If I’d never been anorexic I’d probably never have moved to London, never have re- trained as a PT, never have met half the people I have. I understand myself, and other people better now. I know more about what I actually want from life, and who I want in my life. Ultimately I know if I hit rock bottom, I can get back up again.