I do not know what being fully recovered will FEEL like, in some ways I do not know if I will even know when I am! Trust me when I say, I did not intend to have this illness - putting my mind and body through absolute torture was NOT a chapter I wanted to be written for me. However, I do believe that my battle with severe anorexia athletica is JUST one chapter of many in my life. As an English Literature graduate, it is within my nature to want to analyse every word, to agonise over WHY this chapter exists and WHY it contains all of the elements that it does. However, if I continued to do this, I would never reach the next chapter. Instead, I would be bitter towards the world and develop an overwhelming sense of self-pity.
Don’t get me wrong, I truly encourage all suffers to seek therapy to try to understand why their eating disorder has developed. Yet I am also one to appreciate the magical power that comes from acceptance and letting go. For at least three years I have had a love affair with my eating disorder, it has served me well during my most challenging times in life yet. When my planned future seemed unattainable and when the world seemed out of control, my disorder made me feel safe, strong, accomplished and purposeful. For years I played the role of the ‘great pretender,’ and my disorder was the puppet master. Each time I followed anorexia’s orders and received praise or felt proud - I was lured in a little further.
Like all love affairs, I could only describe the first year or so with anorexia as ‘euphoric’. I was so grateful for being the ‘chosen one’ and for anorexia blessing me with these superpowers of restriction. Suddenly, I obtained a determination and self-discipline so strong that I was able to control my body and achieve the impossible! Yet, like all love affairs - the honeymoon period soon wares off. I began to realise the price I had paid to dance with the devil, and as I took the rose tinted glasses off I started to see the true colours of the disorder and the damage it had done to my mind, my life, my health and my body. I remember catching a glimpse of myself in a coffee shop mirror. For some reason, my eating disorder has decided to be elsewhere in that moment, and so there I was in the mirror. It was just me and my logic- lonely, cold, frail me - and my desperate logic. I always say that my logic did the only thing it could to convince me to seek help that day - it showed me the truth.
“Mirror, mirror on the wall who is the unhappiest and unhealthiest of all?”
Just as much as the ‘beginning’ of my disorder cannot be fully identified, I believe the ‘end’ will not be either. This is why I choose not to dwell or fret about these ‘paragraphs’ in my life- instead I choose to focus on the catalysts within my journey. It is only from the most pivotal moments of change that I will gain the knowledge and the power to live a healthy, balanced life without my disorder. By admitting myself into an inpatient service, by reaching out to Nicole afterwards, by introducing my first morning snack, by eating out, by having meals cooked for me, by seeing my weight creep up, by buying new clothes, by throwing out old ones, by eating fear foods, by responding to my hunger, by listening to my intuition and by pressing mute to ‘diet talk’ - I GAINED strength.
At first, all that recovery seemed to entail was eating more and ‘overcoming fear foods’. However, as this became the ‘norm’ I realised how my growing confidence and self-love was not developing due eating the food, but that it was developing due to this daily fight. I now realised how I could feel and find the same ‘euphoria’ I felt with anorexia- inside my healthy and logical self. The more and more I nourished my body and freed my mind of all restriction, the more and more I saw the beauty in this unpredictable world. The less starved my body was, the less obsessive my mind became over food. As I gave myself unconditional permission and listened intently to my body cravings- I gave myself more opportunities. I no longer felt the urge to always say ‘No’ because I understood from positive experience that saying ‘yes’ to spontaneity did not make me a ‘lesser’ person but in fact, it made me more of a person!
Now I wish I could tell you that I was absolutely ecstatic about my new body, completely thrilled with my natural curves and softer stomach - but this would be a lie. However, I would also be lying to you if I told you how revolted I am of my new C cup bra or how ashamed I am of my bigger bottom and womanly figure. Now what would be an even bigger lie – was if I told you how much I regret choosing recovery and how much remorse I feel for fighting anorexia every day and feeling her fade a little more each time I do. Recovery has not only taught me to accept that my life will not be perfect, but it has also taught me to accept that I may not always feel completely certain or uncertain about things in my life too. So although some of you may feel that is futile for me to strive towards achieving an ‘uncertain end’, which I may or may not even be able to recognise when or if I reach it, I am CERTAIN that right now I am stronger, healthier, happier and freer than ever before. Therefore, If I do have to live my life within this continual journey of recovery - I accept that this is more of a life worth living than one held captive by my eating disorder.