Recovery, somewhere before the rainbow…
I started this blog in February, intending to document my recovery through anorexia, an illness which had put my life on hold for two years. I’d made a decision, different from the false assurances I’d previously given, I wanted, needed, to get rid of this properly. But I was stuck. I looked online at other recovery blogs to see how they had moved themselves from this impossible place- able to see what life could look like yet unable to lift even a finger to action it.
I struggled to relate to some existing blogs as their relationships with food, diet and exercise echoed my existing anorexic thoughts. The measure of self worth still seemed to centre around what was on your plate vs how many times you went to the gym that week.
If that works for you, I am not knocking it- recovery is most definitely not a “one size fits all” process. But for me, it wasn’t enough. I couldn’t deal with food, exercise and the way I looked from one angle to the next dictating my mood for the day. I wanted to find a real balance; a good relationship with exercise, where I could enjoy it and not do it excessively out of obligation or compulsion. A balance with food whereby I could eat, both for fuel and for pleasure, not too much and not too little. When I started this blog I had no idea how close the latter two were linked. But most of all, I wanted the way I saw myself- the way I zoomed in on my waist- to stop clouding my achievements and successes… I found the rose-tinted hindsight other recovery stories were written with so difficult to apply to the hostile place I was in. So, I decided to document my own, painful step-by- painful step, so people are under no illusion that it is perfect.
Indeed, a lot has changed in the months I’ve been writing. I realised my food struggles started waaaaaay before they were physically recognisable; a long time before my family (and clearly me) noticed. I realised my relationship with food has always had some form of emotion behind it and I realised my appearance has always been the only way I could truly value myself– all the main ingredients for an eating disorder. I have realised eating disorders are not the neat, separate definitions you hear about- they are much more “mix” than “pick.” I realised recovery is not a clear, linear journey upward; it is ugly, at times impossible and can take you in all sorts of directions including backward. It tests your resolve, strength and stamina more than any work out ever will. I realised, during this, I have depression and probably have had for a while I was just too embarrassed to say it out loud- to be honest I’m still working on it. I’ve also realised I’m not the negative pessimist I once thought- I can’t be or I’d have given up ages ago. But, I refuse to accept that these things are permanent or that this is just “me.”
I’m still not cured, I’m far from the place I thought I’d be by now but I’m just gathering all the tools I need to do this properly; to live a life that is not controlled by food, exercise and my dress size.
Please feel free to join my journey here. There’s been a couple of detours and added agendas along the way but the destination looks far richer for it.
If you would like to get in touch, ask me questions, for advice, or even give feedback as to what is helpful/not, I have all the time in the world for you. I am not a professional but I will always try and use my own experiences to help, whether it is you or someone you care for. And sometimes it’s not about “help,” it’s knowing you aren’t the only one. Please write to me here.
I’m not quite sure how I got here…
I really am not sure at what point, at the age of 23, my focus became not what I was going to do on Saturday night; not what colour cami I was going to wear to go with my new jeans; not whether or not the cute guy in the lecture theatre was checking me out too and definitely not what the actual hell I was going to do with my life now that I’m a “grown-up…”
I’m not sure why, or how, I went from being a driven, (possibly overly) opinionated young woman, full of ideas about her future, to this.
Instead of getting excited when a friend spontaneously asks what I’m up to that night, I panic- wondering if I’m going to be “allowed” to take part in whatever activity she’s thinking of. Instead of planning my outfit for that night, I plan what I’m allowed to eat that day, in order to take part…
Instead of wondering if that cute guy is checking me out, I’m wondering if he- or anyone at all- in that lecture theatre thinks I’m bigger than the girl sat next to me. As if the answer to that statement actually matters.
Instead of agonising about jobs, I agonise about food. Instead of panicking if I’m on top of my deadlines, I am consumed with panic that I must have miscalculated my calorie intake somehow…
As I read back through that I’m embarrassed. When did my perfectly normal and agreeable life become so utterly consumed by something so trivial and unimportant yet something so completely disabling?
I’m also angry and impassioned when I read back through this. Look at what it’s robbed me of!
“Yes”- I tell myself- “I’m GOING to get better.” “YES, I’ve had ENOUGH of having to live hour by hour agonising over a basic component of human survival.” “YES, I want to look WELL and WOMANLY, not childish and sick.” “YEAH, I want to get out there and start LIVING.”
It almost feels appropriate to have a celebratory fist-pump and scream: “I HATE ANOREXIA!”
These affirmations, and the genuine excitement it provokes in me, make me an ideal candidate for “recovery” it would seem… So why then, do I have to make this decision multiple times a day? Why can I talk a convincing talk, even to the point where I convince myself, but then can actively not “prove it in the pudding” so to speak… Sorry, I couldn’t resist that.
I want to get better. Genuinely. Better looks great; it looks so much fun! But how?
Well, this is what I’m going to try and show you. At the moment, I have no idea; I am quite literally at square one. Hang on, is there a prize for the discovery of Square Minus One?
Do I feel confident? No, not at all; I’ve been having to make this decision over and over again six times a day in the past month. Has anything changed yet? No. Not really.
But I don’t want to be singing from my pretty recovered pedestal. I know it exists somewhere, at least, I think I do, but its somewhere far, far away from here. I want to show you HOW I get there; HOW I argue with both the desires of NOT wanting to eat AND the desires of wanting to eat EVERYTHING. I want to show you IF it does get better, because I am equally as doubtful.
At the minute, mere reassurances that I “just won’t eat everything in sight” simply don’t cut it. I don’t believe them when they tell me that what I feel is a “normal” part of recovery. I don’t believe them when they tell me I will enjoy SOME (sensible) exercise again. I don’t believe them when they tell me I won’t think about food at least once every hour. I definitely don’t believe them when they say I won’t care… The latter one in particular is a nice idea. A nice idea but, actually, its equally as frightening as all my other thoughts. I need them to prove it to me because the stakes are too high. And they can’t.
So, this is my starting point- right here…
There will be no harrowing narrative of my journey to death’s door; there will be no revelations of the “benchmarks” I did (or didn’t) get to; there will be no heart wrenching details about how close I was to nearly dying (or not); and there will certainly be no “shocking” revelations about having to wear my old Barbie dolls clothes. And, when I do get to this elusive place of “better”, there WILL NOT be a “before & after” miracle transformation.
Those things aren’t indicative of a struggle. Those things are not indicative of how utterly rubbish this illness is; how much pain it brings to, not just me, those around me.
Its what you can’t see that is the most scary, the most alienating and the most dangerous. It’s what you can’t see for yourself in the future that prevents you from continuing to fight. It’s the massive gap between the illness and being “better” that you CANNOT BLOODY SEE that just makes the illness louder and stronger.
So, that is what I am going to try and make visible because I just cannot stomach this nasty, greedy illness anymore.