I am no stranger to writing about my own experience of having an eating disorder and wrote an awareness post this time last year too. Reading back on it now I seem so young and naive and yet only twelve months have past. I feel like I have learned so much since that fateful day I broke down in Cork – but I still have (and always will have) room to grow.
A lot of the themes across the blogosphere this week have focused on awareness, body image and self love – all of which are very important. But I said it last year and I will say it again – ED is not about the weight. This post from ED Bites is an interesting piece on the whole concept of awareness and I am inclined to say I agree.
If you have been reading my stuff for a while or have had a root through my confessions posts, you will probably have noticed that I write about EDs from one of two perspectives – 1. I can’t handle my life so help me get better OR 2. Listen to my epiphany and positive spin. And for the most part that is what I am going for anyway. But today I am going to go in a different direction.
The Reality of Recovering from an Eating Disorder (and why it will be worth it in the end)
Two very important parts before I start. This is potentially triggering so read at your own risk or click the little x in the corner of your screen now. Also, there are pictures pre-ED, mid-ED and post-ED and I would appreciate if people can keep negative comments to themselves because Internet anonymity doesn’t make it any less rude
- You will question your healthcare team. I am not saying that you should assume they are wrong – I am just saying that you probably will. I know I did. I was angry – I was angry I had to gain weight and I was angry that nobody was addressing my binge eating. I was angry that I didn’t have a traditional eating disorder that had an established recovery program. I just didn’t see the point at all.
The reality: I still sometimes wish that my recovery had gone a different way, that I had been referred to a dietician earlier, that my team had focused on some aspects sooner. But when you get right down to it, I needed to trust them, I needed to learn that getting mad wasn’t going to make me better and the sooner I learnt to get on with the professionals, the sooner I was going to get well.
- You will question yourself. In every sense of the word. Recovering is one of the most trying things that a person can do. You ask yourself how you got here, you wonder which version of your own body image is true, you will wonder why you ever agreed to this recovery crap in the first place. And, if like me, you go from underweight to overweight, the doubt grows even more. You will idealise your ED, you will miss the days you shivered from lack of body fat, you will look at skinny girls and hate them for their fat free ease. Activities you once loved (like socialising, performing, getting dressed up) become ordeals of anxiety and emotion, photos become torture when you realise that you are a lot heavier in real life than you are in your head, recovery seems a far worse alternative to the disorder but in its elusiveness, you cannot recapture the painful yet effective behaviour of the ED.
The reality: I went from this at age 17, before my ED behaviours began
to this (about 6 months before I entered recovery)
to now (this was taken last week)
Its quite a difference and to be honest, I’m not loving it. I can rationalise and placate myself and repeat all the feel good mantras the world can think up and I am not going to love being overweight. What I can focus on right now is the increased energy, the better social skills when I am not focusing all my energy on exercising and not eating, and the ever decreasing amount of depressed days I now have.
- Some days, you just have to white knuckle it. I’m still not great at this. Some days, I still have the panic attacks, I still reach for chocolate to settle myself, I skip a meal or I make myself sick in the bathroom, I check the price of liposuction, I drink too much and tell myself at least its not ED again. But then again, there are days when I can eat when I am hungry and stop when I am full. Its just a matter of getting those days to win out even if it is an absolutely shite process in its doing.
The reality: Recovery is not something that is over in 3 months, or a year, or as I’ve speculated before, maybe ever. And you get to a point where it feels too much effort to keep it going all the time and that’s when you want to quit. I got sad on the bus the other day for no particular reason and my first thought was “Its the ED emotions again.” But then I realised it wasn’t – I was just feeling my feelings, real untarnished-by-addiction feelings, for the first time in a long time. And it wasn’t pleasant – but it wasn’t necessarily bad either.