I guess the turning point for my recovery came after a long battle with my identity. Who am I if I’m not what anorexia tells me I am? After eight months of physical health problems leaving me in hospital I became obsessive over anything I could control, including food and my weight. My relationship with my body became dangerous and I was admitted to an eating disorders unit 400 miles away from home for ten months. In those ten months I received so much insight, understanding, wise words and support, but the ‘click moment’ came when I was set a task to write a goodbye letter to my anorexia, and the hardest letter I would ever write: an apology to my healthy self.
This is Goodbye
My dearest friend, you have kept me safe in times of desperation, been the shoulder to lean on, the ear to listen, the motivation to spur me on. You have been like a sister to me. Yes, we fought, but there has always been something stopping me from letting you go. But I realise now I MUST let you go.
The doctors say you are killing me.
You hide and keep secrets, you scream and make me want to hurt myself, you leave me starving, tired and out of control.
I have watched you strip me of my chubby cheeks, the ones that always made my smile so cheeky and with that my embarrassing but cherished baby chuckle. I’ve let you overwhelm me, leaving me a puddle on the floor, having to have staff and patients hold me so tightly and promise me things will get better just so I feel I can even face the next hour. I have drowned so low under your reign that there are many moments I believe I can’t go on because you have consumed my identity.
You are not my identity.
I am Jamie.
I am mischievous and wild. I am ambitious and gentle. I am a perfect combination of what my history has made me and what my dreams will help me to become.
This is a goodbye letter, and I’m sure it won’t be easy. Cutting you off seems too hard a thing to do these days and, in a way, feels as though I’d be running from all the difficult things you’ve helped to cover up. But it is a declaration, so you know I don’t want you anymore. I don’t need you anymore. I’m ready to walk on my own again.
At times I will fall; I will step backwards; I will give in.
But I will stand up again, dust myself off and try again tomorrow.
With all my love, thanks and biggest GOODBYE,
This is an apology
Hey there, happy girl, hey there, healthy girl,
To the girl whose eating disorder was so quiet you ate without guilt, you felt free in your shorts, no second thought that your thighs were as close as best friends; your laughter was contagious and your future was full of potential.
I’m sorry I allowed anorexia into our lives, that I agreed to starvation, that I demanded you to work for hours under the voice of a dictator rather than listen to the cries of our tired body.
I grew to hate you, resent you, despise you who was happy because if I’m being honest I miss it. But the truth is anorexia never gave us anything she promised. She took away our future, forced people to take away our choice, our right to say no, and evicted an entire 18 months of our life.
No more. I am fighting for you, beautiful girl, so we can live and anorexia can die. So we can get the word “freedom” tattooed on our hearts, knowing it will never leave us, our human right; it is ours for the taking.
It’s time for us to meet again, healthy girl – not just our bodies, but our minds. So here I am, standing in front of a mirror, staring at everything I grew to hate, saying:
“I love you, happy girl.
I love you, healthy girl.
I’m ready to join you again.”
When I was discharged from inpatient, I kept both of these letters, like declarations, an agreement with myself that I will never again be ruled by a dictator over my own body, but that actually I would learn to cherish my body for everything it has, is and will do for me. Exactly a month after my discharge I went and got a ‘recovery’ tattoo.
‘Like wildflowers, you must grow in all the places people never thought you would.’
My tattoo is for me, for all I have become and all I am going to be. For all the hands that held mine, the people who helped me to grow and encouraged me to flourish. For all the people I met along the way fighting a similar battle, still blossoming, you are beautiful rebellious creations.