Lessons I learnt from having anorexia
1. You can achieve anything you put your mind to – When I was suffering from anorexia, I was striving for what I believed to be the perfect life. More than anything I wanted four As at A-Level, I wanted to study law at university to become a lawyer and I didn’t want to let anyone or anything get in the way of that. To achieve this, I left the school where I was currently Head Girl after the first term of my Year 13, and moved to a private school where I could attend an ‘eating disorder clinic’ and attend classes. I didn’t miss one class and I achieved my four As. Even to this day, I have no idea how I did it other than that I was so determined to succeed. I learnt that I could do anything I set my mind to. While it might seem an extreme example, I remind myself of it regularly when I’m nervous about an upcoming work project or commitment.
2. You can’t control everything in life – I had to reach that magic number on the scales. Had to. I can’t begin to describe the anxiety and stress that I would feel if that number didn’t appear. I’d spend an hour in my room doing sit ups and star jumps to get back on the scales to see if it had made a difference. What I learnt with hindsight, is that the number on those scales didn’t matter. I was trying to gain control and the scales was the method I had opted to use. Today, I’ve learnt to release stress in other ways – I love to run and swim – and I’ve had to slowly learn that you just can’t control everything in life. I won’t lie to you, there are days when I really struggle with this. If something doesn’t go to plan, my whole day can spiral into a pit of despair that will take me hours to climb back out of; but at the same time, I’ve had days where I’ve been completely spontaneous (led by a friend) and they’ve been some of the greatest of my life. If it wasn’t for sometimes letting go of control, I’d never have met my husband.
3. It’s all in the detail – Back in the day I used to recall every morsel of food and sip of drink that went into my body. Every single one. I wasn’t just sitting at home with nothing else to do. I was at school studying, at regular ballet classes, and working every Saturday morning at a local bakery. This ability to recall information and focus on detail has served me well in my professional life. The details matter.
4. Nothing lasts forever – I hated school, which might be surprising statement from an A student but I did. I hated the structure of the day, not having the freedom to explore areas of interest further, and the bitchiness. Oh my, the bitchiness. At the time it felt like a lifetime. Yet now, looking back, I know it was such a short stage of my life. When times are stressful, I try to remember it’ll past. Nothing lasts forever.
5. Striving for perfection can be used for good – There’s no doubt about it, when I was striving to be a certain “perfect” weight, my focus on perfection was not doing me any favours! Yet, striving for perfection doesn’t have to be a negative. In fact, it makes me rather good at my job and I’ve learnt to embrace it as part of what makes me me.