My battle with anorexia and bulimia made me lose my identity.
Recovering from an eating disorder seemed very daunting and overwhelming but I knew it was something I had to do. I could no longer suffer, battling with my brain, my family and my friends daily. I wanted to be free from all the hatred I felt about myself; I wanted to love myself again.
I was 14 years old when everything seemed to be going horribly wrong and falling apart. I lost my sanity, my health and my belonging, but it wasn’t until I was close to turning 16 that I realised something had to change. I started CBT at CAMHS when I was 15 years old, but I found the process hard. I soon realised that I was only going to recover if I admitted to myself that I had a problem. Not only did I need to admit that I had an eating disorder, I needed to accept the help that I was fortunate to have been given. When you’re in your anorexic and bulimic frame of mind you see everyone as the enemy, whether that’s a family member, a friend or a psychologist; you truly believe that they are all against you as anorexia and bulimia are your only friends. You do everything you can to block them out, as you feel alone, isolated and vulnerable, as if no one understands what you’re going through. I struggled to believe that anyone would want to help me as I allowed anorexia and bulimia to convince me that I was useless, irrelevant and not worth helping.
I soon found that in order to combat anorexic and bulimic thoughts I needed to find distractions – ways to block them out. Dance and drama have always played a huge part in my life and during my struggle with eating disorders I used the disciplines as a way of physically expressing myself. When I acted I was no longer me; I was able to play and be someone else. It felt like an escape from reality. When I danced I was able to express what was going on in my mind. I am a true believer that when you act or dance your body and mind become one and they work together in order to achieve performance. However, when you have an eating disorder your body and your mind are constantly fighting against each other, so expression allowed me to connect my body with my mind and this was when I felt a deep strength within myself that I had never felt before. I had faith, strength and power that was going to help me get better.
Another distraction I used was art therapy. I used art therapy books for whenever I had a negative thought as my brain was so preoccupied with making sure I colour within the lines that I forgot about the negative thought I was having. In addition, I had to constantly remind myself that I was worthy of happiness, worthy of recovery and worthy of life. I achieved this by writing down every negative thought I had or anything that my mind was telling me to do. I was then able to read all my thoughts on paper and truly understand the deeper meanings that they all individually had. When they were all written on paper I felt like all my thoughts were no longer in my head, as if writing them down removed them from my memory. Next to my thought I would write down what I would do if the thought came back so I felt a sense of control and hope within myself.
Not only do you need ways to help yourself, but I found that a strong external force of support such as family and friends are needed for an ongoing recovery. I was very fortunate to have many loved ones support me through the good and the bad times and I couldn’t have done it without them. They gave me my strength and motivation, but It wasn’t until my psychologist mentioned hospital admission that I knew my behaviour seriously needed to change for the better.
Walking down the long road of recovery was the best thing that I ever did. I still can wake up and have a bad day but that doesn’t mean I forget how far I have come. I may no longer have the same relationship with food as I did in the past but I’m happy, stronger than ever and most importantly a healthy stable weight. I will never be able to say that making a positive change is easy, because it’s far from it, but please always remember that it is possible, and you can do it. All you need to do is believe in yourself, stay strong and it will happen. Just keep going because no one can do it for you, you need to do it for yourself and remember it is okay not be okay.
You have to learn how to live again and, like with any lessons, you often have to fail to learn the best way or the right way...
In the past I’ve wanted to hide the eating disorders that are part of my history, but I want to shout from the rooftops: I'm proud of how far I had come!
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