Any recovery takes time. There’s no set pace or step-by-step guide and everyone will have a different experience going through recovery. For me recovery was a growing process, a process that uncovered a part of me I had long forgotten. Most of the time it’s not something that is welcomed.
My recovery started when I was 16. I fought it with every piece of will that I had. I never saw myself as someone with an eating disorder – I suppose many don’t. However, looking back and eight years into my recovery it’s hard not to see that I needed help. I experienced both anorexia and bulimia brought on through constant bullying, and was lost in my world. Thinking I had control over something when in fact it had control over me. After all this time, I have only just been able to admit to myself that I had a problem. Looking back over old photos, it is clear to see.
Recovery for me cannot be defined as a term. Recovery is something that can help a person to learn about themselves, to grow in an environment that is no longer toxic, and each step is powerful. There are no big or small achievements: every achievement is something to be proud of, to show that you have strength – more than what you will ever give yourself credit for. During my recovery I refused to help myself, refused to believe I needed help and refused to believe that people could help me. It wasn’t until I was able to admit to myself that I had a problem that my recovery started; this was a few years after my initial referral. The admittance itself was my first step to recovery. I knew that my relationship with food had always been my life, my thought track, and controlled every aspect of my person.
Realisation was the first step; accepting help was the next. Accepting help is always going to be a daunting task, but I learned it’s important to be open. No one is rallying against you – they are all trying to help. Trust in the people trying to help will grow too. Trusting people was something that I didn’t do, but as I spent more time working on myself and focusing on my recovery I would find myself opening up and trusting certain people.
My own recovery was aided deeply by my counsellor – she was different. Different to others I had spoken to, she was able to put a smile on my face whenever I saw her. We shared so many milestones together, laughed and cried together. With each accomplishment she was proud of me and constantly gave me the reassurance that I needed.
A hierarchy was created as we worked together through the weeks. This consisted of goals that would be worked through, starting at the bottom of the pyramid and working up to the top, at a pace I was happy with – no time limit was set. They weren’t anything extreme, just little steps to give me a target. Something that helped me to feel in control of my eating and habits. If I am pressured to do something then I am more likely not to do it, but by giving me time I was able to explore my mind, learn about psychology and search for the person I was, not what the bullies labelled me as.
There are bound to be setbacks no matter what you do. It’s knowing you are doing your best and still taking steps forward. The setbacks don’t alter your path or make you take a step back – you are still on the same step you were before; there’s just an individual story to each step.
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!
I want to shed some light on diet culture and what it drove me to do to myself for eight years. I will never get those eight years back, but what I do know is that I will never put myself through all the self-inflicted pain it took in order to look a certain way.