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Reflections through the storm

When I heard that word, “Anorexia”, I remember feeling completely in denial of all the information that was being bombarded at me. Sitting in a chair faced with unfamiliar faces I prayed in hope that what was happening and all that surrounded me was just a nightmare.

“Surely I would soon wake up from this dream like state and find myself cocooned in my warm thick duvet safely protected by teddy bears and fluffy cushions?”

I’d like to say that was true. It actually couldn’t have been any further from comfy bedding and rose petals. Having an eating disorder is far from a smooth and peaceful walk in the park.

All is not lost though.

Here is where I share part of my recovery story. I hope that in doing so it will shine a light on such a topic that is immensely stigmatised in today’s 21st century society. An eating disorder is not just about “a desire to be thin.” It does not define the real you because beyond the lie is who you truly are. Imperfectly beautiful.     

July 2015 – I remember when first being diagnosed I had so much denial that I would do anything I possibly could to paint over all the brokenness and emotional turmoil hidden within. Prior to graduating from university, I often worked on the theory that as long as I could convince everyone else around me that all was “fine” with life then all was, especially where my future career was concerned. Having a performance degree certainly worked wonders in that sense. 

Because the idea of having control over my life made me feel safe, of worth when measured by societies standards. Society tells us everywhere that we have to have it all together, the perfect job, family, lifestyle, relationship. (The list is endless!)

Well, let’s just say this now. There is no such thing as perfect. Perfectionism can be paralyzing. 

And not until I reached that point where I found myself battling anorexia did I find I was no longer able to play that girl who was just “fine”. Faced with an eating disorder, I knew this was something I could not fix alone or easily manage.

I’ll reassure you here that asking for help is not a sign of weakness but actually takes a huge amount of courage. I had to be brave even when the eating disorder voice only screamed words such as damaged goods beyond repair.

2016 – each passing day would bring a warfare of meals, wrestling with thoughts of when the next meal time was to reciting over and over what I had eaten the previous seven days. I felt trapped in this vicious cycle that had completely distorted both my perception and identity.

Before I knew it I had become so familiar with such an existence that the idea of ever having a joyful or so called “normal” life seemed impossible to ever attain. Anorexia had become my living reality. Just the thought of tearing down the smokescreen that had distorted the real me for so long was a sheer battle. “Letting go of the familiar was one of the hardest things to face.”

Likewise letting go is not a sign of weakness. It requires bravery.  This does not also mean that when steps are taken they are done so with ease. A large proportion of the time it is a case of doing that very thing you have been avoiding for so long, very much afraid!

2017 - Looking back 12 months ago I could not have envisioned myself walking the roads I do now. A lot of restoration has taken place and I am still on the daily recovery journey like a good many others. However now with each little step of faith I am on my way to finding the real me.

Not getting so hung up on making everything perfect! A bad day does not mean the world will end and it is not to beat yourself up about either. Nobody is perfect or immune to the uncertainties of daily life. Let go of all the hang-ups and past failures, embrace your flaws and make today the day where you choose yourself over what an eating disorder says. May this be your time where you begin to unveil the screen and allow the light within your very soul to burn brighter than the fire that surrounds you!

Contributed by Emily Sarah