When the Choice to Recover Comes From Within

Posted 22/08/2018

Eight years of suffering from an eating disorder. Almost eight years spent in utter denial over the fact anything was wrong. Even in the darkest times spent as an inpatient in hospital never once did I use the “a word” because that was something other people struggled with. Not me though. Never me. Almost eight years spent without associating myself with the “a word.” Nothing was wrong, I was simply stressed, less hungry or a bit tired. I was not the type of person to get an eating disorder in my mind. In hindsight, I was exactly the type of person to get an eating disorder: a perfectionist, highly driven, motivated, ambitious, and lacking in confidence.

And so, the “road to recovery” began through an inpatient admission. The problem was, in my head, I had nothing to recover from. Weight gain happened and physically I began to grow physically stronger. What nobody knew was that mentally I was as weak as ever. I seemed to be a “paradigm of recovery.” I accepted eating things I hadn’t touched for years, I gained weight and told everyone I was now fine. Consequently, I engaged in no therapy because why would I have therapy for something that doesn’t exist?

Years passed. There were good times and bad, but I managed to tread water and get through life. Little did I know that life isn’t supposed to be something one merely “gets through” but something that should be lived, enjoyed and savoured. A year ago, things began to deteriorate more rapidly than before, and I truly believe that was the beginning of a shift in my mind. I became acutely aware that it wasn’t normal to never eat with anyone else, to have such strict rules over what was “allowed” and “forbidden,” to feel mind-numbing guilt after eating, to place my entire worth on the number on a scale. It took time for these realisations to materialise in my head, and that brings us to July 2017.

It was at this time that I finished my Masters, and thus 18 years (minus one year taken out due to ill health) of consistent education came crashing to an end. My mental health deteriorated and, as a result, my physical health quickly followed. I was in full-blown panic mode. It was now up to me to build my own life, mould my own future and create a life I wanted to live. How could I do that when all I had ever known was how to survive?

The realisation came then. An eating disorder and life are incompatible. I took the steps to get help. For the first time in my life, it came from me. No one forced me to do something, although it would inevitably have happened. I didn’t wait for that, though. The choice came from me, and a few months ago, for the first time in my life, I met a psychologist and I told her “I have anorexia.” I used the dreaded “a word” and truly began on the road to recovery.

I have learned so much about myself over the years. I am still a determined, motivated and ambitious individual but now I need to channel those attributes into recovering. I fully believe that it is fully possible to recover from an eating disorder, but that the decision to do so has to come from you. I learned the hard way. I “recovered” for others. I wanted to please those around me, but nothing I did was ever for me. This time the choice was made by me and for me, and that is why I know that, whilst the road will not be straight and the journey will not be linear, I will recover from anorexia.

This has been the scariest thing I have ever done in my life – and I say that having done many conventionally terrifying things. Making the choice to recover does not mean that I will suddenly be cured or that the eating disorder won’t fight back, but it does mean that I am being proactive and I am doing what I need to do to build that life I want, mould the future I desire and create the life I want to live.

Contributed by Hannah