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The danger of waiting

As a sufferer of a severe eating disorder, I have spent a substantial amount of time throughout my journey reading stories of people who are recovered and have beaten their eating disorders and of those who have learned to beat or cope with other mental illnesses too. I have poured energy into scrolling through websites, reading people’s stories of a life where they have regained control, and I have eventually resorted to simply pleading with people to give me a step-by-step guide on recovery or to tell me how they made the decision to start it.

I have been so desperate to recover yet so ‘unable’ to for so long. I have invested time into reading diaries, memoirs, handbooks, therapy techniques, self-help guides, positive quotes, affirmations, I have tried breathing techniques, meditation suggestions – you name it, I have probably attempted it. I have rung helplines, been for coffees with people I had met through forums or through mutual friends who were actively seeking to help me by giving me contacts for people they knew who held success stories. I have attended a recovery support group, I have had professionals working with me from a specialist eating disorder service, which I was so blessed to have been referred to early on, and I have still felt stuck.

I have spent the past few months especially investing all my energy into seeking this key to my own freedom, to my own success story. I have felt so terrified and locked within my own body and every night I have questioned the possibility of ever finding a way out. Through reading other people’s stories and searching books and resources, I have been physically trying to find an answer. Years of heartbreaking memories for my family, of cancelled holidays, of medical appointments, of a defiant, lying, angry shell of a person in place of me and I have still felt no nearer to recovery than the day I was diagnosed so long ago. I mean literally, I have been a stone. Expressionless. Hopeless. And Motionless. Pale and grey and unwilling to eat. I have been drifting through life exhausted by the mere concept of existence, spending all my hours either asleep or waiting for someone to give me the key to recovery or to save me.

More recently however, things have changed. As I have been lying in my bed at night I have started to see that the day may never come where I find an answer, where it becomes easier to pick up a knife and fork and choose to swallow. Whereas previously I have drifted through the days whilst waiting for an answer, I have now been starting to realise that maybe I have the answer. Or maybe I have to write my own answer. Maybe there is no key, and maybe if there is, I must create it. 

People put off recovery for years. I know I have put it off for a long time and that’s why I have resorted to turning to others for answers, because I know deep down I haven’t wanted to choose it for myself. I have wanted a magic wand or an easy option; I have seen recovery as a leap from the situation I have been in to a life of happiness and pizza and chocolate. Maybe by doing that I have been trying to avoid this hell of a journey in between being ill and being recovered!

I believe everyone is worthy and able to recover and only now do I see the way this also applies to me. I have met many people with eating disorders and a common theme is that we all seem to be waiting until we feel ready, until we feel ill enough, worthy enough or until it gets easier. Now I have started recovery and have a less distorted view, I can see these goal posts never come. I know people who have suffered from eating disorders for a few months and have not felt ill enough, people who have suffered for a few years, ten years, forty years; I see these people now and realise that they are just the same as I have been for the past however long. Anyone with an eating disorder is ill enough because we are all ill!

Although the goal posts of recovery feeling easier or you feeling ‘ill enough’ never arrive, other ones do: hospital admissions, organ damage and long term health complications. But also loss of family members, friends, missed opportunities, heartbreak, loneliness and isolation, missed years and also the ups and downs of real life. In life, if you keep putting off recovery, the time comes eventually where you are sat in your nursing home (if you make it to this age) refusing dinner and you can only look back in regret at the wasted years. No grandchildren coming to visit, no friends, yet still you don't feel ready. These negative events have all come, yet you still await that day you feel worthy of recovery. That’s what happens if you don’t choose recovery. You wait and the time never comes. There is no after.

There’s no such thing as a magic key or guide to recovery; things can help and make recovery more manageable, but the change has to come from you. Honestly, you won’t regret choosing to create the change you dream of, if you wish hard enough and truly want it then it’s possible – anyone with an eating disorder had the strength to give all this time to obeying its rules and rituals, and we can use this strength to create a better life! Don’t wait, because even though I never listened at the time to others saying the same, you never feel ill enough and in fact I wish I’d done it sooner.

I can’t wait to share happy times with my friends, with my future children and grandchildren. It’s never too late, but don’t wait! Life doesn’t always wait for you. Life will go on whether you choose recovery or not and I’d rather not waste mine achieving nothing but misery! I hope others can read this and feel able to feel the same. Let’s be the best version of ourselves rather than trying to be the best at being ill as this never actually happens until you are dead.

P.S. Feeling happier and healthier does start to feel better than ill, I promise – just not initially! It isn’t as scary as your eating disorder will be telling you, and every breakdown becomes worth it.

Contributed by Chloe