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
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
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.