What has helped me to decide to share a part of my story is that recently, my Consultant Psychiatrist of ten years asked me to speak with some young people currently experiencing the harsh realities of an eating disorder, in light of my own triumphs over mine. The fact that a trained professional believes me to be well enough, strong enough and competent enough to offer hope and direction to those struggling now is a true testament of how far a person can come. Not to mention that their belief in me has helped me to believe in myself.
When deciding to write this blog post, I wanted to offer an insight into how I am now, near enough four years into a robust recovery, following ten years of a very active and debilitating eating disorder. I am certainly not perfect in my recovery and this was the main point I wanted to try to get across.
Although, I am infinitely better than I once was and can act as an almost fully functioning human being, the idea proposed by others who have experienced recovery – that I will be able to rid myself of my eating disorder completely – doesn’t quite ring true. To give myself credit, and offer some background to my circumstances, I have surmounted an awful lot on the road to recovery: the catalyst to my eating disorder was my father’s suicide at age fourteen (although, arguably, I had eating disordered habits prior this) and subsequently, I struggled with and overcame both suicidal thoughts and attempts, as well as a ravaging eating disorder. However, when I think back to being a very young child, at a time where I was able to eat everything and anything and not care about what it was, or simply choose not to have something because of taste preferences and nothing more sinister, I, unfortunately, don’t see myself returning to that blissful and straightforward place ever again. Maybe it’s because eating disordered thought patterns are too enshrined in my brain’s muscle memory, or, more likely, the notion of giving up the ability to return to its sympathetic grips if life gets too hard is disarmingly terrifying.
Whatever the reason for holding onto my eating disorder, and in spite of it, I have found that it is still possible to have a highly fulfilling, rewarding and wonderful life, be it that it may, at times, be curtailed in places. Recent life achievements, for example, include having been awarded a Bachelor of Laws, getting married to a man who is miraculously patient, kind and forgiving, and beginning to plan a move to another country with said husband. It is clear to say that I did not want, nor imagine for myself, any of these accomplishments, nor would any of them have been possible, whilst I was fully immersed in my eating disorder. The disorder was all I needed to get through the day and the furthest future I cared about was one where I could exercise, binge and purge, and ultimately, keep my weight where my eating disorder wanted it to be.
As such, although it could be argued that to be ‘fully’ recovered is the ideal scenario, given all that I have been through (even before hitting thirty years old), I am learning not to be too hard on myself if it turns out that this is the best I can do. Of course, this might change in future, but right now my life encompasses love, is interesting, and feels to be sustainable. And I am happy. Those lingering nuances that remain, such as the internal struggle that occurs if my chosen dish from the menu is not available, or thinking I am ‘lazy’ when I am, in fact, tired, keep me tethered to the eating disorder. But what has changed is that I can now talk about these things with those closest to me, and even laugh at them as the stupidities that they are – they may always be there, but I have placed them in a box whereby they can no longer rule my life entirely.