Not getting better

Posted 13/07/2018

I wanted to write about not getting better. It's not a blog about wanting to be unwell, but it's a blog about not overcoming the thing that threatens your life and disrupts your plans regularly. Although many of the blogs here clearly outline struggles and great challenges, they also seem full of hope and optimism for recovery. But I'll be honest – at thirty years old, with around half my life lived through struggles with anorexia, and having tried so many times to get well but not succeeded, hope and optimism don't feel like they belong in my life.

At the same time, giving up and accepting the illness as a part of the rest of my life isn't an option. I have periods of absolute hopelessness where I see no way out but starving to death, but then wrestle with periods of really trying, and really battling against my brain and everything it tells me. During the hopeless times I wish I'd never gone through the trying and battling times because I just want to disappear, and I'm angry at myself for thinking I could get well. I think, for me anyway, it's harder to have those two sides (and the various shades of both) because arguing with yourself and being angry at your past self is exhausting.

I feel guilty all the time for not getting better. I feel guilty that I haven't been able to do what family and friends and health professionals, who have tried their hardest to help, tell me to do. I think it's a common trait that people with eating disorders are "people pleasers" so to be doing the opposite only fuels the shame and anger I feel towards myself. I am lucky that my family and some of my friends have stuck by me regardless, but I do know they don't really expect me to get well. Health professionals have also told me I'll never overcome this. And I suppose, based on the evidence, they are right to hold that belief.

I am also lucky that some health professionals have believed in me and have given me a degree of hope and a great deal of support, in a way that works for me. It's hard, when services are stretched, but with recovery rates so low and early death rates so high in people with longer term eating disorders, I think those at the top controlling funding and so on need to recognise how important this is to keeping people alive. It's time to walk the "person centred" walk and find out what works for someone rather than rely on standardised or stock type short-term support.

So I suppose my parting words are that if you're like me and feeling rubbish about not getting well, you're not alone. If your friend or family member has been living with an eating disorder for years please don't give up on them recovering. I can't end with "it gets better" because although it sometimes does, it also sometimes gets worse. For me, for now, I tell myself that I need to keep going despite, in spite of and to spite the grim reality of this illness.

Contributed by Laura
Not getting better