Recovery, compliments and misinterpretation

Posted 20/03/2017

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love my family. Anorexia is the darkest and deepest hole and I wouldn’t be where I am today without their support. But sometimes, just sometimes, the most meaningful and caring comments surrounding my food intake, weight or appearance can be more destructive than helpful. At the end of the day, they don’t understand how complex the anorexic mind is. However much we may want them to see the world through our eyes, they can’t and we can’t expect them to. Family and friends are offering us compliments, but the anorexia twists and manipulates these words. We don’t see their compliment for what it actually is: a compliment. Instead, we analyse every single word that they say, until there is nothing left to analyse, nothing left but a negative comment that is causing havoc in our mind.

My mum would innocently say to me, “there’s more to cuddle than just skin and bones now”; work colleagues would say “you’re looking really well”; Dad would say: “you wolfed that down quickly… why don’t you lick the plate?”. My blood would begin to boil and anorexia would use this opportunity to start playing mind games. My head would begin to erupt with questions: does that mean I look fat? Did I eat too much? Am I not skinny anymore? We start to panic; we don’t want to be what other people may call “healthy”, because to us that isn’t skinny, that isn’t pretty, that isn’t what the voice in our head is aspiring us to be. It’s not that we don’t want to get better. Of course we want to get rid of the monstrous and crippling anorexia, but as we start to look better in the eyes of other people, victims of anorexia like myself start to develop feelings of shame and guilt. We feel shameful for enjoying food again, guilty for having that extra dollop of mash.

I want people to see this battle as a tug of war between your rational mindset and anorexia – anorexia views these compliments as a possible weakness to take advantage of, hoping to put a doorstop in the recovery process. But you, not the anorexia, know that these compliments are coming from a good place, from family and friends who care about you most. They haven’t said anything malicious; they haven’t said you’re overeating and they certainly haven’t told you that you look fat. That’s what the anorexia wants you to think; it’s constantly tugging, but this is a war you will win. For all those suffering with anorexia, it is important to take these compliments at face value; friends and family are saying you look beautiful because you do, so do not warp their compliments into something negative and consequently self-destructive. This is you stamping on the anorexia with an extra bit of healthy weight. This is you climbing out of that dark, deep hole, so embrace the compliments and show anorexia what you are made of. 

Contributed by Emily