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Recovery: what real happiness means

When anorexia takes over your life, there is not much space for anything else. The smaller you get, the more happiness, love, and joy disappear. Leaving a void filled with strict rules, fear, and pain. When you are in the middle of the spiral it is difficult to imagine how to get out, how to be happy again. It is difficult, but not impossible. When I started my recovery journey I couldn’t see long term plans, a future, or the prospect of having positive feelings back. It is a very scary place to be in, but the prospect of having anorexia looming over your shoulder is ever worst.

One thing that I found most helpful while starting my recovery was the realisation that, despite I didn’t know what the future had in front of me, I didn’t want to be in the dark anymore. Anorexia was trying to convince me that a future without her would be full of reject, from loved ones and society, pain, and uncertainty. However, I knew that keeping anorexia meant the chance of not having a future at all.

“I don’t know what the future will be like. What I know is that I don’t like where I am right now, and I have the power to change it.”

This was my mantra for many months at the beginning of the year. I would like to share a few points that helped me during recovery:

  1. You are not alone; you are not powerless, and you can change things. Anorexia often tries to convince you that you are alone, that people don’t understand, that AN is the only one that will be always there for you. Those are all lies: anorexia is full of lies and false promises. Family and friends around you might not know how you feel, but they see the pain, they worry for your life. It is very hard to see a loved one slowly becoming a “ghost”. Love is something much more concrete that the promise of “a perfect weight”. There is not such a thing as perfect, and each number on scale will never be enough for anorexia. You have the power to change this, by listening to the ones around you, not the voice in your head. By getting help, trusting medical practitioners, therapists, family, you can turn your life around.
  2. Feelings are temporary. Challenging an eating disorder provokes a storm of uncomfortable and painful feelings. Guilt, shame and regret are the cards that anorexia plays to stop us from trying to break free from restrictive rules. Despite such feelings seem to overpower everything, an important thing to remember is that they are temporary. A thought, an emotion - they don’t physically stop you. We have thousands of thoughts per day, but we don’t follow them all. They come and go in our minds, and we are used to it. The same is with anorexia. Repeating to myself that, despite what I was feeling in that moment, I was still able to eat, helped me to challenge my restrictive rules. The more you do it, the easier it becomes. The more you feed your brain, the weaker anorexia become. Saying to yourself things like “I am thinking this right now. It is just a thought; it doesn’t control me. I know it won’t last forever and it will pass” will help you to feel less overwhelmed.
  3. Feed your brain to shrink the anorexia voice. The more nourishment you give to your brain, the weaker anorexia becomes. As it gets smaller, the more control you regain on your life, freeing space for all sorts of emotions. Starting to question what YOU really want, not considering the rules by which you lived before, opens so many doors. I realised I had chosen a career, a life in general, for fear of disappointing others. Recovery has given me the chance to reconsider the choices I made, to discover who I am and what I really want.

    By choosing recovery, you will give to yourself the best chance to find your real happiness.

Contributed by Samantha