Why recovery is worth persevering through moments of feeling weak

Posted 27/04/2018

Anorexia was never intended, never wanted and never fully understood. Yet in the September of my second year at university, I somehow found myself being taken on by an intensive outpatient treatment team.

I was confused and lost. Why me? There’s nothing wrong; how has it come to this? Who have I become? were just some of the questions I had.

18 months on from this moment, I want to share some of what I have learnt in recovery so far. Firstly, I want to say that YES, I am in a better place than 18 months ago, but NO, I am not recovered, and it has not been an easy journey to where I am now. I want to, however, write this post in the hope of encouraging others who may feel lost and stuck as well as raising awareness of the depth of the struggles beneath what is visible in an “anorexic”.

My top ten recovery tips:

  • Admit to weakness and struggle. To be human is to have weaknesses and these are no reason to make you feel ashamed or inadequate.
  • Open up to people you trust. Anorexia thrives in secrecy and to let others in and show you glimpses of true freedom and self-care is important.
  • Don’t expect a ‘quick fix’. Anorexia is a complicated problem with many strong and tangled roots.
  • Believe you are stronger than your anorexia. At times it may feel like you’re stood at the bottom of a massive, steep mountain, but know that step by step you can get to the top. My GP said to me once: “It’s all radishes in the right direction”, meaning that no step forward is too small to be worth being proud about. Every baby step is a triumph.
  • Know there is a hope in the future. I have personally found hope within my Christian faith and in particular a verse in Isaiah 41:10 that says: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
  • Do things you enjoy doing. Take time to relax and do the silly things that bring you happiness.
  • Don’t let yourself believe you are a bad, less worthy person for struggling with anorexia. I often felt very inadequate and concerned about what others thought about me. If you have ever felt the same, know that you are loved for who you are and not defined by your circumstances.
  • Know that when you feel pain that the anorexia voice lost a battle, it is a massive triumph for you. I learnt that anorexia tells you things that aren’t true, and that the original pain that comes from not letting anorexia get its way is actually a joy of a massive accomplishment.
  • Tell yourself: I am “(your name)”, I am not “Anorexia”. When suffering with anorexia, it is easy to be consumed by it and lose the true you. View anorexia as an unwanted host in your body and your mind. Separate the anorexia from who you really are.
  • Enjoy hot chocolate with no regrets. Food is yummy and to be enjoyed.

In summary, no matter how you feel or view yourself, or how lost or stuck you feel, know that you are not a mess, and you are loved for who you are. Recovery is not a straightforward process, but it is a journey you are capable of and that has a beautiful destination. For me, I enjoy hearing my mum now say: “It’s like I’ve got my daughter back again.”

That’s a bit about my journey and what I have learnt so far. I’m still recovering from anorexia, but I see the hope in the future. Do you, too?

Contributed by Naomi