Life does get better!

Posted 29/04/2019

My resolution last year was to keep choosing recovery. After looking back on the years of my life that were taken due to my eating disorder, I realise how much I now love my life and want to keep recovering every day.

My eating disorder seemed to spring up out of nowhere. I seemed to become conscious of my body shape when I was at secondary school, but it didn’t impact me until after I’d finished school. One minute I was sitting my GCSEs, enjoying life and with a good group of friends. I changed schools for sixth form, and by the time I sat my AS level exams I had a bulimia diagnosis and was hiding it from everyone.

When I was given that diagnosis I was told by the psychiatrist if I carried on with my behaviours I would die. My organs were damaged from not eating, taking laxatives and diet pills/drinks. But my mind was damaged too. My eating disorder had completely consumed me and I was just a shell of my 17-year-old self.

Unfortunately I fell through the net. I’d surprisingly managed to keep inside the ‘healthy weight’ range on the BMI scale despite losing a lot of weight in a short space of time, and was therefore denied treatment despite me finally realising I so desperately needed it. At one stage, I was just a fraction over the ‘medically underweight’ range and yet I was left alone. This was detrimental to my health and I deteriorated.

I ate less and less, but was dancing all day at my dream dance school. I had no energy to dance. I’d pretend I had an injury so I could sit down, my heart racing knowing if I carried on I would probably collapse. I spoke to the school counsellor about my problem; she tried her best to help but I was clearly not the only dancer at the school with these issues and she was overworked and couldn’t help us all. During auditions for the next year of dance training I ate solely for the energy, realising I wouldn’t make it through the process if I didn’t. In the end I didn’t gain a place at any of the dance schools I’d applied to, and my eating disorder made me feel like I had nothing else to live for. I had no backup plan and no place at a school for September. I was completely crushed.

I did continue dancing, but at university. Some people scoffed that I’d ‘downgraded’ from the prestigious school I was at earlier that year, but the truth is, I seemed to be happier there. At uni I didn’t feel pressure to fit into the stereotype. We were all unique. I made new friends, took up new hobbies and enjoyed life in a new city. The teachers were supportive, and when a tutor noticed I wasn’t looking myself she arranged a meeting with me. It was then I decided that I was going to see my GP and get a referral to an eating disorder clinic and choose recovery for the first time.

This clinic accepted me despite my current ‘healthy weight’ status, and I began therapy and treatment. I got an EDNOS diagnosis, which my therapist called Atypical Anorexia.

It was harder than I anticipated, especially alongside university classes, keeping up a social life and visiting my family, but I stuck with it. This time I listened to the therapist and psychiatrist when they said I really needed to start eating more, that it was severely damaging me. There were many appointments I didn’t want to go to, but I knew I had to go to keep getting better. Sometimes I’d not feel strong enough to go on my own and my boyfriend would get the train over to come and be with me. I’ll forever be grateful for that. People underestimate how difficult recovery is. I’d often turn up to appointments in tears.

I was given my fair share of meal plans, food diaries, journals and CBT. After all the weigh-ins, blood tests, and therapy sessions I was discharged happily with the support of my family, boyfriend and close friends in the summer of 2017. It is my proudest achievement.

When I chose recovery I began to love my life and do things I never thought I would! Last year, my first full year of recovery, my first full year of choosing happiness and health, I:

1. Went on holiday with my boyfriend and haven’t been phased by the buffet of continental food. I actually quite enjoyed eating croissants for breakfast and buying donuts from the locals on the beach.

2. Travelled to India to teach dance to children and ate curries I’ve not heard of. Prior to this I hadn’t had a proper curry in over a year, so this was a massive step!

3. Graduated university and went on a girls’ holiday to celebrate and wasn’t scared of wearing a bikini. It sounds vain, but my ‘recovery body’ is very different to the body I had when I was ill.

4. Ate takeaways and enjoyed them! Can’t believe I missed out on chow mein and naan bread for so long?!

5. Danced live on BBC 2 at the Commonwealth Games! My first televised performance wouldn’t have happened without my new confidence.

7. Fundraised £840 in April running 10k for Beat!

If someone had told me four years ago I’d do all those things I’d laugh – I never thought I’d ever get better. I’ve lost friends, memories and time whilst suffering with an eating disorder, but in this past full year of recovery I have gained a lot. Recovery is worth it, I don’t think I can ever say I’ll be 100% better; those anorexic thoughts creep back sometimes and sometimes suck me in, but I am so much better than I was.

Recovery is possible, but it is difficult. I can see now that I couldn’t have made all these incredible memories and experiences whilst still in anorexia’s grip. In 2019 and every year after that my resolution remains the same: RECOVERY.

Contributed by Isabel