Aim for progress, not perfection

Posted 20/07/2018

I had a long battle with anorexia. Those thoughts telling me that if I just lost X amount of weight that I would have achieved, that I may be able to accept treatment, finally feel like I deserved it.

The trouble is that never happened. There was never a magic number. It was never enough. Whatever I did anorexia would still scream in my ear and make my mind feel like it was going to explode.

I chased those thoughts and followed those feelings, aiming for perfection, to feel like I had achieved something that would finally make me feel okay. To reach an impossible goal that would finally allow me to eat again.

Those thoughts landed me with one day care and three inpatient admissions.

I thought I would never get well, that these thoughts would never go away. There was no way I was ever going to be able to have a normal relationship with food and I was going to be fighting this forever. It felt like nothing was helping. Nothing and no one could seemingly help me to beat anorexia. Recovery seemed like it was something that happened to other people.

I wanted to write this to say that if this sounds like you, if this is how you feel then it’s okay! It’s okay to think these things – with what you are currently fighting it is totally understandable. However, it’s not true. These are the thoughts of anorexia playing with your mind, making you feel hopeless. I thought these things too and now I am nearly 10 years recovered from anorexia.

I soon learned that rushing recovery was one thing that was stopping me from recovering. I was trying to be not only perfect within anorexia but also to have a perfect recovery – both unreachable goals.

Each time I left hospital at a “normal weight” with the “well done”s and “look how far you’ve come”s I felt like I should be recovered; I thought that was what everyone thought. Sadly it is thought by some that if you are a “normal” weight then you must be anorexia free. This is simply not the case. Anorexia drives the symptoms and behaviours from the mind. The mind is where the issues are regardless of weight.

I learned to talk, to think about my life, including the things that I really didn’t want to think or talk about, to realise why I felt that my life was out of control and why I found it so hard to let the anorexia go. I learned to take it at my pace, to push against the anorexic thoughts little by little, and the more I did, the less power they had over time.

I let people in more who were trying to help as I had a terrible knack of pushing them away and so I slowly learned to try to do that less.

It was a long process and it most definitely wasn’t perfect. I still have times where I spend too long looking in the mirror analysing my stomach with those familiar thoughts washing over me and it’s still horrible when that happens. The difference however is they come in waves and then they generally wash away without me being affected, I have learned to deal with them and recognise that voice for what it is, and I have learned not to listen to the extent I did. Consequently 99% of the time I live totally free from anorexia and any related behaviours, and any that do occur are minor thoughts that come and go.

If you are reading this thinking this will never be you, please know that I thought this too. I thought that recovery was something that other extraordinary beings did and I would never get there. I am approximately 10 years free from anorexia and its pull has got less each year that has passed. You can do this too. It is possible. Small steps, one foot in front of the other and aiming for progress not perfection.

I now blog and help others in relation to mental health issues and am very passionate about raising awareness on mental health issues, particularly anorexia. 

Contributed by Katie

Katie blogs at www.mentalhealthjourney.co.uk.

Disclaimer: Beat never knowingly links to triggering content, but please be aware that we cannot be responsible for the content of external blogs.