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"Understanding the why": Sarah's story

I am someone who needs things to make sense, and understand why something happens. My eating disorder did not make sense to me. I could not apply logic or reasoning as to how it started, why it had chosen me or why I was not motivated to get better. As such, I spent the majority of my 20’s in and out of in-patient care, firmly in the grip of the illness and missing out on life. I had found myself stuck in a place between not wanting the life I had before my eating disorder, but scared and apprehensive or what life beyond the safety of the illness would entail. Recovery therefore meant little to me and was definitely not a term I used.

I hadn’t made sense of the eating disorder, let alone why I wanted to recover.

What had become apparent to me, however, was the fact I had lost my identity and had been labelled as the girl with the eating disorder - something that did not sit well with me as I was so much more than anorexia. This perception of me kick started my quest to re-learn who I was and also re-affirm to others that although anorexia was part of me, it didn’t define me.

I threw myself into trying new experiences: holistic therapies, spirituality, volunteering, yoga, even getting a puppy all in the hope that one of those things would quell the illness and enable me to find myself.

Each time I tried something new it gave me purpose and focus for that period of time - a reason to carry on.

A lot of the time the things I did had little to no impact on the illness but instead provided insight into what I did and did not want from life, and most importantly what I wanted my identity to be defined by.

When I did eventually find someone who believed in me and saw me for me and not my eating disorder, everything made sense. The grip that anorexia had over me was broken. Who would have thought that just one person talking to Sarah and not anorexia would free me of the years of pain that it had caused.

The word 'recovery' can feel daunting, unachievable, and scary: something that isn't tangible or realistic. What I have learnt and experienced is that sometimes you don't have to know what recovery looks like, make sense of it or even have a goal to work towards.

Sometimes you just have to know that recovery is possible and one day, whenever that might be or whatever form it takes, you will get there. I am now married, have a two-year-old daughter, love travelling and new experiences and live life to the full without restriction. I never set out with the intention to recover but by re-learning who I was, my recovery took on its own journey and led me to the freedom I have today.

-Contributed by Sarah

If you've been affected by any of the issues raised in Sarah's story, or are concerned for yourself or a loved one, you can find support and guidance on the help pages of our website.