"Things can improve, even when it feels hopeless"
I realised recently that I have been fully ‘recovered’ from my eating disorders for over 10 years. In the past I’ve wanted to hide this part of my history, but for some reason now I wanted to shout it from the rooftops! When the thought occurred to me this time, instead of feeling shame for having experienced these problems, I just felt really proud of how far I had come… so this is my rooftop!
I suffered with anorexia and then bulimia from when I was 16 until I was about 23 years old. I had always had a bad relationship with food and struggled with poor body image and low self-esteem. I was extremely socially anxious and depressed, and from my teenage years onwards I would binge drink at social occasions to alleviate the feeling of carrying around such heavy emotional baggage.
I hid my problems with food from those around me for many years and felt a crushing shame about the lengths I would go to hide what I was doing. I felt that I would be acceptable if I just stayed below a certain weight or looked a certain way. The bingeing and purging was my way of punishing myself for my weakness, for not achieving these unattainable goals or when I ‘gave in’ to eating.
The idea that I could ever feel optimistic about the future, positive about myself and free from obsessions about food and weight, seemed totally out of reach. I remember my family trying to warn me about the damage I was doing to myself and feeling totally unbothered. I didn’t see a future for myself. When I was warned it could endanger my fertility, the thought of having a family seemed ridiculous. I wouldn't be able to handle pregnancy and how could I raise a child when I couldn't even handle my own emotions? Looking back now that feels like a totally different person, a person I would want to hug tightly for all the horrible things she was feeling and for all the guilt she felt for feeling them.
After seeking help, it was a long road to recovery that was dotted with lapses and relapses. With time and the support of therapy, antidepressants, and loved ones, I was eventually able to leave the eating disorders behind. I’m still working on bolstering my self-esteem, but overall, my perspective on myself and life has completely shifted. I can enjoy food and am eating free from guilt and despair. I am optimistic and happy and really grateful that my eating problems no longer feel like they define me in any way.
I now work as a low intensity therapist for the NHS and my past difficulties have helped me to be more understanding and hopeful for the people I work with. I know things can improve, even when it feels hopeless.
I am now married with a baby who is about to turn one and have another baby on the way. The future is looking bright...if a bit bonkers!