Our latest Guest Blogger, Alice, shares her experience of being stuck with her eating disorder, but finding a way to let go and let more of life in.
We hope her honesty, openness and creativity will touch those of you who are in a similar place and need these words of encouragement.

“You can’t have a family of your own if you’re not well enough, Alice.”“You’ll never be able to move out of home if you stay like this.”“Your current mental and physical state are stopping you from living.”“How can you even think about helping others when you’re like this?”“Remember your reasons to recover, Alice.”“Think about your future.”

The truth is, most of the time I couldn’t see a future that didn’t revolve around my eating disorder, for it was all I had known for so long. I believed that I was my eating disorder, and my eating disorder was me. It was something that I was attached to and couldn’t change or live without. Seeing other people struggling with the same illness really upset me, and I couldn’t have believed more strongly that every single individual I met through treatment would be infinitely happier if they stepped into life beyond their eating disorder. The possibility of living without it felt very separate to my current life, and I could only imagine the freedom of it for others, not for myself. The pain that comes from living with an eating disorder is devastating and leaves you in a state of constant exhaustion, and yet, the few times that I could imagine an existence free from the all-encompassing burden of anorexia for myself, I didn’t even want it. The idea of it felt foreign and the thought of losing my eating disorder terrified me. As much as I wanted to get better so that my family would be able to stop worrying, I couldn’t help but grip on tighter to my illness, or rather allow it to tighten its grip on me. I constantly tried to persuade myself, and the professionals trying to help me, that I could have both: recovery and an underweight body, a life of freedom and an eating disorder, happiness…and the illness that claims that most lives of any psychiatric illness.It is only now that I can see this isn’t possible; I had to choose one or the other. I was uncomfortably aware that being in recovery involved working at it several times a day, every single day, and prioritising it no matter the circumstances. But, how could I work towards something I didn’t believe existed, and also didn’t want?I struggled to focus on what I wanted out of life, for everything ‘good’ felt too far out of reach, but I knew what I didn’t want. When I couldn’t motivate myself by the ‘amazing and fulfilling future’ everyone was telling me I had awaiting me, I used the present, that I wasn’t really living, to propel me into one I could do more than just survive in. I didn’t want to be stuck in a cycle of weigh ins and blood tests and all sorts of upsetting appointments forever. I didn’t want to be stuck in my childhood bedroom whilst my younger siblings left for Uni across the UK. Most of all, I didn’t want to keep my family trapped within this illness, for I could see the extent of what they were missing out on and I couldn’t bear being the cause of it.I decided to go for it.My behaviours changed before my mindset did. I ate foods that I’d avoided for years despite the anxiety that came from it, I restored weight despite the upset it caused me, and I began to challenge myself with things that led to fairly extreme distress, even, and especially, when I didn’t want to. It was only through doing this, using the support available instead of pushing against it, and really engaging in therapy that I began to reap the benefits of all my hard work. Day by day, I began to see more and more of the light. Eventually, these things became my reasons. When I was well enough to walk Bonnie, my dog that I cuddled on the sofa after she returned with muddy paws from her walks with my siblings, she became my reason. When I was allowed to go for coffee with a friend, because I was doing so well at following my meal plan, that became my reason. At one time my favourite reason was not having to be weighed so often! The reasons just kept adding up. They are always evolving and growing, and I have to use them every day as a reminder of why, what and who I’m doing this for. Without them, I don’t know that I would be in the place that I am. Everyone has reasons, even when they can’t yet see them. Keep going, for slowly but surely, they too will reveal themselves.Everyone is different. My brother is soon to graduate in a subject that he has always thrived in. Around the time that I was first with Orri, my little sister decided she loved Norway and would live there one day. Fast forward a year, and she is now studying Scandinavian Studies at the University of Edinburgh, and is spending her first six weeks in Oslo this coming summer. I, gradually, came to learn and accept that what I didn’t love was my eating disorder, and I am now working every day on my recovery from it. I am currently working as a 1:1 for a little boy in a primary school, just five minutes down the road from the house I’m living in with friends. This time last week I was discharged from a Daypatient service after receiving almost daily therapy and meal support for just over a year. A couple of months ago I published a poetry book, an audio play and held a book launch at which over a hundred people attended. I am running creative writing groups, volunteering as an Ambassador for Mind in West Essex, and working as a Youth Advisor for BEAT.

I am now living the very future that I didn’t know existed. Even today my eating disorder remains a huge part of my life, but the difference is that now I am walking away from it. Every action I made, and continue to make, leads me further and further away from the thing that I once saw as myself. Sometimes I make decisions that spin me around and I find myself walking towards my old life again, but the more that I practice, the better I am getting at not letting this go on for too long, and not allowing it outweigh the progress I have made. One of the hardest things about recovering from an illness like an eating disorder, is that it takes so much time, energy and effort to move away from it, and yet the smallest of things trip me up and send me straight back into behaviour patterns that I was doing when I was very poorly. Every time, it is a huge reminder of the power that anorexia had, and can still have over me, and reinstates recovery as my number one priority. It might have to remain a conscious priority of mine for the rest of my life, but I can accept this if it means that it keeps me and the people around me away from the misery we were wrapped up in for so long. I still have an eating disorder that I live with every day, but it is recovery that allows me to actually do the living part. Anorexia is no longer all of who I am and I finally believe that one day it won’t be any of me at all.To anyone else that is suffering, and stuck in the same place I used to be, unable to see the light and so unused to the brightness of it that one small glimpse hurts your eyes and makes you more fearful of it, believe me when I say that your eyes will adjust, your body will heal, and your brain will be thankful for the sun beyond the darkness it has known for so long. You just have to give it a chance.You too, can be the one that decides to go for it.

 

Alice

You can find out more about Alice’s debut poetry book on her website, here.

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