Our latest Guest Blogger shares her thoughts on what it is to recover from Anorexia, highlighting that no number on a scale could ever describe the struggle you’re experiencing, and that it’s a journey that has to be broken down into incremental victories.
Recovery. Painted with glittering brushstrokes and imagined with neatly tight bows. A lightbulb moment where the sufferer puts down her guard and orders whatever they want from the restaurant. Practising yoga on the weekend as opposed to the former multiple-hour workout routine they had typed into YouTube on a loop. These are all ideas of recovery, but, in reality, they rarely translate to such. The truth of choosing recovery, in my experience, looked like adding an extra splash of milk to my afternoon cup of tea. Recovery looked like reading my book for an extra five minutes for myself. Each presented as superficial changes but eventually added to something much bigger: a life not so firmly attached to the anorexia. Recovery looked different every day.
I firmly believe that the longer you have had an eating disorder, the more entrenched it becomes. Like muscle memory, you begin to believe that you were Always Like This.
But you were never Always Like This. Food was not always a subject of contention. Restaurants were not a source of endless nights of anxiety. Meals were once spontaneous.
Even once you have begun to accept that you were never Always Like This, the most challenging part of recovery had not even started. For me and many of my friends, too, with experience of anorexia, there is a commonality in the acknowledgement that half the time, the hardest part is retaining an anorexic identity in a weight-restored body.
Current treatment approaches still favour the rigorous metrical monitoring of the individual with anorexic as if they are just a patient, a pin cushion to be prodded and weighed. Yet, I firmly believe that narratives around what weight for height an individual has reached in their treatment plan should not indicate their status “in recovery”. Recovery can begin at any moment for an individual with an eating disorder or mental health illness. The condition will always remain until the individual chooses to heal for themselves; no hypnotherapy, supplement, medication, psychotherapy or magic mushroom will do it for them.
Recovery is about an acceptance that something needs to be done differently. I like to compare it to running a marathon – it’s harder to imagine the finish line when you are only just crossing the start. Breaking the distance down into much more manageable chunks enables the process to feel less daunting.
‘For me, an essential part of recovery was accepting that it was my journey and nobody else’s. I did not need to earn permission to do it differently, as what worked for someone else might not necessarily work for me.’
The same applies to recovery – breaking it down to little achievements is more accessible than thinking of the “end goal” (even if such a thing exists…). For me, an essential part of recovery was accepting that it was my journey and nobody else’s. I did not need to earn permission to do it differently, as what worked for someone else might not necessarily work for me. I was constantly putting so much pressure on myself to get it right that I would lose sight of what was really important: that I was fighting a deadly eating disorder. Slip-ups are part of the process. I had to check in with myself. That meant that if I was having a hard day, pushing myself to the hilt was unnecessary to be in True Recovery. Taking things at my own pace was one of the biggest lessons.
What often gets missed out in recovery narratives is how important it is, to be honest with yourself. It can be really tough, at times, horrendous. However, it is the right decision. The cost is your health, your happiness, your chances at life. A middle ground is what I always search for. A process which enables struggle facilitates growth and accepts reality.
If you have felt inspired by this experience and wish to feature your own on our website, you can submit a Guest Blog for Orri here.