It’s Eating Disorders Awareness Week next week (24th Feb – 2nd March) and at Body Gossip we’re encouraging our community to share the bit that is so often missed from eating disorder stories shared in the media – RECOVERY.
So, to kick-start our discussion on what recovery and being recovered means to you – Here’s my experience:
I’ve been recovered from my eating disorder for six years this summer. That is almost as long as I was in the grips of my illness.
Just as eating disorders begin and end in the mind, so does recovery. For me, recovering was the process of rediscovering who I was and learning to like, trust and listen to that person. Today, it feels instinctual to do these things.
When I speak about what it was like to have an eating disorder, it’s as though it happened to a close friend I don’t speak to anymore. I can’t accurately evoke the feelings I’m describing – The anxiety, obsession and crippling inadequacy – because I just don’t feel them anymore.
That’s what recovery represents to me – Letting go. If I had to paint a picture of what recovery looks like, it would be a ball of destructive energy, floating away from your body and mind and up into the sky, where it dissipates.
When I was sick I used to think recovering would mean having something or someone concrete to blame, or being able to track the genesis of my eating disorder to one solitary moment that would make everything fall into place. But I’ve realised it’s so much more complicated than that and I could spend my life asking myself those questions.
My eating disorder was ugly in so many ways – It rotted me from the inside out as I harboured bitterness and resentment and the feeling of being misunderstood. I was angry – At the world and at myself. That frustration reared its head in all of my personal relationships – With family, friends and the boyfriends I had at the time. Recovery felt like a release for all those feelings. It had been so long since I felt it was okay simply to be me. It was both simple and wonderful.
Now, when I wake up in the morning I’m not engulfed by guilt for simply being alive. I don’t begin the day with a headache and weary bones, my body still in shock from all the things I had subjected it to the day before. I don’t walk around the world in a fug, unable to see anything or anyone clearly. I don’t desperately seek validation with one hand and push it away with the other. I’m not constantly playing out an emotionally exhausting drama in my head in which I battle with myself. Recovery has meant mental clarity and having the physical energy to do the things I want to do with my life.
Recovering has meant being truly able to give compassion, kindness and love to others and embracing the love I receive because I know I deserve it. It has allowed me to stop painting myself as a victim and to really take control of my existence, knowing that the behaviours I indulged in whilst sick only gave the illusion of control and that life is both precious and short. I now really understand what confidence is – It’s a subtle yet solid feeling at your very core.
I used to believe the path to beauty lay in punishing my body until I moulded it into some arbitrary and completely unattainable shape – Something that would finally make me socially acceptable. I now know that having enough self-esteem to want to be healthy and accepting yourself, perceived ‘flaws’ and all, are the most beautiful things things of all.