Warning for discussion of my struggles with an Eating Disorder.
Two hours away from my home, no comfort of being able to just pop back to see my mum and sister if I’m having a bad day. I’ll be in a completely new environment with completely new people. Also there’s so much to pack!!! What if I forget something??? What if I accidentally set the kitchen on fire when I cook?? (That reminds me; I need to buy pans)
Let’s just say I’m a tad nervous.
My biggest fear in regards to my Eating Disorder packing its own little (or rather, humongous!) bag and joining me on this new beginning, is the spontaneity of University. Being a first year means getting through Freshers, aka a week long of binge drinking and eating a copious number of take-outs to solve the hangovers. Now, I’m not completely inexperienced to this scene, spending a lot of time in college going to clubs and house parties (however I’m pretty sure Uni will be on a whole other level), but when I’m with people I’m meeting for the first time, I know I will want to try my best to fit in and take part. Frustratingly, one of the biggest effects of Eating Disorders is that they try to isolate you. It’s irritating because I know how much I’ll want to eat all deep fried foods, take all the shots (responsibly of course… encase my mum is reading this) and not have a second thought about it; the events and lunches are literally there as an ice breaker. But I know this will be difficult for me, especially the inability to be able to count or know exactly what I’m eating. Even reading the Freshers timetable and seeing what each day consisted of left me with a feeling of dread. I won’t be confined to my routine and planning, something I’ve gotten used to, something I maybe don’t know how to function properly without.
Knowing how much in the past I’ve been able to slip into my unhealthy habits and coping mechanisms worries me too, because when I’m living alone, I will need to motivate and find my own strength to keep persevering through recovery. Being so far away also means I won’t be having my weekly therapy sessions. I won’t have the constant support I’ve been so lucky to be given. Sometimes it’ll feel like I’ve been thrown into a battleground with nothing but a fork to fight the enemy off…
But hey, maybe the enemy will be just an army of beetles or something… or like, a monster that’s afraid of forks… (not entirely sure where I was going with this simile)… What I’m trying to say is, despite the fact I will be struggling, that I can’t just leave my illness at home as I move away, I feel ready for this. Coping with distress is something I’ve been focusing on with my therapist, something I’ve looked into and found ways to deal with. For example, I find it easier to eat with people around me. It helps me to get distracted in mindless conversations and laughs, doesn’t give me the terror of thinking I am the only person having something. If I sit alone in my room with a meal in front of me, it’s all I’ll be able to think about. My brain will go into overload! Eating around people will not only help me to be sociable and take part, but also make the process of eating a lot more manageable.
I need to focus on being proud of my strength to eat foods I see as terrifying. No matter what guilt or disgust I feel when I eat a fear food, there’s some hint there that I have the ability to do it, that I’m strong enough to push aside my Eating Disorder even if it’s just for a moment. So, I’m going to try my best not to isolate away, surround myself with friends and just try to take part. Be proud in my progress.
Furthermore, I accept that I’ll have bad days. They’re inevitable. I know sometimes I’ll find that me and my fork will be on that battleground fighting a giant grizzly monster (going back to my wonderful simile before…). But that doesn’t mean I’ve failed or completely ruined recovery. Relapses and messy times are a part of it. I’ll take care of myself; I have a box filled with my favourite film on DVD (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off encase anyone wants an 80’s film recommendation), tissues (for all the angry tears), a hot water bottle, teabags, wet wipes (encase the tissues don’t quite wipe off all the running mascara) and my list of reasons to recover. I’ll keep remembering that this is just a bad day and after it, I will never have to relive it. Obviously when I’m having a messy brain day, this kind of rationality isn’t quite boldly there, but I will try my best to focus and remember. One thing I’ve found helpful and mindful is yoga. Cliche I know, but it brings me so much peace just to stretch and move contemptibly. I’m hoping I’ll continue to practise it, especially on the bad days to keep my mind focused and relaxed. Little joys and distractions may not make the pain go away, but it can ease it.
If I am struggling, I need to open up about it. It’s always important to talk and just because I won’t have my therapist, it doesn’t mean I have to go back to keeping everything in. There’s no shame in admitting that you’re not doing so great. I’m lucky enough to have an incredibly caring family who are just a phone call away, who I feel comfortable speaking to and who are always able to cheer me up. Support also comes from many services; there’s always people willing to listen and help.
And the main thing that’s softening the fear is the fact that I chose to go to University for a reason. I was drawn to the fun and enjoyable aspects. Honestly, I can’t wait to meet my flat mates, start my lectures (although my subject is very essay based which may not be quite so fun), explore the city and join societies. Although daunting, I’m actually excited to live independently, to have that freedom I’ve never had before. There are so many amazing people and experiences ready for me at University and I know that they are more of a priority than what will be on my plate. Although I’ve felt nervous and terrified about what will happen, I am also pretty damn excited!