Warning for discussion of my struggles with an Eating Disorder.
I’m officially going off to University in a week!
I’m nervous, slightly stressed, but most importantly, so excited for this fresh start! I think back to a year ago, when I was unable to accept recovery, desperately clutching onto my Eating Disorder like a lifeline (although ironically it was slowly killing me) and uncertain whether I would actually be able to go to University. It was a coping mechanism, a way to give me control and what I thought I needed to feel happy in my body. Why would I ever want to try and let that go?
Because if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t be here with a room full of Ikea stuff (I’ve definitely overpacked) ready to go to my dream University to do my dream course. I wouldn’t be focusing on other, more important aspects of my life that hold way more value than what’s on my plate. I wouldn’t even know what they were.
It’s actually scary to think back to the levels I would go to to avoid food and going out for meals, focusing on nothing but restricting and feeling guilt around my favourite tasty treats. Sometimes I find it difficult to comprehend that I used to put my body through such severities, like when my blood pressure became worrying low and clumps of my hair would fall out. I would feel so horrendously cold that I wore six layers and it still wasn’t enough. Last Winter was one of the most horrific times; I could barely leave the house.
I spend a lot of time beating myself up for not getting help before it got so physically bad. I was just as unwell mentally when I started struggling and I hate that if I had reached out for help sooner, maybe my physical health wouldn’t have deteriorated so much. I didn’t have to reach this to accept that I needed to get better! It’s a mental illness and when you can’t look at food as anything other than calories, or something you are not worthy of, or something that will make you lose control and purpose, then you deserve to get help. Regardless of weight or BMI, you deserve recovery… Why didn’t I just see that sooner?!
However, when I’m being cruel to myself, wondering why I didn’t just go to that GP appointment when I was in college, I dismiss the fact that it’s such a difficult mentality to fight. I forget that for a long time, I didn’t even believe I was ill. My Eating Disorder manipulated me into believing that I couldn’t function properly without it, that I had nothing else. I didn’t even know who I was before it. I couldn’t remember how I used to live my life so carelessly, munching on entire packets of cookies without a second thought. And truthfully, I’m still trying to figure that person out! Because recovery is such a long and challenging process. You’re having to accept things that completely contradict your original perception. I remember after my second therapy session, I relapsed and sobbed and was at one of my lowest points. I didn’t think I would be able to get out of my unwell, messy brain.
I would say it was my fourth or fifth therapy session where I really began to see the strength I had slowly gained. I began to challenge myself with foods I was once terrified of, find ways to cope with the distress I would feel when I ate something I didn’t feel I deserved. I started being more open to my family about how they could help or simply just be there. I discovered that when I’m travelling or away from home, I tend to eat a lot better because I’m constantly distracted and not alone in what I’m eating. So I began to go out more, started to fight the routine I had practically engraved in my brain.
I focused more on distress tolerance with my therapist, learnt about portion sizes with my dietician so I could make substantial meals. And sometimes, I would just change little things in order to keeping fighting: adding a bit of extra sauce to my pasta, or an extra biscuit to my pudding, or changing to milk I have in my coffee to one with a bit more fat. Recovery isn’t always just devouring a large plate of food; sometimes, it’s simply adding things that everyone else has, things unmeasured that add just a little bit extra, that make the food just that little bit tastier too.
I’ve changed different aspects of my life to create one that’s more worth living. I do still struggle daily with allowing myself to have foods I want and not what I think I deserve; I do still have a long way to go to being fully recovered. But the unwell, unrational part in my brain has less of a voice. And I’m so pleased that I’m well enough for University. A year ago, I wouldn’t have thought for a second that I would make it. That’s what reminds me that recovery is so so worth it.