It’s been almost a year now since I’ve been in recovery from an eating disorder which almost took everything from me. Last year at this time I was moving out my place where I had been living by myself to make a 6 month transition to living with my parents before they sold our family home. I remember at the time being terrified of how inconvenient it would be for me in which I would have to find creative ways to keep my illness going and preserve that all encompassing thinness that had invaded my brain. Reflecting on this 12 months later, that move was what saved my life. I most likely wouldn’t have been here today if I hadn’t made it.
At the time I remember thinking how much it inconvenienced me to have my family around immediately after meals. See that was the time that I would use to rid myself of every morsel I had just consumed. It was a sickening activity that was shrouded in so much shame. But yet it was something that I couldn’t not do. My mind at the time would just inflict so much judgement and self criticism on me in which I felt I had no choice.
I recall so many evenings after dinner waiting for my Mum to get into the shower and rushing to purge myself of all of the things that would rob me of my perfect physique. Each and every time I would emerge with a heightened sense of helplessness and shame in which I felt trapped in a cycle that I knew was killing me. Sometimes rationalism would set in and I’d affirm to myself that I needed to stop. I needed to do something to put myself on the path to recovery. But that thought was always proceeded by the understanding that if I was to get better I would have to put weight on and there was nothing more terrifying than that single element, which I could never bring myself to do.
People who have never experienced an eating disorder struggle to understand the depths of depravity that this kind of illness takes you to mentality. How much it robs you of your confidence, of your ability to see straight or see yourself clearly. Emotional triggers are everywhere and being associated with food this means there is no escaping them. That inner critic is the only thing that you can hear which constantly tells you that are not enough, that you should feel guilty and that there is always more to do and much more weight to lose.
I feel differently about a lot of things now. There’s something about accepting yourself whole heartedly which changes the dynamics of the hold that my illness had over me. I no longer need to love myself only when I’ve lost that kilo or eaten ‘clean’ for weeks at a time. I no longer chastise myself for having that burger or that piece of chocolate because it’s no longer about controlling my body based on unrealistic standards. I love myself for exactly who I am right now. No matter how much I weigh or what I put into my mouth at any given time.
This isn’t saying that I don’t doubt. My triggers are still my triggers and I still struggle with them. Whenever I inevitably lose weight without trying it goes against every single fibre of my being to not take that to an unhealthy place. To not get drunk on the way my body looks or how well I fit into clothes and keep dropping those pounds. But for me now, there is an entrenched sense of acceptance based on who I am and in spite of how I look. This reminds me that I am and will always be worthy. It repeats the messaging to me that I am more than what I weigh. That I am loveable as I am and that I don’t need to be anything other than that.
Recovery isn’t waking up one day and being completely ‘cured’. It’s about taking small steps, it’s about trying and accepting yourself every single day. It’s about reaffirming that you’re not perfect but understanding that no one is. It’s about drawing on the unconditional acceptance of your loved ones and being honest with them about how much you still struggle. This is recovery, this is life.