“You were born to dance to the beat of your own heart; to roam without cages; with the innocence of a child, and the free spirit of untamed horses.

I hope you laugh without stopping, live with abandon, and love that’s all there is; stay wild!”

When I look back to childhood, I can remember running down a hill like my legs were going to give way, I can remember laughing so hard I nearly threw up, I can remember choosing who I spent time with, which friends I played with.

I remember the genuine excitement of holidays, Christmas, birthday parties; the food and the treats.

As we transition into teenagers and adults, we become more considered, we deliberate our actions and their effect before we carry out. We lose the fearless and carefree nature correlated with childhood.

All of a sudden, the idea of ‘freedom’ becomes associated with a ‘what if’ or ‘would that be okay’ or ‘how could it change things’.

Opinions of others can become more important to you than that of your own.

We fear disapproval, disappointment and hurt.

Yet often it is our perceptions of others that hold us back.

The innocence of childhood becomes a distant memory. 

I am not suggesting we all revert back to children but I personally desire the freedom I used to feel.

To make decisions based solely on my desires rather than dictated by the expectations of society.

To once more eye up the largest piece of cake…

Living with anorexia didn’t give me the freedom of childhood, I would instead classify it as its own form of control.

A whole new level of self pride, self satisfaction and self discipline.

Opinions of others matter little as the world you live in is self dictated.

You cannot understand their disappointment or hurt.

In reality you feel very little.

Yet this week I had a moment. An epiphany? Call it what you wish but I was stopped in my tracks.

Triggered by a song I was listening to whilst running I suddenly halted and said to myself:

“I don’t have to have an eating disorder”

Eight little words, I am not embarrassed to say the sentence brought a few tears, but tears of relief as for the first time I hit the realisation that I don’t have to have it anymore.

I gave myself permission to let it go.

To live a life without anorexia.

I have previously concluded and accepted that no one else wanted me to have it, that the pedestal I put it on was not quite so looked up to as I may have once thought.

Yet I didn’t want to let it go, it had become my identity.

So why the change. What made this thought hit so hard. Why after so many years is this potentially the lightbulb to end the anorexia?

When I initially started treatment, I vividly recall a statement between members of my support team where it was put out there that all I had was exercise, work and my eating disorder.

At the time I disputed their claim. I saw my friends regularly, I was in a relationship. They didn’t know what they were talking about.

Looking back I was simply a physical presence to any given situation. They were right.

Anorexia took my identity and I didn’t even know.

I lived that way for quite some time. I couldn’t see a way to change it.

Without the amazing support and therapy from the ED services and the intensive community service team at First Steps ED I would probably be still there now.

I slowly crept to a healthier weight and to an awakening of seeing the ED from the outside. I began to realise with their help I needed to re-find my identity, I needed to search for the inner child, to find once more what made me happy.

Early in my recovery, I got a dog. This was met with mixed thoughts from friends and the ED team, but I do not regret it. For me coming home to non-judgmental love and happiness was and still is a true blessing.

It was another First Step towards a happier me.

I tried various crafty activities which were all enjoyed but short lived.

Then during a review I tentatively put out the idea I would like to join a sports club. There was a six week beginner’s taster coming up, and I wanted to give it a go.

Not surprisingly this was met with silence and given my tendency to over exercise I wasn’t shocked. But we agreed (under conditions) I could give it a go.

It’s now two months after the taster course and I have joined the club. I have made new friends, I have met a new partner and I am learning new skills.

I am starting to re find an identity. To discover a whole new me.

Back to the sentence: I don’t need to have an eating disorder.

I suppose I am putting it out there – what is your identity?

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