It was a very surreal feelings being on the other side of an illness you had battled with for so many years. I had finally made it to a place, that until recently, I only ever dreamed of.
Discussions around the topic of “recovery” were always ones in which I was keen to push the notion that “recovery” is unique to each individual; if the truth be known I personally didn’t ever believe in a true recovery for myself.
I didn’t know what I expected of recovery, but it certainly wasn’t this. Previously I was sure that my eating disorder would be with me forever, to me recovery was a life where I could function, go to work and where I controlled my disordered thoughts rather than the other way around. I imagined I would always co-exist with my eating disorder, I had been ill for so long it just felt like a part of me. I wasn’t sure of my true likes and dislikes and didn’t know how I would make decisions beyond the “rules” my eating disorder made me enforce upon myself.
Recovery didn’t come overnight, it came through perseverance, tears, arguments and uncomfortable bloating and my psychological recovery came a very long time after my physical recovery. It’s easy for people to assume that once you are eating and weight restored you are “better”, there is no obvious physical sign of illness, and therefore I think one can easily fall into the trap of out of sight, out of mind. Unfortunately weight changes are only a result of the behaviours one is engaging in due to their eating disorder and do not always correlate with the emotional distress and torment the eating disorder causes.
Once over the initial barriers of breaking some of the most harmful and self destructive “rules” my eating disorder had encouraged me to follow and out of hospital, my progress was slow. Very slow
Objectively I was doing so much better, I was managing to take in enough to maintain my weight, but yet I was still very much a slave to the scale and my eating disorder. The rules, although now slightly more relaxed, still controlled every decision and action, and the guilt that followed if I dared to stray from the “rules”, well it just didn’t seem worth the distress.
Physically I might have been out of the immediate “danger zone”, but I was far from well or happy. It was a constant battle to challenge my disordered thoughts and to ensure I consumed enough to get on with life, and although cliched the quote “day by day nothing changes, but when we look back everything is so different” has never rang so true.
Whilst living alongside my eating disorder I never realized how much I was missing out on, the goal was always being well enough to attend, and if I could manage that then I assumed I must be doing okay. I was so preoccupied with my eating disorder, I couldn’t see life wasn’t all about simply turning up, life was for feeling and for living; but historically emotions were always painful and scary, therefore it seemed easier to avoid them all than to risk getting hurt, so that’s what I did.
It wasn’t until very recently that I realized just how far removed and free from my eating disorder I had become over the last few months. As a friend fret over the calories, it struck me that the calories hadn’t even crossed my mind.
Previous to this I had always stated that it would be impossible for me to ever stop calorie counting because I couldn’t just “unlearn” the numbers, yet that is exactly what had happened. Overtime, without constant reinforcement, and whilst adding new things to my diet, I had simply forgotten the calorie content of many foods.
Furthermore, there were no longer any “rules” to be followed, I ate 100% intuitively and if I ate more than usual one day, and less than usual the next, there was no mass panic, because now I trusted my gut and I knew my body would work it out.
Recovering or recovered? Before I was recovering, I was actively thinking about and trying to challenge my eating disorder to stop myself from falling back into the depths of its control.
Now I consider myself recovered, my eating disorder is no longer something I connect with or even think about on a daily basis, staying well is subconscious requiring no effort or active action, it just happens. However, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t still times when I look in the mirror and wish I was a little smaller or that my clothes didn’t fit quite so snugly in places, but that doesn’t signify me being sick, as unfortunately we live in a society where having these thoughts is somewhat the norm.
Undoubtedly there are days where, for a moment, I am wearing my rose tinted glasses and I think that I could stand to loose just a little bit of weight, but luckily these thoughts are quickly reinforced with the reality that, for me at least, going back is no longer an option as I now value myself and my happiness over the desire to change my body because I remember not once did my eating disorder ever bring me the magical happiness it promised.
Where my eating disorder was concerned, nothing was ever enough, although I couldn’t see it at the time, it made everything ten times worse and resulted in me becoming disconnected for everything and everyone. It ruined friendships, relationships and sucked the life out of everything I once used to enjoy.
Yes I might have lost the weight, but along with it I lost myself. Having had an eating disorder for so many years, I can’t say I won’t be more susceptible to one in the future, but for now at least, I am recovered!