These couple of months has been very busy in terms of birthdays for me: no, I don’t have multiple birthdays! However many of my friends have theirs. Of course, the obligatory gesture to do on a birthday nowadays is to find the most embarrassing photos of your bestie (usually when they were much younger!) and post them on social media.
When I was digging through my phone, I came across photos of myself when I was very unwell with my eating disorder. It shocked me: my eyes tired and fearful, my face pale, my smile forced.
It’s sad really. Some of these pictures were taken at events that should’ve been fun and happy, but all I can see is a distressed girl who wasn’t ‘there’. I can’t actually remember those days very well either; all I can tell you about them is how little I ate that day…
That’s the reality of eating disorders: they rob you of memories by making everything miserable.
Nevertheless, it’s not worth dwelling on the past; we must move forwards. So, how does my little anecdote relate to recovery?
Well, my main point about this is that I am finally seeing my sickness.
It’s common for people with mental illnesses to be in denial of their disorders, despite the most obvious symptoms. I assume it’s a way of protecting itself; by clouding the eyes of the sufferer so they don’t see a reason to recover, and they silence their pain. It can be difficult to see: this shielded vision takes time, support and encouragement to lift. Carers must be patient. Eventually it will all click, I promise.
This is what happened to me. I never saw now sick I was, even when I was in hospital. It’s only now that I can see how I was then.
And heck, I never want to go back!
It made me feel proud that I am no longer like that anymore. I have come so far; admittedly I have a long way to go still but I am certainly better than I was.
Although I said it isn’t worth dwelling on the past, sometimes it can be helpful to give a boost in motivation to continue recovery, or a deterrent from falling back into unhelpful habits, or even to just acknowledge your achievements in recovery so far.
In my case, looking back did several of these things: I definitely don’t want be like that again and I know I have moved onwards on my journey because I can recognise my own eating disorder.
Looking backwards doesn’t mean going backwards. In fact, it could even push you forwards. So, if you are feeling hopeless, unsure or stuck, consider having a small glimpse into the past. Look how far you’ve come. Do you really want to go there again?