I know that talking about recovery is hard. Talking about mental illness is hard. But I do it anyway, because I know that it could help and if my experiences can help just one person suffering then that makes it all worth while right? That means my struggle wasn’t for nothing, right? It means my story is more than just my emotional baggage, I’m not damaged, I’m a survivor.
So I guess I’ll start at the beginning of my recovery…. I was underweight. Very underweight, I was starving, I was restricting, lying to those I loved, purging, harming my body, punching my skin, hating myself, abusing laxatives… I was bad. Very bad. But I didn’t think so. I thought I was fat, I thought I was ugly, useless and worthless. I thought I was being lied to by my friends and family. I thought they hated me, I thought this was because I was fat. I did not want to recover. I did not choose to. I was forced.
This takes a lot of courage to say… I wish I’d seen what was happening to me. I wish I’d stopped it. I wish if trusted my loved ones. I wish I’d made my parents proud in choosing recovery.
Instead I was taken to a doctors appointment after my school called home concerned with my sudden and drastic weight loss. I was diagnosed with anorexia Nervosa and I was told I’d have months to live unless I gained weight and got better. I still wanted to choose death over weight gain. I cried and screamed and kicked and punched. I wasn’t me. That wasn’t me.
So I began on the long tedious road to recovery. It wasn’t a straight path, it wasn’t easy. I faced many hurdles, chances to relapse. I didn’t stick to my meal plan at first. I hid things and lied about eating at school. I wasn’t getting any better. This went on for weeks. Eventually. I don’t know why or how. But eventually I saw the truth. Just a glimpse every now and then, just for a few seconds…. I could see what I’d become. And I hated that girl. I hated the bones and the frail face, I hated the lies, the shallow thoughts, the bitchy comments in my head, the judgement. I hated it. I wanted to change. Gradually I became more determined to get back to me. To fight the illness and recover.
But saying you want to recover and actually doing the recovering are two very different things….
However. This new mentality was a breakthrough. It was a step forwards. A huge one. Deciding you WANT to recover is such an important part and one you should be proud of. If any of you reading this are at that point - I’m proud of you. You are amazing.
And so I began the new chapter in my recovery: weight gain.
Weight gain to a recovering anorexic is like a broken elevator to a person with claustrophobia. It’s terrifying.
To gain the 2.5 stone I had to gain I had to consume over 3200 calories a day when previously id been having less than 700. It was hard. I cried every meal time. I wasn’t always the brave soldier you’ve seen me be. I wasn’t always positive all the time. I was a mess!
To do this I had to have 3 supplement drinks at 300 calories a bottle each day while following the exact plan of the doctors. I wasn’t in change of my own food. My mum made everything and watched me eat until I’d had it all. It felt like a prison watch. It sucked.
Over time I got used to the excessive amount of food and I did start gaining weight. Slowly. Eventually I decided to embrace recovery. I decided to become a soldier! This was the next stage of my recovery. The determination I had was incredible. I’d push myself Every day and I was proud to see the scale go up. Yet I was still incredibly insecure and serif conscious. I still felt fat and the amount I had to eat wasn’t helping the matter. But I did it anyway.
Skip forward a couple months of the same determination with the occasional relapse for a couple days and the weekly meltdown of tears and screams…. I’d gained nearly enough weight to be healthy BMI but I got stuck. A part of me didn’t want to let go of being underweight. A part didn’t want to let go of my eating disorder. I stayed stuck here for a while. Still hating myself only heavier than before and less risk of heart failure. But the risk was still there and it would be until I got better. For real.
Finally I got better. 2 years after I started. But I got there. Even now 4 years on I’m a work in progress. I have bad days and I get self conscious but the majority of the time I love my body and more importantly, I love my life.
Recovery was hard. It meant doing things I didn’t want to do. It meant relaying on friends and family. It meant pushing myself out of my comfort zone. It saw me up and down. Relapse after relapse. Through anorexia and then bulimia. I got back up again and kept going. That’s really all recovery is… It’s keeping going no matter how many times you fall.
You’ve got this. Bad days are okay. Bad weeks are okay. Bad thoughts are okay. It’s all okay so long as you try again tomorrow.