To round off our set of blogs for Eating Disorders Awareness Week, one LifeMentor who has recovered from an eating disorder talks us through this photo which represents what recovery means to her.
WHY THIS IMAGE MEANS RECOVERY TO ME:
1) The butterfly toy represents a return to feeling…
An eating disorder totally consumes you until you no longer reassemble the person you once were. Anorexia became my whole identity; I no longer knew who I was; I no longer had a voice. Recovery gave me my voice back; speaking out about my experience gives me my voice back. And I’ve almost found out who Rachel is again - it’s been fun finding out who I am!
Eating disorders are not about vanity, being thin or wanting attention. They are serious mental health illnesses that people develop for many reasons. One of mine was the wish to be invisible. At school and college I was bullied by my friends; at school a boy called me ugly and a dog every day and because I’d never had a boyfriend I thought it was true. I wanted to disappear; I wanted to not be noticed.
Recovery is everything I imagined and more. I never thought I’d be how I am today - I eat all anorexia’s ‘forbidden foods’; I never count calories or check the fat content of foods; I eat whenever and whatever I want; I am not dictated by clothes size; I wear clothes that flatter and show off my shape; I have boobs; I live life to the full & enjoy new experiences; I’m not ashamed of the fact I used to have an eating disorder - it has shaped me into the person I am today, and recovering has helped me to make amazing friends and given me amazing opportunities. Anorexia does not control me. I will ALWAYS speak out about my eating disorder as how else will people know how absolutely amazingly awesome recovery is!!!!!
You must make a decision that you are going to move on. It wont happen automatically. You will have to rise up and say, ‘I don’t care how hard this is, I don’t care how disappointed I am, I’m not going to let this get the best of me. I’m moving on with my life.
please remember that you’re stronger than your ED. You do have the strength within you to beat this. It might not always seem like it but trust me I used to think the same. I never thought I’d recover. I never thought I’d be five years free from purging; over 4 years free from ED services and 2 and a half years recovered yet here I am. A recovered anorexic who has just been eating Hobnobs and milk! Yum
I’ve chosen this picture for my #chooselifewarrior story because it was Christmas 2005 that I truly made the decision to recover. That December I had been under ED services for 18 months; I had spent a lot of that time trapped in my own bedroom because of how ill I was. Due to no beds I was in effect an inpatient in my own home. I had managed to gain a little weight - enough that I was no longer considered ‘weeks from death’. In fact even though I was still a low weight I had been allowed to start university and had a part time job in a bar. And yet these two things made recovery harder. Why should I eat & gain weight when I was already succeeding at my job and studies at the low weight I was? And so by December 2005 I was actually losing weight not gaining. I was challenged by my psychologist with discharge unless I fully dedicated myself to beating my anorexia. So that Christmas I thought long and hard. Was I really living? The truth was I wasn’t. I wasn’t like other 18 year olds. I hadn’t had freshers week; I wasn’t having carefree fun at Uni or going out with people from my bar job or even doing normal teenage stuff. No I was still having daily battles with food; being told what and how much to eat; I was escaping at lunchtimes at university so I could attempt to eat on my own; I was still stuck in the house a lot of the time; to scared to be out of my anorexic bubble. If I wanted to achieve things, I was going to have to gain weight. I had also started to see myself in mirrors for what I actually looked like. It was as if by realising I wasn’t trying hard in recovery, the mask had slipped. I wasn’t this huge monster I thought I was. It was a shock to see how ill I really was. And so that Christmas 8 years ago I sat down with a pen and paper. I began to write down all the things I wanted to achieve with my life. In the end I had 3 pieces of paper and at the bottom I’d signed off with “I WANT TO LIVE NOT JUST SURVIVE”. This was when recovery started for me. And I gave it my all. I challenged myself with fear foods; I ate in front of friends; I went to restaurants and friends houses for tea; I went on holiday without my parents; I worked hard in therapy and by September 2006 I was at my target weight! Of course recovery didn’t end then. I challenged myself more and more; I threw myself into living - I lived in France; I travelled to New Zealand on my own; I passed my driving test; I got my degree and an MA; I dated; I kissed; I had boyfriends; I fell in love; I became a Beat Young Ambassador; I gave presentations on my anorexia; I had adventures and took risks. I was finally discharged in June 2009 😊 and I consider myself fully recovered in February 2011; a time when I was living in Australia! And now I’m currently working 4 days a week; training to be a therapeutic counsellor; live with my amazing supportive boyfriend and continue to speak out about my mental health issues. I’m recovered but I’m continuing to challenge myself with new foods, learning to relax and just liking my body for what it is. I never ever forget what I’ve been through - in fact every year I celebrate my Being Alive Day. I hope by sharing my story I can help show recovery is possible and absolutely amazing!