Me, Myself and Ana
Deciding to recover was just one tiny step on the long and winding road (yup the exact one the Beetles sang about…) but it taught me how to be tough, how to fight back, and never to take my health (or life) for granted.
I never understood properly where this illness sprung from.
I was always the “foody one” in the group. I did a little bit of sport and dance, but food was never an issue.
Body image wise, meh, I was aware I was maybe curvier than the other girls from a young age. I remember my mum having to sew patches in a pair of jeans because my thighs rubbed away the material so much. And I definitely did not look like the popular girls with their toned legs and trim tummies.
But I had loads of friends, and bumbled my way through school bubbly and care free.
Through the recovery process I learnt a lot about the function my anorexia played.
My illness was my way of cutting off all my emotions.
All frustrations, stresses, past pains, and deep self-hatred were projected on my body.
Whilst daily I remained tortured by a thunder storm of negativity that perpetuated these behaviours.
I was no longer a daughter, or sister, or that bubbly blue-eyed best friend to so many.
A depressed and preoccupied, ghost of my former self.
Anorexia, and eating disorders in general, are complex.
As clinical disorders they do not sit comfortably on their own distinct classification, but share many strings with anxiety disorders, obsessive compulsive disorders (OCD) and depression, making them hugely complex disorders to treat.
I would cut up vegetables into the teeniest tiniest of pieces. Weigh food meticulously and even have to cook wearing plastic gloves too afraid to touch or smell food. I’d hide food in pockets of coats, throwing lunches down the sanitary bins in college, and in hospital wiping the peanut butter (I know me wasting peanut butter what?!?!) under tables.
That growl in my tummy became unrecognisable and I lived off black coffee to push me through my days.
Any ritual that was broken would cause obscene amounts of anxiety and panic attacks, to the point I even attempted to quieten the storm in my head by taking my own life.
My nutrient deprived brain was not getting the fuel to function, causing low mood, disrupted hunger signals, and even discontinuing the flow of blood to my vital organs.
It was a dark time.
Not just for myself, but for my family and besotted friends who were literally watching me die before their eyes.
The Road to Recovery
Recovery Was Less About Liking My Body, and More About Liking Myself.
I experienced many different treatments on my recovery journey, and relapsed a lot.
The majority of my recovery happened when I was not being under any professional care, but when I consciously made the decision to stop being victim to my own state, and actually start believing that I could be proactive and build back my body and mind, and ultimately take control of my life.
Unfortunately, this did not mean I woke up to my world being filled with rainbows and Unicorns, and eating certainly did not became a walk in the park overnight.
Motivation went through highs and lows, as did my anxiety.
Tears were shed.
Endless sleepless nights.
* * *
An amazing therapist.
Beginning to build a future outside of my illness.
All these and more enabled me to persist and strengthen my body and mind.
And now I am five years free of anorexia & five years healthier.
From Surviving To Thriving
My journey from chronic illness to joy-filled recovery lead me to experience mental illness through new eyes.
It’s been a blessing in disguise and, strangely, I don’t think I would trade back those years, because they have made me into the determined, ambitious women I am today.
Teaching me that nothing is beyond my reach.
To be gentle on myself
To challenge the relevance of my thoughts and the intentions behind my behaviours
To have self belief in place of self-destructiveness
To be positive whilst remaining realistic
I feel I have been given a valuable insight into the world of mental health, giving me an immense ability to help a lot of people who are suffering rebuild their lives.
I long for no one else to experience the pain that having an eating disorder, or mental health illness, creates.
Now well into my 20’s (how did that happen…) I remain fascinated by our brain and behaviour.
The complex interplay between our external and internal environments in their ability to shape, break and remake our health.
I remain dedicated to helping promote health in mind, body and soul.