Today marks the end of National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. I haven’t really posted much about how I’m doing with my eating disorder over the past couple of years so felt like it was time to give a little update on where I am on my ‘recovery journey’.
I first developed disordered eating at the age of 13… that seems crazy to me, I was a child and it saddens me that more and more children are hyper aware of what they eat. The next few years saw me go through periods of fasting, restriction, laxative abuse and binge eating. My weight was up and down and every waking hour was spent thinking about food.
I was almost 17 when I realised it was a problem. I’d been disposing of a lot of food in various ways to keep the issue a secret. Then, my mum found out and I was offered outpatient treatment. It was far away and I could not afford to miss classes or afford to pain the train fare. So I never got treatment. I fell in and out of ‘recovery’ periods over the next few years.
Starting university was a strange time for me. Restricting my food intake was my way of having some control in an otherwise chaotic life. University was a whole different kind of chaos and my eating issues got more intense. I’d talk to people about my eating disorder openly and claim that I was in recovery but I wasn’t. I thought I was trying to get better but I was fooling myself.
Every waking hour was still spent thinking about food. Any decisions to start eating ‘healthier’ were linked to weight loss. I punished myself in various ways as I continued to gain weight throughout university. My relationship with food was closely linked in with my mood and self destruction. If I had any professional support, it probably would’ve been clear to them then things were not as they seemed. However, my friends and family had no reason to doubt that I was doing better. Due to the fact that my eating disorder was initially restrictive in nature and led to weight loss, it was easy to assume that it was all fixed once I gained weight. Let’s reiterate the very important point here that: EATING DISORDERS ARE NOT ALL ABOUT WEIGHT. THEY ARE A MENTAL ILLNESS.
Over the past year, therapy has made me think more critically about how I think about food and my body. It has made me come to the realisation that a lot of the time I thought I’d spent working on recovery was bullshit. I’d been on and off various diets and was still calorie counting. I still felt as though I had to justify everything I ate to myself and anyone who saw me eating.
So to everyone who thought I’d been in recovery for ages, it was a lie – to you and to myself.
But the good news is this – right now, at this point in time, my relationship with food is the healthiest it has ever been! It’s been hard work and draining and I’m sure I’ll have periods of struggle but it is finally happening. Now I can honestly say that I very rarely count calories, I eat 3 meals every day, I do not abuse laxatives or diet pills, I can eat in front of people.
However, I still have a lot to work on including not weighing myself every day (it’s down from being multiple times per day) and viewing food as good or bad. Comfort eating is still a difficulty and I do not imagine that going away completely but I’m working on detaching food and emotion more.
The point of this long rambling about my experience is as follows:
- Everything with eating disorders is not always as it seems.
- Getting through it and getting better, developing a healthy relationship with food is actually possible despite the many disordered messages we are pushed by society and the media.
- Professional help is what really makes the difference. Unfortunately, it is not widely available but use it if you are able to.
- You cannot make assumptions on somebody’s mental health by looking at their body.
- Eating disorders are dangerous and deadly, more work desperately needs to be done to support people.
- Recovery (whatever that means to you) is a long battle with a million ups and downs, that does not mean you are failing.
And that’s this rambling done. Leave a comment with your experience/thoughts around eating disorders.