Recovering from the physical side of anorexia is a horrible, uncomfortable time. And it takes many, many cries and tantrums to get through it. It’s definitely not a straight road and sometimes when you feel you’ve made it, you stumble back to square one and have to start all over. But when eventually you get there, being told you’ve hit your ‘target weight’, that’s when another (maybe even harder) struggle begins.
At this point other people seem to view you as ‘recovered’, ‘healthy’, ‘free from an eating disorder’ and it’s easy to believe this yourself. If you’re told you need to be underweight to have an eating disorder (ED), then you’re made to believe you no longer have an ED when you regain the weight. But EDs are psychological illnesses, therefore the mind needs healing just as much as the body. The physical symptoms happen as a result of the disordered thinking. And when the physical symptoms are mostly dealt with, the tough work comes into play. This is especially difficult and you need to put in all the work yourself. Unlike the period of restoring weight, where medical professionals can step in, only you can do the mental work. I’ve been working on this for over 8 years now, and I can honestly say it’s been an extremely difficult time, where I often just want to give up.
I’ve tried many different forms of therapy, some more efficient than others, and I’ve put in varying amounts of effort to make it work. It’s false to say that I was diagnosed with anorexia, gained weight, recovered, and now live free from an ED. Because I still struggle, and I need to fight my ED thoughts Every! Single! Day! And that is exhausting.
I’m grateful to have learned skills throughout therapy that have helped me deal with these unhelpful thoughts, and I’ve been working on dispelling mistruths the ED tells me from the moment I wake up to the minute I go to bed. This involves a constant battle between my own thoughts and the ED voice and this takes up a lot of space in my brain (causing me to experience dissociation; I’m sorry if I don’t appear to be listening to you, or ask a million questions during a movie).
I’m at a place where I could be having a good day and the ED is quiet, but all of a sudden something happens that triggers me and the rest of the day is pretty much ruined. It’s so hard to shake off negative thoughts and move on. Especially when these negative thoughts were your sole source of comfort, your safety blanket, something you relied on. EDs are disguised as a reliable friend, but they are the exact opposite, and unlearning this is a very difficult, confusing task.
I haven’t given up fighting this illness because I got to experience moments of what felt like complete freedom, and it is wonderful. I know that if I let my ED take control, I will not be able to live the life I want to live, and I can’t have that happen again. It may be tiring and scary and uncomfortable and lonely but some things are worth spending your energy on, and being in charge of your life is definitely top of that list.
– Megan x
There are also some amazing organisations out there offering support and information. Some of these are mentioned below…
BODYWHYS: Online, phone and group support for eating disorders.
SPUN OUT: This is a one-stop-shop for all mental health issues. The articles are very matter of fact, helpful and all bases are covered.
SAMARITANS: This helpline is open 24 hours a day and is completely confidential. Call 116 123.
CHILDLINE: Helpline and online support, offering advice and support to young people under 18.
YOURMENTALHEALTH: Lots of information about Mental Health in Ireland.
A big thanks to Megan for sharing her journey with us. If you have a story you would like to share with us, pop us over an email at firstname.lastname@example.org