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#EDAW2024: Recovery Reflection – Emma

Grey. That’s how I’d describe life with an eating disorder. The all consuming thoughts of food, calories and exercise. An endless state of anxiety, rigidity and depression. It was not my intention when I began to spiral. I naively asked myself what’s the worst that can happen? I’ll stop when I’ve achieved my goals. That was much easier said than done.

Only when I realised that I could no longer bear the bleak eating disorder existence, did I acknowledge I had nothing to lose by wholeheartedly trying to recover. It scares me now to think I used to go to sleep at night and no longer cared if I ever woke up again. It came to a point where I had nothing left to lose, I was slowly killing myself by choosing to stay in the comfort zone that my eating disorder had become. It damaged all parts of my physical body too, from my hair down to my bones.

During therapy sessions, I fed them the answers they wanted to hear. I played with the sand. I journaled. I reached the stage where I knew exactly what I was going to be told to do every week but for some reason I was paying for each session and still not doing it. It took me an embarrassingly long time to realise that no one else was going to fix me, that’s the part we have to do for ourselves. It’s tough, but it’s possible and there is power in that.

Anorexia bleached my life of enjoyment, I was no longer living but merely existing miserably. I missed out on so many opportunities to make memories and for what? While I had been using the eating disorder to gain a sense of control in a turbulent time, it ended up taking control of me. I realised that I had absorbed it as part of my identity, no longer knowing who I was outside of having an eating disorder. When I initially embarked on recovery I was surprised by the sense of grief I experienced. It was as though I was mourning a friend, albeit a toxic one. It’s important to note that eating disorders work because they’re serving a purpose, commonly through giving a false sense of control. At the end of the day life is to be lived, not controlled.

Some days echoes of that toxic voice whisper in my ear, tempting me back into disordered behaviours. I’m not sure if I’ll ever fully be free of that taunting voice, perhaps it might crop up every now and again like an old flame sliding into the dms. I’ve become better at ignoring it – opposite actions and repeat, until the trigger for the voice no longer holds any power. Anorexia kept my life so small. It kept me in a childlike state, dependent on family to care for me, incapable of looking after myself. I was mourning the end of my childhood, dreading finishing college and entering the adult world in a post covid environment because I was scared of change. I used to believe the worst place I could be was anywhere outside my comfort zone – now I strive to challenge myself in all aspects of my life as often as possible. That’s where the growth happens.

Once upon a time, I never imagined I’d finish college.

I never imagined I’d end up enjoying the job my course enabled me to do.

I never imagined I’d become a homeowner at 25.

I never imagined I’d be enjoying my life, expanding my circle of friends, travelling and saying yes to most opportunities!

Recovery is incredibly uncomfortable, both physically and mentally, but the freedom is worth the battle. It’s not that everything is always easy and positive but it’s bouncing back from knocks with resilience and without the crutch of an eating disorder.

From someone who never believed it could, it really does get better. You are another vivid version of yourself at a point in a bright future, looking back in gratitude that your former grey self chose to embrace the fear of recovery. As annoying as I used to think recovery motivation quotes were, there is truth in them and the hardest thing you ever have to do is try.

You deserve to live a life free from an eating disorder, where your dreams are bigger than staying small.