Result of Anorexia For Our Body
So… I have a confession.
Though I speak about recovery and getting better, I am still a long way from being 100%. Yes, I am leaps and bounds ahead of what I was – that was, restricting myself so intensely that my body fat was 0%, torn apart by anxiety day and night and destroyed by cyclical, no-win rules that conflicted each other – but I’m still a long way off better.
I still probably don’t eat as much as I need to.
I still probably get too hungry.
I still like lighter options in meals than perhaps ideal.
Does that mean I need more therapy?
Or does that mean I just need to continue to progress on the path I am on, which is to gradually and gently up my intake of food and weight, and lower the volume of thoughts on restriction?
Who knows – it’s different for everyone.
This comes about after spending the weekend in London with a girlfriend and she pointed out – I still delay eating, I still eat very lightly, and I’m still extremely thin.
Some of this, I know.
Result of Anorexia
However, I also know that these habits are not only the result of anorexia – they are also part of who I am.
For example, training – I love working out and it’s not a matter of getting thinner. It’s a matter of pleasure. Similarly, walking – it’s not about getting my steps up to earn my calories, but rather, I just genuinely enjoy walking. And food – I genuinely enjoy healthy food and after a good 16 years dancing with anorexia, my stomach is understandably smaller than most.
And, because of all of this, perhaps what seems abnormal for others is normal for me – and that’s ok.
I don’t feel that recovery means I have to change everything about me, nor does it mean I have to defend my actions.
I 100% appreciate the input from others, as this helps me be mindful of my habits and allow me to ask their true origins – self destructive or not – but at the same time, I also appreciate me in my essence, including my particularities – walking 100,000 steps a day included.
I guess there are many facets to recovery – physical, mental, behavioural. For me, for now, I have had the greatest shift mentally. I’m no longer spiralling out of control or on a quest to punish myself for my perceived failures. I no longer have a demon in my head sending a barrage of conflicting orders day and night. I no longer have the voice of anxiety barking at me when hungry, instructing me that I should do anything but satisfy my hunger.
Consequentially, my behaviours are changing too.
I’m resting more, relaxing more, eating more and training less.
But – this is in comparison to how I used to be – when I was at the peak of my illness.
And, compared to being 100% recovered – as in, by comparison to someone who has never experienced eating problems – then I would still be quite unwell.
Does that make me less able or less qualified to say “here’s what’s helped me recover”, share before / after photos, or support others going through the same shit I have been through?
No – at least I don’t think so.
Just because I’m not 100% compared to OTHERS, doesn’t mean I am not 50% better than I was – and I can share the lessons, and how I’ve managed to go from 1% (when I considered suicide in Jan 2020) to where I am now.
I think this is really important to call out – not just for me, but for you too.
See, many of us – self included – don’t share our lessons, our insights and our learnings from overcoming mental illness because we are afraid.
We’re afraid people will think we are perhaps still unwell and may overanalyse our behaviours,
that we are professionally less capable, that we will be judged, or that we will lose credibility. We’re also afraid by exposing our true selves, others will shy away, overwhelmed by the burden we have imposed on them.
I say this because these are the exact thoughts that did run through my head – and still do.
I do wonder: because I am not 100%, will people question me sharing this advice? Will they think I am a liar, a fraud, an imposter? Will they distrust my professional advice – even though it’s largely not related to my illness at all? Or will they just say nothing and feel awkward.
None of these situations are what we want, and because of this, so many of us stay quiet.
We stay trapped by these ideas, and trapped by our illnesses.
Though my illness has been anorexia; yours may be insomnia, anxiety or depression. Or, maybe it’s a physical illness that keeps you trapped, like chronic pain.
And the thoughts are exactly the same – we all hold the same fears of rejection, abandonment and ridicule by shapring our darkness, so much so that most of the time, we don’t.
We stay quiet and we stay afraid – thus magnifying the illness itself and leading us to think that no one else is suffering as we are, and everyone else is doing just fine.
If this is resonating… I’m here to say.
We are not all doing fine.
Many of us are struggling – each and every day.
Even for where I am at now – some days are really hard. Some days I’m really hungry and I still don’t respond to it for hours (though I am getting better at this).
And although instagram may paint a pretty picture, some of these days I am really still battling.
But – I am ok with this and I know I am progressing.
I see it and feel it.
The voices aren’t what they were, the restriction wasn’t what it was, and the anxiety isn’t the same.
And for me, this is such a big win that although I am not perfect, I am really enjoying this current space – and mental spaciousness.
I know when the time is right, I will continue with more therapy – on all levels.
Narrative, spiritual, plant medicine, body work – I know it will continue at the right time.
But for me, right now, it’s not the right time.
Rather, what truly serves my soul and healing journey right now is to pause in this moment and allow my initiation to guide me, my spirit to speak and my heart to lead the way.
Yes, external supports help but I still have my own internal compass which is with me day and night – and right now it’s guiding me in the direction that I want.
I know, as an individualist (enneagram type 4), someone who values freedom over everything, and also someone who, if told to not do something, will do that very thing purposely just because I’ve been told not too; that I need to be smart about my recovery.
Go too fast – try and limit my freedom and impose rules and restrictions on what I can and cannot do – it’s not going to work. Eventually, I’ll rebel, and end up worse than I was.
At the same time, going too slow – sure, that is also a problem.
But too slow for me – this will be when I know I’ve stagnated and stopped sharing, stopped nourishing and stopped caring about healing, and about being my best self. This would also be evident in going backwards – slow and backwards are almost the same thing.
And though others may look at me now and think – you’re stagnating or not progressing – at the end of the day, I am the one living with me, in my world, in my head, with my thoughts and my behaviours.
So this isn’t about what they think.
This is about what is happening in my inner world – and although it’s not absolutely perfect, it’s a hell of a lot more peaceful than it used to be – and I’m giving myself a moment to stop and appreciate that.