I try to think about the things that make me, me. I try to think about the things I love and the things that bring me joy, the things which make me feel passionate and proactive and powerful. But this is hard, because so much of me has been sucked dry by anorexia. That’s the thing with an eating disorder: you lose so much more than just weight. You lose your identity too, everything that makes you special and unique. You find yourself clinging onto your eating disorder because you believe that it’s that which makes you special. Your eating disorder brainwashes you into believing that being sick and skinny is all there is to you. It tells you that people admire your strength and your willpower and your self control; that people envy your ability to restrict and starve and purge. The voices of your eating disorder make you think that your illness is the best thing about you and the only thing that makes you worthy.
But the eating disorder is always, always wrong. In reality, I am not admired. Anorexia doesn’t make me special. Starving myself isn’t an achievement. Overexercising isn’t admirable. Being unable to look after myself isn’t something to be proud of. Losing weight doesn’t make me any better than anybody else.
Recovery is hard because by the very nature of the word, it implies you have to recover the person you used to be and recover the life you used to lead. But this doesn’t quite make sense, because that person was susceptible to an eating disorder and that life was difficult or unhappy enough to trigger one. I’m not saying that there aren’t elements that you would love to return to: perhaps you were a promising poet or a keen runner. Perhaps you had a wonderful group of friends, or plans to travel the world that you had to put on hold. It’s okay to want these things back and often they can be our greatest motivation to recover at all.
But I also think that recovery should be about rediscovery. Eating disorders are overwhelming and all-consuming. They infiltrate literally every part of your existence until your identity is in tatters and all you know is how to be ill. So you’ve got to prioritise your passions and dreams. You haven’t fought through sickness and wrestled through recovery for a life you feel you ‘should’ live, instead of one you actually want to live. Eating disorders are so much about perfectionism and self-criticism and holding extremely high expectations of yourself, about striving to be ‘good enough’ in the eyes of everybody else. But at the end of the day, all anybody wants is for you to be happy. Now is the time to let go of the pressures and expectations and critiques and truly find what sets your soul on fire.
I said before that when it comes to anorexia, you lose so much more than just weight. Which means, by default, when you recover, you gain so much more than just weight. You gain an identity again, an individuality, a sparkle. You gain a life, so don’t be afraid to make sure it’s one you really want to live.