I used to think that you could make a full recovery from an eating disorder, heck, I even wrote a whole post about it last year, but, now? My stance has changed slightly…
A difficult one, it is. On the one hand, I like to believe that we can all fully recover from any hardships that are thrown our way but, on the other hand, I know, from personal experience, that this isn’t always possible. For, I know that there will always be a ‘voice’, however small, in the back of my head, convincing me/convincing us during the hard times, that we were;
more ‘likeable‘ before,
that life was ‘easier‘ before,
and that, somehow, starving ourselves made everything ‘better‘, before…
And so, even though Anorexia took away so much from me- relationships, my adolescence, my freedom– when I’m struggling/when my mood is low, I find myself reflecting only on the ‘good’ points of my illness:
the sense of being ‘in control’ of something- my body- in an otherwise uncontrollable world,
the sense of being ‘good’ at something, finally- my ability to run mile after mile, win race after race, all on an empty stomach, and getting praise for it- after spending my whole life feeling good at nothing,
and, perhaps most notably, the sense of being wholly consumed by it- of having no room in my brain to think about anything other than food and exercise, and yet, of feeling a sense of security in this/feeling a sense of security in something which was, I now see, killing me.
My stance on eating disorder recovery now, then? That it’s something which you must learn to live with/something which you must recover with, rather than from…
Although some people might read this and see it as a pessimistic view, having relapsed a year after leaving ED treatment, when I had proudly declared to everyone that I was ‘fully recovered’, it is the most sensible view to have, in my opinion.
Why? Because, if you believe that you are fully recovered, then you run the risk of complacency taking hold, whereby you think that your eating disorder is ‘a thing of the past’/that you are now ‘completely healed.’ It is when you start thinking like this though/when you get complacent, that you are most at risk of relapsing. And so, it is for this reason why I will never not be in eating disorder recovery. Yes, I am fully weight restored now, eating all food groups, and no longer overexercising, but still, I am in recovery. I am in recovery because I know that, like my Mum who is an Alcoholic, despite the fact that she is 7 months sober, if the right (or rather, wrong) circumstances were to arise, then I would undoubtedly go back to it, and I would, undoubtedly, be incapable of stopping that cycle of restriction and overexercise without being forced back into hospital, just like my Mum would be incapable of stopping the cycle of excessive drinking, without, most likely, going back into rehab… Because, as I now realise, like any addiction, an eating disorder will always be there, you could say that it’s ‘hardwired into your brain’, almost, just waiting for you to run back into its arms, giving it an opportunity to return, with avengance…
In terms of where I’m at with my recovery now, well, it will be 5 years this July since I was sectioned with Anorexia, 5 years since 7 months of my life were spent in hospital, trying to get better. And, even now, even 5 years on, when I am eating all of the foods which I never thought I’d be able to eat, and, when I’m exercising at a ‘normal’ level (something which I never thought I’d be able to do), I still struggle, daily, the insecurity I felt then, just as strong now, if not stronger, as my body feels so unfamiliar to me- stomach rolls when I bend down, thighs pressing together- I have gone from having the body of a teenage boy, to having the body of a woman– a body which I am uncomfortable with in every way, disgusted with, even, in some ways.
It is when I am having a bad day (which, if I’m being honest, is more often than not as of late), that I feel the familiar pull to revert back to the sense of security (albeit, a false sense) that my ED gave me.
The struggle of day-to-day life/the struggle of living in a world within which we don’t understand, sees the temptation of restriction a reoccurring one. The temptation to fill my brain with numbers- calories and weight and miles and all of the other meaningless crap that eating disorders hold so dear, dearer than the things which truly matter, like family and friends and…
The one thing that stops me reverting back to Anorexia, though?
(and, this might shock you)…
What I believe is undiagnosed Autism.
Whilst most people would assume that having Autism would be a battle in trying to sustain ED recovery, for me, the opposite is true. Autism acts as a security blanket against Anorexia. My need for routine and familiarity is what keeps me well.
You see, even on the hardest of days, even when my body image is at its absolute lowest and Anorexia seems all too tempting, I still eat the same- I still take in the same amount of calories which I need to maintain my healthy weight, because, if I ate something different, or something less, then I would be breaking out of the routine which I have now become so used to, this being something which would, ultimately, trigger my Autism. I therefore don’t restrict/I don’t over exercise to compensate for the ill feelings I have towards my body, I just keep on doing the things that have become my ‘norm’- the things that I need to do to stay well-
eating every food group,
focusing my mind on something other than what I look like-
remaining in eating disorder recovery-
an ongoing state of being.