There has been quite a surprising interest in my posts related to my eating disorder recovery that provide a little more of a personal insight in to the person behind peachy palate a.k.a.…me!
(You can check back on them over on “scratching more than just the surface” page!)
I’m in a really good place right now and I suppose that’s why I feel more comfortable and more encouraged from within to share my story. I’ve also had quite a few emails over the past month from women asking me to give them some advice as to how to get out of their rut, how to initially begin making changes and putting forth the question… “How did I do it?” ; there are so many people, not just women, men and children suffering from eating disorder and I just hope that sharing my story helps even just one person find the strength to battle on.
This is probably one of the hardest questions to answer as the longer you are in recovery, the further away you move from your old behaviours, the harder it is to remember the struggles, or at least for you to feel like they were ever a reality.
I’m still undecided as to whether or not this is a good thing! I don’t want to forget the hard times as it makes me fully appreciate my own inner strength and the life and happiness that I have now but at the same time there are things that I would like to completely put behind me and let go of such as the binging, purging, lying and associated guilt; for the most part aside from the occasional feeling of uneasiness when my memory is jogged and my frame of mind might not be as balanced as it should be, and by occasional I really mean once in a blue moon, I have let go.
Rather than detailing the steps I took as there were many, some which I took repeatedly, and some which didn’t take me along the most ideal path, I’ve decided to share some of my biggest challenges and how I faced them individually. The reason being that I feel that one of the biggest difficulties I faced was acknowledging and accepting that I wasn’t the only one that felt the way I did. I felt completely alone at points (more lengthy periods in reality), clinically depressed and in despair that no could ever have behaved in the same way or felt similar feelings to those I was experiencing. This I feel is where the real danger lies with eating disorders as it is that state of despair that causes people to take their own lives.
I was that low on more than one occasion but luckily enough I had people around me that were aware of how I was feeling, that I could share my thoughts with. Even though their words of wisdom and rationality didn’t do a whole lot at the time in terms of changing my psyche I at least found enough temporary solace embraced in their arms that allowed the negative dangerous thoughts to dissipate if only temporarily.
Challenge Number 1
Accepting that I wasn’t alone…
Part of me liked the fact that I was suffering, the part of me that had begun to hate my own being. My messed up mind felt like I had achieved something that no one else had done before and that I continue on living that way indefinitely. What really helped me overcome this and accept the fact that it truly was a disease, that as much as I tried to convince myself and others, I wasn’t in fact in control of, it was clearly controlling me, was meeting other sufferers.
Face to face I was shocked in to reality when I was admitted as an inpatient to a specialised clinic and then again when I attended group therapy. At the time I was suffering from binge eating and bulimia….and although I then slipped back in to anorexia, it was a major turning point in terms of my feelings towards myself, the disorder and my mentality.
Challenge Number 2
For so long I cried myself to sleep wishing, praying, just hoping that someone would present some magical cure, that I wouldn’t have to fight the hard fight and I would wake up one morning feeling “normal” – the definition of which changed continuously! In the depths of it all I wallowed and made slight attempts to change my behaviours, work on my mind…and appear to be doing what I should be doing.
Living away from home completing the final year of my degree across the waters in the UK I realised that I was alone and that it could really once and for all go one way or the other. Without anyone watching over me if I wanted to slip back in to my old ways, or allow the eating disorder to take complete control of me, that it was ultimately up to me. I had to fight that hard fight and I had to try and do it for the most part alone. For me seeing therapists, going to group sessions, speaking with my parents, although it provided a sense of release at points it never moved or spurred me on further in the right direction; it was the taking responsibility for my own recovery that got me to where I am today and continues to help me make positive steps.
Challenge Number 3
Breaking lifetime habits…
I suffered from various different eating disorders from the age of 12 and overcame various different addictions along the way including binging and purging which included the abuse of laxatives, along the way. Although these were incredibly difficult to overcome, they were less easy to ignore than those which I found I could “live” with such as minimising food intake and variety and scientifically calculating calories constantly.
I say “live” as it wasn’t really any sort of life.
I had to fight the urges, make sure I had someone, my mum for the most part, who I could tell when I was tempted to have that “one last binge” again and although I did have several slip ups, the space between them got periodically longer and it’s now been a full two years since my last relapse.
However, letting go of the other almost lifetime habits has been in some ways more difficult. The big steps/leaps for me and probably for most, were introducing fear foods, increasing my overall intake of food and letting go of the obsessive compulsive behaviours associated with food such as never eating carbs and protein together, not eating a slice of bread that weighed more than the 38g it said it should be on the side of the packet, only eating foods that had detailed nutritional information provided or that I could easily calculate the calories for from my pocket sized calorie counting book that I didn’t leave home without (I in fact barely left my bedroom without it!)…and many MANY more!
I tackled and approached each habit with a different tactic but what was key and consistent throughout was confronting them head on, taking each one at a time and making that concerted effort to change them. Overcoming habits as strong as addictions altogether is never going to be easy. What was important for me was replacing unhealthy behaviours with positive healthy ones so that it gave me something else to focus on. I’m not going to lie, it wasn’t easy, it was damn, but it did get easier. In the early days I cried a lot, I got frustrated and angry with myself, the world and all those around me, I wanted to give up and I did at points but I committed myself to making changes.
I took the same approach with regards to introducing new foods. I discovered, purchased, experimented with and cooked foods that were not only going to have a fantastic impact on my body nutritionally but that would also challenge my ideas about food and what the eating disorder had labelled healthy or unhealthy. Examples included introducing high fat foods such as nuts and nut butters as well as slowly introducing foods that I had previously binged on in order to not only prevent future binges but also to let go of the negative feelings and associations I had built up; I used to eat raisins by the kilogram bag full, cereal was a no go area as was chocolate, any sweet baked good and any sort of substantial breakfast. All of these among many others tended to trigger binges and I then feared them having overcome the constant internal urge…breakfast is now my favourite meal of the day!
Not every day is going to be a positive one during recovery, some days will just be harder than others but for each hard day there will be an easier one waiting for you around the corner until the hard days become few and far between. What really changes is your ability to deal with the harder days…the way you approach them, your reactions and coping behaviours will be replaced by more positive healthy ones rather than constantly blaming food, your body and resorting to abusing it.
These are just a few of the challenges I faced along the way but they are some of the more important and poignant ones for me; and also ones that appear to pretty commonly faced by others prior, during and post recovery.
It might sound crazy but I believe I’m a stronger more rounded person, much more in touch with my body, mind and spirit as a result of all that I’ve been through and I honestly wouldn’t change it for the world. It’s made me who I am today.
What challenges have you faced i life that have changed you for the better?