Wading upstream…

Recovery tight-rope ED recovery

Anorexia recovery

Recovery doesn’t have to be complicated. But I think it can be made easier.

Yesterday I got my haircut. ( I know lucky, in non lockdown) But I didn’t appreciate HOW LONG it was going to take! 4.5 hours, Two things firstly, I was able to sit an do nothing for this period. Something I have found really hard to do before, giving myself permission to be still, not fidgeting, standing, on the go or doing something productive. Because our ED’s tell us this is the worst thing a human could do, and it’s lazy. So that’s a victory that this was easy, outside of the boredom of being in the hairdressers on one of my only days off!

But…..today is harder. Why? Because I didn’t plan ahead very well. I always make an effort to eat 3 meals, and normally 2-3 snacks between, because I don’t have hunger signals yet so I eat regularly.

Second…I thought I’d be out in time for lunch yesterday. I wasn’t. I took a few crisps with me * also a win, would have never eaten anything before and I used to envy the people who would sit and snack care free. But I ended up missing lunch. Doing this feeds ‘HH’. I normally plan to have stuff with me at all times. Because missing a meal whether it’s intentional or not leads to energy deficit, which opens up pathways to old thoughts, behaviours. I cannot afford to do this. I expect with time, the odd unintentional meal miss won’t be an issue but early in recovery when there are neural pathways that are so brittle and easy to ignite it’s not a good idea.

I can feel when I haven’t eaten enough, or have allowed myself to get into energy deficit. I don’t have to be hungry to get this, it’s a feeling, and I am grateful I can now recognise it because I avoid it like the plague (or COVID to be more to relevant) But life happens. Like yesterday.

I ate as soon as I left, but I could already feel I felt out of gear. I made an extra effort to have a ‘big’ dinner and a snack before bed. I was not going to let ‘HH’ in. But just to explain how brittle recovery is in the early parts. I went to bed. I woke at 2:00 wired, with a feeling of what I guess was hunger. I felt empty. A feeling I was way to familiar with and “HH’ was there, ‘I remember this feeling it feels clean, now we need to do something, move, we don’t need to sleep’

Insomnia was a huge issue for me when I was sick, possibly the worst part, that and being bone cold all the time. Now for the most part I sleep like a baby, except if i’ve got the balance wrong. So its a warning for me. I got up and had a biscuit, because ‘HH’ thoughts were creeping in and demonising anything. So I ate my hobnob and slept through.

I knew today would likely be a bit harder, this morning questions of ‘ isn’t that too many oats, too much almond butter’ were there. So I added extra. But this is the thing, this is how we can either carry on moving forward, or a slip can happen after a simple innocent incident. Something that someone who has never had an eating disorder never has to think about, or likely understand. But for us, it’s something we cannot be complacent with it’s a tightrope. But again, the rope becomes more like a bridge than a rope with time, because now although the thoughts are louder today, I’m not acting on them. Before I would have and that’s all it would have taken to knock me off my rope. But through repeatedly getting back on the rope, it’s wider, stronger.

I know for next time, I will take my lunch, just in case. Recovery is learning, growth. Prepping like a boss for all the things that knock you off that rope is key. But getting back on the rope is vital no matter how many times you fall.

Recovery bridge Pexels.com

Resources:

  1. https://tabithafarrar.com
  2. https://edinstitute.org/blog/2013/3/31/homeodynamic-recovery-method-guidelines-overview and Gwyneth Olwyn’s book, also available at this site.

SHOULD, is not a nice word..

Photo by Noelle Otto on Pexels.com

Should has no place in most daily language, but especially not in eating disorder recovery

Should implies rules, an obligation. That word is the reason I’m sat on my ass writing this. I was looking forward to going for a run, or joining my husband at boxfit tonight. However throughout the day at work I started to feel tired and that what I probably needed was to chill out with the cat.

Then that sneaky SHOULD word crept into the foreground. I heard my thoughts say “you should go tonight, you’ve not done anything all week”

That was the point I decided I will not exercise today. Exercise should be a priveledge/ pleasure, not a punishment.

This “SHOULD” demand was from my eating disorder, “HH” thinks I should exercise today, but that’s the very reason why not. A few months ago, I would have acted on this demand, the next day I would find it harder to eat or I’d feel more anxious about what I was eating.

Now I move my body because I want to, because it feels good, not because I feel I have to. The discomfort I used to feel if I missed a day of exercise was insurmountable before. I have to really listen to where the intent is from, whether it’s my voice, or ’HH’s.

I’m feeling proud, I can sit here and write this, instead of dragging my butt out to torture myself without enjoyment. Because I know when I truly want to move/ exercise it’s for me and not for the service of ‘HH’.

I have been a runner all my life. One of my favourite things even a a tiny child, before the days of my eating disorder was to go outside in the rain. As I got a bit older, if my athletics session was a wet session it was like Christmas for me! I loved the feel of the rain and being hot and the smell of it on the track or grass. Then ’HH’ showed up some years later. And my running, exercise was no longer for me, for the fun. It was all about targets, shifting goal posts that I would never be satisfied with.

It would be like the world ended if I had to miss a day, or I’d exercise when I was injured, sick and obviously that’s not fun. I’ve had to work really hard in my recovery to re-kindle my healthy relationship with movement, channeling that child who loved running in the rain and not the crazy person running in gale force winds/ all weathers all hours.

I took a period of abstinence, but not an extended period. I had a good support to help me workout where the intent was from. Some days I had meltdowns when I knew it wasn’t my healthy self and had to abstain. But doing that has got me here. If it feels wrong it is wrong. Exercise/movement is never meant to feel shameful, guilt driven (pre or post), like a chore. It’s a pleasure/ priveledge. Today was a day I know it was not for me, rather for ‘HH’. One day by continuing to listen to my healthy voice over and over, ‘HH’ won’t suggest I move when I don’t want to. The voice will be gone.

Challenge, Practice, Repeat…..Recover I hope.

Today was definitely helped by ‘Recovery Warriors” resources. Check out The Recovery Warriors app, website. They are currently holding a ‘holiday special” with lots of useful resources and videos etc. https://www.truewarrior.me/holiday-support

https://www.instagram.com/recovrywarriors/

Visit website
Photo by Karl Solano on Pexels.com

Re-reading old journal entries, anorexia recovery. What language does your ED voice use?

Reframe negative eating disorder thoughts

I’ve been journaling for a long time. I was re-reading an old journal, one I started in early recovery. I found there was a theme to the language I used to describe how I was feeling, or when journalling about behaviours.

It was all self critical. Extremely negative.

Common words I used: ASHAMED, DISGUSTED, LONELY, ANGRY, FAT. This was even when I’d documented small positive steps to change.

“I feel ashamed, I want to crawl out of my skin, I feel trapped, consumed & powerless. I’m disgusted I’ve allowed myself to get into this predicament. I don’t feel I deserve the help. It’s a spell I cannot break no matter how hard I try I’m stuck”

This was an entry I made a few weeks into recovery.

Comparing this to more recent entries, there’s none of the negative language. It’s incredible how consuming our eating disorders are, they overshadow us, they thrive on secrecy and feed the feelings of isolation and shame grows and grows.

Now that I’m much further into recovery, I can seperate this unkind voice from my own, kinder, compassionate in built healthy self voice. I do not allow myself to use language such as ashamed, disgusted, instead I reframe them and ask myself what I’m needing. Why the ‘HH’ voice is spouting these terms. If I have a thought that sounds hypercritical I know it’s coming from ‘HH’ and not me, and serves no purpose in driving my recovery.

Self compassion is difficult in early recovery because we are listening to the negative thoughts. But as we grow stronger in recovery it’s easier to be kinder to ourselves. Something we have to re-learn to do. After being the opposite for so long. It feels uncomfortable. But anything in recovery that’s uncomfortable is good.

I found it hard to do NOTHING. Or pause have a cup of tea when I felt tired, or allow myself to feel emotions. But with time, one of my favourite pass times is to sit and literally do nothing with a cup of tea ( and most often a chocolate hobnob) Yes I am English and do believe this solves everything. I never thought that weekend early in recovery I would be able to to do that. I thought ‘HH’ would berate me for sitting for a second. Sure, there are days where I do hear the negative utterances. But the difference is now I don’t turn against myself, I don’t tell myself I’m ashamed of myself, not deserving etc. I tell myself I am worthy, I can live however I want and I don’t have to listen to the thoughts. I am not those thoughts. What thoughts do you need to re-frame?

Reflecting on Christmases past, present and Christmas future in anorexia recovery

Rockerfeller tree. ED freedom

This time last year, I was getting both excited and off the chart anxious about surprising my family in the UK for Christmas, with a holiday on the way via New York.

So much has happened over the past 12 months. We couldn’t go and do this now even if we wanted to. COVID-19 has changed everything for everyone.

We were lucky we could make this trip last year. However I think we become increasingly reflective in our recovery. We have to I believe, to make sure we don’t become complacent and let the foot slip off the gas of progress and allow ourselves to slip backwards. SO naturally this means we reflect on where things lie. I have been thinking about last year’s trip a lot these past few weeks, partly because my family bring it up at every zoom chat and partly because we are making plans for this Christmas.

I can see how far I have come during this time. I felt more dread and fear around the whole trip than I did excitement. How fucked up is that?! I have always loved Christmas and a massive dream was to visit New York at Christmas time. My family Christmases have always been epic and I hadn’t spent Christmas with my family for 8 years so it was going to be special.

Uptight and not present…

Seeing the Rockerfeller tree, snow in Central Park, Macy’s displays was magical. But something still felt missing. ME. I wasn’t really present. It was like I was observing someone else experiencing what I’d always dreamed of. I sat feeling the coldest I had ever felt at a Soccer game, worrying about what we’d eat, how I’d compensate. Fixating on what my families reactions would be having not seen me for ages. Worrying about the Christmas dinners, socials it went on and on.

Then the Christmas itself- I felt numb and empty and so sad. It was not the reunion, surprise I envisioned. I was stressed the whole time, controlling everything. I wanted nothing more than to make last Christmas special, happy. But I hadn’t really committed to recovery at this point, so I had set myself up for a difficult time. Which was unnecessary.

Reflecting on progress…Now fast forward 12 months- I don’t act on ED behaviours, we are spending Xmas with friends this year. I have worked hard to be here, I have so much more freedom with each day. I’m not worrying about this Christmas, I’m looking forward to it. Looking forward to being present, being relaxed and not a controlling freak who has to micromanage everything. But this brings me sadness too. I cannot share this with my family. I cannot show them how things have changed. I hate that, the memory that should have been really special I allowed my ED, yet again to dominate, dictate and taint.

This brings me on to my next point, I know in order to get here, to keep moving forward so that I will be able to share happy holidays with my family again, I have to make a conceited effort every day to make positive steps. If you had have asked me 12 months ago, what does recovery mean, I didn’t really have a clue. I remember my therapist asked me to write down what recovery meant. However, I think at the beginning of recovery we don’t know because we are still overshadowed by our ED personality. Not so much our healthy self. I think it’s important to think about this early on, but I’m not surprised my list is different now. For starters 1 thing that is on my list of full recovery means, being able to spend time with family without any ED anxiety, complete freedom. Being able to travel without any compensation, anxiety about eating a different routine. Not being bothered by other peoples comments pertaining to my food, appearance, diets bla bla. So many more.

But in the early days it was two dimensional and clearly written by “HH”: I.e I don’t want to be cold, develop healthy relationship with exercise etc.

I think we grow in every sense as we recover. I have a far better understanding of who I am now. So in short reflection helps us to continue forward.

These would have given me so much anxiety a year ago. Now they’re just yum.

Weight gain in eating disorder recovery

Recovery belly

For most of us recovery means committing to weight gain. Learning to accept our bodies unsuppressed natural weight. Getting there has for me been far harder than simply just putting on weight. It’s weight we were never meant to have lost, our bodies didn’t want us to lose this weight but learning to accept this doesn’t happen overnight. We taught it that losing weight feels good, gaining weight feels bad. We taught our brains to believe “skinny = happy” but we know this isn’t the truth. I was never more unhappy than when I was at my sickest. My emotions blunted, isolated from friends, family and bound by strict rules that my life revolved around. No I was not happy. I was a ghost.

But that doesn’t mean accepting weight gain was/ is easy. It’s going against everything I’ve taught myself to believe is ideal. The weight restoration phase on ED recovery is a small part but is so painful because of our neural pathways and our beliefs and distortions.

Weight restoration is messy. I think if no one has told you, now is a good time to tell you. When you gain weight after waging war against your body, your body no longer trusts you. Whether this is from diet cycling, restriction, purging or over exercising. Your body likes to be in homeostasis and sits at a steady weight when left to its own devices. But when we intervene everything slows down, the body has a massive freak out. It thinks its starving (which in many of our cases it literally is) and when we start eating again the body is like, oh thank fuck. It holds on to everything initially in case we are cruel enough to inflict war on it again. The most common place this extra weight/ fat goes to is the tummy a.k.a the “recovery belly”. You can easily look 6 months pregnant. I look pregnant now. Staving off unwanted comments can be an unwanted side effect. But if this happens it’s because you are recovering and doing well so don’t give in. This is hard. My belly has been here a while and likely It’s here to stay for a while yet. I have made peace with it, doesn’t mean I don’t freak out when I see it in reflections some days. Today has been a hard day. But I know it’s keeping me alive and acts as a reminder to not go backwards and the progress I’m making. I know it will redistribute and if it doesn’t well then I’ll learn accept that too. I did a lot of googling when I started my weight restoration journey and so I expect with time my body will trust me once more, so long as I am kind to it.

Doesn’t matter how much I hated how I looked at my sickest, I was still terrified of weight gain. I have had to and am working very hard on rewiring this fear. By challenging it every day. This has involved many melt downs, sobbing in the shower but it’s so much easier with time as your brain shifts with you. This takes a bit of time.

Ditch the scales..

Ditch the scales. They are not your friend. You should break up with this unloving/ non compassionate partner, it’s a one sided relationship. ( *There may be times where you have to be weighed for medical reasons) this does not mean YOU need to know your weight. If this scenario occurs request it to be blind, because no matter what the number, it will not serve your recovery but it will fuel your ED.

My relationship with the scales was messy, unforgiving. In my depths of my ED, I would live my days by the number in the morning. It would stipulate whether I was going to have a good day or bad day, whether I deserved to eat. I would weigh myself multiple times a day and go to great lengths to do it. In early recovery I used it as an excuse I was making progress. BULLSHIT, I was still using it as an excuse not to gain “too fast”, “too much” this is not recovery.

You do not need to deserve to eat. Eating is a necessity every one shares. Your weight does not define you. It is a number. It means nothing in relation to health, your worth. So ditch them. I binned mine. I have no idea what I weigh now. It’s not relevant because I am getting healthy. Sure in early recovery teams may need to know our weights. We do not. Be free and kind to yourself.

Ditch the things that are holding you back in ED recovery

Fitness trackers. These are not our friends in ED recovery. I do not think anyone with an ED history should EVER wear a fitness tracker watch etc. similarly to the scales my day revolves around steps, calories burned, moving raising my HR bla bla bla. Why would you need it unless training for an Olympic event? I don’t even really see the necessity for my patients because if they have problems with HR etc it’s monitored formally. So like my scales I binned my watch. It wasn’t easy but it will be liberating I assure you.

So I hope if this resonates you can make some changes and move forward. You deserve better. Your worth cannot be defined by a number.

Clothes shopping in eating disorder recovery…

Phases of clothes shopping through recovery is Like “the origins of man” demonstrated by this spongebob gif!

I went clothes shopping last week. No one tells you how hard this experience is in recovery.

I decided to charity shop my “skinny” clothes. I will never need them again. It’s almost like a grieving process. I never liked how I looked at my lowest weight. I was self conscious. But buying small clothes was something my ED used as targets. Although I never felt better when I met them. I actually felt worse and worse, especially when nothing actually fit. When I started gaining weight, “HH” freaked out. Suddenly nothing fit and I felt self conscious all over again.

EDs will try and make you hold on to old behaviors or reminders of it. For me it was keeping these clothes “just in case” but they were holding me back. How can you recover with the thought you might one day fit in the clothes that fit when you are nowhere near your natural body shape or size. You can’t stay there. Not healthily anyway.

Buying clothes throughout the “weight restoration phase” is traumatic. I would recommend if you’re going through it, you don’t do it alone. It’s triggering no matter how far in you are or how committed. I would say this corresponds to the third picture in the gif. You are in no mans land. You’re not in the emaciated shell, you have fat in weird places so it’s hard to find things that fit and feel comfortable.

I went with a friend I could trust and my husband. I asked them to ask me questions like, how I felt in the clothes rather than making comments about appearance or fit. I looked for clothes I’d feel comfortable in at this stage in my recovery where my weight isn’t evenly distributed. Clothes that would accentuate other features that I’m less insecure with. For me this was flowy dresses. I have spent a long time in clothes hiding my weight for the other reason. I don’t want to hide my shape at all now, but I do want to feel comfortable. ‘HH’ longs for the old clothes but healthy me sees it a triumph of how far I’ve come.

You don’t have to like your body, I have become relatively neutral towards it. However uneven distribution, clothes shopping with size tags, mirrors is not fun. I also only bought a few things I really needed rather than a whole new wardrobe.

I didn’t do it all at once and checked in regularly. I talked through my HH thoughts with my psychologist.

Last week I went shopping on my own. It wasn’t that hard. It doesn’t need to be hard. Plan what you need, check in with your support and look after yourself.

Reckon this stage 4th sponge bob on the gif. Powering through, accepting the changes. Grateful for what you can do in your body and with your recovered body. Don’t think it’s necessary to love your body but if you do that’s a win and definitely the last sponge bob on the gif.

I still freeze in supermarkets and looking at menus

I still freeze in supermarkets and looking at menus…

It’s way way way better than in the depths of my ED.

But I try to go in to supermarkets with a list now to avoid the crazy freezing!

Probably should add a trigger warning here, as I’m mentioning behaviours. If you are easily triggered perhaps skip. I will never talk about my weight, BMI on this site because I know 1 it’s triggering and 2 I don’t think you need to know.

What do I mean by supermarket freezing or blindness?

At my sickest I could spend hours walking from one supermarket to the next and come home with NOTHING!

I would spend ages staring at the foods I couldn’t have. Anguishing over the nutrient content of every option, arguing in my head about which choice was acceptable for that day.

If I had decided to go and buy a food item, I.e yoghurt, I would spend a painful amount of time debating whether it was an acceptable choice or whether I infact even needed it. Often I would talk myself out of it entirely and leave empty handed or commonly with an apple. This occurred almost daily wasting hours of my day.

I experienced this with menus too. (When I could actually eat with people, which was rare) I would become overwhelmed easily by choices. I would be conflicted in my brain. I would see something “healthy me” would want. But seconds later HH would jump in, but you don’t need that, you should have the salad bla bla bla. This happened countless times.

I enlisted my husband to help me once I started recovery, to eat out socially, to either pick something for me and sit with me while I freaked out, or if it was obvious I had chosen a sub optimal option to encourage me to push myself in a supportive manner. As I grew more confident pushing boundaries breaking rules this has gotten easier.

I had to break the rule of eating in isolation too. This is very hard in recovery because eating in front of people wrongly feels shameful for a lot of us. It feels like a loss of control, we fear judgement. I have had to work very hard on this. I can eat with my colleagues at work now, with friends, family and not feel judged. The judgement is mine alone. It’s taken me ages to get here. It’s freeing being able to enjoy company with people and not feel disgust. If I can do it anyone can. This was one of my biggest issues. For me it was in a variety of ways, eating out with my husband, meeting with close friends who knew my problem and using colleagues who didn’t know as role models for normal eating.

But there are still times I find myself overwhelmed. And I’ve found using coping skills, tools I’ve learnt in recovery to manage. An example is if I can feel the “HH” thoughts building or anxiety, I will take some deep breathes, slowly and counting in and out. To get myself from my sympathetic nervous system (aka fight or flight mode) back into the parasympathetic system. You can think far more rationally and calmly here. It works for me.

I also like to do the opposite of what HH is telling me to do. I know in the short this is going to make me uncomfortable, anxious, upset but I can get through that by knowing discomfort leads to long term change and re-wiring.

There are some days I know, going to the supermarket without a list is not a good idea, this includes when I’m hungry, tired or stressed. I try never to let myself get hungry these days but it’s something I’ve noticed makes my “supermarket blindness” worse.

Whilst taking about hunger, I’m still working on fixing my hunger cues. Mine are gradually returning. But it has taken time and I eat when I’m not hungry if my hunger doesn’t show up. This is still relatively frequent. I followed a meal plan to establish regular eating. I don’t follow a plan now because I can eat “normally” and regularly. This didn’t happen overnight and I hated the plan. But I needed it.

I will do another post about the pattern of hunger. I know it’s a common anxiety and theme in recovery and I’ve noticed a lot of different things with it too. If I think about food, I eat. Until a few months ago for me this was constantly, but now my obsessive thoughts have diminished.

Being trapped inside your head is no fun.

Eating disorders don’t discriminate

Eating disorders affect any age, gender, body size, ethnicity and socioeconomic background

One of my main motivations for starting this blog was to contribute from the ground up in informing misconceptions surrounding eating disorders.

Look at the person to your right, look at the person to your left and in front of you. (If you’re currently alone try this next time you’re in a room full of people). Chances are one of those people has had some form of struggle at some point in their life with relationship with food/ body image.

If you’re like me, you had possibly never thought about what a person with an eating disorder looked like before you had one or supported a person suffering with one. Eating disorders affect ANYONE. The sad truth is, society has helped create an image of what an eating disorder should look like. Typically a white, emaciated, teenage girl with anorexia nervosa. Although I fitted this demographic, this is actually the rarity. I want to help change people’s understanding of this. I want treatment to be available to everyone, this happens with awareness of what an eating disorder really looks like.

A person in a “larger” body may be as unwell as the stereotypical emaciated person. Anorexia, can affect any size, weight and BMI cannot identify this. A person in a larger body is less likely to seek help when they are significantly impaired by disordered thoughts or physiological consequences of eating disorder. They can be as malnourished as a person who appears emaciated. Seeking help is harder, why? Because when a person in a larger body loses weight they are often rewarded by society, health professionals. Making it impossible for them to find help or feel like they need help. Health professionals carry their own biases and this needs to change.

Additionally anorexia although the most portrayed eating disorder, is the least common eating disorder. Binge eating disorder, Bulimia, OFSED are more common but talked about less. Why? Because often they are not the stereotypical image.

Globally eating disorders affect close to 1 in 10 people (10% roughly)

Eating disorders have the highest mortality than any other psychiatric illness. Startling.

Before I started recovery, I used to get angry with myself. I questioned how as a doctor I could possibly be having this struggle. I have seen first hand the consequences of eating disorders. Even in the thick of my disorder I treated patients medically, this makes me feel sad now. There was a constant dissonance within. It was like a DVD playing on repeat in my brain, you should know better, you’re a doctor, why don’t you stop? This highlights beautifully the grip an ED can have on someone. It is a mental illness. I could not stop. It was not a choice. It was not a diet “gone wrong” I didn’t like being thin, although I couldn’t stop. So how can we expect others to understand when we don’t understand ourselves.

Not only was I a doctor, I was an adult and in healthcare there is a stigma towards anything other than being 100% all the time, let alone suffering from a mental health problem. Not only did I question myself, how could I be so irresponsible as a doctor. I received the same judgement, confusion from those I chose to share my struggle with. They could not understand how a healthcare professional could behave this way. That made the inner disgust and struggle that the ED likes to feed on so much more powerful. This was not their fault, this is society’s lack of understanding of mental health full stop.

This, I hope highlights how EDs sink their ugly claws in, and become an unwanted hitchhiker. The sufferer may think they have control, but when challenged to stop behaviours, thoughts they cannot. It adds to shame when people describe eating disorders as a choice. Some EDs may have started from “good intentions” like a special diet for health reasons etc, but once the disorder develops, takes hold it is crippling. My ED was a perfect storm, I had the “perfectionism traits” genetic vulnerability and I dieted. I wanted to stop, I did know better, I couldn’t stop until I sought help. But once I knew it was an illness, even if others didn’t understand (they don’t have to) I could use it to my advantage and make choices towards recovery. EATING DISORDERS are not a choice, or a lifestyle. They are a mental illness.

The earlier someone seeks intervention for an eating disorder the better the outcome. That’s not to say that someone who has had an ED for many years cannot recover, because ANYONE can recover. But recognising signs you or someone has an eating disorder is the first step towards recovery. Understanding the diversity within eating disorders is fundamental to change.

When will I be done?! Anorexia recovery

If you’ve read my “About page” you know how my eating disorder started.

Let’s get real about some things I wish I’d known when I started recovery. I hope being for-warned is forearmed.

When I finally sought help, I couldn’t bring myself to acknowledge or repeat the diagnosis I was given Anorexia nervosa, restrictive type.
My therapist was patient, despite my denial. She normalised the name, she used the term anorexia as if it was as routine to her as me diagnosing my patients with asthma, diabetes- no judgement. And really why should it be any different. But still, It felt dirty and shameful, I know now this was the ED talking. The ED does that, makes you think it’s your fault that your eating disorder does not deserve the same care or compassion any other diagnosis would. It’s a choice right? You can stop anytime. If you could- it’s not an eating disorder, eating disorders lull you into a false state of security and control. You think you are in control. But when asked to stop, why can’t you? Because you are unwell, you are not in control, it’s not your fault and it’s not a choice. Recovery is a choice. It is the best choice you will ever make.

After I was officially diagnosed with anorexia, orthorexia, perfectionism and over exercising my first question was; if what you say is true, when will I be done?

SO WHEN WILL I BE DONE?

This is a common question I’ve come to learn many of us ask. You will be done when you are done. Some people’s recovery takes months, some much longer, years. BUT I think the most important take home from this is, this is your journey, no one can tell you “when you’ll be done”

“your worst day in recovery is never as bad as your worst day in the ED” .

If I think I’m having a bad day, be it loud “HH” thoughts, criticism or self image, I remind myself of how far I’ve come and repeat this phrase. Thankfully the “HH” thoughts are now just a mere fleeting whisper in the wind.

Who knows how much healing you have to do, physically & mentally. The years, months of damage you’ve done by going into war with your body. But one thing is true…each step towards recovery gets easier, each step outside of the grips of your ED. Each positive step is a little bit further than the day before. I heard this phrase early in my recovery and I think there is nothing more true:

The next thing that I wish I knew when I first started recovery…

RECOVERY IS NOT LINEAR, it is NOT PERFECT

Since then I’ve had some pretty big lapses and one full relapse. But I learnt from them. I feel stronger for them.

Slips happen. It’s how you get over them that counts.

3. Recovery is hard.

There are many things we are told about when starting recovery, looking out for signs of refeeding syndrome ( metabolic disruption when nutrition is reinstated, can be life-threatening), but no one tells you: Healing is painful. It will always get worse before it gets better. But it does get better. Stick with it.

The oedema, the irratic bowels, bloating, nausea, fluid retention, acne, night sweats, second puberty, growing pains, awakening of your numbed emotions ( often leading to a clusterfuck of emotions all at once without warning), the changing body shape, uneven weight distribution. I will write a seperate post on this. I think this is a blog in itself. It takes strength to recover, it is easy to continue in what comes easily and takes a lot of unlearning of many beliefs and behaviours. It’s exhausting. BUT IT GETS better. It’s also not complicated. Food is medicine. Resting is healing. These are just a few things I wish I’d known early on in the recovery process. There’s many more thing’s iv’e learnt along the way that have been helpful, some not so much. I intend to share these on this blog, hopefully by sharing my experience you may find something to help you in your recovery.

Sharing is promoting awareness and I hope changing the stigma.

Story.

Chances are if you’ve stumbled upon this page, you’re like me. Searching for answers, help, validation, recovery from an unhealthy relationship with food, body image. Other wise you would not be here. Maybe you still tell yourself , you’re fine and don’t have a problem, but looking for recovery blogs/ sites is not normal. Or, perhaps you know you have a problem with food, exercise, restriction, body image and you want to RECOVER.

There is no shame in asking for support…

Whether you are contemplating seeking help for starting recovery or just needing extra support in recovery, there is NO shame in this.

My mother in-law reminded me of this just this week. I just came off nights. ( I am a doctor). During those nights I received a nightly text from her “ have you stopped and snacked yet, it’s very important munchkin” I am incredibly grateful for this, this love and support really helped in moments where it could have been easy to listen to the ED voice. There are times like nights, times of stress and busyness where I need a little support and I’m not ashamed. On these days I celebrate little victories and focus on gratitude, like how grateful I am to have this person rooting for me.

Eating disorder recovery is hard. It is the hardest thing I have ever done, likely the hardest thing I will ever do.

Anorexia crept into my life slowly and in a surreptitious manner. It took me a long time before I saw it there and I remained in denial for even longer.

I became a hollow shell of myself. My eating disorder overshadowed my entire being.

I started running when I was 11, this was my happy place. I had always been a happy, bubbly easy going child. I first recall feeling uncomfortable in my skin when I was mid teens, following comments from some boys at school about my ‘muscled arms’. It didn’t lead to me doing anything about it and I also didn’t really care about being thin at this time. I suppose the comment began to chip away at my subconscious and wear me down. Eventually athletics training became a way I could hide my disorder.

I remember becoming very health conscious and cutting food groups out of my diet as early as 14, I deemed bread and chips to be “unhealthy” and I cut them out of my diet. I was confused at the time why I was doing this, but I passionately believed this was the right thing to do and I remember telling my parents I no longer ate bread or chips because “I didn’t like them”. The first time I noticed my rigidity was a family holiday and instead of enjoying these foods I refused them despite my best friend at the time and parents trying to persuade me otherwise and I remember feeling “clean” and “good” for refusing. It became an addiction. Restriction became my drug.

This would become my norm and increasing rules and rituals cemented.

I was tired all of the time, I underwent extensive medical tests, yet my eating disorder at this time remained hidden from the spot light. I was diagnosed with a bone marrow disorder and this further overshadowed my eating disorder and fueled my need to control.

I would force myself to attend athletics training sessions despite feeling exhausted. I would eat right before training, knowing full well it would make me sick during the practice, and I would be praised for working hard.

No one could have stopped it happening. And the shitty thing about eating disorders by the time they are recognized they are already entrenched.

It wasn’t until almost a decade later when my eating disorder had robbed me of my personality and my health, I was forced to confront my demons. By now I was working as a medical doctor and there were times where in order to make important patient decisions it would take up any remaining energy I had left.

There were times where my vision would blur when I stood, if I stood for long periods or too fast I would pass out. Still I refused to acknowledge the eating disorder’s presence.

No matter the appointments I attended, the eating disorder was so entrenched in me by this time I was still losing weight. The eating disorder would gaslight me, telling me I didn’t actually have a problem, it wasn’t a big deal. My mental state was deteriorating. The smaller I got, the narrower and more warped my view of the world became.

Threatened with being sectioned I knew I needed to fight for something.

My husband was incredibly supportive and so determined to help me get better. I wanted so much to make him happy and give him back a life, and so I fought. I fought for him until I had the motivation to fight for myself.

Everything goes on hold when you are battling an eating disorder or supporting a loved one.

My husband would leave work at the drop of a hat to attend appointments and support me at meal times.

Life paused because of my eating disorder. The shame and guilt of this is insurmountable and weighs heavy. The only way I could improve this, was to fight for my recovery and get better. And so I fought. Sometimes I fought bite by bite, meal by meal. Eventually it becomes less of a battle.

Sadly there is very little in my history that is unique because those of us that have been through an eating disorder share many similarities.

One thing I am aware of, was my privilege to seek help, when so many others are not so fortunate. It was through seeing this I found a new motivation of recovery, to give back. To use what I had learnt in a productive way to help others. This is one of the reasons I started this blog. Reading other people’s lived experience has been so instrumental in my own recovery.

I was so buried in my eating disorder I believed that was my brain. It’s a brain that goes against everything you believe in and convinces you it’s the only thing that matters. It convinced me my life’s purpose was to count numbers, control my intake, shrink my body and my worth was measured solely on rigidly following these. It made me believe there was no life beyond this.

There were times where, I was terrified of carbs, which became dairy, which became fats and ultimately food. Literally every food group became terrifying. Thank you diet culture, I say with upmost venom behind that.

One of the ways of overcoming my eating disorder misconceptions was learning why I needed each food group. Removing any vocabulary that demonized any food. Seeing all food as equal. Bite by bite this became easier. There are still times where my eating disorder tries to complicate things, to lure me back to believe the fears. I remind myself of my truth and my reason for fighting in these moments. I reject diet culture in all forms.

Developing confidence in my own decisions around food and body and knowing what I am doing has been huge in my recovery. I am no longer being reliant on a team. I am trusting myself more with each day.

Our lives have gradually returned to “normal” if not more enriched for the struggle we have overcome. Life holds so much value to me now, having nearly lost it I’m incredibly grateful to be here.

One of the worst parts of starting recovery was telling my parents. It took me so long to muster up the courage to talk to them about it. I was so afraid of their disappointment, they wouldn’t understand and would make me feel I had done something wrong. One thing I have learned is you don’t need people to understand, because, realistically very few can unless they have walked the path of an eating disorder. Support and love & compassion are qualities that really assist you. Learning to forgive yourself and set boundaries to build your close support network is something I have worked on during the recovery process.

Finding my voice in recovery has taken away much of the eating disorder’s power. It felt like each person I told I regained power. It forced the darkness of the eating disorder into the light. Removing a lot of the secrecy, shame and associated isolation. Having the eating disorder out in the open has forced me to be accountable. Sharing my struggle has given me the biggest gift of connecting with others.

I feel thankful to be here.

There is nothing about recovery I regret other than I didn’t choose it sooner. I promise it is worth the work and you won’t regret recovering.