CW – anorexia, mentions of hospitals
Eating disorders are very deceptive. I used to read all those clichés about your eating disorder being your ‘best friend’, a ‘comfort blanket’ and struggle to see how anyone could ever think that. But those very same ‘clichés’ are the bitter truth – an eating disorder CAN be a diet gone wrong, a ‘diet’ which can evolve into the ultimate slippery slope to total self-destruction and misery. You struggle to make rational decisions. This is known as ‘starvation syndrome’ – something that reassured me, in that it was a medical condition with a concrete name. Remember, if you have an eating disorder, you are unwell, you do deserve treatment and you can get better.
My eating disorder started when I was 16, primarily fuelled by a lack of body satisfaction and major traits of perfectionism. I am not going into detail about how much weight I lost, or my lowest weight but I can tell you it was a terrifying period in my life.
Over the next 3 years, I got more and more unwell and really resisted treatment. This is where I would like to point out the benefits of medication in (anorexia) treatment. Of course, SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors), also known as antidepressants, are not for everyone. Talk to your doctor and then give them a chance, is my advice.
As much as recovery accounts on social media can provide a positive community, they can also make your struggles feel invalid. Unfortunately for me, the latter was the case. All eating disorders are valid – hold on to that. Why not steer clear of social media and instead focus on activities which make you feel more like you. For example, although I found bedrest very challenging, it was a great way for me to focus on recovery and learn to be at peace with myself.
Social media, particularly TikTok, can also thoroughly glamourise eating disorders. Hospitals, contrary to the depiction of them on the app, are not places where you lip sync to songs or do cute dances with new friends.
Hospitals are lonely.
Hospitals are always noisy.
Hospitals are mind-numbingly dull.
In early 2022, I had given up on recovery. I thought it was too hard, too confusing, too abstract. This was one of the worst decisions I have ever made. Recovery is hard, sure, but it only gets easier.
Isn’t maintaining an eating disorder harder?
Recovery is confusing – it is not black and white and there is no one who can do it for you. This is where specialist eating disorder services can guide and support you. Recovery is abstract – it is not the same for anyone but that is the beauty of it. ‘Abstract’ is not synonymous with ‘bad’; ‘hope’ is abstract, ‘peace’ is abstract, so too is ‘contentment’.
My recovery is not complete. There are still storms but there are always rays of sunshine afterwards. Through talking, medication and proper nourishment, I am recovering every day.
Anorexia gets weaker, less powerful and more insignificant and I get stronger, happier and much more free.
Image: NIKHIL via unsplash