The further away someone gets from their eating disorder, the easier it is to forget what they went through. At least, that's how it seems from a lot of recovery accounts on social media. They talk a lot about self-love and their happy new life, but not enough about how they got there or what exactly that life looks like, ED-wise.
This was frustrating to me as an anorexic, and even more so as a newly-recovering anorexic. I thought it was great how all of these people were learning to really love themselves, but I questioned the validity of it. I also questioned a LOT of other things, especially regarding what was happening to me physically, but I didn't get nearly enough answers.
Sometimes I wonder why I keep writing about this. I started to write about my experiences for one purpose: to answer questions for people. To provide information. To hopefully make this a little easier, to make the struggle feel a little more worth it for some of you. And I just don't feel done doing that yet - not even close.
I haven't forgotten the fever dream (or nightmare) that is recovery in its beginning stages. I haven't forgotten how desperate some of you might feel for some answers: when does the bloating stop, if ever? Am I always going to eat this much? Is this my new size? Will I always think this way about myself? Should I relapse?
Should I relapse. The number of times I considered relapsing during recovery is something I can't even keep track of. To be completely honest, it's something I've considered as recently as a few months ago. Not SERIOUSLY considered, but it's an idea that pops into my head when things get tough, when I feel overwhelmed, when I see myself as completely out of control. See, those are my triggers.
Control is a big one for me. It always has been. I don't like feeling helpless, or needy, or like a burden to others. But something I've learned over the years is that losing control every once in a while does not equate to those things. And in fact, the old cliche is true: life IS about balance.
My eating disorder is still very much in my life. Anorexia was an obsession of food and the restricting of it, and recovery has been an obsession of making sure I'm getting enough. Thoughts do still pop into my head, but I've trained myself to recognize them, consider them, and (most importantly) change them.
Lately I've been losing weight again. Not on purpose nor by restriction, but because I am craving slightly less food and I have learned to listen to my body. But even though I trust myself, a tiny voice wonders: "Are you restricting?"
No. It's my body finally beginning to trust me again. It's my body no longer requiring an excess of food to feel safe. What everyone told me along the way was true: trust your body. I doubted this many times, up until very recently. But my body has proven it to me time and again that it has my back.
Eat when you are hungry, and eat until you are full. No matter what that looks like. Listen to what makes you feel good, what makes you feel healthy and whole. The main thing recovery has taught me so far is that every day is different. Sometimes we need more, sometimes we need less, but we should ALWAYS give ourselves just exactly what we need.
Don't get me wrong: I still watch what I eat and keep it quite healthy for the most part, but what's missing now is the debilitating fear. I don't feel like I have to eat only healthy foods, and I also don't feel the need to keep dropping calories day by day (I do not count calories). I eat healthy because it makes me feel good and I'm proud of myself for finally getting things right. I also just want to take care of myself and live a long happy life. I don't want to go to any extremes ever again. I also treat myself when I feel like it, and the intense guilt for eating something "unclean" is no longer there.
Change is possible. It is gradual and it requires a lot of patience, but I have seen myself grow more than I ever thought possible over the last two years. I feel so equipped to handle anything in my life, not just ED-related issues. I have overcome a lot and that makes me feel capable. Responsible. Accomplished.
The way I feel is something everyone deserves to feel, no matter what your struggle is. We will still have our bad days and we will be tempted by our tendencies to self-destruct, but to feel this secure in yourself is almost irreversible, if you let it be.
As always, I am here for you if you have questions. I'm here for anything you want to talk about, whether it's ED-related or not. I know how impossible things can feel, but I also know how you can change things with consistency.
Here's to our mental illnesses, our gaps in reality, our racing minds and irrational fears. Our experiences have made us who we are, and can help shape our lives into what we want and need. You just have to be a little brave.