||To explain recovery from an eating disorder, I first need to explain the illness.
Living with an eating disorder is like being in an abusive relationship with your best friend. It’s nurturing and safe, while being manipulative and coercive. It’s the thing you cling to during moments of distress, while also being the thing that causes the distress. It fills your soul with warmth and purpose, by first stripping your life of laughter and joy. It tears you into pieces, then puts you back together, so you’re sure that this is the thing that fixed you, despite the fact that without it, you were never broken. It can feel like the safest place in the world and also the scariest, when you realise the walls designed to protect you are keeping you prisoner and the key to your survival is also your biggest threat.
Living with an eating disorder is a vicious cycle of never ending worrying, thinking, ruminating and predicting the future. It’s being surrounded by your favourite people and never feeling more alone. It’s looking to see the reactions on people’s faces to the paralysing screams, only to realise that’s just your thoughts and fears and that everyone else is oblivious. It’s desperately desiring your favourite foods but being too afraid to be in the same room when your favourite meals are being cooked and eaten. It’s being so physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted at the end of the day that you fear you won’t wake up in the morning but being unable to allow yourself your evening snack.
Living with an eating disorder is like watching your life pass you by on a time lapse video. You know time is moving but you’re unsure how you got from point a to b. It’s being so distracted by the pain in the present moment that when you look up, a week has passed you by, then a month, then a year. It’s watching your family and friends grow around you, while you stay still. It’s watching seasons change before realising months have passed you by. It’s focusing so intently on the pointless, minute details of each compulsive thought, behaviour and meal that you lose sight of the important moments, memories and experiences that had the potential to change your life but that now you’ll never know.
Recovery from an eating disorder is the process of feeling the fear and doing it anyway. It’s consciously, consistently putting yourself into situations that face your biggest fears and not running away. It’s changing your world, one meal, one thought, one action and one belief at a time. It’s reaching into the unknown, hoping that what you discover might be more than you ever could have imagined. And it’s doing this even on the days when you feel hopeless, tired, battered and afraid. It’s choosing a full life, even if you don’t yet believe you deserve it and praying one day your thoughts will catch up to your actions. Recovery is a choice. Being sick is not.