Deceptive nature of Anorexia Nervosa
I developed Anorexia this year (17 years of age), however, I have struggled with eating and body image for most of my life. Coming from a competitive gymnastics background I found an engrained pressure to look a certain way. After stopping gymnasts, my obsession with food took on a form that is often perceived as ‘healthy’ within society and was endorsed by those around me. I would cook frequently for others, read cookbooks and watching cooking shows for fun, I even had my own food blog where I would post everything I ate. I went through phases of writing down every single thing I ate or drank, and it consumed me. I would cut out entire food groups which are integral for a healthy diet and be congratulated for my ‘self-control’. I have relied on purging behaviours and external validation for a significant amount of my self-esteem.
It wasn’t until the past year or so where I was preoccupied with solely reducing my food intake, that I was diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa. I have been quite overwhelmed as I am also trying to cope with the stress of year 12. I have used my eating as a method of coping as it is something I can control. However, I am trying my hardest to find alternate coping methods for my stress and emotions that aren’t detrimental to my health.
I am currently in the recovery process, and yes it is challenging. But already after having regular appointments at an eating disorder clinic and participating in my own self-discovery journey I have begun to realise my own inner strength. I have started to separate my identity from an eating disorder because although it is something that has affected me severely, it isn’t who I am. Recovery for me has been a battle every day but every day I try and step outside of my comfort zone because I know that life has so much adventure and happiness to offer once I open myself up to it. For anyone on the recovery journey, I hope you realise how strong you truly are and that all you need to recover is already within you.
One piece of advice that I would give to others beginning the recovery process is that you cannot control what other people will do or think. For ages, the stigma surrounding eating disorders and more broadly mental health would affect me. I struggled with the notion that people’s perception of eating disorders didn’t reflect the struggle myself and so many others had been through. It felt as though others were demeaning so many people’s experiences. As frustrating as this can be, you can only do your best to spread awareness and educate others on the reality of eating disorders as serious mental health issues and to break down common misconceptions. At the end of the day, this is your journey, so you should do what is right for you and follow the path that will make you truly happy.