Ashleigh's Story

Into the Light


As I rode my bike through the streets of Mexico I cried inconsolable tears. Tears of loss of so many years to my ED. Tears of fear about acknowledging my ED to friends and family. And tears of hope that perhaps I would finally be free. I had quit my job and set out to travel for three months, which ended up lasting nine. And yet wherever I went, I took myself with me.

The secrecy and guilt of my eating disorder ever my shadow, lurking within me like a cancerous cell. As the child of an alcoholic, I’d learnt to depend only on myself. And it had always worked for me. I did well at school. Received honours at university. Became a lawyer. Got a great job in a law firm. I solved problems for my clients. I prided myself on my intelligence and yet recovery from my eating disorder eluded me. I battled my eating disorder intellectually for over a decade. I believed that I should be able to fix it myself. I read all of the literature about habits, disorders and mindset. I thought that I just wasn’t doing recovery ‘well enough’.

Accepting that I could not out-think my eating disorder was incredibly painful. Of course, I couldn’t think my way out of it. My thoughts were the very things making me sick. Now, when I’m asked what my proudest achievements, reaching out for help with my ED brings tears to my eyes. I’ve been working with my psychologist for nearly two years. And it is the best investment in myself I have ever made.

In those two years I’ve quit a toxic job which was making me sick, travelled the world, done deep work to understand myself, formed a healthy long-term relationship, formed deeper connections with my family and friends, engaged a professional coach, started a business and begun manifesting a life of travel, freedom and adventure. And yet, sometimes it’s difficult to know where I fall on the spectrum of recovery.It’s hard to know what is normal or what it disordered. What is usual recovery and what is a relapse.

The journey is not linear. There’s no clear boundary of sobriety like there is with alcohol or drugs. I’m confronted with triggers with every meal. I guess the difference is that now I’m free. I don’t have to hide my struggles in secrecy and shame. I am more open. I reach for help. I have stopped pretending that everything is ok. Shame and guilt live in the darkness. They cannot exist within the light. And so, I keep swimming towards the surface, rippling above me, ever-changing in the dappled sunlight.