I am adding this post to my “positive” blog because recovery is a thing. It means you have grown. You are not where you used to be.
This is the first time I am writing about being a recovering anorexic. In times past I could never really even talk about it, never mind write about it in cyberspace and put it out there for the world to see! Even as I type this, knowing I am sizes bigger than I used to be, I STILL feel like simultaneously denying I was truly anorexic, and struggling with the urge to starve the extra pounds away. It’s so easy to do, so hard to resist, but I have been resisting for about eight years now. Yay me!
As with all writing, it never really turns out how you hoped it would, it just sort of takes on a life of its own. In my head it seemed so easy, but the reality is much harder. I want to say that it’s all good now. I want to say that I am better, and though I haven’t truly relapsed in eight years, I still know it’s a daily struggle. That’s the thing! People think that once you start living your life in a healthy way that the feelings and urges somehow magically disappear, but that is so far from the truth of it!
Overcoming those negative urges with positivity is possible. I don’t mean phony “just believe in yourself” fluff. I mean nitty gritty, serious, objective, and realistic positivity. Changing your life begins with changing your mindset. Changing your mindset starts with what you think, and that fuels how you react, and then what you do. For example: thoughts like “I am worth living for”, or “My body ALLOWS me to live on this planet so I MUST take care of it” are what got me through the worst. After my daughter was born in 2011 I also added thoughts like, “My body carried life. It carried a miracle, so it deserves to be celebrated!”. In struggling with body image after carrying a child I would grit my teeth and tell myself “Your body is never going to look the same again, but that is FINE because your different, your life is different, and the focus needs to be too.” When it got really bad I would tell myself, “This child is innocent, she NEVER needs to hear the hellish word ‘fat’ unless it’s referring to butter in a recipe!” and “This child needs a mother, she deserves a mother that cares about her enough to focus on HER and forget about your hang-ups forever”. See? Nitty gritty.
I haven’t touched a scale since I almost relapsed in 2006. I just never get on one. I cannot. As soon as I started focusing on numbers I started spiralling downward again. I wasn’t even aware I was going that far down until I stepped on a scale and sat down and cried when I saw I was 118 lbs. That doesn’t sound too bad until you consider my bottom weight is supposed to be between 125-135 lbs. It meant I was past that point. That point that says I can handle this. I am ok. It was about that time that I met my husband. Be it fate or destiny he happened to be trained as a chef and dietician! It was his influence and constant, I want to say nagging, but it was more like, “oh you’re feeling off? Here I’ll make you some pie” that got me eating again. Really, truly eating the things I had not allowed myself to since childhood. I spent some time seriously angry with him for making me eat, and more importantly (to me at the time) for cooking or baking me such yummy things that I felt I could not resist. Maybe some of it had to do with feeling safe, something I didn’t have the luxury of feeling during the previous 20 or so odd years. Whatever it was I began to eat.
As I began to explore the world of culinary delights once more I was conscious of the need to stay active. Did I exercise? Yes, I did. I had a liquor store at the time and keeping in shape for all of the heavy lifting was necessary, so I exercised, but not manically like I did before. You know the drill: Starve-run-starve-run. Anyway, that was out of the question as I actually needed muscles for all of the heavy lifting at the store. I want to say it was all fine, but as soon as I began eating “normally” I gained. The pounds stayed, even with the exercise. Therein lies the true struggle of a recovering anorexic and the “secret” to recovery that I didn’t hear of until I began to actually recover. Your body has been abused. There is no easy way to say that. Once you begin eating it freaks out and doesn’t trust you anymore. It believes you will starve again so it needs to outsmart you and pack on those pounds in anticipation of the lean times it believes are just around the corner. It is a true do-or-die moment. You need to push past this if you are going to succeed.
I don’t want to be long, boring, or preachy so I want to end here. Before I do, I would also like to mention one other thing. Part of my recovery got really messy for me because I was anaemic for five years. In addition to this it has left me with lingering effects like a Vitamin B12 deficiency. I receive injections of B12 because my body cannot process it properly from food or vitamin supplements. I am not sure why and every doctor I have talked to seems convinced they do not relate, but I know as sure as I am writing this they do and that is why I am including it. I have added a couple of links here and here so you can read the medical jumbo about anaemia and B12 deficiency. I know it may not apply to everyone, but it took me long years of being tired and not knowing why, and then more years of painstaking research. I do not want to see someone else struggle with this part of recovery.
Good luck to you, and don’t be afraid of the hard parts would be a more appropriate encouragement. There are self-help groups, websites, blogs, and call in lines if you are anti-social like me, and just get out a pen and a pad of paper if you do not feel like talking about it, but whatever method you choose, DO NOT keep those destructive thoughts and feelings to yourself! Get them out into the open where the shadows don’t seem so dark, and the boogeyman is not so scary. I hope you make it. You CAN make it.