I recently published my 200th blog post on this website… and I started writing these posts when I was at the start of this eating disorder recovery attempt – a time that feels a long time ago in many ways and yet also like it was yesterday. In fact, it was about 6 months ago!
Publishing my 200th post left me feeling reflective about my recovery journey… and then Christmas came along and only served to increase the amount of personal reflection on my recovery and on the illness. To be honest, this process of reflection, at what is a difficult time of year anyway, has been really quite emotional and not at all easy. For, although I am much better than I was in many ways, being pushed out of my comfort zone by the time of year made me realise how far I still have to go.
All the areas of my life and recovery that I had visions of being fantastically amazingly better by now which are still not have hit me hard. And it has made Christmas tough and painful as the reality of what I still cannot do was highlighted to me with seeming neon flashing lights!
But it is okay for it to have been that hard this Christmas. It is okay if I use that pain to push myself forwards again and use this time of reflection to really achieve what I still need to…. and so that is what I am doing.
Therefore, I have reflected on where I was at the start of my recovery journey, 200 posts ago(!) and where I am now in recovery and life terms.
In my next post I will then write about how I now intend to get all the way to that envisioned land of ‘Full Recovery’!!
WHERE I WAS AT THE START OF RECOVERY:
Well the short answer to this is very sick!
At the start of my recovery I was coming from years of severe restrictive anorexia nervosa (AN) with significant exercise and movement compulsions. I had been through various treatment cycles, both as an inpatient and out patient and I had had recovery coaching. Any progress I made with these was never lasting (see More About Me!).
I was depleted in every sense of the word – physically, mentally, emotionally, socially, spiritually. It felt like all life had been sucked out of me and left me a hard, cold and hollow shell.
Eating wise, I was eating in very restrictive and rigid ways… rules were strong in terms of what I would eat, when, where, who with etc.
I also had huge movement compulsions and very strict disordered rules around when I was ‘allowed’ to sit down with a constant drive to be walking and moving.
In my brain there was a strong link between movement and eating.
I hated being underweight, yet I was also terrified of weight gain.
All of this existence had left me isolated and unable to socialise due to the impact it would have on my compulsions and rituals and eating rigidity… And to be honest I was so devoid of emotion and so lacking in a drive to engage in the world that socialising was not even something I saw possible pleasure in.
I had been out of the world of work for a short time for similar reasons, and before I started this recovery, I had been travelling around the world, trying to escape the shit that was my life and the illness… Until, I realised that I could not run away forever and I returned to live with my parents, at the age of 40, knowing that I had to face recovery full on as it really was now or never….
I then put myself through a few months of intensive ‘recovery hell’.
I faced many fears, I gained weight and I reached a point in which life doors suddenly opened up again in some truly wonderful ways… (and I have written a lot about all of this in the 200 earlier posts!!).
Two months ago, I was finally well enough to return to the world of work, feeling stronger in every sense, no longer looking so sick and actually wanting to engage in life.
I moved into my own apartment again and I have started to rebuild my life beyond the eating disorder…
WHERE I AM NOW IN RECOVERY TERMS:
I am much better than I was now (even if at times my brain convinces me I am not).
I can eat with more flexibility, more foods, different foods and have faced several ‘challenges’ and overcome fears.
Most significantly for me perhaps is that I have broken the movement compulsions that plagued me all the way through this illness and never ever came close to being improved in any treatment I had in the past. I truly believed I would never overcome the movement side of the illness and that is a miserable way to live… So that is something that is intensely gratifying in this recovery.
I gained a significant amount of weight and I am comfortable with that. I am stronger, I look ‘healthy’, I feel physically better.
I have started to socialise again. Naturally when you push friends away for a decade, they fall by the roadside (see Lost Friends), but I am finding ways to build new friendships. I am part of a book group and I have happily been able to socialise after work with colleagues as Christmas approached, having a real drink out and feeling a bit more ‘normal’!
Movement compulsions before stopped me going to the cinema or theatre and now I go to the cinema regularly and have been to London shows more than once.
My sofa at home is getting good use from my booty and I could sit over Christmas and watch films and relax in ways I could not for over a decade.
So…. in several ways, life is so much better and the illness is improved.
BUT – This eating disorder is still too much a part of me and my life… much more than I would like it to be.
To the outside world I might now look well, appear to be functioning well and appear better. People who never knew me before would not guess I have an eating disorder. However, I know I am still sick. I know I am still not recovered. And I know I am still very close to a slippery slope straight back to the hell I have so recently clawed my way out of.
I faced so many fears and achieved so much over the past months but there is still a lot more work to do… I would say I am now in that limbo land of ‘quasi recovery’ so many speak of – a space that is perhaps the worst place to be, where you are neither still sick enough to warrant concern but neither are you better. And I realised in my time of reflecting that as I moved into my new home and started in my new job a couple of months ago, I took my foot off the recovery accelerator and it is now time, having reflected to refuel and move ahead once more.
In my next post I will write more about what I really want to achieve still in terms of recovery and just how I intend to now move forwards to achieve it!