It is the second birthday of this website.
When I look back now to where I was when I started this website: back living with my parents and going through a few very intense recovery months, my life today is very different and better in so many ways.
However, when I look back and think about the me who set up this website two years ago and the vision I had for myself two years further down my recovery road at that point, am I now where I had imagined or hoped?
This post is my raw and honest answer to that question.
Here I will lay myself bare about just where I am now in terms of my recovery and what is next for me.
‘All In’, Recover and Done?
So many eating disorder recovery accounts today, depict this image of people going ‘all in’ in recovery, eating for a couple of months and then magically in 6 or 12 months declaring themselves recovered.
This might be the true reality for some people. We are all different and none of us can really know what is going on in another person’s mind or life.
However, for many, recovery is far from as simple as that and although seeing others appear to go ‘all in’ and recover in the blink of an eye can be argued to be motivating and inspiring on the one hand; on the other, when we ourselves are not quite so successful in our ongoing pursuit of recovery (all in or otherwise), we can be left feeling frustrated, defeated and as if we have failed.
It is now two years since I embarked on my more intense and serious (I am never sure if ‘all in’ is the right term) recovery journey.
And I am proud of what I did achieve in those months and I am also proud that I have not gone backwards or slid deeper into the grips of the eating disorder in all this time. In all my previous episodes of traditional treatment over the years, where I was fed and gained some weight, I always left treatment and lost the weight (and often more) within 6 months of discharge, so to have not only achieved what I have in this recovery but also maintained it is not something I am ashamed of.
But, am I fully recovered and done?
I have delayed writing this post as in all honesty, although I am a lot better and I have maintained my less disordered and improved life, I know deep down and people who know me REALLY well also understand, that I am not yet 100%, fully and properly recovered.
I delayed writing this because I do feel ashamed to admit that and I feel as if I am not just letting myself and my loved ones down but also all of you who read my posts, seeking inspiration.
What do I mean though by being better but not yet fully recovered?
Well, I have gained a fair amount of weight and maintained the weight I did gain but I am not sure that I am yet at my set point and although I have no desire to lose weight from where I am now, I also still struggle with fears over gaining more weight.
There are also still some situations and foods that I avoid or find anxiety provoking and challenging if I do have to face them so I have not yet fully rewired all the eating disordered fears and responses that my brain throws at me.
I also still have some routines and little habits that are not necessarily disordered in or of themselves but if they are interrupted by real life then my anxiety can again increase.
To be honest, I think the timing of the pandemic and lockdown did not help me, coming when it did, as it was at a point in my recovery when I had been through the initial intense nutritional refeeding and learning to rest stage and I was trying to focus on exposure to as many different situations (involving food) as I could to really rewire, which became impossible in lockdown (especially living alone!). So, although I am not trying to use lockdown as an excuse or blame the pandemic, I am perhaps guilty of letting lockdown keep me sheltered from confronting more fears and challenges in terms of recovery that I needed to, to knock the ED out from anywhere it was still lingering!
Having admitted to all of the above though, I also want to highlight the positives of my recovery thus far…
One of the biggest things I think that has been key in at least maintaining the point in recovery I reached for this long is that I am much more aware now when the eating disorder might be getting a bit louder and I am able to then refocus when this does happen and push back against it again and stop myself from getting back on that slippery slope backwards that can be all too sneaky.
The compulsive exercise that haunted me for all of my years of illness and that had a more powerful hold over me than even the restrictive eating ever did remains under control and I am still amazed and incredibly grateful that this is the case. When my most beloved grandfather died earlier this year, I could spend a week sitting by his bedside day and night without the compulsive need to move and that was precious and also something I know I could not have done when the illness was at its worse.
I can socially engage more than I could (pandemic allowing!) and no longer isolate like I did for years in the illness, even though I do still find some of these social situations challenging and would like them not to be so.
And I think very importantly, I can make plans for a future and feel more confident than ever that I can be well enough to make them real in a more healthy and fulfilling way.
Where Next for Me?
After confessing to my reality and my current status in recovery, it would not be fair on you (or on my future self) to just leave things as they are.
Where next then for me?
Having established that I am not yet done with recovery and having reflected on this over the past couple of months, I know that my only option is to push myself forward into my future and even greater freedom.
I have just re-embarked on my nomadic lifestyle and so have opened up my arms to new adventures (and countries) and I need to be as recovered as it is possible for me to be to get all I can from these new and exciting opportunities.
Therefore, I know I need to seek out the fears that remain, hunt down situations or foods that I still avoid due to anxieties generated by the eating disorder; eat more, continue to keep my exercise levels in check and allow more weight gain to happen by acting like a person who wants to gain weight, for this is the way I am confident that the rewiring will really become more established.
I ultimately envision getting to a point in my life where there are no foods or situations that I will push back on accepting because of eating disordered generated fear or anxiety.
I want to know that I can go to an unknown restaurant and be confident I could eat anything from it (other than fish which I hate!) or I could let someone cook anything for me and not feel any anxiety about it whatsoever. To do this I know that I need to find every one of those remaining fears (however tiny) and force myself to face them, even if on that particular day or in that moment, they are not really ‘necessary’.
And ultimately, I need to stay positive that more freedom and an even fuller recovery is possible… After all, I got to this point in recovery and never believed that would be possible (in fact I was told I would never even get this far) so I am sure it is possible to get to and across the finish line!
I will do my best to keep updating my posts here with my latest news, as well as throwing in a few more posts about other random things.
If there is anything you would like me to write about or do then please let me know and otherwise, if you are reading this then please, please please, don’t let anymore days go by without making your recovery and your life your very top priority (time slips by far too quickly when we don’t!).
UPDATE – 2022 – Since writing this post, I did pursue consolidation of my recovery and breaking through those lingering fears, to a much better, recovered state.