‘Finding my woman’ and reaching a BMI of 20 are the two concrete aims I decided on achieving to make this commitment to recovery different. Permanent. To help me jump off the constant relapse merry-go-round in the powerful theme park of Anorexia.
I can say those things, type those words, see them on the screen, set out on my journey… but the emotions that are to be felt along the way, are not so predictable. I have zero clue as to how I’ll deal with that. I’m not going to question ‘whether’ I will – it’s a case of aiming for it, regardless… trusting the facts, even when my head will want to fight against them and turn to it’s quick-fix but long-term harmful solutions. Investing time and energy into re-learning how to cope with my own thoughts and behaviours. Things don’t get better by chance.
I think that’s why many people struggle with relapse. And why my head felt still very much same place after my previous inpatient admissions. Still stuck in Anorexia’s conditions thoughts, rules, pre-occupation with food – regardless of how weight-restored I looked on the outside. The key reason being – anyone can go through the motions of a treatment program. They can fill out the meal-plans, ‘be there’ in groups, ‘be there’ in 1:1 sessions, put on the weight, achieve the granted ‘leave’ out, the weekends at home, show they can self-cater, tick all the Doctor’s boxes……………. only to be discharged with a head right back where it started. This is a result of not psychologically ‘engaging’; this, I’ve learnt from my OWN mistakes, is absolutely essential. The EGG in the cake.
By the egg I mean – consciously CHOOSING to work on yourself and your own head. Not just to ‘be in the room’, or toss learning materials/research aside (I’m very much guilty for that). To have the ‘want’, the ‘readiness’, the ‘interest’ in your own thinking.
If you don’t add your egg, at the end of treatment you come away with something still edible. Just not a cake. It doesn’t have full list of ingredients to make it taste as good as it can be. A manageable life, still tainted by lingering disordered thoughts that you brushed under the carpet or steered away from when it got too much. A quality of life you deserve much more of.
You have to consciously choose to work on changing your thoughts, to WANT to and be READY to – because your factory of a brain can’t change it’s systems without a look at what’s making it work that way in the first place.
Some people simply haven’t yet found their egg. This was me many times. I wasn’t ‘ready’ to recover. I thought I was. There were times when I wasn’t motivated enough to face my emotions and my main fears of letting go. And that’s okay, because you really, truly have to be ready to feel vulnerable. To be stripped naked of your coping mechanisms and reflect day-in, day-out what is driving the Eating Disorder’s thoughts and actions. Why it’s lies felt so true to you.
What sort of peace and security did you gain from listening to those irrational thoughts, and how could you seek that elsewhere? What are your main motivations for recovery and how could you re-focus on building a future? You have to really dig deep about what could bring you long-term happiness. What sort of person do you want to be? What things might bring you long-term contentment over any short-lived Eating Disorder behaviour? What sort of values do you see in other people that are admirable and would like to start applying to yourself? What would make you feel like a better person?
I thought I had to have my whole life planned out, what I wanted to do, where I wanted to be, how I was going to get there in order to motivate myself to recover and to deserve it. I’m learning now, that really isn’t true. If anything, that continued to become one huge added pressure that was unrealistic and set me up to fail every time. I found for myself that what I needed to do was work out the TYPE of person I really would like to be – the type of person that would make me happy. To suss out why I think and act in ways that I dislike about myself.
What was helpful for me in finding my ‘egg’ for the cake of recovery (which is still in the long baking process, ha! I’m getting carried away with this cake metaphor…) was comparing this person I want to work on becoming, with the type of person my Eating Disorder makes me. And all the things it makes me feel.
It was helpful to me to start listing all these things I end up disliking about myself, that are mainly influenced by my Eating Disorder. These things that actually start to make me feel like a worse person, with more guilt… which yes, ends up feeding back into the illness. You turn to listening to the Eating Disorder at any moment of low self-worth, to try and extract any unwanted guilt in order to feel like a better person. And yes, again, this feeds into the illness and you come out feeling like an even worse person. And on and on and on and on the cycle continues.
My list of things Anorexia is, I don’t want to be….
…childish, lonely, sneaky, obsessive, rigid, controlling, suspicious, needy, scared of fun and spontaneity, stubborn.
In many, MANY ways, Anorexia has made me feel childish. It’s made me cry like a child, feel physically like a child, dress in child’s clothes, have tantrums like a child, think like a child, talk like a child, caused me to lack experience with having adult responsibilities. I’ll explore this further in another post! But this HUGELY was one main driving force to me wanting full-recovery. To work on this piece of me that makes me feel worse about myself.
To find the woman I set out to be on this journey, I have to let go of this child. To do that, I have to continue to fight Anorexia.