You might have come across this saying before… in a simplified form. But, come on – this is a more realistic summary of mental health recovery – definitely from my perspective, anyway. I always thought I would live with Anorexia, because I never imagined waking up to a new day, not being anxious about what the rest of the day had in store, the punishment, the maths calculations, the guilt. It takes those falling down moments, of feeling like utter shite, to realise what you could do next to put things right. And that process may not happen over-night, it could take a while. And then you’ll get up, try, and fall flat on your face again. But then something will inspire you to try yet again, and to apply something new. In my two first inpatient admissions for Anorexia, I was just going through the motions, of putting on the weight knowing that I would just regress when I was set free again. Like a lover that people were locking me away from, I continued to crave that relationship that I’d never experienced from any other human. Safety, security. And when it comes to my Bulimia – this lesson is probably even more relevant. I started setting certain dates in my head for when the binging and purging would just drop out of my life. An upcoming birthday, a New Year’s resolution. 3 months ago when Julie Gray told me the good news that I had the privilege of being able to speak here today (I was even in the middle of an erratic binge when I read the email), as well as being one of those inspirational moments that lifted me out of the dark hole I was falling in again, I thought to myself – “I have 3 months to stop this, to sort myself out. This should be enough of a motivation never to binge and purge again. If I’m going to stand in front of a big crowd at an important event and share my story, I need to give up my Bulimia so that I can feel confident in my body and myself.” Nooooope. Didn’t work. And the countdown to this very day began… okay, well I’ve got 2 months. Nope. 1 month – still nope… okay so now I should consider either pulling out or filming my talk so that I don’t have to stand there and feel as ashamed (but a feisty part of me, the part that wants to be truthful about who I am, unapologetically, fought back – I still need to do this regardless) but the promises not to binge and purge again went on… 2 weeks before – still nope, 1 week – nooooo, 3 days – pfffffft nope. See, you can’t plan when you’re going to suddenly be over a mental illness. Because for whatever reason, it serves it’s purpose – however much I hate it, it has been a coping mechanism for a long, long time. All I can keep doing is being open to learning new skills, reaching for support and building a life around my Eating Disorder until there’s no place for it any more. There’s often so much temptation to wait for the right moment to start whatever that thing is in your life. To wait to you feel better, more confident. Especially when you struggle with your mental health. But that for me, got me nowhere. There is no right moment. Hence why I’m stood here, feeling like a beach whale and the shame is still knocking at the back of my brain, but still choosing to do this, because I know that’s what my heart wants, and if I believe that this isn’t the right moment then I won’t move anywhere, and I will just become a mental illness.
These two photographs, are at different points in recovery when I was feeling so low, so lost and so hopeless, that I wanted to capture the moment so that I could look back one day and realise how far I’ve come. Except the difference between these two photos was my effort and longing to recover. In this one, I was just grieving the Anorexia people were taking away from me, and feeling distraughtly heartbroken. In this one, I was in recovery mode. And because my weight was restoring I was beginning to experience emotions in tidal waves. I felt like a baby being reborn into an emotional world.
And that leads me on to the final lesson I’ve learnt through recovery…
(see tomorrow’s post)