From the age of 14 I have had an unhealthy relationship with food. I have intentionally reduced my intake of food, I have compulsively exercised, had a tendency for perfectionism, a strong desire for social approval, an impossibly high standard for myself and a need for order and control. It took me seven years to finally understand that this behaviour was more than a bad habit or a food hang-up. It wasn’t until I was 20 years old that I finally came to accept that I was suffering with anorexia nervosa.
Coming to terms with my illness didn’t mean that things started to improve. In fact, at first, things got worse. The scary thing about anorexia is that I am powerless over it and it is inaccessible to reason. So, although I knew that I was struggling with a life threating illness, and although I knew I was slowly killing my body one day at a time, I was still un able to change my behaviour. The truth is that obsessions are altogether different from bad habits. Habits can be broken: one can recognise that they’re are silly or self-destructive and train oneself to stop them. After a time they simply fade away. Obsessions dominate the soul and every aspect of life. One cannot live without them: they are the starting position of each and every day. They become the central identity of your life. They are not accessible either to reason or to kind words and gentle support. They are progressive and utterly destructive.
This is why although accepting that I had anorexia was a big step towards recovery, the second step I had to take was accepting that I was powerless over it, my life had become unmanageable and the only way I could help myself was to accept that I couldn’t recover alone. I believe that this second step is harder than the first. I have always been a driven, hard working and strong person and like many anorexics I have displayed very strong will power and a strong work ethic. I therefore didn’t want to accept that I couldn’t fight this demon alone. After all, it was in my head and so surely I should be able to fight it away? However, the reality is that I wasn’t strong enough to win this battle by myself and I needed a support team.
Since accepting my anorexia in January I discovered the beauty of my self-help group where I found a lot of support and I also began seeing a nutritionist and a therapist. This support no doubt helped me further down my path to recovery. I began accepting that I was powerless, I gained a better understanding about nutrition and with the help of a food plan my body weight began nearing a ‘healthy’ range. However, although I had made physical progress and was nearing a ‘healthy’ weight, I was far from having a ‘healthy’ and clear mind. My eating disorder was still the starting point of every day. The choices I made were still based around my illness and I couldn’t find serenity from the mental every day struggles that came with having an eating disorder.
Therefore, my third step was to reach out for more help. One of the main dangers with anorexia is that your eating disorder will never tell you that you’re bad enough. For months I had always aimed to reach xkg. However, when I reached xkg I was still not thin enough. This makes reaching out for help difficult, as it is hard to accept that you are worth more treatment or warrant more therapy. My next step was starting a day care programme at a clinic specialising in Eating disorders where I am spending two days a week this summer.