One Year Later

This time last year I wrote my divorce letter to Ed with one of my best friends S. Exactly one year later, 2nd July 2014, I am graduating from University. 

The two days are very different. Last year I felt like a child who was unable to look after herself, today I begin life as an adult. However, the two days also have similarities. I consider them both as turning points in my life. Last year was a turning point as I found the courage to make a commitment to my recovery. This year is a turning point because I have finished university and am about to embark upon what I am told is “the real world”!

I considered writing another letter to Ed, but instead decided to reflect upon my last year in recovery.

I can’t believe a year has passed since the divorce letter. It might have been a tough year, but I have started to believe that there really is light at the end of the dark road to recovery. Last year, I was begging for freedom. I was desperate to be ‘healthy’ and I never believed it would be possible to live the life that I am living today.

Over the last year there have been times I have wanted to give up. Days when I questioned whether recovery was even worth it. And moments when I didn’t think I had the strength and courage to fight for another day. However, with the support of friends and family, I have proved myself wrong.

In my divorce letter I said that I wanted to listen to my own advice. At first, I didn’t have the right advice or the answers to my problems. I was too used to listening to Ed’s advice to know the right thing to do. But by spending time in the clinic, reading about recovery, speaking to people about recovery and having weekly therapy, I now believe that I am equipped with the answers to my problems. There is no point in kidding myself into believing that I don’t know what to do to recover. I know full well what to do. I just need to be brave enough to do it.

I also wrote that I didn’t expect the divorce to be ‘easy’. I was right. It hasn’t been easy, but it has been worth it. There are still difficult days and there are still times when I look in the mirror and want to cry, but these days are out numbered by times of freedom. I still hear Ed’s voice every day, but I no longer feel inclined to act on his words. I can turn the volume down and find my own voice.

This time last year I was saying goodbye to Paris and preparing myself for a summer in the clinic. This year I am saying goodbye to Bath and preparing myself for a job and 7 months of travelling. There were times last year that I didn’t think I would even be able to go back to university, and today I am graduating with a 2.1. I am proud of myself for that. I am also proud that unlike my year in Paris, I can look back at my time in Bath with Ed only as a shadow in the background, as opposed to being at the forefront of everything.

I also want to thank my friends and family for all their help and support this year. While anorexia is a very lonely illness, I have learnt that recovery doesn’t have to be that way too.

To my family, thank you for your never-ending love and support. You have put up with the tears, tantrums, anxiety and fear and also celebrated the success along the way… big or small. It can’t have been easy living with something that is impossible for an outsider to understand, but you have all done a bloody good job. I also want to thank my younger sister. When I came back from Paris I became the ‘baby’ of the house. I couldn’t be the supportive older sister. But you have always been a support to me and I can never thank you enough for that.

To D, thanks for always being there. I could always rely on you for some fighting talk whenever I needed it. But most importantly, thank you for all the laughs. You kept my smiling at the worst of times… Laughter is a great medicine.

To S, we may have spent the last year on the other side of the world to each other, but you never felt more than a second away. You really are my rock and together, we have put up a pretty good fight. I am so proud of us both this year.

So people are right when they say that recovery can be hard, that there are times it doesn’t seem worth it, and days when it all seems like too much work. But people are also right when they say that if you keep fighting and stay committed to your recovery, life will be better. Today I am living a life that I didn’t believe would be possible this time last year. That makes me both proud and excited for what is to come.

I asked last year that I could just walk the path to recovery with my head held high. Today, as I walk on stage to collect my graduation certificate, I will hold my head high and remember that recovery is worth every second.

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The Fashion Show

Tonight I went to a charity Fashion Show. A good friend of mine was organising it and so I wanted to show my support.

It was a good event… There were lots of people, a great venue, good music, I was with my friends. However, I didn’t manage to enjoy it like everyone else. I couldn’t just look at the clothes and discuss the latest looks with my friends. The only thing I really looked at was the size and shape of every model that walked down the catwalk. By the end of the show, I had pretty much worked out the size of every girl who took part. The most painful thing about it was that I had compared myself against every single model, and even most members of the crowd. 

It pains me to write this down. I sound so judgemental. But the truth is, I still find it so hard to not compare myself to skinny women and having a catwalk of them parading in front of me sent my head spinning.

The other thing I found difficult was the thought that there was no way in a million years that I would have volunteered to strut down the catwalk. The thought of wearing a short stress for the world to see filled me with dread. It upset me that I don’t have self-confidence like the models I saw this evening. I want to love my body as opposed to constantly wanting to shrink it away.

The only positive thing I can take from tonight, apart from having supported my friend, is that a part of me didn’t think the really skinny girls looked that good. Ed was doing his best to tell me that they did, tell me that they looked beautiful, happy, wonderful, sexy and attractive. But the truth is, I didn’t 100% believe him…. At least that shows some progress.

 

Helpful Reminders

I returned home on Wednesday evening and I was feeling pretty confident. I had had a good week at Uni food wise, and despite all of the Christmas celebrations at the end of term I managed to stick to the trusty food plan. However, I am really struggling with body image at the moment. I am finding it hard to cope with the feeling of being heavy and since being home I know I have been restricting. Part of me doesn’t even want to write it on here, as I know my parents will read this (Ed really doesn’t want them to know).  And part of me doesn’t want to admit it, as Ed is telling me I need to start loosing weight again.

However, this week I am one year in recovery. I was home this time last year from Paris and I had my first ever therapy session to try and figure out what was going on with my “eating habits”. No one had uttered the ‘A’ word and I don’t think I really knew the severity of what I was doing to myself. As well as my first therapy session, I had a doctors apt to go through blood tests etc. I vividly remember the doctor telling me “Its an issue but it isn’t really a problem”… little did he know that that triggered me to return to Paris and drop weight until it really was a problem… a f****ing big problem. It was a problem all along. I also clearly remember locking myself away in the utility room last boxing day because I was so anxious and withdrawn and isolated that I didn’t even feel capable of holding a conversation with my own family.

I guess it is interesting to look back at this stuff because I know that in the last year I have made massive improvements. I have come further than I ever believed was possible and I am a lot happier. This time last year I would not have gone for a champagne dinner last night to celebrate my friends birthday! I guess I want to look at the improvement and also look at how horrible my life was this time last year so I have the motivation to keep on fighting. I have been finding this week difficult and so it is important, in times like these, that I look back at the hard times and ask myself, Do I really want to go back there? Is the few pounds I could loose by restricting really worth it? Was Ed telling the truth when he said my life would be better if I was thinner? The answer is no. I know that. When I think rationally it is a no brainer.

Before leaving Paris I also wrote a Divorce letter to Ed (see Divorcing Ed: The Divorce Letter). I wrote this so that when I have difficult times I can read it and remind myself why I am in recovery and why this daily battle is worth the fight. I would recommend anyone suffering with an ED to write a divorce letter to their Eating Disorder when they are feeling in a strong place and look back at it when you are struggling. There is something very powerful about reading advice you have written yourself – there is no excuse to believe it is bad advice, or from a bad source, as it is you who has written it.

What I am going to hold onto from the letter today is “I don’t expect this will be an easy, happy or clean divorce. But day at a time I am going to keep fighting my battle against you until I win.”. -I need to remember to keep fighting, even on difficult days. And secondly I want to remember that, “This path [to recovery]  isn’t a path to size 0. Walking the path won’t mean that i’ll still be classified as underweight. But you know what ED, there is more to life than being thin. Being thing doesn’t make me more special like you’ve tried to tell me over the years. It doesn’t make me a better person and it doesn’t make me more beautiful. “

So tomorrow is a new day and I am going to try even harder to win.