Inbetweener

Recovering from Anorexia is very different from how it looks.

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It looks as though you go into recovery as a caterpillar, eat a little, put some weight on and emerge a beautiful butterfly , ‘cured’ and ready to slot back into normal life again. It seems that your anorexia was just a phase where your weight loss went too far and you got really thin rather than a debilitating illness that you may have to struggle against for the rest of your life.

Before I started my recovery I thought that I would start to eat and gradually I would put on some weight and fill out a bit and emerge a beautiful butterfly.I didn’t realise that the middle part where you are some kind of weird creature struggling around trapped in a grey sticky mess would take so long. I didn’t realise that being a ‘recovering anorexic’ would be my identity for a while and that having a ‘recovery body’ would be something I would have to learn to live with until I found my recovered one.This in-between phase of recovery is somewhat underrepresented. Anorexia recovery stories are dominated by before and after pictures and the brutal truth about what actually happens in between is left untold.

I have posted this before and after picture myself on instagram, it is a good way of monitoring your progress but does not reflect what recovering from the illness is actually like day to day.

 

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Every time you eat you are acting against your illness and it gives you absolute hell for doing so. There is no peace of mind. It is nice to eat again but it is also terrifying and seems unnatural and wrong to be ‘breaking the rules’ that you have lived by for so long. To make things worse, during the recovery process all of the weight initially goes onto your stomach in your body’s bid to protect your vital organs as it fears another period of starvation and doesn’t trust you to keep feeding it. Your worst fears are realised as you see yourself becoming ‘fat’ and having a belly. You are undergoing a total identity crisis and have to let go of your thin self in blind faith that it will be worth it on the other side.

As the weight comes on, people treat you differently and you have to deal with so many triggering comments as you start looking healthier. Unfortunately people still judge how ‘anorexic’ you are on how thin you look and don’t take into consideration what is going on inside your mind. Your body may look healthier but inside the anorexia is kicking and screaming as you try and escape it. People don’t understand why you still can’t do things or eat things like a ‘normal’ person because now you look like a normal person again, they have no idea of the torment that is going on inside.

On top of this there are the physical elements to contend with. Refeeding after starvation is painful and there are some nasty side effects. Stretching your stomach back out and getting your digestive system to process food again is not a pleasant experience. You undergo crippling stomach pains, extreme bloating, water retention, swelling , constipation, diarrhoea indigestion , headaches and fatigue. There are times during recovery where you feel more unwell than at your lowest weight, only now that you are eating and looking healthier, your complaints of not feeling well don’t seem as valid.

It requires a lot of patience to see this out, to stay positive and to keep going, there are days when you wonder if it’s all going to be worth it. You just have to keep eating , keep fighting , never lose sight of your goals and trust that it will be.

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#QOTD

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Not giving your body the energy it needs to survive is not strength to be admired, don’t let your eating disorder tell you otherwise

Feeling helpless ?

10 ways to support a friend or loved one with an Eating Disorder

I find it easiest to express myself to my friends and family by thinking of my eating disorder as a person. I talk about it as if it was living and breathing. My eating disorder is very real and walks around beside me every day. I know this sounds very odd and I can imagine people might think that I am making it up. It is a strange concept for those who have never experienced disordered eating and it can make conversations between eating disorder sufferers and their loved ones very tense and difficult. Here are 10 ways that you can support someone recovering from disordered eating.

 

  1. If the sufferer says things that don’t make sense or you don’t understand or that scare you and sound horrible and destructive, try and imagine these words coming not from the sufferer themselves but from a little creature living inside them.
  2. Don’t underestimate how long it can take to reverse the physical damage caused by starvation. It is not the case that when someone with an eating disorder starts eating again, everything gets back up and running straight away. This may take a very long time and in the meanwhile the sufferer may complain of stomach upsets and bloating as the digestive system tries to process food that it has not previously had to. The sufferer may have even built up intolerances to some foods, after having previously removed them from their diet.
  3. Talk about the eating disorder in the 3rd Person. My family and I talk about my eating disorder out loud as if it were another member of the family. I say things like ‘I wanted to try another cereal for breakfast this week but my eating disorder won’t let me’. This helps everyone to keep the identity of the sufferer alive and to keep the eating disorder as an outsider or annoying presence that everyone is fighting against together.
  4. Don’t make any changes to your eating habits for the sake of the eating disorder sufferer. It is important that you eat as normal, whatever you want and whenever you want. It is very important for the sufferer to be surrounded by examples of people eating normally and having a good relationship with food. This helps to normalise eating and shows that it is a functional part of life and will help to counteract the eating disordered thoughts that the sufferer will be experiencing.
  5. Try and avoid voicing your own concerns around food and weight in front of the sufferer. Saying things like ‘eating xyz makes me feel bloated’ may seem like an innocent comment, but the eating disorder will be in the background taking notes and will probably try and get the sufferer to cut xyz from their diet later.
  6. When eating meals together, try and talk about other topics other than the food. This will reinforce the fact that mealtimes are a time for socialisation and interaction with others and not a place to overly focus on or obsess over food.
  7. Don’t engage in an argument with the eating disorder. As difficult and frustrating as it may be, try and accept the fact that the sufferer will not think the same way as you in many situations. This is because part of their mind is poorly, so it won’t think in a normal way, not because they don’t believe what you say or they don’t love or trust you. Just as someone with a broken leg wouldn’t be expected to walk normally. Rather than trying to argue with the eating disorder, be patient and accept that your loved one feels this way because they are poorly. There isn’t really any other explanation they can give for their seemingly unreasonable or strange thoughts. Acknowledge that you will not be able to cure your loved one of their eating disorder with logic and rationality. Eating disorders have a logic all of their own which the sufferer know to be flawed but feels unable to act against. By making comments such as ‘eating a few more calories a day isn’t going to make you gain weight’ all you are doing is patronising and alienating the sufferer who already knows but is not ‘allowed’ to eat those extra calories because they are being controlled and trapped by their eating disorder
  8. Try and understand that gaining weight in recovery is scary. While you may feel relieved to see your loved one reaching a safer weight, this is likely to be extremely traumatic for them. It may be difficult to see why going from a dangerous weight to a healthier one is so hard for the sufferer, however they are going to be experiencing a lot of body image issues, insecurities and doubts. It is important to note here that no comment on their physical appearance will be construed as a compliment. All remarks will regrettably be manipulated by the eating disorder and are likely to cause distress. While you may be overjoyed to see them looking better, even simply saying things like ‘you look like you have more energy’ or ‘you look more like your old self’ or ‘you have some colour in your cheeks’ can be very detrimental to someone’s recovery and even cause them to engage in disordered behaviours to make themselves feel better.
  9. Always remember that eating disorders are mental illnesses. You cannot tell determine someone’s mental well being by their physical appearance. Don’t assume that when your loved one reaches a healthy weight that they are ‘better’. The physical recovery happens much quicker than the mental one and it can take a long time for the mind to catch up. For quite a while the sufferer will be managing a very poorly mind inside a healthier looking body and this is quite an unsettling experience.
  10. Don’t make any assumptions about what the sufferer can/ can’t/ will/ won’t eat, this is very personal to the individual. How able they are to combat their eating disorder may vary from day to day or even throughout the day. If they ate a certain food yesterday but don’t feel able to today, try not to get frustrated. Gently remind them how impressed you were that they were able to stand up to their disorder when they did eat it and remind them that you have faith that they will be able to do it again.

 

 

Anxiety and anorexia

We all turn somewhere in times of need. Everyone has something that they lean on when they feel low, anxious, uncertain or alone. This is not exclusive to eating disorder sufferers.

We have all found it difficult to let go of things in our lives, even when we know they are no good for us. We have all been lead down negative and destructive paths and had to give ourselves a push to turn things around.

Eating disorders are a way of coping, of numbing pain, of channelling anxiety.

People take an eating disorder’s hand and follow it because they don’t know what else to do. They feel scared and alone and don’t know where else to turn. It takes a while to realise that there are other options, there is help out there.

Everyone needs time to let things go, to break habits, to change behaviour and to find a better path for themselves.

#Rebel

You can’t change the fact that you have an eating disorder, you can’t stop feeling anxious and guilty for eating, you can’t stop the constant stream of negative thoughts entering your head but you CAN try to fight back. No one else is going to fight your disorder for you. Just do what you can, break a rule, challenge a thought, answer back, act opposite to what it tells you even just once a day.

It is easy to be completely overwhelmed and consumed by your eating disorder and to give up and to never be able to see a life without it. It seems pointless and futile to fight something so unrelenting that just won’t go away. It seems like a waste of time, too much effort for so little immediate gain.

The reality is that it is unlikely you will wake up one morning and not having an eating disorder any more. Recovery is all about the small accomplishments and letting them add up. Standing up to a bully in any way that you can is better than running away and hiding. It may take a while to win the war but you can start TODAY with some little battles.

My-life-is-worth-more-than-my-eating-disorder-by-Anastasia-Amour-@-www.anastasiaamour.com_

Image from anastasiaamour.com

Aim everyday to do one thing to get one over on your eating disorder. There is so much joy to be found in tiny acts of rebellion.