Recovering from Anorexia is very different from how it looks.
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.
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.