Monday, 24 February 2014

My Path

This week is Eating Disorder Awareness Week throughout my recovery I have strived to support and help as many people as I possibly can whilst raising awareness for EDNOS (eating disorder not otherwise specified). I have written a lot about my recovery but I don't think I have written about how I got to this point in my life.

I wasn't born hating my body, I was an active child, I loved running, jumping, dancing, exploring etc... I loved what my body could do, I loved ballet class and playing sports, I don't think I was aware of what 'fat' or 'thin' was. I cannot remember my body ever being criticised by anyone and up until the age of 11 I was lucky enough to never have been bullied. Life changed for me when I went to Secondary School, I already knew by this point that my life would revolve around dance, I was academic and loved to learn which unfortunately meant I was bullied. I was teased for my love of dance, for the fact that I would often miss events due to a dance class, my hair was never right, nor was my make up and for the first time I was aware of body, or more importantly the lack of development. Girls around me were growing boobs, starting periods and beginning to date boys, I often felt left behind and couldn't join in conversations about periods and bras as I wasn't there yet. Don't get me wrong I was lucky to have amazing friends who I laughed constantly with and who made my school days happy despite the internal upset. It was at this point that I started to restrict food, I thought I was being clever and that I was hiding it well, luckily I wasn't - my mom sat me down and explained to me that food was fuel that unless I started eating more I would be unable to carry on dancing, at the time this was enough to push me back onto the right path. I stopped restricting food but I did develop a new habit at the time it didn't have a name but now it is known as 'chew and spit', I got to satisfy my desire for sweets without actually having to digest them. This stopped almost as quickly as it began and I settled back into an easy relationship with food.

Through therapy I have discovered that that last sentence is in fact a lie, whenever life has been difficult for me I have punished myself with food, at times I wanted to be invisible, I didn't share my thoughts and feelings with anyone around me as I was scared of being judged. I think I always knew I had a problem but instead of confronting it I kept it a secret, one hidden away in the very depths of my being. In the months leading up to my wedding I was proud of myself for not being a bride on a diet, for being able to keep myself in recovery. Yet this all changed when we went to the Maldives on our honeymoon - I stopped eating meat out there and became obsessed with where the food was from, how it was prepared and whether or not it was 'safe' to eat, all normal fear I hear you say, but for me the fear opened a box that had been locked away and forgotten about. Slowly but surely I let the eating disorder  back into my life, at first I didn't notice her until one day I woke up to discover she had effectively taken over. 

I'm not prepared to go into the ins and out of my descent into relapsing - I think it would be too triggering both for myself and others, but I do know that this relapse has been the worst one yet. I have been clawing my way out of the hole for some time and although I am nowhere near being recovered I know that I will get there one day.

As an EDNOS sufferer I don't fit the 'typical' picture of someone with an eating disorder, yes I am slim but not to the point that people would look at me an know instantly there is a problem. This is the part I have really struggled with, can I really have an eating disorder without the anorexic label? Through research and lots of detailed talks with my therapist I have realised that eating disorders are more of a mental issue than I ever realised - the problem isn't with my body, its with my mind, the way it alters my belief system about food, the way is messes with my reflection in the mirror. Recovery is about addressing everything, not just the food issues.

Everyday I have to remind myself that the ED voice is a lie, she wants me to punish myself, she wants me to be invisible, but I won't let her. I know I am strong enough to fight, strong enough to recover and hopefully strong enough to be able to inspire others.

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