• eliabethharwood

Eating Disorder Recovery: Full Discharge

The very secret life of an eating disorder entrances you into a sense of safety, security and control. While maintaining a successful and calm facade, you cut off your own needs, desires and instinct, trading it for the impossible image of perfection, or simply, to repress a wound. You battle physical and emotional disassociation, guilt, unworthiness or confusion- which fuel and compel destructive behaviours. These urges numb the overwhelming psychological pain, which only worsens the deeper the eating disorder entangles you.

Perhaps this is a defence of some events in childhood, or later in life which resulted in a way of dealing with the world. For me, an accumulation of experiences contributed to the eating disorder which repressed my state of consciousness by repeating a pattern of “safety” behaviours - spiralling me into a state of rapid decline until pursuing medical help.

Entering treatment, I danced away from the comforts of ordinary life. The journey of facing the eating disorder and entering an in-patient programme sacrificed the old way of defining my life. It was threatening, however it welcomed the opportunity to offer up, surrender and abandon my discursive mind.

But did I?

For those of you who have followed my journey, you will know that I intend to use this platform to express the realities of mental health, of living in the 21st century and of navigating the waves of change which life can and does bring. Having been discharged, I am not going to write the very politically correct answer, as it is inauthentic. I know that “the real work” starts now, I know it is when I use the tools I’ve been given by an incredibly generous team. I know that this is where I put to work all that I’ve been taught.

However for me, there was never a full sense of autonomy and authority over my admission, which is why I never fully surrendered to the process. The freedom of leaving treatment and of having full autonomy over my life bring the risks that I will flirt with old routines and habits. So, in writing this I feel really very scared. I feel raw, vulnerable. And a little (lot a) bit of a failure too.

I didn’t do treatment perfectly, I am struggling to put on the last few kilos which make a huge difference to my physical and mental health. This stagnation of weight restoration impacts the cells, the biochemistry and functionality of my body. It affects my hormone levels, which has negative repercussions on bone density, heart health, thyroid function and fertility. These are only a few physical impacts of living at a lower weight than your body needs.

Mentally it affects mood function, emotional regulation and brain health. As someone who is returning to university, the best foundation I can give myself is by continuing to restore my body to its own optimal health.

And the truth is, I don’t know if I can restore more weight. So what is stopping me?

  • Body Image: I don’t know if I can or will ever accept my body.

  • Wounding: I associate being at a larger weight to negative experiences.

  • Self-Worth: I don’t always know how to feel worthy without an outside source determining that.

  • Weight Restoration: I find a great deal of physical and emotional discomfort in being full up.

But, in any situation we must remember that both our best self and our growth are at the edges.

Integrating my drive to do this fully for myself, feels unsafe, overwhelming, and threatens the safety net which helped repress multiple wounds and fuel an abundance of limiting beliefs.

The journey of full recovery brings an inner sense of duality and alienation. It feels scarily out of control becoming a weight I haven’t been home too or living in for so long. However, living in the comfort zone of this physical weight is also incredibly painful. When integrating the work required I know I will battle the emotional explosions the condition brings. It will be a journey into a war zone shedding light on repressed wounds, limiting beliefs which for me have only been encouraged by the epidemic of diet culture and the ‘thin ideal’, which is plastered over the media and so deeply intertwined within our culture. It would be much easier to not challenge this safety net.

As I sit here in a stream of writing, I recognise that part of me does still experience disordered thought, but only part of me.

As I am beginning to respect the plurality in myself, I no longer see this aspect as the whole of me, offering up a pause to gain the distance required to observe it. For me, this recognition does justice to the fact that I do feel it, but allows space to not overwhelm me by suggesting that it is all that I am or feel. I know I will face an internal power struggle - some days flooded with a committee of indecision and a sea of doubt.

The ability to recognise and face one's own internal conflicts, to know we oscillate between the hundred of selves, not merely one stream of thought or belief gives opportunity to nurture, shed light and converse with every aspect of our true self in order to fully develop into our true essence.

I believe we are all constituted to many parts- complete psychological systems, impacted by daily occurrences, fluctuations, social and environmental conditioning which can impact our destiny. As we recognise that there are many egos, identities and many selves and opinions living within us. Light and dark. Disordered and healthy, we begin to acquaint ourselves with a piece of our own lost history. Each internal archetype or personality - the “perfect child”, the “social butterfly”, the “silent child” etc- allow us to become more accepting of the possession of these wounds. It gives opportunity to become more self empowered, to disentangle from limiting beliefs or aspects which do not serve us- we are thus able to become fully conscious and extend our own light. Our true essence.

As humans who are committed to becoming fully conscious, we’re asked to become aware of all aspects of the self. This demands looking at both the light and shadow self in a process of becoming- offering up our excuses and outworn defensive strategies for the sake of healing.

When we integrate this unique gift of merging and morphing both vulnerability into the complete openness of the heart, we begin to love darkness into the light, allowing it space to breathe and permeate then transmit our experience both inward and outward. It is a transformation, a victory, a gift.

Anyone willing to look at and heal their own wounding is giving a gift: as when they do it they can share the wisdom of their journey. Because you’ve done it- others can do it also.

So, the real question is will I do it? I hope so, and in doing so I hope to pave the path for many others too.

B x

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