• eliabethharwood

One Year On: Eating Disorder Recovery

Updated: Mar 31


01.11 marks a year since I left my job and hit refresh on my life and 02.12 is the date I began in patient treatment for an eating disorder.


I yearned for invigorating life, a deeper life. A full life. I had a too-safe, too-comfortable life. In every way I malnourished, mistreated, discarded and left myself behind.


I would describe the person I was as highly functioning, over productive and using every possible thing to numb and avoid the deeper feelings I felt. I chose a job because of the structure, steady salary, etc. which meant neglecting my dreams and my creativity. I caused no fuss about my vulnerabilities, for fear of being a burden. I was too scared to express my deep desires, to have needs and I folded myself into shapes which were not mine. I was origami. And not any original kind.

Statistics

According to research by NHS and BEAT, approximately:


  • 1.25million people suffer from eating disorders

  • 25% of sufferers are male

  • up to 6.4% of adults showed symptoms of eating disorders

  • Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric illness.

  • Many people are in a healthy BMI range and some are considered overweight.






Cause

There is a common misconception that Eating Disorders are only about preoccupations around food and weight, however they are complex conditions that can arise from a variety of potential causes.


My personal experience of having an eating disorder is that of a self-perpetuating cycle of physical and emotional destruction through an inability of regulating and managing overwhelming and/or difficult feelings.


I was left constantly feeling that whatever I did was 'not enough’ and that I could not fully accept the person I am. By controlling my food intake, I felt more in control of my body, and my emotions (which were numbed). This behaviour and the symptoms of having an eating disorder caused damage to my physical and emotional health, and also my self-esteem (which I wrongly believed it would help). Below I have listed my personal experiences and feelings which contributed to my experience of having an eating disorder.


Self Worth

I had always felt I was required to prove my worth, prove character, be more visually pleasing and therefore financially valuable. I felt pressure to prove that I was not just simply standing around taking up space and enjoying myself, but that I have redeemable value.


This underlying belief made me constantly strive for more, and so the bar was continually set higher and higher. No matter what I did, it was and I was never substantial. It led me to the belief that I constantly and to prove that I had value and therefore should be allowed to live. It disabled me from feeling intimacy, joy, happiness as I felt unworthy, I constantly had to “do”, achieve and prove myself.


Happiness was conditional and I could never just “be” me.


Longing

This time last year, I was living just for the next month, until winter is over. Until “xyz” so I could feel alive again. I waited for a mystically assigned date where I was free do and be myself. The longing was not a temporary discomfort, it was a dying for a new life where I was left constantly panting for something else.


My longing for a true life was a very small flame which thrived under the imperfect, arduous or in humane conditions which eating disorders create. To recover, and to address these feelings, I have come to realise that there is no nice and tidy time. You (not quite) simply start.


Control

I was constantly working harder to prove that I was an acceptable and good person. I was not used to others taking the oars, or to relinquish control. I did not allow myself to have needs of my own as I felt unworthy of them and belonging. I felt constant pressure to prove my worth and I believed that by letting others take control would mean that I would have no value. I would be seen for who I am, and be rejected.


The funny thing about control is that when life is too controlled, there becomes less life to control.


Body and Self Acceptance

I constantly strived to develop an impeccable persona, shape and size and was all crippled up with trying to maintain it. I was crippled for so long (even in a healthy BMI range) but “look how nice she looks”, “look at her doing xyz”, “look how good she is”, “look how well she is doing”.


Acceptance is not based on these parameters alone, acceptance is constant work where we are challenging the pressures inflicted by society and ourselves. We must challenge our own misconceptions in order to gain a dynamic sense of self acceptance. By taking back our body, not forsaking the joy of our own natural body and not overidentifying that happiness is bestowed on those of a certain configuration, size, shape, class, age, or race then we allow ourselves to go home. This pathway home automatically gives others that permission too.

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