A letter to you...
I listened to your most recent podcast and had a really strong emotional reaction to it. I felt angry at your eating disorder, I felt a lot of compassion towards you and I recognised a lot of myself in what you were saying. I wrote something and thought I would share it.
At first, I thought I would send you a message saying that I had listened to your podcast and had so much admiration for your honesty ,that I was sad to hear you were struggling so much and I was here for you. However, on reflection this isn’t honestly what I wanted to say. As you approached your podcast with such honesty, I wanted to offer the same sort of back to you. I wanted to offer you an alternative perspective when you ask yourself if it’s really worth it? And when you question if you really are missing out on anything apart from the food.
I remember the process of weight gain like it was yesterday. I remember the agony seeing the scale go up. I remember the physical pain from feeding my body. Surely, things were meant to feel better rather than the worse. I remember reaching my goal weight. What now? Was I meant to be recovered? I remember exceeding my goal weight. No I thought. I had allowed myself to reach a certain weight but after that I couldn’t imagine it going up anymore. I thought I didn’t know how to do life in a bigger body, without the guise of my eating disorder.
The process of letting go was so hard. The process of letting go this confidant, my best friend, the thing I was convinced I needed, was terrifying. I questioned over and over again why I was doing it. It was total blind faith at the beginning. I didn’t believe it would get better for me, I thought I would be the exception. I felt directionless. It was never about going back to the old me. I couldn’t remember the freedom old me had. I had spent so many years in the depth of my eating disorder I couldn’t remember another way. I couldn’t imagine myself without an eating disorder either. All I knew was that I wanted more for the younger version of me. I wanted more for the 11-year-old me. This wasn’t the life she deserved. I also remember looking at people who had got well and I wanted their life. I wanted the freedom they had. I wanted their peace. I held onto that, it was all I could.
It took a while for things to get better. However, tiny little glimpses of the life I was desiring, seeped in and I held onto these like they were gold dust. These moments got bigger and bigger, and they were the fuel that kept me going.
Was that pain worth it? Was letting go of my eating disorder worth it? Was my life any different?
YES. Yes. A million times yes.
From the minute I wake to the minute I fall asleep my life could not be more different.
I wake up in the morning and my first thought is not food or my body or what I ate yesterday or what I am going to eat today. I don’t spend the first moments of my day agonising over the way my body has changed, contorting my body into all sorts of shapes allowing that to dictate what I can eat for the day.
I look through my wardrobes at clothes that fit my womanly body. Clothes I love and feel confident in. Clothes in all sorts of sizes. I have a rather neutral relationship to my body. I’m grateful for all that it does and the fact it is my mine, but it has very little power over me.
I wash my face and clean my teeth. I haven’t had to work out if there are calories in my toothpaste. I can undress and shower, without feeling immense hatred for my body. I can turn the shower to cold because I’m in my cold shower era and I love the endorphins I get from cold water. I know I can warm myself up and am not going to spend the rest of my morning freezing. I can go downstairs and make a milky tea because I fancied it that morning. I can eat breakfast first thing because I was really hungry when I woke up. I don’t need to wait until 8 am because ‘that is the time I eat breakfast’.
The day goes on. I’m not numb to the world. Some days I do feel anxious and sad, other days I feel ecstatic and full of joy. I take the lows and the highs together. I experience the beauty of life by being able to feel it all. I have tools that I know help me handle my feelings and playing around with my food and exercise doesn’t have to be one. Life isn’t easy and being in recovery hasn’t suddenly taken my problems away, but I am a lot less frightened by it all. I know I am resilient and will be able to handle what is thrown at me.
I have messages from friends asking me for advice and I can give it to them without pouring from an empty cup. They know they can rely on me as I can rely on them. I can give really good hugs. Hugs that don’t leave my mum in tears because all she can feel is the shell of my body.
I can allow myself to sit on the tube on my commute and devour my book.
I can say yes to spontaneous plans. I can go on holidays and share precious moments with others over an ice cream or a local delicacy.
I can exercise because I love it and it makes me feel epic. I feel strong and fit and I am so proud of what my body can do.
I can cook for my family and I don’t need to scrape on the oil or butter. I can serve them a meal without having to pile up their plates and leave myself with a minuscule portion. I can show up for dinner without needing to know what is being cooked in advance. I can say yes to the birthday cake and the Christmas cake. I can pop into the shops, and I don’t need to pace up and down the aisle admiring all the food on the shelf. I can eat the cookies my little brother’s made, and eat a slice of mums sourdough mid afternoon because it’s just come out the oven and it tastes amazing.
I can go to bed and feel a sense of peace and content. I don’t need to tot up all the food I ate or the exercise I did that day. I can lie comfortably in bed at night and rest my head on the pillow knowing I did 11-year-old me proud.
18-year-old me would have laughed in my face if I had just told her this. There was no way this was possible for me. There is no way that this could be my life. All I can tell you is that it does get easier. It takes time but it does. I would have given up long ago if it didn't. My eating disorder fed me a constant web of life. It has taken me some time, but I can clearly see the light. I had to constantly remind myself the words from the book ‘We are going on a bear hunt’- we can’t go over it, we can’t go under it, we have to go through it. I tried all sorts of ways to avoid going through it. To avoid facing it head on. It is the only way I have found that works. Total surrender and letting go. Total faith. So much fear. But so so much joy!
Sending buckets of love,