A year into my first sustained attempt at recovery, I now realise that part of what made me keep putting off the recovery that I knew I wanted and needed to begin was the feeling that it had to be one continuous smooth journey. One day I had to wake up and make the decision to get well and I must never waver in my resolve or have even a moment of self-doubt in my ability to beat Ana.
Anorexia for me has been all about a feeling of failure. A feeling of failure in several areas of my life was part of what made me get ill, and judging myself harshly has always been a problem for me – something I think I have in common with many other anorexia sufferers.
Deciding that I would never again let the illness enter even a tiny part of my brain, and then finding that sometimes it still did meant that I was taking this success/failure mentality into my recovery. The self-critical voice of the anorexic used to scream at me that I’d failed yet again when I realised that something I was doing wasn’t working.
Some of the medics didn’t help either as they also spoke in terms of success and failure, with the phrase ‘not meeting the expectation’ being used on several occasions. ‘The expectation’ became a new, though never fully defined, yardstick by which to assess my recovery.
But just recently, I finally acknowledged that recovery isn’t about success or failure in an either/or sense. It also isn’t about anybody else’s judgment of my success. It’s only about my success in achieving the physical and mental health I need to get the full life I dream of. And even beginning recovery after ten years is a personal success in itself.
Nowadays, recovery for me is just about doing whatever I can to get well, and trying to enjoy each step on this journey as I start to feel both physically and mentally stronger. It’s about making the conscious choice every day not to relapse and not to simply maintain the status quo either.
So here are my five daily messages to myself daily. I hope they will help others who are going through something similar.
- Even if I’m doing better both physically and mentally, there’s still a long way to go, so I mustn’t give up now even though I’m no longer being monitored so closely. And I mustn’t use let Ana use this lack of monitoring to move back towards the front of my head.
- It’s important to trust my instincts about the people, comments, situations, and media content that will damage my recovery or be unhelpful. I can switch off or walk away and find something positive to do or think about. I feel stronger and more committed to my recovery every time I do this.
- I can hold on to and build on my dreams. I think it’s important to have a goal and it can be anything. I don’t judge myself for my goals or let anyone else judge me for them. They can be as ‘worthy’ or not as I like – I have both. My goals are to use my experiences to help others struggling with eating disorders and other mental health issues. But on a less ‘worthy’ note, I also want to be strong enough to learn the dances I love to watch on Strictly Come Dancing! 🙂
- As an adult anorexia sufferer, and someone who has been ill for the majority of my adult life, I mustn’t tell myself it’s too late to change the habits and thought patterns. I can turn my age to my advantage, using my life experience and honed instincts to help my recovery. I can be proud of recovering by drawing on my own strength.
- I’m not fully better until I can live the full life I want; until I have the energy, positivity, and the knowledge deep down that I am ready to do all the things I want to do, rather only some of them.
Recovery might not be smooth, but I can keep building my path in front of me and taking the next step.