Fiona’s Anorexia Recovery Story
My Roller Coaster Ride for 8 Years
Treatment Programs, Hospitalizations, Therapy and Several Relapses
If someone had told me at the age of 16 that my life was going to take the course it has taken for the past 8 years….all because of a few decisions I made…..I wouldn’t have believed them.
In fact, I would have laughed.
Never in my wildest dream (or should I say nightmare) would I have predicted my life would have turned out the way it has.
Many people who are in recovery from an eating disorder go into great detail about when their eating disorder began, what type of problem they had, the therapy they attended, the behaviors they engaged in, why they believed it started and the weight, friends, family and years they lost or gained throughout their eating disorder.
I too, was tempted to do this. But I have told and re-told this story to other people, in my own head and to my diary too many times that I care to remember. To go into fine detail, would be to glorify my illness, to give it undeserved energy and time and possibly serve as a hindrance/trigger/guide/status bar for others going through similar issues. Instead, I would like to talk about the lessons I have learned from going through anorexia, what my experiences have taught me and how it has shaped me into the person I am today. I will, however, give a brief over view of my disorder [history].
I was a chubby teenager (yes, honestly, a chubby one, it wasn’t a false idea I had in my head. I actually was chubby). This was all ‘puppy fat’ that I would have lost, but try telling an unpopular fifteen year old this. Not a chance.
I had very low self-esteem, was bullied in primary school and not ‘one of those girls’ in secondary school. I had a popular older sister, captain of the hockey team, liked by all the guys and genuinely a nice person (which I hated out of deep jealousy). My Dad was a ‘pusher’- constantly wanting me and my sisters to achieve.
I had always been a keen dancer and I made a New Year’s resolution to lose some weight because I felt I needed to be slimmer to be a dancer. I started off eating healthy. It was around this same time in my life (15 years old) that my parents, who had been separated for 4 years, decided to divorce. We sold the family home, my Mom had a new boyfriend, my Dad a new girlfriend.
My eating behaviours slowly but surely got worse and my weight dropped. I loved the attention, but quite quickly the type of attention changed from ”you’ve lost some weight!” to “are you ok?”. Within 6 months, my older sister and my Mum’s boyfriend had stopped talking to me, my Mum had sent me to live with my Dad (who I fought a lot with) and my Mum and I were more like acquaintances rather than mother and daughter. (I was 16!!!). But would I eat?…No! Would I eat less?…Yes!. And it continued.
No energy, no friends, no life, crying, dying.
2006: Fast forward one year and I am out of school, going to start college, health deteriorating, friends lost, families hopeless, me in cuckoo land. Enter first drop out of college and first hospital admission…the first of 6. I was 18 when I went into hospital for the first time. It was the most scary, but relieving and then inspiring, times of my life. I re-fed, got to know myself, I got my energy and my humour back, learned how to feed myself, and how to think about food in a more rational way, I met some of the most fantastic people in those four months.
2007: I left hospital, still 18, got a job, eating became hard. I went back to hospital again. This time round, same thing, ate, got my energy back, did some family therapy. I left after 4 months and started a new college course in Holistic Therapy. I lasted 6 months and then had to leave. Eating once again slipped. I was working full
time as a waitress and 3 months later, I was back in hospital.
2008: Only this time, it was different, I spent a lot of my admission on bed-rest or fighting with the nurses or being unwilling to push myself. I left the programme early, under my target weight and not fully strong physically or mentally, but with enough tools to see me through for a while.
September 2008: I started a new course in event management in a new college and I loved it!. I loved my class and my course. I really did. BUT once again, the eating disorder became rampant in my life, but I didn’t really do anything about it. I continued to go to college while my mental and physical health continued to deteriorate. I made it through the first year, with good friends and grades, but my health was a total disaster.
June 2009: INTERVENTION!!
By the end of my first year in college, I was knocking on death’s door. My parents and I started looking into different treatment centres, but they were all either too expensive or the waiting list was too long. We soon found a family therapist, and I can say without a shadow of a doubt, this woman changed my life. I went from one day of living off nothing, to having ensures, olive oil, hummus, carbonara, deep fried mushrooms, snacks – you name it! She took me on and cared for me and for my family. It was an amazing summer of rebuilding my health all by myself!
In September, I went back to college to do my second year of my four year course. Obviously, friends noticed the difference in me, which I didn’t mind too much. I maintained a normal enough lifestyle for the next 6 months. When the news of a possible summer away in California came about, this gave me incentive to push myself even more to be well and that I did!
June 2010: I did get to go to Cali, but the silly eating disorder messed it up. All the new foods, partying, late nights and lying on sofas took its toll and I had to come home 3 weeks early because my intake was dropping along with my mood.
(Ugh, I’m getting so fed up of writing this, so I’ll make it more straightforward)
September 2011: Went back to college, to do third year, still on tender hooks in recovery. I moved out in the city, I got a new job and I went to college. BUT, come Christmas, the amount I was doing hit me. I left college and worked full time.
January 2011: Back to hospital for a 6 month stay. I can’t say my parents were too happy. But I needed to do this.
August 2011: I leave hospital and then go back to college to re-start my third year that I had deferred the previous year. I loved being in college after being stuck inside a hospital for half of that year!
November 2011: Relapse started again
January 2012: Recovery started again
March 2012: In a 6 month internship with a Incentive travel firm
So that is a BRIEF timeline of my life for the last 8 years.
The last few years have included up’s and down’s, side lanes and crossroads. My recovery has been the hardest but most educational experience I have been through. I have cried enough to flood the ocean, fought more times with my parents than I care to remember and spent more nights alone when I should have been out partying with my friends.
I deeply regret pursuing my eating disorder. When did I start my recovery? A few years ago I would have said, it started the first time I went into hospital in 2006. But in this moment in time, I would say that I began my recovery the year I turned 21 (2008). It was this year that I committed myself to my recovery…fully and truly.
So, what have I learned? From the people I have met, the nurses I have come across, the other sufferers I have lived with (yes, I would say being in hospital for 6 months would constitute living with). Well, where do I start?
LOVE MYSELF: I had to learn to love myself, like myself at the least, and this required me getting to know myself. Who I am, what I like, what don’t I like.
MY opinions, MY views, MY interests – all of these.
And then? DO IT! It takes time and practice but it’s worth it. I figure, I have to live with myself for the rest of my life, so I might as well learn to enjoy my own company.
I AM HUMAN! And humans make mistakes…and that is ok! Success is falling down 7 times and standing up 8.
RECOVERY IS FOR ME: me and no one else. Not my parents, not my friends.
It took me a while to realize this and discover what ‘recovery for me’ really means. To me? It means-practicing taking care of myself in mind, body and soul. This means respecting myself enough to feed myself well, give my body enough rest, making sure I am asserting myself and my views, expressing myself, pursuing my passions and making sure I get the love and respect that I, as a human, deserve.
Making my recovery for me ties in with loving myself. When I began to like myself, I started to see that I am worth more than an eating disorder. I learned the hard way that recovering for friends and family was conditional, temper mental and dangerous. If you pursue recovery for YOU, your friends and family will consequently benefit, but at the end of the day, recover for yourself because its your life, your head, your body.
IT IS VERY VERY HARD TO RECOVER FROM AN EATING DISORDER: but it is worth it and it is possible. Just because it is hard, doesn’t mean that you should not do it or that it is not possible. Anything worth having, is sure enough worth fighting for. In my old treatment centre we had many many sayings that would help us push through barriers or eat an extra mouthful. One great saying was ‘If you are feeling awful, you’re probably doing something right!’
I think it is silly to think that recovery is always going to be amazing. If we are under this false illusion, it is highly likely that we will stumble hard when things get tough. Why would we think recovery would be easy and lovely? It’s not! It can be absolutely awful at times. But just because it’s awful and we don’t want to do it out of fear of the horrible feelings we may experience-does not mean we shouldn’t do it.
Think of school, work, and exams? Is it all lovely and rose-y? NO, its awful at times, but when we study and do the work, we feel a lot better after wards when we get the results we want. Recovery is the same, the process can be awful at time, but when we keep fighting, we start to get the results we want.
YOU CANT THINK YOURSELF FIXED: I spent so many years fixing my head, I could talk to the ends of the earth about HOW to recover. Doctors told me I could write the book on eating disorder recovery. But all the knowledge in the world means nothing if you don’t DO what’s necessary to recovery and connect with your feelings around these behaviours. What am I referring to when I say-DO EAT!?
You have to eat. I had to eat. We all have to eat.
Yes, eating disorders are not all about food. BUT, food has to be consumed to recover – FACT! You can’t recover from an eating disorder without a healthy weight and balanced normal intake being achieved and, yes, this requires effort. I hate eating, but I do it because I have to. If I don’t eat? I am a cranky horrible person. I lose my sense of humour along with my energy and concentration. I don’t enjoy life the way I do when I am ravenous.
The way I look at it is this: I would prefer to have a life where 22 hours are happy and 2 hours difficult (because of food) than to have a crappy life 24/7!!
Finally, the last few tips that have helped me in my recovery:
NEVER EVER LOSE HOPE
Recovery is tough, but god damn it, its worth it.
Loads of love,