I always say no one chooses an eating disorder, but a part of me definitely thinks it’s somehow ‘my fault’. I especially think it’s my fault for still being stuck with it at this stage. I know better, I should be able to do better. I am sure at least some people in my life think this too. I thought recovery would be relatively easy. That the reason it hadn’t happened so far is because I chose not to rather than couldn’t. Once I acknowledged to myself – and others – that actually, I’m not ok, I expected I’d just be able to drop the restriction, manage the guilt, the thoughts. I’ve discovered over the last few months that (even with great support from professionals, family and friends) it really doesn’t work like that. Recovery seems to be less about ‘letting go’ and more about wrestling your way out of something you’re so entangled in you have no real idea where you end and it begins.
Added to that, I despise myself for struggling with this and I anticipate judgement from others too. Especially because I do know some things about how to help other people. I try to balance this against the knowledge that I didn’t choose my brain, temperament, early experiences. I didn’t want this thing which for years has tormented me with guilt for eating, disgust towards my body, a general sense of not being ‘right’. I want the sense of control and ‘achievement’, but I don’t want the other stuff. I don’t want my life to be limited and I definitely don’t want the people I love to be affected.
Recovery is obviously emotionally demanding. But the niggling ‘I really should have known better’ heaps fuel on the fire. I know things intellectually, so I definitely should be able to sort myself out. I worry other people think this too and judge me for seeking help. I spent a long time trying to tackle this on my own. I found my way from a place when my weight was low enough to scare if not me then others, to a safer, if stuck place. I got myself far enough to continue my education, to work, to contribute, to function. I now wonder if I was unable, rather than unwilling, to make the changes I really wanted because my mind was still too confused by anorexia, layers of rules and guilt that made it difficult to see what the ‘right’ thing really was. It’s hard work protecting an eating disorder and holding everything else together too.
And asking for and accepting ‘help’, that’s tricky too. Because for many people, still-not-great-but-stable is huge progress. So why do I think I need or deserve better than that? Why do I think full recovery (full weight restoration) is ‘allowed’ for me, or even realistic? I also didn’t realise how much my eating disorder was protecting or holding out of my awareness. Now I’m more in touch with some of that ‘stuff’, and it makes me more anxious. So far, recovery (‘allowing’ myself more, weight gain) has made some things feel much more complicated rather than less so. Some of this is ‘just’ the process of recovery but some of it definitely isn’t. Maybe I’m still trying to control things but I’m not sure how not to or what would happen if I didn’t.
I really, really want to make this work. I have to get it right. I’m aware that this terror of getting recovery ‘wrong’ or not doing all I can to make the most of the help I have reflects the same pattern and in some ways doesn’t help. I have to keep reminding myself that when I approached my GP and asked for a referral, I made a clear decision to give recovery a real chance, and that means accepting the need for weight gain, and finding a way to deal with it. That also means sitting with the messiness of feelings and ‘life’. I also have to find a way to stop the self recrimination and channel my energy into fighting my eating disorder, instead of still half agreeing with it.