After an unexpectedly heated response from someone on Instagram today, I felt the need to get my thoughts out. So, this is ranty. I’m not really sorry for that. I think this is a subject which merits frustration.

I simply do not understand why people who have recovered from a restrictive eating disorder need to post images of themselves at their very lowest weight on social media.  Or share them with journalists. For a start, doing this contravenes the Beat media guidelines. We can’t really get angry when the media refuse to follow these, and then make the same mistake ourselves.

Also, recovery from any eating disorder involves a fundamental shift away from the focus on food, weight and the body. If you still place a huge emphasis upon physical appearance as a means of evaluating your self worth, I question how free you really are. The lines between ‘fitspo’ and ‘thinspo’ are extremely blurred. I am NOT saying, don’t be healthy, don’t work to improve your fitness, don’t care about your body. But there has to be some movement away from over-emphasis, towards balance. Or maybe that’s just my personal definition of things. Recovery is different for everyone, I get that it isn’t black and white.

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I don’t know many other people with eating disorders in ‘real life’. But social media being what it is, I sometimes come across others, often in the early stages, usually, but not always in their late teens or early twenties, sometimes in that all too familiar cycle of partial recovery and relapse. I want to scream a warning, beg you not to let it drag on if you can possibly help it, not to make the mistakes I did. So from someone who has been stuck longer than I’d like, here are some thoughts.

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Opening up, reducing the amount of compartmentalising we do, it’s massive in eating disorder recovery.

My husband came to my therapy session this week. This is HUGE. A friend commented that the degree of anxiety it caused me is quite telling. What is so difficult about having my husband, who I share the entirety of my life with, sitting in the same room as my therapist and talking about my eating disorder. I don’t know. It is just not something I have EVER done. I have always tried to manage things myself. It’s my issue, after all.

For a long time I’ve had a habit of keeping things separate, without even really realising it. Especially, but not solely, when it comes to eating and weight. I recognise this is about protecting myself, but it is also about protecting others from things I feel they are either unable to, or shouldn’t have to, cope with. Sometimes, sharing seems unnecessary, not because I want to hold things back (though sometimes I do) but because it feels like the most responsible option. I have also worked very hard over the years to function and keep going, and I definitely do not see myself as a ‘patient’ or someone who is very ‘unwell’. I don’t want other people to view me as that – or certainly not as only that either. Continue reading

So recently I’ve been having a few of those days where I feel a bit rubbish, a failure, and intensely irritated with myself. I’m anxious and jittery, keeping busy to avoid my thoughts (because we all know that works really well!) I suspect if I didn’t have the training I have, I might see things differently. I know at least some of the answers. I know […]

It may sound ridiculous but I struggle hugely to prioritise meal times. It’s more difficult in the busyness of work, but even at weekends, I find that it can be 2pm and I haven’t thought about lunch. Is it an ‘eating disorder’ excuse? Maybe. I need to find a way to prioritise eating and to hold myself accountable when my plan doesn’t happen. Somehow the monitoring I am doing is not enough and I still find myself skipping bits, leaving bits or not giving myself enough to begin with. It’s so automatic I don’t always recognise I’m doing it at the time. People say my portion sizes are still too small but I don’t really agree with that. They are way bigger than before. But I’ve been living by different rules for a long time, and it’s a hard attitude to shift. I have to find a way of doing what I need to do, even when I’m in a frame of mind where I really don’t want to.  Continue reading

I’ve been writing here for a couple of years, and until recently it has been much more contemplation than doing much consistently ‘active’ in the way of recovery. I think my inactivity was fuelled by a few things. Mainly, genuinely thinking I didn’t have ‘enough’ of an eating disorder to justify asking for more help or making changes (‘not thin enough’, functional, being ‘fine’.). Continue reading

We hear a lot about how controlling weight and eating can be motivated by the desire to appease a general sense of not being good enough. If you have unrelentingly high standards, weight loss is measurable evidence that you’re doing ok somewhere. This is especially relevant in a society where women are socialised to value thinness as attractive. I know for me, controlling food became tangible proof that I could definitely achieve something, albeit in a very distorted way. These are the ‘usual’ issues we hear about. However there are other important themes. Things we don’t often hear about in the media, because they aren’t convenient and they don’t fit the (more palatable) narrative of the white, appearance focused, over achieving young woman. Contrary to the popular myth that anorexia is narcissistic, it is more often about a person being silenced, feeling unheard, or having a lack of control in areas of life that really matter. Turning to, or away from food can be a way to manage feelings of worthlessness, an attempt to ‘fix’ a constant, nagging sense of never quite measuring up.

Of course, dominant narratives around being female prime us early for a disordered relationship with food and our bodies. The message that thinness is synonymous with attractiveness and power sits heavily. But not everyone exposed to the ‘thin ideal’ develops a consuming eating disorder. Often, it is where difficult relationships or experiences outweigh our ability to cope, that weight loss all too easily comes to provide tangible, measurable evidence of achievement. ‘At least I’m doing ok somewhere’. People with the psychological and practical resources to manage difficult experiences and painful feelings usually don’t develop eating disorders. But for some, controlling food is the only available way to manage an overwhelming sense of confusion. It isn’t a choice, it is about survival.

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I have always ‘functioned’. And I really think for me, functioning has been a double edged sword. The drive to keep going is the thing that has allowed me to build a life, find someone I love, reach a certain level professionally, develop adult friendships, have (some degree of) understanding of my weak points. It has also allowed me to at times almost completely dismiss my difficulties with eating, definitely to trivialise them. I wonder whether I have been so good at doing this, it has allowed other people to get dragged into that too. Continue reading

I’ve recently begun to have some input from my local ED service after a long period of being ‘fine’. I have been ‘fine’ and ‘functioning’ for a very long time, at a low but stable, not ‘worryingly’ low weight, generally living life, getting married, having some lovely times with my husband, friends, switching from social work to a related but less stressful job where I have a bit more work-life balance. However I am forced to admit that to some degree, without me realising, my eating disorder clung on for the ride. It is only now, a little way into a course of (proper) CBT for eating disorders that I am beginning to see how tangled up I still am. The ‘how on earth did I not see this’ is the worst part, although I am still getting my head around that. Continue reading

In February, the Time to Change campaign are having a ‘Time to Talk’ day. It’s a day to ‘have a conversation about mental health’. But sometimes, it isn’t that easy, is it. I’ll challenge myths about psychosis, or argue for a less medicalised view of mental distress. Ask me about my own mental health, and it feels quite different. Continue reading