I do not know where to start. A topic I unfortunately know so much about after thirteen years of living with this monster, and yet here I am, I find myself wasting time, staring into the oblivion that is this blank sheet of paper, getting more and more frustrated with myself.Actually, not knowing where to start has helped me to start. A paradox, just like Anorexia is a paradox. The first paragraph is a perfectly fitting metaphor for an Eating Disorder. It becomes a topic about which you know so much, too much, because you waste so much time on it as it takes over your whole life: body, mind and soul. It sends you spiralling into a blank, yet despairingly dark, obscure oblivion, and renders you half-dead but just alive enough to be frustrated, not knowing where to start in recovery.
I was in two minds whether to write this, because in all honesty, EDAW is not something I wholeheartedly find beneficial, as it seems to have become an opportunity for some to brandish how horrifically emaciated and deathly skeletal they were or are, as if it is some sort of glorious achievement, (and extra bonus points if you got tube-fed), as Anorexia is prone to make us believe. Then there are the flawless ‘after’ photos, full of radiant smiles, making recovery and life seem falsely idyllic and perfect, rendering the non-recovered of us feeling worthless for not having yet achieved this seemingly unobtainable and illusive thing called recovery.
At my ‘worst’, there are no photos of me, because I was too ill to even consider picking up my phone let alone taking a photograph. I use inverted commas because there is no such thing as best or worst in terms of an Eating Disorder. The torment is tormentous regardless of weight, and even more so because it is invisible. I am a million times ‘better’ than I once was, but I am still so far from recovered to not even be able to see life without anorexia on the horizon.
We live in a society that very much has a disordered relationship with food and image. People may look at an ED (Eating Disorder) sufferer, and think or even say, you look ‘well’, which is without doubt one of the most dangerous things you can say to someone with an ED. Eating Disorders are dangerous, because the sufferer more often than not looks ‘well’ and lives a ridiculously full life, laced with seemingly unattainable achievements. More often than not this is a façade. Eating disorders are laughably easy to hide and just as easy to maintain. Have you ever noticed that someone is wearing heavier-than-usual make-up? Have you ever stopped to wonder why someone has such a busy life, too busy to eat perhaps? The chances are no, because we live in a society where now even men can wear guy-liner and being a busy high-achiever is admired. These examples are just the tip of the iceberg.
The Eating Disorder does not want you to recover, because then it will have no power, no existence, but the more the ED exists, the less you exist. This is difficult to admit, because everyone thinks I am ‘better’, however, the truth is, I am terrified, terrified of the power it still has over me and how little power I have over it. Terrified that I am blinded, in the sense I have no idea of the difference between reality and disordered reality. Terrified that this is the rest of my life. Terrified of losing things I have fought so hard to overcome. Yes, it is worse than any hell you can possibly describe, but I refuse to give up the fight and I need to acknowledge that determination as a positive. Having an Eating Disorder is a long fight consisting of tens of daily battles. Once you have won one, there is no rest, the next battle is waiting for you, ready or not. That is all you can do, keep on fighting, keep on showing up for the relentless battles, proving to yourself, time after time, that you are strong, and with each win, you gain confidence and strength.
I am not in a position to offer other advice, as that would be hypocritical of me. I am in able to say this: keep going, day-in-day-out, no matter what struggle you face, face it with a positive mind because you are stronger than you believe and more tenacious than you know, and for this, you are loved.
(* Alice is a pseudonym for the writer of this post who wished to remain anonymous)