I guess you could say this piece follows on from my last post. However, rather than focusing on my personal journey with anorexia, I wanted to talk about my body image now that I am in remission from anorexia; because it’s complex and something which I don’t see being discussed very often.
DISCLAIMER: I’m obviously no professional, I mean right now I’m sitting in bed in Cinderella pyjamas with an acne face mask on at 11PM at night on a weekday, so please don’t solely rely upon any content that I or those like me post upon social media. It can be highly beneficial as I know first hand, but please view it as complementary and don’t refrain from seeking professional support.
I’ve been in a very secure place with my eating disorder for about 5 months now, and before that, I was still in remission for a fair few months; however I experienced a greater urge to listen to disordered thoughts, and was unable to eat intuitively or understand the difference between intuition and listening to disorder thoughts.
So it’s safe to say that over this time period, I have seen my body image change in ways I wasn’t expecting, and at times this quite honestly frightened me.
In the last week of August last year, my parents and I travelled to Florida for a fortnight. We all had a purely amazing time overall, and I like to see this fortnight as a milestone in my recovery, as I could feel my sense of guilt or hesitation around food lift to allow for breathing space. It did come with its own challenges as I am a vegetarian with a severe dairy allergy…in Florida. Ouch! I didn’t exactly have much choice or any in some cases – which meant that eating out was a rarity on our trip.
Needless to say, the grocery stores were our restaurants for a fortnight; although it was Autumn/Fall season and the shelves were stocked with produce I’ve never seen before – but rather than see this as a problem, I saw it as an opportunity to further my recovery journey, enhance my holiday, and be adventurous with my food options.
It was a bold choice for me to have made, but I am so happy I did so. I didn’t wish for my vacation to be consumed by anything other than joy and memory making.
Although as I’ve discussed in a previous post about travelling with anxiety, I still experienced difficulties throughout the trip as everyone in recovery does, it isn’t linear and it’s okay to feel that way as long as you don’t take it as a failure. These anxieties did irritate E.D. thoughts as in the past I have used restriction and binging as a way to feel a sense of control which I felt I didn’t have over my mental state at the time. It was a coping mechanism which was conditioned over years, so it’s completely understandable for E.D. thoughts to trigger when my anxiety peaks.
Even though I didn’t act upon E.D. thoughts during my holiday, I still experienced body dysmorphia thoughts and insecurities about my personal appearance; which I.M.O. is probably linked with anxieties and E.D. thoughts to form a complex disorder triangle with me in the middle trying to remain in the present and ignore all the negative bollocks.
I felt anxiety around gaining weight, I felt anxiety around a flare up with my acne which never went away (hence the face mask at 11PM). Yet thankfully I was able to tackle it head on despite the invasive nature of it all; because here I am now reflecting upon it as a milestone I have since passed.
Later I would come to the realisation that recovery doesn’t involve constantly maintaining a linear and improving self-image and mental state. This simply isn’t a realistic view of recovery. There’ll be times when you’re made to second guess yourself, or when you’ll feel insecure about your appearance or abilities. Yet this is just a fact of life, and the sooner you realise this – the better. There are many factors which can affect your mental fragility – yes some can be handled, however, some are out of our control; and this is sometimes for the better. We can never live life without being affected or influenced – and we will always have self-doubts crop up every now and then. The key is to be self-assured that you will be able to overcome whatever you’re struggling with at this current point in time. Another key point is this:
Rather than focus on why you’re feeling this way, how you could have prevented it from happening, and distancing yourself from the world around you to avoid coming into contact with potential triggers, focus on developing your ability to handle these situations when they arise.
Even with all of the skills, techniques, and the new and improved mindset/outlook which I have adopted, I still experience these wobbles; however, sometimes they aren’t as simple as self-doubts or insecurities.
My perception of my body can change depending upon whether I feel highly anxious, or I am having insecurities in other areas of my life.
However, now that I know I have it within myself to maintain recovery; and not the unrealistic view of recovery which I once had – but knowing that I can overcome any hurdle that arises – without letting it deter or stop me from continuing along my recovery journey.
The same applies to you. Recovery from an eating disorder is complex, it isn’t as simple as recovering from a broken arm – but that doesn’t mean that we won’t recover full function or strength. Because of no matter how you’re feeling you still possess the same amount of inner strength; you’re just more aware of it some days more than others.
You still have the same potential within you to make a successful recovery and gain the aspects of your life and identity back which anorexia has deprived you of. You just don’t feel so sure of it sometimes.
But please remember that a bad day is only that – just one bad day. It will pass, the clouds will disperse and you shall see the sunshine again. However, the best thing you can do to enable this to happen is to be okay with facing difficulties; see them as obstacles and not barriers. Because no matter how difficult it may be along the way, your mind and body are completely capable; so all you need to do is believe in yourself, seek help, and continue to strive.
Finally, if you are struggling and wish to contact a mental health organisation and you live within the UK, please check out some of the links below. If you live outside of the UK or the ROI, you can still search for organisations based within your place of residence.
Stay strong my lovelies,