“In a good place”
The kettle is on, the tea is being poured and places being set ready to welcome a conversation between me and some old ‘friends’ Ana and Ed – as it has been a while since we’ve had a catch and revisited old times and how things are going in the present within this space we share. Feel free to join me and hear what this conversation reveals…
Over the past few months, I have mainly focused on my chronic illnesses as it’s something providing a greater amount of content inspiration at the moment – thus my attention has been redirected for the most part. However, this doesn’t mean that I haven’t been working on maintaining eating disorder remission and affirming a positive body image and self-perception; I have – which gave me an idea. I wanted to create a blog post discussing the positive steps I have taken in my eating disorder and body dysmorphia recovery journey, and things I am still having flares of, or experiencing with in general.
My eating disorder recovery truly started in late 2016/early 2017, and I have made prominent improvements to my eating behaviour, self-esteem, and body image. So I wish to go through the most recent developments in my recovery journey.
When thinking about the relationship between my Ana and body dysmorphia, I see a clear negative correlation between Ana’s severity and my body image ie. the worse Ana is, the worse my dysmorphia will be in turn. However something you must understand about my Ana and that of many other warriors out there, is that when making a conscious effort to recover and subsequently improve eating behaviours (resulting in weight gain in many cases) is that when seeing ourselves in the mirror, we don’t immediately recognise that we’re getting healthier because gaining weight is a trigger for the exact unhealthy eating behaviours we are trying to fix; which is what makes recovery so difficult.
So when I found my eating behaviours were healthy in nature, and I was slowly gaining weight – it still triggered my body dysmorphia; which made me experience strong urges to relapse into unhealthy behaviours again. However, in that time I had received CBT and had been equipped with the necessary tools and healthier mental wellbeing to be able to manage these thoughts in ways which weren’t detrimental to my overall health.
Mindfulness was something I greatly underestimated up until last year and had ‘practised’ without effect, so I had given up on it. I shouldn’t have, and would highly urge anyone reading this (disorder or not) to accept mindfulness into your life as a tool to ground yourself in modern society, and to allow for a better quality of life. Mindfulness served as a tool to help divert my attention away from negative thoughts about my body image and focus on my surroundings to ground myself and be in the present, rather than descend into what had become an all-to-regular spiral of self-deprecation and anxiety about my body. Rather than engaging in the dysmorphia, I use my power to choose not to because I have the ability to do so – which comes with practice and hard work but if I can do it darling, so can you.
If you’ve read a few of my other posts here on the blog, you’ll most likely have heard me talking about self-care – which I feel can be twisted and morphed into somewhat of a cute and trendy thing for companies to promote for monetary gain which I have mixed feelings about honestly, and that’s a whole other blog post (which I’m sure y’all are purely ecstatic about…). However self-care is a practice which encourages you to focus on caring for yourself in every aspect of life, it can be boring and mundane sometimes but it’s so necessary. TRUST ME OH MY GOD. Dull activities like tidying your room, doing the laundry, washing the dishes, making nourishing meals to fit around your lifestyle, financial budgeting. Boring as hell but hey, you need a stable foundation on which to apply your other mechanisms to aid in sustaining and furthering recovery.
I’m shit at following a strict routine due to my physical health, however, I still try and have achievable goals for the day – whether that be getting washed, making my bed, reading a few chapters of a book, try and write as much as I can, take breaks, go to an appointment etc. Routine is vital as it helps us function within society but helps us prioritise what we need to do, what we would like to do, and what we don’t want to do – and again, this can aid in improving our ability to set healthy boundaries. Now due to my physical health declining, I have struggled with this, as I have found all I want to do is sleep and laze about, and I think it’s taken some time to ‘get back on my feet’ (lol) and slowly ease myself into consciously engaging with small achievements which I know I will be able to do. It gives me that sense of fulfilment which I find I need to maintain a healthier mental foundation.
When I think about the status of mine and Ana and Ed’s relationship, I would classify it as ‘undetermined’ because whilst in remission I still experience positive steps in the right direction, so rather than labelling it as such, I like to say I’m in a good place. A place I have improved by cleansing my environment of unnecessary remnants of disorder which will only serve as triggers and have no benefit to my journey simply by holding onto them. My recent step forward within the last few months regards my clothing which no longer fit me, as it was from a time in which I wasn’t as mentally well as I am now. I have to fully accept my body will change and that’s a good thing; it shows my progress. By holding onto these items I felt like I was opening the possibility that I was going to fit them again one day – and that I hoped I would fit them again.
Now, why did I do this? I honestly think we have a distorted view of our body and the mental anguish caused by disorder because it was a traumatic time in our lives. Did I think I looked good at this weight now because I know damn well that I didn’t feel it at the time, because whilst Ana was all for weight loss – it was never enough because there was an underlying reason why she came into my life as a coping mechanism.
You cannot control disorder whilst consciously feeding into it for a result rooted in disorder.
These items of clothing were donated, or are awaiting sale. No items were disposed of.
Appreciating your ‘flaws’ in others
Without context this subtitle is understandably problematic – however, in this case, I am not referring to behaviour yet the parts of your body you have difficulty accepting. For me my problem areas are my stomach and thighs – so what I have found helpful is appreciating the beauty of individuals who’s bodies are like my own or have thighs which touch and don’t have a flat stomach. This reinforces the fact that you don’t need said things to be beautiful (which I obviously knew beforehand but allows me to consciously practice appreciating diversity in turn to benefit my own self-image).
Again if you have read some of my other blog posts, you may know I’ve been through some traumatic times which made me feel like a shell of a human, slightly broken. But the light shone through the cracks and thankfully I had the resources to embrace that light and find myself again.
However, in doing so I knew I had to embark on some difficult journies to do so, and that involved accepting Ana and Ed and sending them on their merry way when I was prepared to do so. This will continue for a long time, how long I don’t know and quite frankly don’t care – because you cannot compare your journey to someone else’s so really, there’s no way to know or predict it. You never know what’s ahead and if you were to have told me at the beginning of 2018 what lay ahead in 2019, I wouldn’t have believed you. Honestly.
This last year has brought so much change, self-discovery, healing and understanding. So by writing this blog post I not only want it to be beneficial for myself to document this process but provide content for people like yourself to further understand the ideographic and complex nature of someone’s relationship with the likes of Ana and Ed. But also to see this and be given a sense of hope if they too are in a position I once was, or see a representation of their current state of recovery.
Below I have provided links to helpful resources discussed in this post, and organisations which can be of benefit for those with mental health disorders.
Mind UK 0300 123 3393
The Samaritans 116123
Beat – Leading eating disorder charity 08088010677
Thank you for taking the time out of your day to read this post, I hope you found it useful. If you enjoyed it please consider following the blog, liking this post, and sharing it with those whom you think would benefit.
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Sending love and hugs,