After feeling “stuck” for a while – I decided it was time to see a therapist. I had no desire to keep following my meal plan, and I needed to figure out why. I went to Hope’s Garden (the Eating Disorders Resource Centre in London, ON – if you’re in the area and struggling, it is a fantastic place to seek help), and got the name of a therapist. I emailed her and immediately booked an appointment – I was absolutely terrified. I had had some anxiety and depression issues in high school, and had refused to see a therapist then; I was convinced I could handle any problem I had on my own. Clearly, I had been “handling” it on my own for a while by that point and it wasn’t working anymore.
I went for my first appointment, incredibly nervous. The therapist had a nice home office setting, and she was comfortable and easy to talk to. It didn’t take very long before I was comfortable with her, and after a few appointments I was talking non-stop. She pointed out things about my personality traits that I had never considered before (such as my perfectionism, type A personality, easily prone to depression, ect.) and how they could have an effect on why I wasn’t eating or why I felt compelled to be skinny. We also discussed at length my emotionally abusive ex – how that loss of control could easily have led to my disorder. She was funny and easy to talk to – she put me right as ease. She led me to discover things about myself I hadn’t known before, as well as helped me to establish more control in my life and how to ask for what I need. I saw her for over a year – quite easily, the best decision I’ve ever made.
One of my therapist’s suggestions was to attempt group support meetings. This was a weird idea for me – I had been solitary in my disease for so long, I wasn’t quite sure how to be open about it with other people. Of course, it ended up being instrumental in my recovery. Talking to other people who know what you’re going through has endless benefits. The group was held at my university – I went almost every week. Basically, I spent a year living and breathing my eating disorder, putting most of my thoughts and energy into recovery.
Mentally, I was in a much better state, and physically, I was healthy. My weight was stable and I had a new outlook on life and my disorder. I felt I gained all I could from therapy and group. What I learned, however, was that the battle doesn’t end there.
It was about a year and a half ago that I stopped attending therapy, and honestly, I still don’t consider myself 100% recovered – I don’t know that I ever will. At my first appointment I was told that it takes on average 7 years for an anorexic to recover from the moment she decides she wants to recover. According to that logic, I’ve still got about 3 1/2 to go. There’s also the theory that it’s similar to the AA outlook on alcoholism – they will always consider themselves in recovery, even if it’s been 30 years since their last drink. I don’t know which is true, but I’m prepared to live with some of these negative thoughts and feelings for a long time.
Although I’ve been at a steady weight for about 2 years and it’s been ages since any sort of serious relapse, I’m not perfect. I can remember an incident just a little while ago where I had a complete breakdown over peanut butter cookies. I’ve always got a little bit of the disorder with me (in therapy, I referred to it as a ‘seed’ in the back of my mind) but I refuse to let that seed grow and take over my mind again. My self-esteem is better, my health is better, my outlook on life is better, and I’m in a fantastic place in my life. I no longer feel that I need my eating disorder for any sense of control or its promise of control.
I’m still getting used to the idea that I can eat whatever I want, whenever I want – I still tend to overdo it on desserts sometime, because I’m not used to the idea that I can have a piece of cake whenever I feel like a piece of cake – there’s no internal or external limit on what I can eat. I eat a relatively healthy diet, because I enjoy healthy eating and the energy it gives me, as opposed to forcing myself to do it so I can lose weight.
My experience was awful – anorexia is something that I would not wish upon my worst enemy. It takes you over, breaks you down and belittles you – makes you feel that you are worthless and never quite good enough. It robs you of health, happiness, relationships, self-love…everything important. In the end, being skinny does NOT make you happier. No matter how small you get, it’s never enough for the eating disorder – basically, it wants to tear you down until you have nothing left.
I consider myself very lucky – I got away from it before I did any permanent physical damage (as far as I know, anyways) and through recovery, I’m more in tune with myself and with my feelings than I ever thought possible. So many women (and men) spend their life battling this disease – and my heart goes out to them. If you fall into this category, I wish you all the best and sincerely hope you are able to get the better of this disease. If there’s anything you want to talk about, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
If this helped anyone realize they aren’t alone in their disorder, that’s awesome. It was pretty therapeutic for me to write too – I’ve never put it into this many words before.