Anorexia recovery is confusing.
If you head over to Instagram and search any of the recovery hashtags, you’ll be inundated with pictures of beautiful smoothie bowls and slim women with six packs and pint parties. There will be people grinning over slices of cake and comparison photos and standing next to the welcome signs of their inpatient units.
Yes, it is true that sometimes this is what it can look like. Sometimes my recovery is hot chocolates with my friends and meals out with my boyfriend and unplanned chocolate bars. But that’s not consistent, and that’s not my reality.
Some days, recovery is torture. It’s being doubled over with nausea at having eaten more than your body has been able to handle. It’s crying buckets and buckets over a bowl of soup. It’s seeing the numbers increase and wanting to physically rip your own skin off.
Some days I look in the mirror and there’s a part of me that doesn’t hate myself. Very, very occasionally I even get a sense of pride. My new, bigger body is a physical manifestation of all my hard work. But mostly, I feel like an alien inhabiting someone else’s body. I feel confused by the space I take up, and by the layer of flesh that now covers my hips and my spine.
On a good day, or even an average day, I want recovery. But I want it to be over. I want to have my freedom back, to have reached the finish line. And some days I see it in the distance, and it feels almost attainable. On my bad days, I feel utterly bereft. I grieve the body I have lost, the numbness that starvation brings, the feeling of being the frailest, thinnest person in the room. Those days, the finish line feels like a mirage, and I struggle to believe it truly exists.
Recovery is messy, and oscillating between these two extremes is exhausting. I know my black and white thinking style is what leads to these dramatically opposing experiences and has significantly contributed to me developing anorexia in the first place. I’m working on that in therapy. But it doesn’t make it any easier. I feel like a pendulum swinging between two different versions of hell, never slowing down enough to settle on the freedom that sits in the middle. I wake up in the morning never knowing which version of myself I will be – do I want anorexia today, or do I want recovery? Will I hate my body, or will I be able to tolerate it? Can I experience any moments of happiness, or is this destined to be a day fuelled by unrelenting anxiety, a chronic underlying sense of panic and a hatred of myself that I can’t shake?
Overall, my recovery is going well. But I don’t want to paint a false picture of it, as social media is so very good at doing. I am in a place today that I couldn’t even have dreamt of six months ago, when there was a part of me that had genuinely resigned myself to the fact that I was probably going to die from it at some point. I have more freedom around food than I’ve had for around four years, something I never thought I’d gain back. But I have a long way to go, and I’m not sure I can make it the full distance. This is a marathon, not a sprint, and maybe I’m just not cut out for marathons. Maybe a 10k is all I can manage.
The support I have had from people has been unwavering and has kept me going on the dark days. My policy on this blog is always to be honest, and sometimes with that can be a feeling that I’m letting people down, people who look up to me for recovery inspiration and will me to get better. But I don’t want you all to look at my good days and wonder why your journey doesn’t look the same. Why you are having messy, horrible, painful days and I’m not.
I am having them too, and my recovery is just as up and down, just as chaotic, just as messy. Some days I want to be better, some days I want anorexia. Some days I sit in the middle, ambivalent, dragging myself through on autopilot while I wish the hours away until I can go to sleep and switch my brain off.
We all recover in our own ways, and although the journey is important, it’s the end result that truly matters. However you get there, at whatever pace, in whatever time, it’s the getting there.
And I really, really hope that I will.