I don’t know where this post is going exactly but I’d quite like to babble on about the 2 R’s:
… recovery and RESPONSIBILITY.
A year ago, if someone had mentioned the words anorexia nervosa and responsibility in the same sentence, I would have scoffed at them…
Take responsibility for a mental illness that I did not CHOOSE to have? For an eating disorder that I do not WANT? If someone had said such a thing to me this time a year ago, I would’ve spiralled into a hysterical mess and, undoubtedly, would have aimed to convince the person making such an *outrageous* statement that they have no idea of the reality of anorexia, that they were making an unjustified, stupid claim (etc etc)… BUT
As I have progressed further in my treatment for anorexia nervosa, reflected on it and have actively tried to distance myself from it, I have found myself wondering, am I responsible for the torture in my head? For the torture I’ve put my family and friends through?? For letting this eating disorder control my life for the last 11 years?…
For years I felt like a prisoner to this relentless illness, a puppet to the voice in my mind that overrode my ability to make any rational decisions… and yet, despite feeling completely brainwashed and out of control, I know deep down that no one forced an eating disorder upon me… my damaging and disordered behaviours were exactly that – mine. Wait wait, let me explain some more…….
I didn’t choose anorexia…
No one individual or event is to blame for an eating disorder. When life presents its *INEVITABLE* challenges we all aim to seek relief… and, like with any stressful situation or event and the feelings that may surface from it, the coping mechanism we use depends on a copious amount of variables. Unfortunately, this relief is sometimes found with unhealthy coping mechanisms, behaviours that bring short-term relief but long-term grief.
The difficult and most worrying aspect of eating disorders, however, and numerous other mental health illnesses, is their power to obscure reality…. where the irrational becomes rational, danger becomes safe, self-harm becomes self-soothe… I don’t remember much about my descent into my eating disorder. I didn’t see it coming; I didn’t recognise it until it was upon me. Scratch that, I didn’t recognise it at all until a year ago.
I can now rationalise that I am not responsible for this illness – because it is just that – an illness, not a choice, a weakness or vanity.
… But I am responsible for retrieving my freedom.
Yes, I can accept that I did not choose my eating disorder but I’ve realised that this does not stop me from taking responsibility for it. I can’t offload the burden to something or someone else. Recovery is MY choice.
Unlike many physical illnesses, eating disorders cannot be extinguished through medication or through surgical intervention (oh how I wish, someone remove my ‘anorexic’ brain pls n thanku). Recovery only truly happens when the sufferer makes the conscious decision to let it. Deciding to recover means that I must wholeheartedly commit to this journey, and grieve the characteristics of my eating disorder that bring me comfort (because, believe it or not, anorexia is my safety blanket, my ‘safe’ haven).
The harsh reality is there is no quick fix to recovery, and nobody can be forced to recover… yes, physical intervention can be forced upon us, but symptom reduction (support with weight gain/following a meal plan) is not recovery. This responsibility belongs to US, to me.
The turning point in my recovery came when I found this balance in responsibility, accepting responsibility where it’s warranted and relinquishing it where it’s not… assuming too much responsibility causes self-blame, shame and total powerlessness, especially when I realised I couldn’t simply eradicate my eating disorder alone; however, assuming too little fooled me into believing I had no control over my thoughts or behaviours – which, actually, I do.
I have to learn to cultivate acceptance, compassion and empathy towards myself. I have to, with guidance, treatment and support, create a vision of how I want to live my life.
Of course, this is easier said than done, and I don’t want to trivialise the sheer exhaustion, stress and anxiety that recovery entails. Given the amount of years I have lived with anorexia, there wasn’t much of me left at the beginning of this recovery journey – physically or mentally – so I had to hand myself over to the treatment process: trust professional recommendations, work to develop healthier coping strategies, explore and identify MY values and desires, and take every step necessary to take me a little further away from anorexia – no matter how overwhelming, terrifying and impossible it seemed.
I had to step out of the disordered world that comes with anorexia. There was a time when I considered anorexia as my best friend. I wanted to be sick and ‘delicate’ so that I wasn’t battling with my mind 24/7. By giving in to anorexia, I didn’t have to wage a war with myself…
And now? Well, now, I’ve grown up. I realised that I had romanticised ‘ana’ in my own mind and that this was a lie. No one else (in the real world) is interested in wasting time with a girl who is bothered more about the number on the scale over her university degree or her future, or LIVING her life. My eating disorder isn’t a badge of honour and it is not my identity anymore.
Recovery is my responsibility. And more importantly, recovery is real. Recovery is possible.