My Recovery Journey

Good morning, I hope you’re having a great day so far wherever you are. Today’s blog post is all about eating disorder recovery. I talk a lot about my own recovery journey on this blog, but I thought it would be nice to put together a list of all of the different resources and techniques that moved me forward in my recovery journey.

First off though, if you think you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, the best place to start is with your doctor. They can refer you to the help that will be best for you. Everything mentioned in this blog are just ideas that can be used to aid your recovery, as they did with me, and are by no means a replacement for professional treatment!

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A bit of background..
Before I begin, I would just like to give you a little background on my own experience. My disordered behaviours began near the end of 2013 and I was told I had bulimia in March 2014.

As soon as I had been to the doctor, I started trying to recover on my own. I was given contact details for various therapists in the area, but I guess I wasn’t ready at that time to sit down with someone and talk it all through. Part of me still wanted to cling to the safety of the eating disorder.

Fast forward a few years to summer 2017 and I relapsed. This time it wasn’t so much purging as it was binging and starving in a vicious cycle. This time I did get professional help from a therapist and it helped immensely.

The darkest moments of my eating disorder were in 2014, I was struggling more than I realised at the time, and it’s only now when I look back that I can see how ill I really was. I was deep down the rabbit hole and living with depression as well as the eating disorder. I wouldn’t wish the thoughts and feelings that I experienced on anybody.

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Early days…
Once I had been to the doctor, I decided there and then that I wanted to recover. I didn’t know at the time how much of a journey it would turn out to be. I naively thought I could just flick a switch in my head and return to the old me. Here are a few things I did straight away to begin the recovery process:

1) Deleted my membership to eating disorder forums
This doesn’t just include toxic websites that promote eating disorders, it also includes instagram hashtags and tumblr blogs that glorify starving bodies and gems such as ‘Nothing feels as good as skinny feels’ or ‘Waking up thinner is worth going to bed hungry’.

Deleting these accounts won’t stop these thoughts from going around in your head, but stopping yourself from seeing them all day every day is a step in the right direction.

2) I started doing yoga
I feel like this is such a stereotypical response, but it did actually help me back in 2014. I had never done anything mindful before, and yoga was my own time and space to check in with myself and see how my body was feeling. It gave me a new appreciation for what my body could do and how it could feel.

3) Guided meditations
I listen to these to this day, and it was one of the best decisions I made. Back in 2014 I would listen to meditations on YouTube every night when I was lying in bed. Again, it was a quiet moment just for me, where I could lay in the darkness feeling comfortable and safe and spend a few moments getting lost in the music and away from my own thoughts.

4) I started taking anti-depressants (by my doctor’s recommendation)
There’s nothing to be ashamed about when it comes to anti-depressants, and you don’t even need to tell anyone other than your doctor that you’re taking them. For me, anti-depressants slowed down my thoughts. Before, I felt like my mind was constantly racing with thoughts of weight, calories, numbers, measurements and sizes, but anti-depressants slowed it all down and gave me more quiet time.

5) I started an online diary
I wouldn’t recommend posting it online, I ended up deleting it because I was so open and honest and it ended up being a bit too raw. But I also kept written diaries that I still have to this day. It was helpful when I felt overwhelmed to be able to pour out my feelings and know that nobody was going to read them. I’ve read them again recently and it breaks me heart to see how miserable I really was, but it’s confirmation that I’ve come such a long way.

6) I changed up my music
There were certain songs on my ipod that seemed to induce disordered thoughts. I would listen to them and feel motivated to starve for the day, they were like tools I could use to keep me in a low mood and isolate me from the people around me. I deleted those songs and I haven’t listened to them since. I imagine that if I heard them now it would feel strange. I replaced them with happier songs but after a little while I stopped listening to music altogether for a while, so I could feel more in touch with what was going on around me.

7) I tried to focus on the little things
This sounds so cliché, but it was helpful for me. I’ve always been softly spoken and quiet, a watcher more than a doer, which generally means that I notice the little things that others don’t. I made an effort to really look at the world around me as I was going about my day and appreciate the beauty in things and people. Anything to show my depressed mind that life was beautiful.

8) I talked to people going through the same
I found positive recovery-based chat rooms and websites where I could talk to people who were going through the same problems. We would never discuss numbers or weights, just ideas on recovery and how we were all doing. Some days we would just talk about our lives and things that were going on to remind ourselves that we were more than our Eating Disorders.

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2015..
These small steps, when combined together, made some big changes for me. I spent the remainder of 2014 following these eight steps, although I did log on to eating disorder websites and delete my account numerous times before it was gone for good.

I was generally feeling better in myself, but I still wanted to be thinner. I believed that I could recover from the eating disorder, pull myself out of depression and then start a ‘healthy diet’ and lose the weight in a ‘healthy’ way. This continued until the summer of 2017 when that ‘diet’ became starvation and a slip back to depression.

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After the relapse…
Once I had admitted to myself that I needed help and had been to see my doctor, it was time to rethink everything I thought I knew about my eating disorder. This time, I knew I needed professional help. My self-recovery had served me well but it obviously wasn’t enough in the long-term, and I needed something more concrete for my recovery.

1) CBT
Cognitive behavioural therapy was one of the best things I ever did. Together we looked for the triggers of my eating disorder, which turned out to be a devastatingly low self-esteem and a lack of direction in life. I learned how to really listen to my body, to understand what I was really feeling and act on those emotions instead of turning to food or punishing my body through starvation.

2) Changing the way I saw fat.
For years, fat was the worst thing I could possibly be, far worse than being selfish, cold hearted or jealous. I slowly began to realise that in order to truly recover, I needed to change my views on weight. I looked to the people around me; I have family and friends who are overweight, and I see them as the strongest, happiest, most beautiful people in the world. I watched customers at work, I saw shapes of all sizes dressed in any number of styles, going about their live regardless of their weight. If I could see the beauty in others, why couldn’t I see it in myself?

3) Body Positivity
This was a huge learning curve for me. Once I was introduced to this community, I quickly learned that everything I thought I knew about weight was wrong. My entire belief system crumbled in front of me, taking most of my disordered behaviours and thoughts with it. I started learning about diet culture, the distorted messages we’re bombarded with every single day about how our bodies should look, and my mindset began to change.

4) Leaving social media
I should have done it a long time ago, when I first visited the doctor. Coming off of facebook, where everything feels so competitive was such a relief for me. I refuse to go on instagram, because to me that’s even more of a numbers game. Social media has many positives, but it can also feel like one giant popularity contest, and you never feel like you quite make the cut. I stick to my blog and a twitter full of inspirational and happy people.

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and now…
I’m still learning every day and I’m still not 100% where I would like to be in terms of recovery. There are still some thoughts that I just can’t seem to shake, and it’s becoming quite annoying, but I know that this is a marathon and not a sprint.

I hope that this post has helped you in some way, even if it has just shown you that recovery is possible, even if it takes a while!

Every person experiences eating disorders in a different way. Throughout my disorder, I was always either overweight or within a ‘healthy’ weight range. I don’t know what it is like to be underweight, I don’t know what it is like to be hospitalised or tube fed. So my experiences and recovery aids might not be relevant to you, but I really hope that you can get the help that you deserve and start moving forward!

Books that helped..
‘Body Positive Power’ by Megan Crabbe
‘Health at Every Size’ by Linda Bacon

-Holly

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