How do I beat my eating disorder?
The demon that talks back...
A question I get asked a lot is "when was the moment you beat your eating disorder?" "What was the pontoemol moment which made you recover?" "Can you truly ever beat Anorexia Nervosa?" and "Does that voice ever go completely?" How do I answer that? Yes recovery is possible as I am walking proof, funny enough the moment that made me change was when I turned 18 and started going out on nights out and getting a job. The voice does go but it is always in the back of my brain like in the deepest part of it and locked away by a key. "Could that voice come back?" Yes, triggers can happen, I feel I am strong enough to never give in or listen to comments to then act on them but I can't say 100% that voice would never return.
When I talk of this demon and the voice that talks back I know its my voice however it feels like a completely different part of me. That is the first step to aid recovery, understanding that the Anorexia is separate to you, Anorexia isn't Emma and Emma wasn't anorexia. Gosh, how would I describe that voice? Bloody loud, it would scream at me, say awful things to me, punish me for trying to fight back and praise me for doing as I was told. My demon was called TW (as I was 12 and the actual name was an extremely rude word for my age haha). One thing I get all my clients to do is draw what their anorexia looks like. Mine was a big black hole that engulfed every little bit of my happiness and was out to make my life miserable. However TW was my safety blanket and I listened to that over all my loved ones who wanted me to help me. I was scared, TW was like those bullies, I felt so weak and I felt I was in the bottom of this black hole with no way out.
So if TW was my safety blanket, a bully, I feared him and it was slowly killing me how did I beat that demon and beat my eating disorder? Will it ever go away? Will I ever be free of that voice? Will I be like the consultant say I am "a revolving door" and that I will " never have a healthy relationship with food or exercise again"?
It took me 10 years of hospitalisations, endless fear from my parents thinking they were going to loose their daughter and missing nearly 2 years of school but I finally did beat my eating disorder. I hear you asking " how did you do that?" Well let me tell you it took a lot of hard work, tears, meltdowns and a group of people to this day who I say saved my life.
First was my parents, they knew something was wrong and they didn't believe the doctors when they said "she is being a teenager, being rebellious" the hours my mum lost spending sat at that doctors surgery refusing to leave and that is where I finally got my first hospitalisation at the Phoenix Centre where I started to build up my 'toolkit'. My parents knew when they were speaking to 'TW' and when they were speaking to 'Emma'. I turned into an animal, hitting my parents, throwing things at them, calling them all the names under the sun, They didn't give in and that is what I believe was may first step in beating my eating disorder. You need a good support network and system, you need to eliminate the negative and keep all the support who will stay with you through the 'good times and bad'
Second was medication, I know there is a lot of people that will disagree with me on this. Medication made my brain calm down. When I started that anxiety medication I said to my mum " it feels like a light has finally turned on". Literally my jumbled up brain started to clear and I felt confident to say no to the voice. Don't get me wrong it fought back and it was scary however with my support system I worked through these fears and started to concur and build more tools for that toolkit (Click here to see toolkit). There is nothing wrong about taking medication, it works for some people and not for others. There is still this huge taboo behind medication and I personally thinks if it helps you, take it, I am still on medication as I have tried coming off of them and I just start to get paranoid, emotional and in constant tears, I would rather be on my meds and be on the straight and narrow rather than being on a rollercoaster of emotions.
Next I was lucky to have found an amazing therapist who knew me inside out. His name was Joast and I am convinced he was my guardian angel. He knew when to push me, when to let me talk or when we needed to go for a walk as things got too much. I have lost count on the amount of therapists that tried to work with me, talk about that bloody garden path that I had to imagine, close my eyes and describe what I was doing. My answer was always " well I have gone back through the gate and locked myself back in the house" I would then open my eyes and walk out the room. Most therapists I didn't click with me as they didn't know what worked for me and who I was as an individual. Joast worked with me for over 3 years and I honestly think he was the turning point for me, I met him in a hospital admission and he kept me out of hospital as I never got hospitalised again after meeting him. Joast if you ever read this, thank you, thank you for treating me as an individual and helping me out when no one else could crack my wall that I put up to not get hurt again.
Lastly was getting into a routine, getting a job and going out like a "normal 18 year old" should. Getting a job mean't I couldn't think of food all day as I had other priorities. I had responsibility and I needed to concentrate as I wanted to do well in my job and as I was a peoples pleaser I never wanted to let my boss down.
Going out was a big game changer. I always thought "skinny is best, guys love really skinny girls", well I was wrong. Guys on nights out wouldn't look at me, they used to say they were scared to touch me as I was frail. This brought back memories of school, where I was the outsider and now I am in that same situation which I didn't want to feel again. So I started living my life, increasing my food intake through choice not through someone forcing me too. I started to succeed in work, men were interested in me and I honestly started to be happy and living life to the full. I went away from that meal plan, ate out, ate normally and got on with life.
Right so let's ask the question again, "How do I beat my eating disorder?" You need a good support system, discuss and try medication it does work for a lot of people. find that therapist that knows you inside out and finally responsibility. Get a job or start a course that you need to concentrate on so then you can't have your day filled with food thoughts only. "Does it go away for good?" No, it's always there in the back of your mind however the difference is you don't act on it. Don't be embarrassed to talk about what you have been through, all my fiends, fiancé and his family know about what I have been through as they know when I am having a bad day. They know what helps and doesn't help, they know me inside out like my therapist did.
Remember your eating disorder isn't you, your two different people. your eating disorder doesn't depict your life, it didn't me as I say it has made me into the women I am today. I have attached some of my eating disorder CBT worksheets that are free to download as this was part of my toolkit.
I am going to leave you with something to think about, Can you really ever be fully recovered from your eating disorder? Who is your eating disorder? Have you got your tools to help you aid recovery? Do you want to get better? Please do leave comments on your opinions and remember don't suffer alone, speak up, speak out and let's keep it real.