A year on, and I'm still reluctant.
There is a term coined in Eating Disorder recovery called 'Quasi-Recovery', and I'm sure that it is not just solely limited to Eating Disorders and is similarly felt in recovery from other Mental Illnesses. Anxiety in Anorexia recovery often peaks at 90 -95 % of target weight, which in Australia is a set BMI of 20 prior to discharge from inpatient admission. However, you are expected to continue on to a point higher than that which is deemed a natural 'set point' from intuitive eating. 90 - 95% of weight restoration, leads to your cognition being restored, and as you approach this the suppressed emotions that you had spent avoiding, surge. The familiar emptiness and numbness of starvation are gone, and you are abruptly affronted with the underlying crap that is often too hard to deal with. Things don't get easier, they get bloody hard... prior to this point it had been autopilot, taking over the controls when there is still a highly punitive controlling inner-critic that can’t wait to nose dive is bloody hard.
You will never feel ready to recover. You just need to somehow let go, and trust the system. After my first inpatient admission I knew I wasn't ready to recover, but found these feelings remained constant and perpetuated. All I wanted to do was get back to work and retain control over some sort of normality. I was frustrated that my walking/running was taken away from me, and I almost rebelled out of spite. I realized this year that I would never feel ready to recover and if I waited, I may be waiting for the rest of my life. We only get one life and I don’t want to waste mine on my eating disorder. And those that I am still grieving for wouldn’t wish this kind of a life for me. If not for me, for them...
You are at the limit.
I'm eating regularly and normally?...
regardless of the feeling of fullness and overeating (perceived binging)
Can I exercise now? … I'm feeling super lazy
I'm technically a healthy weight?
so, do I really need to keep gaining?
I’ve never been more...
These are thoughts I have rushing around my head all day, every day, even more than a year later. All of them are technically true. I am no longer dying.
But am I living yet? No – not really.
In amongst those thoughts are all the familiar anorexic negotiations that rule my life: “you can only eat X if you don’t eat Y later”,
“you can eat a dirty snack as long as it has less than X calories”,
“if you walk for X amount of time, you are allowed to eat Y”
The constant chatter of a voice that I hate, yet to continue to feel oddly comforted by. Evidence shows that if I continue to push on to my weight target, these thoughts will reduce, and my chances of relapse will minimize significantly. I could live a long and healthy life fueling myself as I am now, but what’s the point of living a healthy life if it is still devoid of happiness?
Can I ever truly be happy if every bite I eat is a trade-off of if every step I take is still a punishment for the calories consumed?
Isn’t there more to life than a constant preoccupation with diminishing my weight, punishing my body and the control over the calories that enter and leave me?
You may function at a healthy weight, but I still deprive myself of true freedom. I am a walking contradiction. My values are misaligned with anorexia's intent and a constant struggle for power.
Quasi-recovery is anorexia masquerading as recovery. It’s false.
Recovery is too hard and too tumultuous to only go halfway. Why put all this effort in just to stop before the finish line and continue to be tortured by the same thoughts and feelings that led me to my eating disorder in the first place?
They say one step forwards, two steps back... but in Anorexia recovery the two steps back are enough for derailment. The idea of spending forever battling with it is tragic, and sometimes that silent battle, hidden under rigid but enough nutrition and a healthy weight, is even harder than the one where our struggles are visible, and we are noticeably underweight.
Voices of doctors and nurses resonate - "You seem to be managing your anorexia quite well" "you don't look underweight" "Anorexia - is that what you really have?" "Can you please give me some weight loss tips?" "I don't think your anorexic yet?" “You look really fit and healthy” “I wish I looked like you” …
I am still sick enough; you just can’t see it. Diet culture is toxic and blinds people to revere skinniness and shame anyone who has any amount of fat in the wrong places – and it's sickening.
These comments and beliefs perpetuate the illness and actually strengthen it for the final rapid tap out. At best if you are stuck in the state of quasi-recovery, you aren’t relapsing into your illness but you also aren’t experiencing the benefits of recovery either. If you give your eating disorder an inch, it will take a mile. You might exercise for 10 minutes today, but tomorrow it’ll be 20 minutes, and your eating disorder creeps in and can take hold. Nothing will ever be enough for your eating disorder. You have a high risk of mortality from it, by natural causes or by suicide. And that Anorexic voice will still be kicking your spirit and telling you "that you still aren't sick enough". Feeling as if you aren’t unwell or aren’t unwell enough is a common theme amongst eating disorder sufferers; this is part of the illness. The fact of the matter is - nothing will ever be enough. There is not so second chance with Eating disorders, there are all severe Mental Illnesses. You can die trying to appease their rules or accept that you never will and try to challenge them instead.
You need to be honest with the people around you. Lying, deceit and withholding information only fuels your eating disorder, you remain alone with your demon and the people around you don't know how to support you. People can't help you with the hard shit if you don't have the courage to ask for help with the hard shit. The people around you simply want you to get better; they are not your enemy even though your Eating Disorder screams that they are out to get you. Let go, and let it all show... there is no prize for being secretive anymore, other than your own demise. They love you and trying to give you love and care in the only way that they know. Your eating disorder does not love you; its sole aim is self-destruction. It will take you to oblivion and back many times, before destroying every inch of you.
So, moving on past the point of Quasi-Recovery is earth-shattering, and it means letting go of all the rules that keep you stuck – and if you’re finding yourself in this state then here are some recovery points to hold onto:
- You don’t have to divide meals and snacks into set numbers of calories – forget the fucking calories
- You can eat even if other people aren’t eating - listen to your hunger ques
- Eating isn’t optional - it is necessary fuel for life
- You don’t always have to pick the ‘diet’ versions of different foods - it is ok to treat yourself and be kind
- Eating something once doesn’t mean you’ve conquered it – beating the eating!! The more the better
- Your weight isn't a measure of your value or worth
- You can trust your body – it knows what it’s doing and it always has
- You can’t gain weight from eating one thing on one day, homeostasis works its magic
- Laxatives won’t make you thin, they just strip you of necessary water and electrolytes
- Carbs are not the enemy - they are the human bodies primary fuel source
- Diet culture is toxic as fuck and don't buy into it
- No food group should be off limits - drop all the rules
- Anorexia is a liar – you were not happier when you were thinner, nor were you more interesting or likeable. You were an air-sucking shell of a human.
- All bodies are good bodies and all bodies are individual – it’s okay if you don’t look like somebody else
- Exercise because you love your body, not because you are punishing it
- It doesn’t matter what your body looks like – think about all the amazing things it does for you and will continue to in the future
- You’re not going to look back in a years’ time and think about how glad you are you skipped a meal, but you will regret all the experiences you missed out on
- You are enough, always – exactly as you are
I’m going to keep working on this, and so should you.
Because you and your life is worth it.
Stop and appreciate how beautiful this world is, and yourself!
**This was written in September prior to my significant relapse.