Finding Purpose Part III: Into Recovery , by Robyn 17

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My decision to recover did not come lightly, nor did I completely commit myself to it when I chose to do so. To even begin to start thinking about recovery you first need to acknowledge and accept the fact you have a problem, which I did not. Despite being dangerously underweight I still saw myself in the mirror covered in excess fat, and despite eating next to nothing I still felt I was eating too much. My body, as warned, was beginning to whither away to the point where I was no longer able to do a full day in school, unable to walk any further than half a mile without feeling breathless and weak and my ability to think straight was diminishing.

When you’re dominated by such a mental state, happiness and good health soon become words that are forbidden. One of the most difficult aspects of recovery, along side many others, was the idea of no longer being anorexic. This illness soon became my identity, the same way you find people identifying themselves by their nationality, their ambitions, or their heritage. I was my illness.

I feared the concept of recovery to the extent that I became a compulsive liar, to my family as well as the professionals who were trying to help me. I would find myself lying about my behaviors because I was too afraid to change. They were trying to take my identity away from me and I didn’t know how to deal with it. For a long time during my recovery I consistently threw away my food, took excessive amounts of laxatives and silently did exercises in my room to prevent myself from gaining weight. I manipulated the number on the scales by water loading before my therapy sessions and I would write more food in my “daily intake” diary to trick my therapist in to believing that I was eating the right amount of food. I would not allow myself to fully commit to recovery.

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There came a point where I knew what I was doing was wrong. I was continuing to act on awful behaviors and I felt guilty and ashamed for doing so. I was lying to people who loved me and I was depriving myself of life. I was constantly having inner battles with the voices inside my head, one insisting I was to eat otherwise I would end up dying, and the other arguing and screaming at me to continue starving myself. As exhausting and mentally draining as it was, that in itself was progress because it meant that there was a small part of me that still wanted to live. I was also beginning to become much more aware of the people around me and how they were living their day to day lives. I felt a sense of admiration and envy: they were able to eat food without wanting to punish themselves for it the way I did, their smiles on their faces seemed genuine, and they had much bigger priorities than the size of their thighs or the amount of calories they’ll be allowed in their next meal. Normality was desirable.

It was other people’s happiness that drove me to make better, healthier decisions for myself, but also to try to prevent people from going down the dark path I went on. I was asked by one of my teachers, who helped me throughout the time I was struggling with school, whether I would like to speak to some girls a year or two younger than me about my experience. If there is one thing I’ve learned throughout having anorexia, it’s the stigma and silence towards the illness. People are still trying to avoid discussing the problem, whether that’s due to lack of education about it, or simply because they don’t want to confront the traumatic consequences of having the illness, I don’t know, but the more people that continue to silence the problem the more the people who are suffering with it will continue to feel terribly isolated and completely oblivious who to turn to for help. I spoke with the group of 13 year old girls for 2 hours; I told them my story, they asked me questions and we all shared similar experiences as well as plenty of tears. From then on I could not have been more appreciative of recovery.

Now, unfortunately, I can’t tell you what it feels like to be fully recovered because there are still days where I battle with voices in my head, and there are still days where I truly miss being several pounds underweight, and the feeling of starvation. But what I can tell you is that I have built the strength to acknowledge that these thoughts are there and not act on them, I wait for them to pass and for reality to override the negativity. 2 or 3 years ago I thought I would never feel happiness again, but I can safely say that I have never enjoyed my life the way I am right now, and that’s something I thought I was completely incapable of achieving. I have learned that I am worthy of living.

Robyn on Twitter: @robynmyp

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