Life with food/body image issues
I have suffered
with food/body image issues for as long back as I can remember. When I was only six I used to go to dance class (ballet),
and I remember always thinking how much my stomach stuck out, and what a clutz I was. I am a runner, not a dancer!
What on earth were my parents thinking, sending someone with two left feet to ballet!?! Who knows...
One incident from when I was only six (I think) was centred around
a family argument. Coincidentally, this argument appeared to me (through the eyes of an innocent six-year-old) to be
centred around food. Isn't it any wonder that I ended up having issues around food...
I have been down this road and back more times than I care to
remember. I guess I must have been 14 the first time I started seriously restricting, but believe that the behaviours
were there somewhat since I was maybe 11 or 12. By that I mean, either under or overeating, outside of what is the "norm"
for most kids of that age. To look at me today, I am your average gym athlete. I do not stand out as been
either under or overweight. I no longer engage in behaviours on the scale that I used to. During the worst times of my struggle, I would have overeaten mostly and then
compensated in some shape or form. (I choose not to list my methods here, for fear that they may be triggering to some. I
know that there was a time when just reading about behaviours I would be triggered).
Even though food/body image appeared to be the issue, is is far
from it - food is used as a way of coping with feelings, and yes, these feelings, once they start to surface can be quite
scary. During the earlier stages of my struggles it usually felt as if it was about food. This was particularly
the case during times when I found it difficult/impossible to identify what I felt. My view on feelings back then was
"Feelings? What are they?"
I am now recovered. Recovery definitely had
its moments - at times it felt like hell, because the feelings become quite intense (especially after being numb for
so long). In the early stages of my recovery I was merely going through the motions of recovery, but thankfully in time
I became an active participant in my recovery. In the beginning I very often felt as if I was just wasting
my money and my counsellors time - not exactly the ideal situation, but thankfully, with time that did change.
When I first started therapy, I found articulating what was going
on for me, and what I was feeling extremely difficult, as I used to be a very private person. In the
past I wasn't able to divulge anything (especially anything of significance) to my counsellor without being prompted.
I guess, in my upbringing, we just never did volunteer any information to complete strangers or acquaintances. Also,
sometimes I wondered "what does it matter anyway", or "what would you care". These are things that I never voiced
to my then therapist though.
At this stage I can honestly say that recovery is possible.
Even though life does through challenges my way from time to time, I know by the mere fact, that I am living it, that full
recovery is posible. It is possible for anyone who wants it. To get to that belief, you just need to want
it badly enough. I used to think that my previous therapist didn't have a clue, when she used to challenge me on that
"how much do you want it?" It's not just about wanting full recovery, but how much do you want it. Wanting
and wishing for recovery are two different things - I used to think I wanted it, but in all honesty, it was more
wishful thinking. I wanted it, but without having to do the work.
Full recovery goes far beyond the behaviours. It is being
aware of who I am, and what I am striving towards. It is also about being happy and content in my own skin.
It will mean that I am IN control and not being controlled by a stronger force. When I say control, it is not about
feeling a need to be in control, but more about living in the present moment. I now am much more aware of my emotions
as and when they arise, and am more adept at addressing things that need to be addressed. Accepting that there will
always be people in life who will challenge me in some shape or form, and dealing with as and when it arises. Basically
I am living life more and more with each new dawn, rather than merely
existing, as I was before.
During my worst times, it felt so tempting to just give
up, and kick the bucket. Living in this hell always felt easier than fighting it. But when I look back, and can
now see the bigger picture, that was just an illusion which I had created - it was so much harder living with E.D. than living
in the real world. Recovery is hard work, yes I agree. However, when I look at the day to day struggles
I had when I was going through my worst times, I really was not happy. Recovery is hard work, but I am now living life,
and that is the best reward of life. You may feel that you're different. I beg to differ. I used to
think I was so weak and pathetic, and that I was different. Different maybe, because the exact same programme won't
work for everyone. However, it's about finding the right treatment and the right therapist for you. One won't
work without the other.
Because of the fact that I doubted that full recovery was possible
for so long, I used to wonder "why do I bother", but what kept me going was that you never know unless you try.
Just because some people around you may doubt about the possibility of full recovery being possible, do not let this
deter YOU from striving for that goal, because maybe, just maybe, there is such a thing as "full recovery" - wouldn't you
prefer to find out for yourself if full recovery is possible, than not to try at all.