Four years ago on the 11th of April, I was admitted voluntarily to the eating disorders inpatient program at a psychiatric hospital in Melbourne. Each year, I find myself commemorating that day with some form of reflection on my progress. Over the past year, I’ve learnt some important lessons which have furthered my recovery journey enormously. These have been:
- Recovery is not linear.
- I am an adult with an adult body.
- I am my best friend.
- My recovery is my business.
- Things make more sense in macro.
- My recovery will last as long as I do.
- Normal is an individual metric.
Over the next seven days, I am going to explore each one of these lessons. I’m starting with the lesson that recovery is not linear.
At the beginning of 2016, I realised that disordered eating had crept back into my life. You could label this a relapse, but the behaviours and thought patterns were different from those of my original eating disorder. I was still eating breakfast, lunch, dinner and three snacks; I still ate cake and other previously feared foods; and I didn’t need to count my calories or read the ingredient labels of every food I ingested. However, I had rules.
Year twelve’s combination of migraines, fatigue, hopelessness, anxiety, perfectionism, uncertainty and self-judgment was the perfect environment in which to grow a new form of eating disorder. After my experiences with anorexia, I was determined never to go back to those habits and I didn’t. Instead, I developed rules which dictated exactly how to be recovered. The rules explained what to eat, how often, with whom, and under what circumstances so that I could remain ‘healthy’.
Following these rules was quite challenging given life’s propensity for throwing up the unexpected. I thus had to spend a lot of time planning, working out which things could and couldn’t be controlled. Those factors I could control, I controlled. Those I couldn’t control, I brainstormed the likely scenarios and planned for each one accordingly.
Once again, food took up a considerable amount of my headspace. Once again, disordered thinking moved in without announcing itself. Once again, it was not me who picked up on the issue.
So, recovery is not linear. Setbacks are part of recovery. This is why I prefer to say that I am recovering rather than recovered. Recovering encompasses the potential for setbacks, and the continuation of the process. It is uncertain in its course, which can be frightening, but recovery’s continuation is also crucial to our wellbeing as it provides us with new lessons and new possibilities.
If you’re looking for more information about eating disorders, or indeed any other mental health issues, the Australian Government’s mindhealthconnect website is a really useful tool which collects all the relevant resources from organisations such as beyondblue and The Butterfly Foundation into one place.
Tomorrow, I will discuss my discovery that I am an adult with an adult body.
Love, hope and peace from Emma.