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.
Today’s post concerns the lesson that my recovery is my business.
For a long time, and very notably when I was following ‘healthy recovered person’ eating rules during and following year twelve, my food choices were driven by a desire to prove to those around me that I was recovered. This meant that if I was to eat cake, as I felt was necessary once a week or thereabouts just to prove my recovery, I would always do so when I was with other people. If I was eating alone, I would never even consider eating anything other than the healthiest option.
I suspect in part this stemmed from a fear that if I began eating something delicious and rich when I was alone, I wouldn’t be able to control myself and would binge on said food. But it also stemmed from the problematic belief that I was recovered if other people thought I was. If my friends and family thought my behaviour around food was normal, then I was recovered. If not, there was a problem.
I value the input of my friends and family regarding my progress or lack thereof in normalising my eating. Sometimes, given the subtle and devious ways in which eating disorders work, I need them to pick up on shifts in my behaviour and/or thinking because I simply do not notice them. However, while their opinions on my recovery status are valuable, I am clearly not recovered if I am still plagued by thoughts about ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods, the desire to follow rules, and a fear of losing control. And only I can assess how I’m tracking on these fronts.
This means that cake is no longer confined to times when I am with others. To confine it in this way is to regulate its consumption, a hallmark of an eating disorder. I now know that recovery is ultimately my business. I need to be able to eat normally in all situations, alone or otherwise. This means I now choose what to eat based on what I want or need. Period.
I now sometimes eat cake alone. I may be overstating things a little, but this progress is monumental.
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 the lesson that things make more sense in macro.
Love, hope and peace from Emma.