Seven years sounds like a long time. I suppose that’s because it is a long time. A lot has happened in the last seven years – I completed my last two years of high school, obtained a university degree, moved interstate and out of home, and started full-time work, among other things.
Despite this, the memories of my eight week voluntary hospitalisation for anorexia nervosa seven years ago today remain fresh, vivid, strong. This is because what happened in those eight weeks, all the work I did to understand myself and my mind, has informed the past seven years.
I am struggling to describe this process without turning to cliches, so I’m just going to use them anyway. My hospitalisation was a turning point in my life, the beginning of a journey which continues to this day. This is why every year I use the 11th of April as a prompt to reflect on where I’ve come from (the journey so far) and, importantly, to celebrate the successes and achievements of the previous year(s).
The fruits of my reflections have been many and varied over the years:
- In 2015, I wrote a 2,500 word mega post entitled Anorexia Nervosa Explained. It’s pretty comprehensive and enlightening, even if I do say so myself! It goes through the illness sytematically, discussing terminology, signs and symptoms, impacts, recovery and staying well. But it does so with reference to my personal experience.
- In 2016, I wrote Three Years On, a post about the way the time scale in which we choose to reflect impacts our sense of progress. At this point in time I was struggling quite a lot with my eating and many other things, so on a micro time scale things seemed bad. But when I zoomed out to the macro, there was still immense progress to be seen and celebrated.
- In 2017, I went all out and wrote a seven part series on recovery:
- Recovery Is Not Linear – Four Years On Part 1
- I Am An Adult With An Adult Body – Four Years On Part 2
- I Am My Best Friend – Four Years On Part 3
- My Recovery Is My Business – Four Years On Part 4
- Things Make More Sense In Macro – Four Years On Part 5
- My Recovery Will Last As Long As I Do – Four Years On Part 6
- Normal Is An Individual Metric – Four Years On Part 7
- In 2018, I wrote a short post expanding on the ideas contained in Normal Is An Individual Metric – Four Years On Part 7. In Subtle Change, Profound Change, I discussed the process of moving from a largely rule-based form of healthy eating to a more intuitive approach.
- In 2019, I wrote about my experience of Weight Gain and the way this challenged me in my ongoing recovery journey.
This year, I can finally say that not only has all this work been worthwhile, which is something I already believed, but that all this work can eventually result in happiness, wellbeing, ease. Because despite all the wisdom and profundity of my posts on the 11th of April each year, I have not yet written one of these posts while feeling a sense of contentment with my life.
It has just occurred to me that I once read somewhere that it takes seven years to fully recover from an eating disorder. I have no idea where I read this and it is probably not scientifically verifiable but it does ring true for me because seven years later, I am finally able to say that I am, I think, happy. Happy for the first time in a long time, perhaps since I was a child. It feels strange to be saying this, to be feeling this, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, but it’s true, so I’m say and feel it anyway.
This is not to say that my recovery journey is over. It’s not and it never will be. I still subscribe to the notion highlighted in Four Years On Part 6 that my recovery will last as long as I do. I am in a really good place, but I still have mental battles about my eating and body. The important thing to note is that these mental battles do not negate the possibility of feeling happy. The two seemingly contradictory elements can and do coexist.
This being the Easter weekend, I plan to eat plenty of hot cross buns (in fact I have a Skype hot cross bun, tea and crossword date with my parents soon) and chocolate (my housemate is making triple chocolate Easter egg brownies and we’re planning a backyard (weather permitting) egg hunt for tomorrow).
Seven years on, here I am, a functioning, contented adult human being. I have moved interstate and out of home and now live with two other amazing human beings and a cat. I pay my own bills and cook my own food and take care of all the life admin I never thought I’d have the capacity to do. I work full-time at a job which I love and am able to handle its intensity and frenetic pace (I’m working in the thick of Tasmania’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic). I love getting out for walks, gardening and doing yoga, but I am also learning the value of being still and teaching myself to embrace stillness.
Who’d have thought? The broken person I was seven years ago today certainly didn’t imagine I would be in this position. Even the person I was last year didn’t imagine it. But it’s real. I’m here and I’m happy, well, at ease.
Love, hope and peace from Emma.
NOTE: If this post has brought up any uncomfortable thoughts or feelings for you, please do not hesitate to contact Lifeline on 13 11 14, the Beyond Blue support service on 1300 22 46 36 or visit the Butterfly Foundation website to access a range of eating disorder specific resources and support services.