Far more than a diet gone wrong, or a silly teenage girl disease, anorexia is something that has the power to destroy your mind. In light of Mental Health Awareness Week, I wanted to share my thoughts on a subject close to my heart.
Five years ago, I sat in an NHS clinic and was told by an inexperienced counsellor that my BMI wasn’t low enough to be classified as anorexic. In my mind, this meant ‘you’re not thin enough, lose more weight’, so I did, and it wasn’t until I was the five stone nothing eighteen year old that I was noticed
Anorexia is not just about being too thin, it’s the unhealthy thoughts that can live in the mind of a medically healthy body. With this in mind, I believe it’s important to speak about the fact that, despite being medically ‘recovered’, there is still that tiny part of my mind I have to keep under control.
I’m not saying, at all, that anorexia is something that still rules and governs my life, but I do believe I’ll always have an odd relationship with food and the image I see in the mirror. My recovery is something I am both proud of and honest about, but it’s also important to dwell on the struggles even the healthiest mind can encounter.
The calorie counter
Some days, I can eat ice cream and laugh about it, other days, I don’t order a mocha because the coffee shop hasn’t got skimmed milk. However I’m no longer playing the tiresome numbers game, I no longer strive to have as little calories as possible and I do, sometimes, eat the 250 calories in a magnum and think, whatever.
The fat days
I wish I was lying when I say my boyfriend answers the questions of my irrational mind at least once a day; ‘do I look fat in this?’, ‘have I put on weight since we met?’, ‘is her body better than mine?’. He’s amazing, and supportive, and always gives me the answer I’m looking for, but one day, maybe I won’t have to ask.
Part of my recovery has become about making my body as strong as it can be. What started as a way of coping with eating more has become a lifestyle, yet with this comes the guilt when I miss a gym day. Will Kayla Itsines know if I skip her arm workout? Will that three mile run I missed really change my marathon time? I know the answers, but why do I still feel so bad?
Thinking back, my experience with anorexia was a life of routines. Three rice cakes for breakfast, one apple for lunch, half a fat free yogurt at three and a dinner that had to be eaten before six, or not at all. It’s impossible to be a working adult without living by routines, but when I’m stressed, I know I fall back to my ‘safe’ meals once again, (even though they are much more substantial than they ever were before).
A wheat intolerant vegetarian, who doesn’t eat fish or many carbs, I’m not the easiest mouth to feed. I’m working on it, I’m trying new things and I’m surrounded by healthy influences, but I know I’m still a nightmare.
The dictionary defines recovery as ‘a return to a normal state of health, mind or strength’, but mental health seems so much more complicated than this. Am I recovered? In one word yes, but I still recognise I’ve got a way to go. We must remember, recovery is not something that has an end date, it’s not black and white. For all those at the beginning of their journeys, keep going, you’ll look back one day and it will all be worth it, I promise.