Re-evaluate your values - Think of all the ways you are AMAZING without referring to your weight or appearance
Stigma and relationships
#WhyDoPeople judge you on your past not your present?
#IWouldDoAnythingFor a guy who likes me for me in the present
Why have I written the above on my Twitter? I would love to meet someone who could like everything about me, including the fact I am a recovered anorexic and a self harmer.
Yet due to the stigma surrounding mental health, I have not found a guy who is truly comfortable with the real me.
Looking at me you would never know I used to be anorexic or that I have low self-esteem. It bothers me that guys are put off because none of it affects my daily life, I have done amazing things due to it and being an ambassador for Beat and surely it is admirable that I have recovered. But due to stigma and lack of understanding, I have had countless negative situations that for now I have given up on dating.
Boys use my insecurities to their advantage.
Boyfriends have controlled me and put me down.
A guy had wanted to date me; when he added me on Facebook and saw an article about me and anorexia, I never heard from him again.
(I am not ashamed of my anorexia; plus most people in my town knew anyway so I have been comfortable to be in the newspaper.)
One guy said I had ‘issues’ and was ‘dark’.
Some guys think they will be the ones to ‘change’ me. I like who I am, thank you very much!
I opened up to one boyfriend about my anorexia; a month later he broke up with me.
An on/off boyfriend always avoided me after he heard I have met my MP, given an interview or been at a conference.
It has gotten to the point that even if a guy already knows my ‘secret’ and still wants to date me, I am anxious. As for me, the ‘norm’ is that boys avoid me and my eating disorder.
Yet as I once rightly said:
‘Yes, I am a recovered anorexic. So what? If I don’t care, why should anyone else?’
Recovery Ninja Sarah tries to find positives in recovery not automatically ‘feeling’ great…
Why doesn’t it just FEEL better?
I was reminded by MrsW of an analogy of an abused wife or girlfriend leaving her partner this week and I need to CONSTANTLY think about this and not turn back…
She may leave her husband and escape the physical abuse, she’s in a safer place physically, but she doesn’t just automatically feel better.
There’s still the fear, nightmares, dread.
She may feel worse. She doesn’t have a house, a home, a partner, alone, scared, unsettled, unsure of the future and everything else.
There’s regret for choosing an unknown path.
She still believes what her abuser’s told her – she’s useless, pathetic, not good enough, undeserving. He tells her she’ll not making it alone.
But she HAS made progress - She’s STRONG for leaving.
She is taking steps to a future, freedom. It’s not automatically going to FEEL that way, but it is happening.
And it’s same with anorexia.
I’ve chosen this path, I don’t know where it leads, recovery doesn’t feel better for a long time, my eating disorder is still convincing me I’m wrong, that I’m not worthy and a fraud, but it’s a step, it is progress.
I’d be a fool to return to constant beatings and lies. Like she’d be a fool to return to him.
Read more on Sarah’s personal recovery blog… dream-recover-live.blogspot.com
'In FULL Colour'
People sometimes misunderstand eating disorders, seeing them as self inflicted illnesses, or a way of getting attention. For me, it was anything but. Anorexia is an insidious illness, and it crept up on me gradually. I was unhappy, and, perhaps not unusual for a teenage girl, directed my unhappiness onto my body. Before I knew what had happened, the fun loving, confident person I had been, had disappeared, and left behind was a tired, pale person, trapped in rigid routines, calculating calories, exercising obsessively. At the time, I thought my eating disorder helped me to cope, to feel safe and in control.
The irony is that an eating disorder actually traps you, and robs you of the energy, spontaneity and confidence essential to live life to the full.
My eating disorder was initially my way of feeling in control, within stressful family circumstances which left me feeling powerless and uncomfortable with feeling any difficult emotions. I didn’t feel like I had the right to have a voice, or to express my feelings. My eating disorder gradually became a way of measuring my sense of self worth and appeasing the perfectionist part of my personality. I only felt worthy if I had achieved the standards I set myself, and my standard of choice was one of weight loss and food restriction.
I struggled on and off with anorexia from my teens, to my early twenties, until at the age of 22, I finally decided to give recovery a proper go. Someone told me about my local eating disorders centre, and I attended a support group for the first time. There, I met people who had fully recovered and who were living full and vibrant lives. They seemed strong, free, and happy with themselves.
It gave me hope that recovery might be possible, and that I might actually be able to feel in control of my life, and accept myself, without an eating disorder.
I began to take active steps towards recovery, attending appointments with a therapist and a dietitian. I’ve had a LOT of therapy over the years, with some very patient therapists. I began to learn to challenge the distorted thoughts that I did not deserve food, did not deserve to enjoy life, needed to punish myself for being anything less than perfect. I began to allow myself more - more food, more self acceptance, more fun. I think many people had lost hope that I would recover, and so I had to develop an inner belief in my own strength to recover.
I began to realise that an eating disorder would only prevent me from growing as a person, and hold me back from enjoying life. I promised myself that I would embrace new experiences rather than being afraid of them. I used my ‘healthy’ friends as role models, and began to allow them to support me with eating meals, with accepting my body, and with moving forward in my life, which had become stuck because my eating disorder kept me so isolated. A big part of recovery has involved identifying the kind of life I wanted, and to actively move towards that - I trained as a social worker, began prioritising my friendships more, and did some travelling. Doing these things helped me to see that…
…I could take control over my life in a positive way, and that anorexia just held me back from all the things I really wanted.
For a while I lived a sort of ‘half recovery’, where I was much better than I had been, but still remained somewhat underweight, and still found it difficult to separate myself from some of the rules of anorexia. Because our society is so distorted around food and weight, in some ways, I probably seemed quite ‘normal’, but I knew inside that I was still caught up within anorexia, just in a less visible way. I am now working towards becoming fully healthy, completely recovered, and accepting that I need to allow my body to be how it is naturally designed to be - which is not underweight. I am learning that it’s o.k not to be perfect. I’m learning to accept my feelings but not be overwhelmed by them, and to take positive risks in life - to speak up if I don’t agree with something, to go out for a nice meal and forget about the calories, to apply for a new job, and believe I might have something positive to offer. I fully believe that as I continue to gain strength and confidence, I will be able to handle difficulties and set-backs in life, without getting sucked back into anorexia. A big thing for me has involved learning to be more compassionate towards myself. taking time to practice mindfulness, and allowing myself to express my opinions and feel equal with others instead of ‘less than’. I am stronger physically, and earlier this year I was able to walk the Yorkshire Three Peaks challenge for charity. This is something I could only do because of recovery.
I always say that recovery from anorexia is like seeing the world in colour again.
For a long time my world was black and white, full of rigid rules, impossible standards and self criticism. Now, I am excited about the future, and what life has to offer me. I am challenging my perfectionist rules in all aspects of my life, at home, at work, and in my eating. I am developing an inner sense of self acceptance, and am starting to believe that I deserve the same value I place upon other people. I know I have something to offer the world. Life is full of so many amazing people, adventures, and opportunities, and I am excited about living it.
YOU will get through this. You’re stronger than you think. And for those days when you don’t feel like you’re strong enough on your own WE are here to support you