Choosing to recover from an eating disorder is one of the most terrifying things a person can do. For months, years or maybe even decades your entire world has been dominated by food, shape and weight worries. I spent years breeding intense self-hatred and developed my eating disorder slowly over 13 years. It became the perfect coping mechanism. A decision to take control over my life and lose weight evolved into a strict code of conduct, measurements of success and failure, punishments for perceived crimes, a militant system of checks and balances and a moral code for my every thought and action. I found a way of comforting, soothing and caring for myself and a definite reason why I deserved (or didn’t deserve) the care. I created a voice in my mind to make sure I stayed within the lines, this voice was my best friend, my mentor, my torturer and my saviour. Everything I did, said, wore, thought or saw went through stringent examination and criticism. This voice told me how to think, when to move, how to feel, what to eat, what to “fix”, how to lie and what to do in every situation; and I dared not betray or disobey it.
When I learned that recovery meant separating myself from this voice I was paralyzed, I didn’t know how to exist without the guardian angel sitting on my shoulder; she was all I ever knew, my only true friend and the only way I could survive in this world. As I started into recovery I learned that the strings that tied me to my disorder were not as harmless as I had originally thought, I couldn’t cut the ropes or untie the knots and be free, the eating disorder had sunk itself deep into my flesh like fish hooks and barbs threatening to rip me apart if I tried to separate myself from it. I began to slowly dig out the hooks one by one and over time I found myself less tangled in the disorder’s web.
Over time the strands of fishing line that held me captive to my disorder started to fall away. I looked down at the loose strands and feel panicked; completely disconnected from everything I knew, incredibly far from “home” and unable to cope. I would do anything I could to re-ignite the eating disorder so that I could feel some sense of safety, security and calm again. I went through this process multiple times before I realized that it was not enough to cut the ties to the eating disorder, I had to tie myself to other things in life that would take the disorder’s place. It was from this realization that I started to create a life worth living, one worth the pain that freeing myself caused me, a life that was full of hope and promise.
I have worked very hard to try and create a life worth living, some beginner strategies are listed here but more recently I am finding that I have been picking up the discarded hooks that lay around me and using them as grappling hooks to cement myself in the life that I desire. The more I tie myself to wonderful things in life the less seductive the disorder seems and the less power it has when it enters the fight for my life. That doesn’t meant that I don’t struggle or have times of weakness when I weep and beg for the security of my disorder, but when those battles happen I am more able to talk myself off the cliff and back into safety.