Unfortunately, the media will always sensationalise eating disorders- we see it all the time, magazines and the like continually focus on shock factors such as a low BMI, emaciated photographs and death statistics- something I think is incredibly detrimental and dangerous. Essentially any eating disorder does whatever it can to protect itself, so with all these messages which imply our illness is a life sentence, our eating disorders smugly agree.
There is no denying that anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness- but not every sufferer will end up with a life sentence. By portraying nothing but the worst case scenarios, we are putting out the message that recovery is not possible. When was the last time we saw a story celebrating someone’s achievement in recovering from an eating disorder?( In fact, I can only think of one recovery story I’ve read in such a magazine.) What sort of message is this giving out?
I am incredibly lucky to have known people who have made full and fantastic recoveries from debilitating eating disorders- this in itself was a huge motivation in my own recovery journey and provided me with the faith I needed to continue fighting my eating disorder, mainly because I finally believed that recovery was possible.
As it is now- I’m well on my way. Physically my body is back to where it should be, I can concentrate for longer periods of time, I have more energy, and food (or avoidance of it) no longer consumes every ounce of my attention. Yes some days are harder than others, and I am aware that I have a little way to go, and yes there are times I have to remind myself what I’m working for- but when I look back 6 months I hardly recognise myself.
To me recovery is freedom and self-acceptance. My eating disorder never developed because I thought I was fat. It developed because I wasn’t happy or comfortable with myself- a belief that I focussed on my appearance because it was easier to measure and monitor. Food was the symptom and not the cause- and similarly food only bothers me if I’m having a bad day, feeling anxious, or stressed. At the times where I feel at peace with myself food is little more than a social activity or a means of fuelling my body. A massive part of my recovery has been the realisation that I am able to speak my mind, to own my opinions, to enjoy company, to feel empowered by the work I’ve done and to be able to look at myself as a whole and say ‘actually- I’m ok’.
Recovery IS possible, recovery IS worth it, and it’s about time we celebrated that.