Five Lessons I've Learned
To say that I was reluctant to get support for my eating disorder would be an understatement.
I didn’t think my difficulties were severe enough, and sadly I couldn’t bear the idea of somebody trying to stop me doing something that made me feel so good and safe.
Luckily some close friends altered my view and made me see that I did have a problem and it wasn’t getting any better on its own. So eventually I agreed to a referral and assessment and am now having regular appointments to help alter my attitude towards food and exercise.
It’s going well and I’m certainly heading in the right direction, just maybe not as quickly as some.
But despite finding it incredibly tricky, there’s no doubt I am learning some very key lessons and altering deep rooted thoughts for the first time in my life.
Here are the top five things I have learnt whilst receiving treatment for my eating disorder…
1. You have to want to recover for yourself
I used to believe that when I could no longer muster the will to get better for myself I would at least be able to do it for family and friends.
My levels of self-care were poor and I didn’t think enough of myself to want to improve, but I did hate what I was doing to those around me and this spurred me on to get help.
The trouble is, it’s not sustainable long term to recover for other people – you have to want to do it for yourself.
Relationships with others will change but you will always be within your own skin and that must be the priority.
2. Your thoughts are not facts
I’ve lost track of the amount of times I have believed the thoughts in my head to be 100% fact. I will say something in my appointment or answer a question only to have it pointed out that what I have just said is not true - it’s just my opinion or feeling about whatever is being discussed.
The brain is an incredibly convincing organ. It tricks us into believing it and can override rationality meaning we struggle to see things as they truly are. For me this has related to food quantities, my appearance and the feeling that other people judging me.
At times like these we need to challenge our thoughts and ask how we would respond if someone else said this to us or really try to find evidence for what we are thinking.
3. You have to be entirely honest
It seems obvious but many find it hard to speak completely honestly about their difficulties with food.
Whether we withhold information about what we have eaten or our exercise levels or maybe try to make out we’re feeling better about something than we truly are – we won’t be able to achieve what we really need to whilst pretending things are different.
I once unintentionally lied to my therapist and instantly felt regretful. It wasn’t until I owned up in my next appointment that we could tackle it together and work through the implications.
It made such a difference and I learnt that only when you tell the complete truth are you able to get the support you need to move on to the next stage of the process.
4. It will get easier... but perseverance is key
I've lost track of the number of times I’ve hit a hurdle and wanted to revert. It made me feel safe to return to familiar rituals and be back in ‘control’ of my weight again even though that makes it twice as hard to break the cycle and get back on track.
It’s like battling with all of your might to climb to the top of a mountain, only to jump back down to the halfway point and have to struggle to the peak again.
If you can somehow use all of your positive distraction techniques to sit with the discomfort without sabotaging your progress, you will feel better and be in a much stronger position.
5. Improving at your own pace is best
Comparisons are hard but very common in eating disorders. I often worry that I am bigger, smaller, weaker, too ill or even not ill enough in relation to those around me – it can be very all-consuming.
Even though our minds are full of what everyone else is doing, we must try to recover at our own speed or it won’t be sustainable. Our mental improvements may occur faster or more slowly than our physical ones, causing a disconnect that could hinder our progress.
We must try to do what feels right, moving forwards, but gradually enough for our mind and body to adapt.
Slowly but surely wins the race.
So regardless of whether you are in therapy or not, I hope something here resonates with you and helps to alter
your thinking and attitude towards recovery. Good luck!
Georgie is a communications specialist currently working for a mental health organisation and volunteering for a charity helping to run community support groups. She has recently embarked on accessing treatment for an eating disorder and anxiety, documenting her journey on her personal blog and Instagram account @start.over_my.darling.