What is recovery?
Yesterday I stepped on the scales, as I have done routinely for the past two years or so, expecting to have gained weight. There have been times on this strange journey that I have been surprised at my increases, but other times when I just knew my reading would be good.
I never envisaged myself being a regular visitor at the eating disorders clinic. To many others, it was no surprise. I had been presumed anorexic since the year dot, and called as such multiple times throughout my life. I'd never once 'enjoyed' being underweight or desired to become thinner. I was horribly anxious and constantly tired, and like any other human in that state was often left without much of an appetite. When I asked my doctor at the M.E. clinic for help with my weight, I expected to be referred to another dietician — a better one, this time, who didn't just show me the infamous "healthy plate" and leave it at that. Instead I was forced to see a psychologist and given concerned looks.
I fought against it for as long as I could manage. Why could no one see that I had asked for help? That I was perfectly willing to see a dietician and change my diet? Why could no one understand how much I never wanted to go through therapy ever again after having already been there, done that and bought the unfortunate t-shirt of being transferred after two years to a cruel, self-esteem crushing psychiatrist who reversed every bit of progress I had ever made? No one was listening to me, and it just kept getting worse.
My desperation to get out of the situation I had accidentally landed myself in through simply asking for help raised my anxiety to previously unseen levels. Soon enough, I couldn't go a day without throwing up. My every waking moment was controlled by the pressure I felt to get myself out of the BMI danger zone and make sure I wouldn't get sent away somewhere and lose my job. Unfortunately it was a slippery slope. I fought each day to try and avoid the path I didn't want to take, but my efforts were fruitless. The vomit-inducing anxiety over it all left eating almost impossible, and with little to no food intake I became perilously thin, with a BMI of 14.7.
Feeling close to death is both terrifying and strangely liberating. For the first time in my life, I was unafraid of dying. Those few weeks when my life was in danger will one day become a tiny percentage of my years, but they will leave their invisible mark on me forever. I sat crying on my garden wall in the sunshine, and begged my mum to tell me everything was going to be ok.
Something inside me, that hopeless dreamer that will never quite accept defeat, still believed that I could come back from it all. It took every bit of strength I had to get through the period of time between making a desperate doctor's appointment and waiting for the GP to finish his two week annual leave on an island somewhere.
I did what i'd fought so hard against. Agreed to all of their plans. Wherever they wanted to refer me to, i'd go. Whichever pills they wanted me to take, i'd take them. Whatever it took to stop the burning feeling inside my brain. Whatever it took to survive.
As I stood on those scales yesterday, the journey briefly flashed before my eyes. Storming out of appointments, arguing with my psychologist, putting milk and milk powder in coffees, asking anyone I could for advice, fighting through the side-effects of my SSRIs and writing musical diaries of my darkest thoughts.
On paper, I should have burst into tears of joy when the doctor said that my BMI was officially at 18.5. Instead, I shared a smile with myself and sat down to continue the rest of the appointment. The topic quickly moved on, as time has and does. I felt reflective afterwards, but also keen to keep moving forward.
I understand now what people mean when they say that it's life's about the journey and not the destination. I used to consider the moment I would be able to stand up and officially say that I had recovered. Now I know i've been living in my recovery since the moment I asked my doctor for help.
Never give up.