(You can find the rest of my story posts here.)
(This may be triggering for some people. If you are easily triggered – please skip this post)
After a grueling three months I attained my target weight and was released from IP. I was finally released. Sadly, although a few things had changed, quite a few stayed the same. I left with the goal in mind to lose 2 kgs after my release. I gave myself 1 week to lose 0.5. Needless to say, those thought processes were not going to keep my on the road to recovery. My family suggested I visit some friends after my release, just to get away from familiar surroundings and hopefully re-establish new and healthy habits. In the beginning I did really well – although I started exercising I was eating. About 5 days into my trip things went downhill. I started purging snacks – not because I binged but because I couldn’t deal with the anxiety that came with eating. I didn’t feel comfortable talking to my friends about it, I tried so hard to keep my semblance of “normalcy” and “recovery”. I told myself that I did want recovery, I just wanted to lose those pesky 2 kgs and then I would eat healthy and maintain. But deep inside I think I always knew I was still struggling. I remember telling my friends that I didn’t know if I was strong enough to beat this illness. So pretty much from the start I was headed on a downward spiral.
When I got home I had indeed lost my target 0.5 kgs. My weight fluctuated at that point, and every time I saw that number go up I told myself I could afford to restrict just a little more. After all, I was still eating wasn’t I? I didn’t purge much, and so figured I was doing pretty well. I wasn’t starving (in the literal sense of the word) I wasn’t purging – I was doing great wasn’t I?
No, I wasn’t. Although I was eating I would only stick with diet food. I exercised an hour each day at least. And I gained a certain satisfaction seeing that number go down. It was satisfaction mixed with fear, like I was tasting the forbidden fruit that could kill me, but for the moment tasted oh so sweet.
At this point the games and lies had started up again. Water loading before my doctor’s appointments, hiding food. skipping meals. Then I started work and things got even more out of hand. I spent up to 8 hours a day on my feet – running around, serving food, clearing plates. I had to wake up at 4:30 in the morning in order to travel to work, so I told myself I didn’t have time for breakfast. After a few days on just coffee I realized I needed a bit more. So I added some non-fat cream cheese and an apple, or a yogurt and an apple. I remember one time being so hungry I bought myself a mini roll and slathered it with a low-fat laughing cow cheese triangle. I felt so righteous then. “Of course I don’t have an ED” I told myself “I eat when I’m hungry.” All the while I chose to forget the guilt that gnawed at my gut till sheer exhaustion blocked it out (lack of energy from lack of food). While I had stopped working out, my weight plummeted. At this point I knew I had relapsed. There were so many days I would collapse on my bed in tears from sheer exhaustion, so many days I wanted to reach out for help. But I was terrified of letting go of the thought process that had such vast control over my mind.
There came a breaking point however. One day I looked at the mirror and cried. I was so scarred of who I had become, of how fast the downward spiral was taking me. I was constantly depressed and sad. The spark of life had been stolen away from me, I was little more then a walking corpse – a mere shell of whom I had once been. People at work were asking me how come I never ate lunch at the canteen, or accepted the pastries that were offered. They commented on my weight, told me they were worried. It seemed everyone was. Most were polite enough not to say it, but my family later told me there had been a fair share of concerned people wondering if I needed help.
But in the end I was the one that asked for it. I believe that was the first, monumental, crucial step in the right direction. I wanted help. No one had forced me to do it, I just knew that I couldn’t go on living this half-life any more. I was sick and tired of it. This is a fact I clung to in my worst times, times when I desperately wanted to flee back into the waiting arms of my illness. I had chosen recovery.
The first few months were horrible. There were family conflicts, threats of hospitalization and many tears on both sides. At the same time I moved to another country and my whole world crumbled around me. I stayed with relatives who judged me because of my eating disorder, and contributed to the tense family situation. There was pain, guilt, sadness, depression. But there was also hope, the sun peaking through the clouds.
It has been an uphill climb, but one I never truly regretted making. At times I had longed for the numbing comfort of my ED, but that illusion has always been fairly short-lived. I know I’ve been through hell and come out the other side to tell the tale – and there is no going back! Slowly, one by one, I conquered vices (purging, calorie counting, fear foods) and gained new habits. I began to live again, the sparkle came back into my eyes. I now laugh when I used to hide behind a fake smile. I spend time with friends when I used to lock myself away. I enjoy food, rather than fearing it. And I have my whole life in front of me, waiting to be discovered.
Through this illness I have become I stronger person. Although I would never voluntarily choose it, it has taught me many precious lessons. It had shown me just how much I am loved and supported by those around me. It has proved to me that I am stronger and braver then I think. Each day I am proving that there is life beyond and eating disorder, that recovery is possible and attainable and that it pays to hold on even when it seems like the very ground is disappearing beneath your feet. And my deepest wish is that someday I will help others do the same.