Monday 9 January 2017

Recovering your Identity from Anorexia

After years of living with in the bubble of an eating disorder, Chloe lost sight of her life beyond the illness. Here, she reflects on the process of recovering her identity.... 

 - Chloe 

Only a few years ago, I was anorexia. 

My life revolved around food, exercise, calories and weight. Losing weight was the only goal I strived for and the one thing that made me 'happy'. I completely lost myself to the eating disorder. I was no longer the bubbly, happy, chatty and fun little girl I had been. I was no longer Chloe; I was anorexia. 

During this time, I spent less and less time at school due to my ill health. Consequently, I began to lose the few friends that had stuck by me. I'd always decline offers to go out, for fear that food might be involved. My bedroom was my comfort zone, where I would exercise in secret - it was a place that belonged to my eating disorder. 

When I was forced into recovery by doctors and nurses, I was terrified. I was scared of the food, weight gain and hospital walls around me. However, what I feared most was losing 'anorexia'; the illness had become so entangled with my identity, I didn't know who Chloe was anymore. As much as I hated being known as "the girl with the eating disorder", I convinced myself that this was better than having no personality at all. 

I hated myself for the worry I was causing my family, yet their concern about me made me feel loved and wanted - something which anorexia tried to tell me I was not. I needed support and I felt that losing my eating disorder would leave me with no help at all. I feared the misconception that physical progress is the same as mental progress; that, because I was gaining weight, I was completely fine. 

During my hospital admission, I felt more anxious than ever before; however, because  my weight was improving I didn't believe I could admit these  struggles. For so long, I convinced myself that anorexia was a safety blanket, which told the outside world I needed help. So what did I do? Despite all these fears and uncertainties, I powered on. I chose to trust in recovery.

It was the hardest fight I have ever faced, but I battled through the guilt and the tears and slowly but surely I returned to a healthy weight. Yet it was through my mental recovery, that my life became less about anorexia and more about Chloe. My thoughts around food, calories and weight were replaced with music, fashion and friends. 

I could concentrate again, I laughed and I remembered how to have fun! I was getting my personality back and I realised that there is so much more to life. My fear of losing my identity vanished as I returned to the former bubbly, happy and fun girl I used to be. 

Most importantly, I allowed myself to acknowledge my own bravery. Although a lot of people think eating is a completely natural thing to do, for me each bite was an achievement. As time went on I became stronger and and things became more manageable. 

Furthermore, when I reached my target weight I continued to receive the help I needed, to guide me on my way to health and happiness. Now, 5 years later, I can say that I am so glad I chose recovery!

For more information on understanding Eating Disorders, click here.

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