I really haven’t been keeping up with this at all. It’s not that I don’t want to, nor that I don’t have a tonne of stuff to write about, it’s just other things have been taking priority. Also I don’t fancy spamming your news feed with the rambling thoughts of a skinny wee geek whom you might not even know or particularly like.
Self-deprecation done. Onwards! I really really want to write about this, it takes priority over everything else in my head. Someone recently told me they were ‘physically fine’ but mentally still working on things, and it’s a common issue I’ve seen in the recovery community on Instagram that I’m lucky to be part of.
Recently I’ve felt it myself too: the disparity between mental recovery and physical recovery in anorexia.
By physical recovery, I mean we’ve restored our bodyweight to a level considered ‘normal’, that we’re no longer doing internal damage to our bones and organs with restricted eating, for all intents and purposes we ‘look’ fine. But just because we look fine doesn’t mean thoughts, fears, and anxieties around food don’t still play a big part in our lives. That is to say, we’re still not quite mentally recovered.
My own experience – the down side
It’s something I’ve only really acknowledged since being physically recovered. Whether or not I can help, I want to at least offer my perspective.
I certainly understand and to some extent experience this disparity. For many months my primary goal in life was to gain weight, to get myself back to health again. I’ve written a blog about it, feel free to check it out at www.roughrecovery.com. There were many ups and downs but here I am. Hooray! But then it’s like…okay now what? Do I get a “Certificate of Recovery”? What do I do now? What do you meant “eat like a normal person!? How the f**k do I do that!?”
Suddenly you’re not the skinny one in the room. It’s like you’ve suddenly taken on a new identity and you don’t know how to behave. You’re supposed to be able to eat like everyone else, know when to stop, and you haven’t a bloody clue. It’s scary. Often, anorexia was like my security blanket and now it’s been taken away. I was a bit like Linus from the Peanuts comics now I think about it.
The all-important up side
I’m trying to run with the security blanket metaphor here so bear with me. That blanket was tied around my face. All I could see was the blanket, no matter where I was, the blanket was there stifling me, smothering me in its deadly, blankety embrace.
…I don’t think that really worked. I’m sure you sort of understand.
So anyway, now that your blanket is no longer in your eyes and your mouth and that, (yup, rubbish metaphor), you suddenly have a world of opportunities open to you. It is scary. But new experiences and chances so often are.
If I have any advice, it’s to take it slowly. Don’t bombard yourself with sensory overload straight off. You’ve come a long way and it’s perfectly natural to not feel ready. Gradually extend that comfort zone. What has anorexia stopped you doing? For me it was socialising, eating out, and even exercising. Now by no means did I run a half marathon on the treadmill, then invite everyone in the gym back to my flat for a dinner party. It’s just that every so often I say ‘yes’ to something that I never would have before, be it going to the pub with friends, spontaneously heading to a restaurant that someone else has chosen, or going to a kettlebell class. I can safely say I thoroughly enjoyed two of those things.
This has gone on a bit longer than I expected, what I’m trying to say is that it’s okay to be scared, to not feel ready to move on. I’m certainly not there yet. Physical recovery was a slow process, and mental recovery is too. But I promise you that with physical health comes the potential to live life to its fullest, and it makes mentally getting there possible.