Turning Your Canoe Upstream – A View of her Eating Disorder by Kate B.

I am now able to start looking back over the last few years and understand where I have been and where I want to go, thanks to the support and help of the Recover clinic. For a few years, I lived with an eating disorder i never knew i even had, and I wish I had been able to get the help sooner. However, I am receiving it now and that is something I am very fortunate to have.

My eating disorder started in my mid twenties. Perhaps not the usual time people expect them to manifest. Prior to this I was a happy and healthy and had a good social life with a few good friends, from school, work and uni. I have always been a keen gym goer and sport has been a part of my life since I was very young, enjoying football, cycling, athletics, swimming and all sports at school. After university everyone experiences entering the real world, where you need to provide your own structure, aims and goals. Perhaps you feel more alone for the first time, away from uni mates and family.  I have been career focused since leaving uni and my passion for travel led me into the travel industry which i love.  It is difficult to pin point what happened and where or why things changed but i am more aware now then I was before of what caused me to use this as a coping mechanism.

In my darkest moments and memories, I felt extremely alone, I did not understand why i felt a burden over me every day of the week. I worked hard to improve and maintain a low number on the scales which started to become my focus and give me some sort of self worth. I felt I was achieving something. I did not understand why this obsession was taking over my life, maybe it was a phase? Maybe i would snap out of it? I thought I would when I changed jobs to become a manager in the travel industry when I was 27. I was very proud of where I had got to and gave the job my full focus. It wasn’t long however, before the same thoughts came back, ruling my actions and everyday life. The week became a restrictive set of days where I had to stick to the same things, perhaps then I would allow myself a little break at the weekend.

As the numbers dropped however, it became harder to break away from the feelings and thoughts. I avoided difficult situations with food and became more isolated, socialising less. After all, I had to be up at 6am each day to go to the gym. Some of my good friends spotted some change in me, and one in particular would help me try to move forward, and i tried my hardest and failed. My Mum was so supportive, encouraging me with recipes, things to cook and trying to motivate me to change things. Nothing worked, I gave in, I was a slave to something I couldn’t fight alone anymore.

In April 2010, I attended my first session at the clinic, after my parents got in touch with Recover. Suddenly everything seemed to change. My resistance was quite strong to start with, I still believed there was nothing that serious wrong, and i was not like others who suffered with eating disorders. Then all my pre-conceptions of eating disorders changed. Sadly many people suffer with this in various forms and for different reasons, and you don’t have to be on your death bed to get help or acknowledge you have a problem. After a constant struggle with outpatient, the moment hit me when i started to realise that i was not me anymore, and unhappy. I went to Spain with my friend, (along with my scales)! I remember thinking this cannot be the way to enjoy life, it just can’t. i still resisted inpatient, but in the end put my trust in my parents and most of all Recover.  The 4 weeks inpatient took me out of the comfort zones I had had for 4-5 years. No sport, no gym, no scales and worst of all eating 3 good meals a day. My brain was very confused. I remember having so many headaches when i was not even on a computer or at work! It was not easy but i suppose the determination and strength i demonstrated in my eating disorder, began to try to fight back against it. I listened to my therapy groups, the wonderful nurses encouragement and support I had there, and found myself just trying to believe them.

It was not over after that, in fact things got so much harder. I tried very hard to follow what was very foreign to me at the time, and changing all my routines. Since October 2010 and now, it has been, and still is a massive fight with myself, and i realise how much work I have to still do to accept myself as me.

On the plus side, which I never thought i would honestly be able to say, I believe i will learn to manage this, and continue to improve. Perhaps it was a combination of recently turning 30, and the work I am putting in to my groups, but for the first time ever I can feel how it would feel without an eating disorder. It sounds a cliché but really is true, that I can start to slowly remember all the great things life can offer and that you would miss completely if I had stayed where I was before recovery. No longer do I want to be ill, no longer do I want to be back there. I have laughed, had fun with friends and taken trips abroad (thankfully without my scales). I have been able to start slowly to do what I used to love; cycling and playing a game of football again. I don’t want those things to disappear from my life again, and if I want them I know I have to continue to get better.

If you read this, one thing I would like to convey is that an eating disorder can simply become a way of life. You can still function, have a job, social life, sports, holidays etc but it does not mean you are okay. For too long I tried to cope with it but in the end it does not bring happiness, just more and more unhappiness, frustration, anger and loneliness.  Yes it is also these feelings you experience going into recovery, but this is when you just have to start to trust others. Why would they be telling you this? Why would you even be having treatment?

One metaphor that sticks with me is the fact that recovering from an eating disorder, is like turning around your canoe from going downstream, and start going upstream. Someone told you there are great things waiting for you, but whilst you paddle, you don’t know or feel them, you just have to keep struggling to get there.

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