This picture was taken the day my daughter celebrated her 21st birthday. I was 46 years’ old and an inpatient at a private mental health hospital. My psychiatrist gave me four hours’ leave to attend my daughter’s party. I’d been in hospital more than a month and was unable to assist with the party arrangements. This upset me greatly but my daughter, who had grown up with a ‘mother with an eating disorder, chronic depression and anxiety’ was very understanding – all she wanted for her birthday was for ‘Mum to be happy’.
Haven for Identity
Thirty-five years had passed since I developed Anorexia. I had been receiving treatment for 14 years and had made some progress on the road to recovery. I was a mother, had a full-time professional career, owned my home, and a car. Goodness, I could be said to have everything I needed. But I didn’t. My mind had a long way to go in healing from the ravages of Anorexia, which had transitioned into Bulimia. My eating pattern was chaotic, and my moods and relationships were equally so. Outwardly, I was functioning; inwardly, I was a slave to ‘ED’. I’m glad I did not give up the fight to regain me, because nine years later, I was free to live a full life. People ask ‘how did you get there?’ My answer is, bit by bit. Like building one of those lovely, solid stone walls that you see in the English countryside. I had the image that I needed to build a sturdy wall like that in my soul, to protect it not from the elements but from ED and associated outwardly triggers. Sometimes the rocks would slip and I would fall, but eventually the wall was built, providing a haven, a safe and secure place, for my true identity. Gradually, ever so gradually, I loosened ED’s grip on my thoughts and behaviours. Scary but ever so rewarding. The keystone? Three meals and three snacks a day. The crucial tool in overcoming ED was something that most people take for granted, yet took me 44 years to master.
Want to Live Life
I was reminded of this rather epic journey when a young woman wrote and explained she has been battling anorexia and bulimia for 23 years. She writes:
It’s too long and I am hoping this is the last time I go through the recovery process. I am a wife, mother, artist, teacher and I just want to live life. I am really struggling right now with the aspects of weight gain and I wanted to know if you have any advice for that. Dealing with the body changes and gaining weight. It’s very hard for me to not look underweight which seems so bizarre. My mind plays tricks on me and makes everything seem way bigger then it is. I feel like people notice the changes and it’s so hard for me to get dressed and go to work. … Your profile picture makes me smile, seeing you successful and thriving.
Three Meals and Three Snacks a Day
I always hoped ‘this is the last time I need to go through this’. ‘This time I will get there, I will.” I said this at least 1000 times, probably more. Glad I did not give up! Whether you are a sufferer or a recovery guide – hang in there! Persist, persevere, hold on to hope. Don’t let ED trick you into settling for a part-life. You deserve the richness of the full cherry of life – refuse to let ED rob you of a bite. Body changes and weight are scary, I know. But tell yourself those things are not important (ED debilitates us by having us think otherwise). Once you start eating three wholesome meals and three snacks a day – amazing things happen. In my case, anxiety and depression abated so much I no longer required medication. I no longer was fixated on the obsession of eating a certain number of calories and weighing a certain weight to ‘look good’, ‘feel good’, ‘cope with work and relationships’, to ‘cope with me’. It was not a straight road, there were twists and turns, bogs and quicksands, but I got there. I let ED’s habits go and my soul began to hum. From chaos and darkness, to peace and light. Storm clouds abated, the sky cleared to a beautiful bright blue, revealing the warmth of the sun, the chirps of the birds. I felt wondrous, still do, like a kid being taken to the park to play, at the freedom to enjoy being me.
Beauty is Within
Every person I know who has an eating disorder has a beautiful nature. Our nature is within. Let it shine. This is what people really see. Our weight is a nothing. A nothing. It is one of ED’s weapons that keeps us a prisoner. If you have scales in your home, toss them out. Your beauty within is your true worth and value. Let it shine for all to see. Place your trust in a Recovery Guide who understands the importance of three meals and three snacks a day. Those body image and weight problems, that urge to punish yourself with exercise, will fade away, you’ll see, and everything will become manageable as you exalt in the pleasure of thriving, of being free.
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