This week marks Eating Disorder Awareness Week. Maybe you're recovered, like me and seeking to raise awareness or support those who need it by telling your story. Maybe you're in recovery right now, searching for the motivation to save yourself. Maybe you're just curious about people's stories. Maybe you're looking for tips on how to helped a loved one get through their own journey or maybe you're suffering right this second. Whatever your reason for reading this blog, this is a space to encourage, love and protect one another.
You already know my story, and if you don't then head to my very first blog post. But this isn't about me, it's about you.
I want you to remember that you are loved. You are enough. You are worthy. You will be ok.
Eating disorders are complex, completely personal, devastating, obsessive and somehow addictive all at once. You will never truly be able to grasp the feeling of what an eating disorder feels like until you're living it or can reflect on it, but even then it feels like a dream.
Whatever stage your in on your journey I want you to feel proud of yourself for choosing to exist.
I'm going to write a few little paragraphs in the form of letters to those who might need it this week...
Dear those of you who have recovered from your eating disorder,
Wow. I bet at the beginning of your journey you would never have believed you'd be in this position. You couldn't see the light at the end of the tunnel. That was your way of life and you had no clue what the first step to liberation was. This is a huge accomplishment. You might not feel 100% recovered yet, you might not ever, but you have the tools to carry on and try again and again. Your eating disorder will have taught you so much, so don't look back in regret but be thankful for what it taught you and use those positive elements to inspire and better the world and those around you. I truly never believed that I would be ok again, I thought I had permanently damaged my body and my mind, but humans are amazing and you will grow back over and over again. Be thankful for your body. You did this. You picked yourself up and watered your soul and you blossomed. Always remember that you are capable of anything. The world is yours. It's important to celebrate your victory by acknowledging your success within yourself and you owe it to yourself to carry on doing great things. I think we all have a responsibility to prevent this illness so do what you can to encourage self-love and body acceptance. When I talk about my eating disorder I really try not to talk about numbers or specifics so that what I write doesn't become a source of inspiration - I remember reading anorexic stories and wanting to be like that, so be cautious. I hope you are happy and I hope you are proud.
Dear those of you currently recovering,
Seeking help is the first step. You are now on your journey and that is an achievement in itself. Admittance and wanting to get better is the hardest part. Now, with motivation, support and guidance you can free yourself. Yes, each day will be a constant battle and your emotions will be all over the place right now. But you can do it. I want you to know that it is possible to live a life that does not revolve around numbers or guilt or your appearance. You will be able to eat something and not obsess over the amount of calories. You will simply eat and enjoy it. You will be able to go about your day and do things that you love without feeling drained of energy. You will be able to dream again and plan a future. Be brave. Stick with it and find the motivation to recover, for yourself. Remind yourself of the life that you want to live. Remind yourself of all the happiness in the world. Remind yourself that your body does not validate your existence and does not have any value than what YOU place on it. Make the decision to place your value on something else. Do not let the world tell you that you are not beautiful or skinny enough. You have to challenge yourself. You have to stick with it even on the days you don't want to. The more you practice the easier it will become. Don't forget to reach out if you need. People love you and want to help you so don't be afraid to ask for support if you need it. I have faith in you. My biggest tip is to force yourself to challenge your mindset - even if it scares the hell out of you just keep pushing and keep loving yourself: self-help books and reading positive affirmations made me feel SO much better and gave me the strength and the inspiration to carry on. Create a Pinterest board and keep going back to it when you need those words of support.
Dear those of you who have not suffered from an eating disorder,
Thank you, for taking the time to read this, to understand what eating disorders are and how they can effect you. Despite the fact you haven't suffered personally, it's important to know how to help people and maybe help yourself one day. Remember to be cautious around people with eating disorders and not to discriminate. Anyone can have an eating disorder, you don't have to be a size 2, or a woman or any particular type of person. So be cautious of people's behaviour. Don't make careless comments or talk about calories or your diet. Don't judge people's appearances or what they choose to do with their body. There are far more important things in this world. Drop a text if you think someone might be struggling just so the person knows that they can reach out to you if they need. Again, don't let the world tell you that you are not enough - unfollow or ignore anything that tells you otherwise. Embrace your body, be kind to it and give yourself love. You are lucky to have a body that cares for you the way it does so treat it with respect. Be kind to everyone and try to change the world for the better, in any way that you possibly can.
Dear those of you who are suffering with an eating disorder right now,
You are not alone. The main thing to remember is that how you're feeling is not unusual and there are people out there who perfectly understand your emotions. I don't know if anyone is every truly ready for recovery, but once you take the first step, you'll realise that you made the right decision. It won't be easy. You can't sugarcoat this process. Hell, you'll want to relapse tons of times and just have your old body back with your own routine and habits. But you will create a new routine and new habits, ones that will make you feel brighter and happier. You will miss your eating disorder at first. You will fall back into it time and time again. But one day it will be a relief and you will be ready to say goodbye to it. You might not want to admit that you have a problem, you might not even realise you have one. You might think this behaviour is normal, and it is normal to you and normal in the messages that you're receiving. But the media is lying. This is not healthy. This is not the train to happiness. This is not an ideal goal. Don't you want to stop feeling like this? don't you want the obsession to end? isn't it draining thinking about food and exercise and your body all the time? Try to remember your life before all of that. It might seem great right now - you might have a relationship with your eating disorder that feels good but it is an illusion. Your mind is fooling your body into believing that it feels good - for what? what does being skinny bring you? Truly take a second to think about that question.
Does it make you feel more attractive? - because it shouldn't. Being smart, brave, funny, creative, passionate or feisty should make you feel sexy and happy. Do you feel like you're enough now? or do you just want the number on the scales to keep going down? will you ever be satisfied?
Does it make you feel happier? - really? researching the menu to work out the meal with the lowest calories, petrified to skip the gym, missing out on social events because they involve food. Does this sound like a happy person to you?
Life is more. You are so damn lucky to have the opportunities in front of you. You have dreams to catch and memories to make. Choose to recover.
And I said to my body softly, "I want to be your friend"