My Ongoing Struggle With Anorexia: You Can Be Thin Again
I struggle with anorexia even now because eating disorders are complex and deadly illnesses. They manifest differently in each individual. For me, anorexia was not about being thin. And yet it was. That is the paradox of anorexia. I was addicted to starving, driven to be thin. I could never be thin enough, and it took years to break the chains of those thoughts.
But have I completely broken free?
No. However, many people think I am fully recovered because I have reached a healthy weight and I eat most of my meals seemingly without struggle. I am cured. Every one can take a deep sigh of relief. The crisis has passed, and Angela is moving forward with her life completely free from anorexia.
But if they would only truly listen, people would find that I still struggle with anorexia and its hold on me I still find eating and food frightening, and struggle to eat each meal. I still have thoughts of restricting my eating, particularly during times of stress and uncertainty. My body still feels foreign to me — I weigh about twenty-five pounds more than I did last spring — and I find these curves and flesh unfamiliar and sometimes abhorrent.
I still sometimes feel an almost physical ache to become thin again. However, thinness is only a symptom. Being thin is the outward manifestation of the inner turmoil and anxiety that I feel daily. I still sometimes feel as if I am worthless and incapable. I still sometimes feel afraid of the future and my place in it. Take away my thinness and how do I show you that I still have these feelings? How do I show you that the world still frightens me? How do I show you that I am still struggling?
Anorexia Whispers "You Can Be Thin Again" and Intensifies My Struggle
My eating disorder voice plays upon these fears and whispers to me, "You can be thin again," as if being thin will take away all the scary feelings. And restricting and losing weight does temporarily take away these and and most other emotions. It does eliminate anxiety and depression, and I do feel in control.
But the feelings created by anorexia eventually morphed into even greater anxieties and fears for me. I became afraid of things that I once never would have even given a second thought. I became afraid to be close to my husband and friends. I became afraid of working on my graduate studies. I became afraid to do most things. Instead, I would hide in my house for most of the day and only do the absolute minimum required of me.
Anorexia created more problems than it ever solved, and it is important that I continue to remind myself that when I feel the desire to plunge back into the disease.
Ways to Avoid Relapse in My Struggle With Anorexia
I am working on developing ways to show the people who love and care about me that although I am at a healthy weight — and I definitely plan on staying at this weight — I still struggle with the feelings that helped create anorexia within me in the first place. My feelings have to get out somehow, and I am working on talking, writing, and other ways to release the feelings before they become so overwhelming that I am at risk for a relapse.
My plan to avoid relapsing:
• Talk to my eating disorders psychiatrist/therapist. I made a vow when I started treatment with him in August 2008 that I would do two things: I would always tell him the truth and I would answer honestly any question that he asked me. These two promises have made therapy productive and trustworthy for both of us. I also feel comfortable to call him in-between appointments if needed.
• Talk to family and friends. I have a small circle of friends I can call if I needed to talk about things that bother me, and I have one good friend who has been recovered from her eating disorders for more than fifteen years that is available day or night. It is hard for me to reach out for help at times, and I often feel like a bother. But I know I can't always do it on my own.
• Keep eating even when the ED voices tell me not to, that I don't deserve to eat and instead should starve myself.
• Avoid things that feel triggering. I was a member of just about every Facebook group devoted to eating disorder. Then I realized hearing a constant onslaught of people struggling and relapsing created a mindset that potentially was harmful to myself. I want to be supportive and helpful to friends as they struggle with their eating disorders, but I also have to be careful. I often feel guilty when I hear about others struggling, and feel I am not deserving of recovery. This thought — I don't deserve recovery — has often been the first step toward a full-blown relapse.
• Ask for hospitalization if things become too hard and fear I will relapse without more extensive intervention than my weekly outpatient appointments. I have not been in the hospital for my eating disorder since February 2010 and PHP since June 2010. However, I can't allow pride to interfere with my receiving help.
Past experience has been a hard, yet effective teacher. I know it is so easy for anorexia to take hold, and so hard to rid myself of its influences. But I must in order to live and thrive.
Why I Continue My Struggle Against Anorexia
For me, recovery from anorexia means being free. Free from obsessing about weight and calories. Free from the fears and anxieties that are wrapped up in anorexia. Free from comparing myself from others and always, never being thin enough, pretty enough, or good enough.
Don't be afraid
Open your mouth and say
Say what your soul sings to you
Your mind can never change
Unless you ask it to.
Massive Attack, "What Your Soul Sings"
But it means more than that. Freedom is precious, and allows us to be our authentic selves. My voice has been silenced by anorexia far too long. It is time to allow myself to move forward into the future without fear, and find out who I am underneath the layers of anorexia.
As I chip away at this insidious disease, I rediscover another part of myself. I have learned that I love people and want to be with them. I have found out that God means so much to me, and I want to learn how to become closer to Him. I am rediscovering my love of reading and writing and listening to music so beautiful it makes my soul ache with joy. I am reconnecting with my husband, and it feels that this time we will make it and be able to put anorexia behind us.
And my soul sings...
Gambrel, A. (2011, August 19). My Ongoing Struggle With Anorexia: You Can Be Thin Again, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, November 28 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/survivinged/2011/08/you-can-be-thin-again-my-ongoing-struggle-with-anorexia
Author: Angela E. Gambrel
that message so inspiring and full of courage, I think you're a braver than you yourself have managed to discover woman. He faced the same struggle that you and the battle continues but God has promised to be with us ... so I identify with every word you write and you encourage you comfort my soul and my heart are not alone and will be praying for you so God strengthen you to continue this battle until victory and a truly free life You're an inspiration to many people not give up do not give God will help you be free completely from that horrible enemy that is ED
I love this article! I've retweeted it to my followers.
This part especially rang true for me:
"Take away my thinness and how do I show you that I still have these feelings? How do I show you that the world still frightens me? How do I show you that I am still struggling?"