Looks like finishing my bachelor degree and volunteering required a bit more time than I first anticipated. It feels like I am neglecting this blog, which is sad. You’re all so important to me and I miss being a more active part of our wonderful and supportive blog community. I will try to write a “proper” post in the nearby future, but I wanted to share a paper that was written earlier in recovery. The therapist told me to imagine myself in the future and to consider my life retrospectively, then write a letter to my present self. In the first letter I consider how my life has improved without the eating disorder, in the latter I describe a life where anorexia still has me in a tight grip. Reading through this only strengthens my commitment to recovery, and my hope is that it can help you to choose recovery. It is painful, but the pain of breaking free can not be compared to the pain of staying in the dark, anorexic prison. These days I fear anorexia more than I fear change.
* * *
Dear beautiful and strong Hedda,
it’s wonderful how much that can happen in five years. Changes you didn’t even dare to dream of. I know the anorexia feels like a too hard opponent with the way it threatens to eat you up from within. Taking one bite after another of your precious body. It is easy to loose hope when being filled with doubt and pain. The truth however, is that you are stronger than you believe. You have the power to say no to the anorexia and fight to create a future that can be so much more and so much better than the life you currently experience. A life with anorexia is no life. It is darkness and despair.
Now, this will not be easy. You’re in for a long fight. I’ve had to work hard to get where I am now, but there is no regret in my heart. I do not regret letting go of something that controlled me and threatened to destroy both me and my family. Every battle, every piece of food has helped me. It is true as they say, without struggle there is no progress. Recovery does not just happen, it requires work and time. It requires of you to face your greatest fears, dig deep within you and connect with your genuine self. The self that is filled with love, hope and dreams. ” Hah, there is no such thing within me”, you might think. Surely all there is within me is anorexia. My identity and destiny. My everything. No. That is a dangerous illusion. You are still within that precious body of yours. The voice of anorexia is strong, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have your own healthy voice. The voice of your heart. Please believe me when I say recovery will help nourish your healthy self, enable you to see the truth about anorexia. It is not a friend or necessary “tool” to cope with life, it is a dangerous enemy and illness. You can learn a new and healthier way to be in the world.
You might sit there and wonder exactly what my life is like these days. Well, I think you will like it. Those short moments you now experience of hope and dreams, often involving a desire to contribute positively to society, has now become a reality. My days are spent helping immigrants feel safe and better prepared to gradually build a new life in Norway. Making sure they acquire the required knowledge and skills to participate in society and give them a sense of being valued. Just as you long to feel. Valued. Respected. Safe. The battle to break free has enabled me to help other experience those feelings that are crucial for our self- image. Helping yourself is the key to helping people you care so deeply about.
While I love my job, the future is not all about work. Freedom from anorexia also involves freedom from perfectionism. These days I allow myself time off without being overwhelmed by guilt and anxiety. What more, time off is not destroyed by counting calories and pushing my body beyond its limits. Instead I engage in activities that are positive both mentally and physically. The bond I once shared with anorexia is now replaced with relationships with true friends. Connections based upon compassion and respect. Obsessive exercise belongs to the past as I’ve come to realize that exercise should never be motivated by fear and guilt. You can not run away from what troubles you. To strengthen my body and nourish my spirit I usually turn to yoga or long walks in the nature. That is what health is. Learning to listen to the voice within and trust it. When my body tells me to rest, I know it is safe for me to honour this need. Of course, there are days where I can notice old thoughts and urges sneaking in. Thougts revolving what and how much I can eat and urges to engage in disorded and destructive behaviour. Recovery has taught me that these thoughts do not and should not dictate my actions. I am stronger than them. My desire to live is stronger.
I know you’re scared, Hedda. Scared of failing. Scared of being you. To break free and discover that society does not accept nor need someone like you. That you’ll never get a job or any friends. But, trust me. All will be well. Step by step, all will be well. You have to dare. Believe in yourself. Believe in the voice telling you you want change and freedom.
With love and hope,
* * *
after close to five years anorexia continues to control you and most aspects of your life. Dictating your every move. It is painful and I know this is something you fear. That you’ll never be free. Never get to experience what you dream of- a moment of inner peace. A minute, or just a second without that feeling. The feeling that there is something eating you up from within, something that is not you, but nonetheless resides in you. Oh, the ambivalence! Fear of recovery and fear of staying the same.
You might wonder why anorexia still dominates my life. Just as hard a question as how it first developed. Perhaps because you never dared to believe in yourself and your therapist. Did not trust her advices when it came to food and rest, but instead continued to hold on tight to familiar thoughts and behaviour. Restricting. Working out. Hating yourself. The three golden rules of anorexia. When we do not try to do what the therapist tells us is necessary, we will not experience what they say is possible. A life free from anorexia. Instead we remain stuck in the dark hell. A hell where you, dearest Hedda, depends on the support from other people to nourish yourself and have no other option but to live at home with your parents. Not only due to economical reasons, but because you’re not able to or willing to take care of yourself. Yes, it’s hard. Yes, it fills you with pain and longing. Longing for something more. For a life in freedom. I still cry myself to sleep and fight to ignore the feeling within that there’s something wrong. Something terribly wrong. You’re already sick of being sick and in five years the feelings of hopelessness and grief over everything you loose when being controlled by anorexia will only have intensified. I feel completely stuck in the disorded prison. I see that there is a world out there, but I do not find the way in to it. Do not feel able to take part in it.
To be honest, you will not have the time to take part in the world either. Your days are packed. Not with positive activities, but with counting calories. Dealing with anxiety each time you sit down to eat. Arguing with your family. And always longing. Life with anorexia is not good and your heart is well aware of that. It dreams of love, hope and change. Of having friends, a job and a life that feels meaningful. As you already know, a life controlled by anorexia leaves little time for anything else but disorded behaviour. It involves food restriction, but also restriction on life itself. Rules and constant uneasieness. How sad and exhausting.
I beg you, Hedda. Fight to avoid for this to become reality. Fight for freedom. Recovery is painful, but so is remaining a slave of anorexia.
* * *
You do not have to write it down anywhere, but take some time to play with the thoughts about how life can be. Allow yourself to see recovery as possible. Allow yourself to believe in your own strength and worth. The truth is that you are stronger than the eating disorder. You can fight these demons. Step by brave step.