My psychologist talked about recovery, and I said (amongst other things), what’s in it for me? Which sounds appallingly self-interested – because it is! But it is the crux of my recovery issue. Everything I do in my life, is for other people – even my recovery. And without having intrinsic reasons to travel this rocky road, it is nigh on impossible to keep trudging along.
So this morning, indulging in self-care by lying in late and having breakfast in bed, I started thinking about my recovery. The support and encouragement I receive. All the people who want to see me “get better”. And I want to do it for them, but I also have to figure out what’s in it for me. So here we go – ten reasons for me to recover.
I may not be – or have ever been – underweight. But the stress of poor nutrition and constant vomiting and my body not knowing whether it’s going to be fed or not, has caused me to lose half my hair. My once thick, red curls, are now thin and sparse. And alongside thin, sparse hair, I have brittle fingernails for the same reason. So top of my reasons to recover, is the pursuit of a lush head of hair and strong fingernails.
Do you have any idea how constipating bulimia is?! Perhaps it isn’t a big issue for other people? I don’t know… But it’s a massive issue for me. And as someone who weighs themselves on a daily basis (haven’t kicked that habit), being constipated is often a very depressing start to the day. At the risk of delving into the “too much information” category, it is normal for me to “go” just once or twice a week. And that’s with taking fibre supplements. Without them I’d probably never go again. I’ve started taking extra medications and fibre supplements which work at least every other day. My body is no doubt prone to sluggish digestion regardless, but eating disorders do nothing to alleviate the problem. I sometimes think I should write a book called, “I poo pebbles”.
Body temperature is adversely affected by poor nutrition. While restricting, and particularly being underweight, cause you to feel really cold – all the time – even purging and poor diet can make your body temperature waver erratically. In my experience! When I’m well nourished (you know – for a few hours here and there) I seem to experience temperature the way other people do. When I’m not, I’m freezing my butt off when others are stripping their jackets off. Or I’m curled up in bed sweating like a trooper despite the air-con being on. My temperature regulation is quite frequently useless.
Mental health is exhausting. You have no idea unless you’ve been through it, exactly what fatigue is. It’s not being tired. It’s not just feeling a bit unmotivated or lethargic. It starts in your soul and seeps through your pores and no amount of rest can make it go away. This is not me. When I was young (long, long ago, in a galaxy far, far away…) I was bouncy and hyperactive and functioned extremely well on next to no sleep – for years on end. I was motivated and a doer and I was filled with vitality and hope and energy and drive. Depression took that from me. Bulimia took that from me. I want it back thank you very much.
I don’t want to be unhealthy. I am acutely aware – and routinely reminded – that my behaviours damage my health in both the short and long term. In addition to hair loss and fatigue, poor nutrition and purging puts a strain on most of the body – heart, stomach, oesophagus, teeth – just to name a few. I don’t want a stomach ulcer. I don’t want to have a heart attack. I don’t want my teeth to fall out. I’d like to be healthy. Recovery will contribute to good health. Well, by that I mean, not recovering will lead to bad health…
All that food I eat, then purge, then I eat again, then purge some more, is just money quite literally being flushed down the toilet. All these mental health issues mean frequent trips to the doctor, sessions with a therapist, appointments with psychiatrists, prescription medications and holistic treatments. Books and support groups. It all costs money. Money I could spend on holidays. Or shoes. Or really nice underwear. Money that is going down the toilet…
So much of our socialising in life involves food. And while I am primarily bulimic, not anorexic, so I do eat in social situations, there is no pleasure in it. There is just fear and horror and disgust and self-loathing. Who wants that?! I can barely even imagine what it would be like to go out for a meal with friends and just choose enjoyable foods without having to figure out the best way to purge it quickly, or to avoid eating in front of everyone altogether. Other people seem to get enjoyment from social eating. I want to join the party.
Well – lack of shame. My life is one big ball of shame. And that is exhausting. I feel ashamed when I eat. I feel ashamed when I don’t. I feel ashamed when I purge. I feel ashamed about my weight. And about work, fatigue, procrastination, mistakes and every other little thing that isn’t “perfect”. I know that recovery won’t cure it all – but if I could at least eradicate all sense of shame from my food and eating behaviours, my life would be a very, very different place.
While I too hope for world peace, on a level much closer to home, I’d like to find some inner peace. Some serenity. To not have every ounce of my day consumed with thoughts of when can I eat, what should I eat, can I avoid eating, how should I eat, will anyone notice, how fat I am, how can I get rid of this food. The list goes on and on and on and on. It’s mentally exhausting. It never ends. I don’t know how to repeat that statement in enough ways to demonstrate the insanity of the interminable food thoughts that pound through my head, day in and day out. My entire life. It’s not peaceful.
Not the same as peace. Without peace, I can’t have happiness, but I yearn for that sense of positivity. Of joy in life. Pleasure in the things I do and the people I meet. All the energy taken up with eating and purging and restricting and shame and food avoidance sucks all the happiness away. Imagine all the time I would have for thinking about other things, and doing them, if I wasn’t trapped in a world of endless food.