When I was stuck in the revolting, painful cycle of restriction before my admission, I used to sit up in the middle of the night typing out ‘if not now then when?’ onto endless Word documents.
The problem was that I had no intention – however much I desperately wanted to get better – of starting to eat at any time, never mind ‘now’.
I often write on here about how difficult recovery from Anorexia (or an eating disorder or mental health problem) is. That’s true. It sucks. There is honestly nothing more painful than forcing yourself to do things that you don’t want to do over and over again.
However, on the other hand, taking that leap – doing the thing that’s going to make you feel so uncomfortable and so upset and as though you’re ripping your own insides out with a screwdriver which will definitely give you lockjaw – is probably the best thing you’ll ever do.
As some of you know, I was discharged from Eating Disorder Services altogether in August of this year. Going it alone was – and is – scary, and is especially so when there’s something I would like to talk about and realise that there’s no therapist at the end of the phone or sitting in her room on a Monday afternoon to listen and gently/not so gently guide me in the right direction.
Unfortunately for me (and millions of other people around the world), eating disorders very rarely travel alone. OCD and Anxiety and Depression came with my Anorexia (or, rather, before it) and are still part of my life.
For a really, really long time now, I’ve been working slowly through tackling the OCD. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (also known as Just Do It therapy) is probably the best way that I’ve found of doing this because there’s nothing like learning that something isn’t as scary as it has become in your mind than actually doing it.
One of my obsessions/compulsions that I’ve left until last (because – honestly – I’m really scared of tackling it) is stopping washing my hair every day. This sounds ridiculous because lots of people do it. The problem is that I can’t miss a day. There are no days when I don’t wash my hair. Ever. It’s not that I like clean hair, it’s that I’m scared of my hair being greasy.
This probably won’t make any sense to anyone who’s not experienced similar but, if I miss a day, I can feel the grease dripping down my hair; see it sticking my hair to my head in clumps and imagine it coating my brush. It doesn’t stop there: I have a strict washing routine in the shower that, if I’m not careful, takes a ridiculous length of time to complete. During my (first) gap year, I used to wash my hair with Washing Liquid because it was the most grease-stripping agent I could think of, refusing to brush it because I believed it would transfer grease.
My hair, of course, is no different to anyone else’s: I can go for more than a day without washing my hair, of course I can. The only thing that is preventing me from having a day off from washing my hair is my mind.
On one hand, this is difficult, because it means it’s going to take hard work to overcome. A fear isn’t easy to conquer, but it’s not impossible. There’s nothing preventing me from leaving my hair for two days before I wash it, which is wonderful because I know that there’s an end in sight. I know that I can get better.
I know that all I’ve got to do is to leave my hair overnight twice and then brush my hair, put it into a ponytail and leave for work. Practically this is simple – it takes less effort than washing my hair does. Now, it seems impossible but I know that, once I have planned it, it will seem less so (planning is crucial: if you are supporting someone who is recovering, help them to make a practical plan – it’s the key that will unlock their recovery).
Once I have done so, it will seem totally realistic and achievable.
I wrote at the beginning of this blog post that it’s painful to force yourself to do something you don’t want to do over and over again but, actually, I’ve only got to make myself do it once and, each time after that, it will get easier. I will be able to cope more.
Is this because I’m wonderful, talented and a pro at forcing myself to do things I don’t want to?
It’s because it’s logical. You can get used to anything you choose to. Whether that’s eating a meal; washing your hands less frequently or saying a word that terrifies you, it is possible.
You can overcome anything you want to.
The best time to start is now.
Because if not now then when?