One of the hardest parts (another one of the hardest parts – recovery is difficult) of recovery is that you don’t know who you are yet. It’s like being asked to give up your current life, job, friends, family and move to another country to start all over again. You might love it but, then again, you might hate it. Why would you give up something that you know and makes you think that it’s the only way you’ll get through life, and the only life you deserve, for something totally unknown and possibly worse?
When I was very ill, I forgot everything about myself. I didn’t know what I enjoyed doing or what I wanted to do with my life. In fact, my time in hospital was full of doubts about the decisions that I had made before I had become ill. I decided that I didn’t want to be a teacher and that I wanted to do something else instead. Looking back now, I think this was possibly because my final placement and the last few months of my training had been so desperately awful. Recovered, I love my job. I really, really love my job.
The problem with being stuck deep in anorexia is that the only idea you have about what your future might be like is the same as it is when you’re ill, but in a fat suit. Everyone tells you that, once recovered, you’ll be able to do all the fun things in life again. That is, quite frankly, terrifying: the only way you can ever imagine feeling is emaciated. Can you imagine being told you’ll be able to go on holiday and go for long country walks and go out to the theatre and cinema and all your brain offers you is the thought of doing those things whilst you’re exhausted, aching and so, so hungry?
I promise that the reality is different. There are things that you enjoy – actually enjoy, not just think you should be enjoying. You find out what you love again, and what love is again: life isn’t a day-after-day-drag through gaps between meals you cannot allow yourself to eat. If I had been told, five years ago, that I would love writing, teaching, talking, laughing, that I’d run a Gardening Club, that I’d be able to crochet without achy arms, that I would discover poetry and beautiful things and friends, I would have told you that you’d rolled your marbles away a long time ago. It’s simply impossible to imagine that any of those activities would inspire anything other than outright terror and a retreat back into the illness that told me it was keeping me ‘safe’.
But they do. And the fact that they do is one of the most difficult concepts to grasp. If I could give any of you just a tiny taste of how my life is on good days – even on mediocre days -, you would understand how important it is that you do get better. That’s not because my life is so special and wonderful: it’s because recovery is worth it. It’s because your own happiness – your own life – is there for the taking, if only you’ll give it a chance.
It’s scary, yes, but it’s worth it.
And you’re worth it.