Once upon a time, I was the last person in the world to see Frozen. It was a horrible year: my best friends went to see it together, without me and I was alone. I can’t remember now – through the haze and fog of anorexia – whether it was the Christmas Eve of the same year or the next one when my sister asked me if I wanted to watch it with her, but it was a Christmas Eve where we sat together, wrapping presents.
It should have been perfect.
It would have been perfect, but anorexia was there.
[I’m not saying that I see anorexia as a physical presence. What I am saying is that, if you know someone living with an eating disorder, you will understand how ever-present it is in a room. You will also understand how it can change a person: I became moody, cold, manipulative and withdrawn, so powerful was my wish to become ‘thin’.]
We get to the part of the film which includes the song Do You Want to Build a Snowman. “This reminds me of us.”, my sister says. I remember how we were, at one point, so close. How, however much I try now, she won’t let me in. I blame her for changing, for not understanding my need to lose weight.
I don’t see that I am the changed one.
It is the same day that I get banned from driving. It is the same day that the International Space Station passes overhead. It is the same day that everything finally starts to crumble properly. I lie in bed and listen to Do You Want to Build a Snowman on repeat and sob. Proper sobbing with tears and hiccups. I cannot see that we will ever be the same. That anything will ever be the same.
I tell you this, not because I want you to feel terribly sorry for me, but because I want you to know that things can change.
This Christmas, it will not be perfect. I will not be perfect. But, my sister will come home and we will be together and we will watch films and wrap presents and do things together, and there will be no icy awkwardness between us because anorexia will not be in the room.
I will be warm on the inside and on the outside.
If you had asked me whether this would be the case on that Christmas Eve when I went to bed and sobbed, I would’ve said never. That nothing would ever be the same again.
But things do change. People can get better.
Recovery is really, really hard, but it is possible. There is no reason that anybody in the whole wide world can’t make the choice to get better from Anorexia. There is no reason that the rest of your Christmases need to be cold or lonely or miserable.
Choosing recovery might be one of the most difficult choices you make in your whole, entire life, but it is also welcoming the people you love the most back into your life, and into your heart, with open arms. There are people right out there for you, who love you and want to be with you. There are people who have dreams of spending Christmas with you.
If you are reading this because you are living with someone who has a mental health problem, have faith that things can change. Believe that whoever you love has the ability and the strength and potential to get better, because it will happen. They will, one day, be yours again. Christmas will one day be the day that you remember it being, or the day that you dream of it being. Don’t give up.
If Christmas is about love, then so is recovery.