Eating disorder awareness week has come around again, and as I am re-joining the Heads Up exec (yay!!!), seems like a good time to write something.
I don’t want to write about how horrible eating disorders are, because it’s something that kind of goes without saying. I suffered from bulimia through most of my teenage years and I can reassure any readers who don’t know already, that eating disorders are insidious, all-encompassing illnesses.
But what I really want to talk about, which is more relevant to my current situation, is recovery. Recovery is such a weighted word for those of us with a history of eating difficulties. What counts as recovered? Am I recovered when I stop binge/purging? Am I recovered when I’m weight restored? Am I recovered if I still count calories or if I still FEEL guilty about what I eat? Am I deserving of support if I’m technically ‘better’?
The answer is that there is no straight answer, and the common consensus seems to be that you can never fully recover from an eating disorder. I can see why people think this, the average recovery time is 7 years, and even after you’ve overcome the physical aspect of things, the mental anxiety surrounding food and body image can persist for a very long time. I however, have started to believe that we should be a little bit more optimistic. Recovery is a long and difficult process, with many backward steps along the way, but I do not see why we should not hope to live full and happy lives.
When I was in therapy, they gave me an analogy of an eating disorder as being like a life-raft in a stormy sea. The eating disorder tricks you into thinking that it can protect you from the things you’re scared off, while all the time it’s dragging you further underwater. For me therefore, recovery was a process of building myself a boat. A boat made of things and people that I love, made of body positivity blogs, self-compassion, patience, mindfulness, going for runs because I enjoy it, singing at the top of my voice, musical theatre, making home-made pizza, long walks, writing, learning to love and care for myself like I would a child. The list goes on.
About a year ago, I got a tattoo of my boat. It serves to remind me every day of the things in life that are worth fighting for. The things that give me the strength to say ‘NO’ if that nasty little voice ever pops up in my head again. One day I hope I won’t even need it to remind me of those things, and then it will just be a symbol of a fight I won.
So to anyone reading this who’s currently struggling with their own ‘life-raft’, take a few minutes to think of the things that make up your boat. I believe that eating disorders can be beaten, and I believe that you can beat yours.
If you have any questions or queries please don’t hesitate to get in touch! Message the Heads Up team via our Facebook page or email firstname.lastname@example.org and we will try our best to help! Also contact us if you are interested in blogging for us. Keep your heads up! Blog written by Kirstin – our fundraising officer!
- Mind’s website is fab for more information about eating disorders and other mental health problems
- Student Mind’s campaign about how to look after a friend going through difficult times
- BEAT eating disorder charity
- Men Get Eating Disorders Too
As always, there is always support at Durham University:
- Every college has their own welfare team made up of students, academic mentors and pastoral staff. More information and college specific advice can be found on our website here.
- Nightline: all night, all term, all ears. The phone number is on your campus card or duo. Phone and online chat every night of term.
- The counselling service
All artwork featured here is by @littlearthings on Instagram – check out her page and give her a follow!