Life After Anorexia

I saw you standing there in the supermarket and I recognised you immediately, even though we had never met. Your painfully thin frame draping in clothes that were far too big yet to you they were a comfort blanket of protection between yourself and the world.

You were staring anxiously at a box of pastries in your hand as though you were willing them to spontaneously combust and remove the agonising choice that lay before you. You put it down, spun around and walked five paces before spinning back and picking it up again. You turned it over looking at the nutritional label again, praying for it to somehow change to reveal numbers that you could be okay with.

I glanced to the side and saw another girl watching you, she was pushing a trolley filled with the regular things people buy at the supermarket, her face, her hair looked a lot like yours, I presume she was your sister. She wore a sad expression as she went to approach you and then thought better of it, leaving you alone with your anxieties as she slowly meandered off down the next aisle to buy what needed to be bought.

Pacing the store, I slowly filled my basket with things for my family, things still mostly forbidden to cross my own lips. I thought about how far I had come from that place you are in right now, I could now place those forbidden items into my basket, I could have them near me without fear.

It hurt seeing you, I remember spending hours in Woolworths just staring at labels, picking things up and putting them back over and over, hating myself, hating my body even more, eventually leaving the store empty handed, tears stinging my eyes with a resolve to punish myself harshly for even considering eating any one of those things I had handled, then washing my hands furiously in case those calories had somehow transferred through the packaging and seeped into my skin…

As I made my way back through the store today searching for something I had forgotten, I saw you again, still in the same place, staring at the pastries which you had once more placed back on the shelf, looking like all you wanted in the world was for the ground to swallow you up and take away the pain. Part of me wanted to run over and hug you, tell you it was going to be alright, but anorexia is such a private illness, such a deep and secret pain.

I don’t know if you bought those pastries in the end, let alone ever actually ate them. I’m sure I left that store long before you and your sister did. I drove home crying for you, crying for me, for all the years I lost to my eating disorder, silently praying that one day both of us will be able to just eat a meal without even thinking about it.

To look at my body now, you would never believe I was ever ill, these days I’m quite plump, though in my mind I was never thin, even when I see the photos that tell a different story. I still hate my body with unbridled passion, I still feel intensely guilty after every morsel of food passes my lips, but now at least I can eat, I can even eat in public without dissolving into a quivering mess, I can go to the supermarket without having a panic attack and I can see you and feel empathy for the pain I know you are in, rather than jealousy for the visibility of your bones.

It’s a long and lonely journey but I am making progress, through therapy and online communities I have learned that I am not alone and I have been given a platform to share both my insecurities and my triumphs.

The fight is hard, and the road to recovery is long but it’s so, so worth it. You really can have life after Anorexia.

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12 Comments on “Life After Anorexia

  1. Reblogged this on tillydidblog and commented:
    I hate that I have allowed this to consume me yet again;
    In the last 6 months I have lost all muscle tone & over half my body weight. I look ill, I know. I’m told often enough.
    I battled anorexia for over 6 years in my late teens and thought I had won; sadly it has snuck up again in my late 30’s…..
    I haven’t got the strength to fight this time 😒

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ugh 😦 Firstly HUGE hugs to you. Yeah there is something extra frustrating about relapsing as an adult, perhaps we feel like we should know better or something – but it doesn’t work like that – emotion and intellectual awareness are two very different things! My first bout of Anorexia was as a 14/15/16 yr old, thought I’d beaten it for sure – instead it turned out that I’d just stowed it away in a box in the back of my mind and pretended it never happened. That box opened itself up again when I was 29 and Anorexia flew back into my life at full force during a bipolar manic episode and when the mania left me I was so far into the ED rabbit hole that I never, ever thought escape was possible, at least this time I was able to admit to myself that I had a mental illness and the internet existed so I could talk to other people who genuinely understood. That support kept me alive, but it didn’t cure me. I don’t know exactly what coaxed me out from the shadows this time – I mean I’m not cured now, but I’m improving. CBT helps, it’s given me tools for reducing anxiety regarding shopping, walking past cafes and being around or preparing food that I’m not eating. I still eat mostly different meals to what I cook for my family but I’m working on that and making progress. The point I am at now, it affects me but it no longer controls me. You can reach that too, and more – you have cognitive awareness on your side, you understand whats going on and that is a big step, find a therapist you can trust with this and tell them everything! Work on underlying issues too, focus on other areas of your life you can control safely, practise self care and do things you like (like writing on your blog!) You can beat this, I promise you can! xoxo Kate

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m currently suffering from anorexia and have recently started treatment. I really related to this post, as I hope other relate to mine. Thank you for your honesty. That girl in the supermarket could have so easily been me, or a myriad of other sufferers. We’re all in it together and I am hopeful to know that you are successfully working toward recovery. You are brilliant and brave x

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Such a beautifully written vignette, as your comments attest! I still go through that same drama, the Ana demon berating me for the “sin” of wanting a treat….well, I’m not particularly thin anymore, and the Ana monster can go to hell…but I admit, as much as I thumb my nose at it, it’s still there, sitting on my shoulder, keeping up a running commentary on whatever I do or do not put into my face. In fact, I sometimes purposely eat things just to piss it off. Not very healthy. But this is a lifelong struggle. You’d think that being 64 years old, Ana would finally give it up! But no. We have to negotiate, constantly. That’s just how it is.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t know if it ever truly leaves, I think we just learn to understand it better and therefor begin to control it rather than letting it have complete control of us… Thank you for commenting, it’s nice knowing that we aren’t alone 🙂

      Like

      • I kind of like the Buddhist way of simply noticing and acknowledging one’s compulsions, then not acting on them. Trying to quash or deny the little demon on my shoulder only makes it louder and harder to ignore. If I say, “I hear you, I know you’re there, but no way do you control me,” then I have at least half a chance of being the one in charge. And it’s so good to know we’re not alone ❤

        Liked by 1 person

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