If you are in a place in your own recovery journey where discussion of relapse, recovery struggles or weight loss is a potential trigger, I’d first and most importantly commend you deeply for the awareness and recognition of your own needs, and encourage you to consider skipping over this post.
This is something I wasn’t sure I wanted to share, and that’s why I’ve hesitated to post about it until now, but I think therefore it is absolutely something I need to share. Honesty has blown my life open in the best way, especially as it pertains to recovery. It is also a conversation had with people I’ve spent time with since coming home: in part a preemptive move to soften any alarm bells and in part as an ongoing open conversation about where I am. Because there is nothing more
scary nauseating panic-inducing freeing than being open with your ugliest stuff.
I could have also titled this : “NO ONE PANIC, OKAY?”
Anorexia loves travelling. This was something I actually knew before I left in April. Five years ago, on a month-long Europe trip, the first travel abroad I’d done, I lost a bunch of weight. A noticeable, significant amount in the course of about a month. I was actively under-eating, we were moving constantly, and I was in the place of my disorder that I was all-in. It would take more than 3 years after this before loved ones’ concern would convince me to pursue recovery at all, but during that trip, it was anorexia’s dream come true. Unsupervised, almost effortless* weight loss. It feels absolutely shameful to even type that out. But I knew pre-Bali, a year and a half into solid, consistent, upward-motion recovery, that whether anyone explicitly said it or not, those who had been there then, would fear that the same thing would happen this time.
*effortless is not really the right word but after sitting on this for days I don’t know how else to fully explain it. No one with or without an eating disorder should find it effortless to fuel on as little as I was, but being accustomed to it at that time, I remember feeling like it was easy.
I want to be really clear that at no point before I left, did I plan to use travel as a means to re-engage in restriction or my previous relationship with food. I was, on the contrary, hyper-aware of the risks of being on my own and with the blueprint of travels past. While in Bali, I took full advantage of the love surrounding me, dug as deep as I could and leaned into the support I had there when I needed it. But the reality is, I didn’t have my eye on it when I branched out solo. I tried to live in every moment, and was so busy putting one flipflopped foot in front of the other from one side of the world to the next, I barely thought about recovery. It was a blessing and a curse because the peace of mind also meant that I didn’t consider eating off-schedule, in unfamiliar places, without compensating for the amount of movement and heat. And by the time it was clear enough to me the degree of what was happening, I was close to coming home. It took everything I had to message my parents, it was excruciating to admit that I had slipped, and terrifying to think that I would hurt or worry the people I love back home.
And the plot twist, which I should know by now is not a plot twist whatsoever, is that while any weight loss is concerning to those who are supporting an anorexia recoverer-in-training, no one was angry, or disappointed. They were there, just like before, holding space, and believing that I was still as capable and worthy as ever. This time, though, I have skills, support and the transparency to lean into and lean on.
The irony of jumping out of planes, climbing cliffs, driving solo through Australia and not being able to eat a sandwich is not lost on me. I know the work that needs to be done. Anorexia sometimes appears to have me on the ropes, but I am not throwing in the towel. I’m not finished. And even when I feel like I’m failing at it, recovery is still a piece of my life. A piece I am bringing back into the foreground. If I’m not hiding, my eating disorder can’t hide either, and shadowy secrecy is where anorexia lives and grows.
So I’m sharing this because maybe you need to hear this and maybe I need to hear it myself: It’s ok. Recovery of any kind is not linear. I have heard this; you probably have too. But it’s said so much that the impact can get lost. Recovery is not linear. And this isn’t an eating disorder thing, or even a mental health thing. This is a life thing. Setbacks, step-backs, or steps off the tracks. The difference between going completely off the rails and getting back in the ring is recognition, the ability to reach out and be vulnerable in your vulnerable moments with the people who hold space for you. (PS: I’m one of those people, who is holding space for you. Yes, you. I promise.)
We are still in this fight. *ding ding ding*
I’m not always okay.
I will be, I promise.
NO ONE PANIC, OKAY?