“Sometimes we’ll find it. The balance between who we wish to be and who we need to be. But for now, we simply have to be satisfied with who we are.”
I have often asked myself ‘who am I?”. Who am I without this illness that dictates every part of my life – from the calories I eat, to the clothes I wear, to the things I do and the things I choose not to do. My likes and dislikes, even some friendships…EVERYTHING is ruled by my illnesses. I wonder how I will ever be free when this is all I have known for the past 8 years. How do I get better when I do not know what better is? “No Jenny – you cannot eat this, do that, wear those. You do not deserve to look nice. You are too fat and too ugly.” This is essentially your life while consumed by an Eating Disorder.
I worry people think this is a disease driven by vanity or a sick desire for attention. I assure you it is not. I almost wish it were the case that I could ‘blame’ my Eating Disorder on stick thin fashion models, a world obsessed with dieting and a society in which the media portrays thin as being in. It would be easy, in that case, to establish a cause and maybe even then to find a cure. But for me it has never just been about being thin. It has been about control and perfectionism. It has been about fighting hard against adulthood and wanting to make myself so small I didn’t take up space. I hated my body yes, but I hated myself 100x more.
I am still trying to recover after my most recent relapse. I have bad days, good days and some horrifically awful days. Yes I had to eat. But I also had to understand that I am never going to recover if I cannot accept myself – and within that I have to allow myself to love my body. And not its aesthetic appearance necessarily, but I have to find it in me to love what it does. My body fights to keep me going every single day and even after all the sh*t I have put it through, I am still here – living and breathing. Hating your body is easy. It is loving your body enough to nourish and not punish it that is hard.
Yet, honestly, the hardest thing I have learnt is to try and separate myself from the Eating Disorder. I have to constantly ask myself questions. What does JENNY want to do? What does JENNY want for dinner? JENNY would prefer to take the lift over the stairs because, lets be honest, who has time for stairs. And those extra calories burnt are so not worth it. It takes time and it takes practice. I hope one day I can live freely, and not constantly feel like at every corner my Eating Disorder is waiting to trip me up. I want to answer questions without hesitating as I frantically fight with two sides of my brain. But I guess it is about promising myself that I will get up each and every time I fall and to try and never fall in the same way twice.
I am learning every day how to be kinder to my body. I am learning every day how to fight back against negative thoughts. But most importantly, every day I’m learning who I am and every day I get a little bit of ‘Jenny’ back.