Eating disorders, as with any mental illness, are not a choice. We do not wake up one day and decide that today is the day to develop an E.D. It’s brain chemistry. It’s genes. It’s personality traits. It’s living in a thin-obsessed society. It’s a contribution of all these factors and so many more.
Now recovery, on the other hand, is a choice. In fact, recovery is nothing but choices, each and every single day. A series of choices, one after another. It’s choosing not to step on the scales when the voices inside are screaming that you have gained too much weight. It’s choosing doing some light yoga instead of a heavy gym session. It’s choosing to throw away your new expensive fitbit because, yet again, you’ve been caught in a number trap. It’s choosing to eat when you’re hungry even if you’ve had enough food to feed a large bear already that day. It’s deleting calorie counting apps and reinstalling it over and over and over again. It’s choosing not to look at labels and calories and nutritional content of food. It’s looking in the mirror and choosing to love your squishy bits rather than try to tear them off of you. It’s saying yes to the extra cream on the hot chocolate, because it turns out that there are things that tastes better than skinny feels. It’s choosing brunch with friends over cardio and calorie counting. It’s choosing to rid your life of people and things that no longer serve you for the better. It’s choosing to do the opposite of what the voice in your head is screaming at you. It’s choosing to be uncomfortable and make hard decisions. It’s choosing to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and move on after a lapse. It’s choosing to ask for help when you no longer have the strength to do it by yourself.
Choices are empowering things. A lot of the time with mental illness we often feel weak and powerless, as if we have been robbed of something as simple as having autonomy over our own bodies and brains. But with recovery comes power. The power to make our own choices. The power to say this is no longer how I want to live my life. The power to choose light over the darkness that awaits in the depth of the E.D.
So every day I say yes to recovery, it gets a little bit easier. Not much, but a little bit. But here is what recovery isn’t: a straight line. Gaining weight and suddenly being okay. Simple.
Here is what recovery is: Messy. Confusing. Trying not to think about your body all the time (whilst actually thinking about your body all the time). Trying to navigate the world through the lens of different eyes. Embracing the opportunities life throws at you. Trying to forget how many carbs are in an apple. Healthy relationships. Avoiding the sneaky ways ED tries to get back in (hello apps, hello “wellness”, hello clean eating, hello cauliflower pizza). Looking in the mirror and thinking “that’s cool”. Most of all, recovery is choosing to honour and love yourself exactly as you are, accepting that you are going to have bad days and bad thoughts and bad feelings, but ultimately it will be worth it in the end. And there will be an end to this.
Eating disorders are not a choice, but recovery is. So what will you choose?
(This post is in honour of Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2018. If you, or anyone you know is struggling with an E.D. please seek professional help or visit the national Eating Disorders charity Beat for more information).
Useful websites and helplines: