A few days ago I tried on my wedding dress only to find that I could barely do the zipper up. My initial reaction was to break into a sweat and think about all of the ways I could shed a few kilos before the big day in two months. The reaction that soon followed was something very different.
In my late teens I had anorexia. I hated who I was and what I looked like. I thought that by being skinny I would be desirable and happy. Fast-forward to "skinny me" and the reality was very different.
I still hated myself but in addition to this I hid myself away from family and friends, embarrassed about my skeletal frame. I became a recluse and a perfectionist. Needless to say I felt lifeless and depressed.
My mind was consumed with what my next meal was, how I could avoid eating, or where I could hide food so that I could throw it in the bin when I got the chance. I was petrified of food, eating, and weight gain. Sounds exhausting doesn’t it? Well, make no mistake, it was.
My anorexia was the story I wore until I finally decided that enough was enough. My so-called ideal weight and aesthetic had let me down.
In my mind, I was promised something that did not deliver, regardless of how militant I had been at sticking to my plan. I decided at my lowest and skinniest point to choose life and another kind of existence.
Gradually, I accepted invitations to go out with friends for a meal again. I reintroduced foods I had otherwise banned and began to experience a sense of genuine happiness again. I saw myself deserving of bigger things than the four bedroom walls and restricted foods I had confined myself to.
Close to 20 years later, instead of grieving the time lost, the torture felt, and the heartache I put loved ones through, I'm grateful for that experience. I now truly understand how food and social interaction provide information to nourish the body and stoke the fire of happiness.
Occasionally I am triggered and have found the old self wanting to return to destructive thoughts and behavior. I short-circuit this with a few simple supportive tools. Many of these are a daily practice so that the old self remains a weak memory.