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  • Helly Barnes

"I'm Giving Up... Let the Eating Disorder Consume Me!"

This post is a more personal one, in which I talk about a very real and tough stage of overcoming an eating disorder. A time in which I very nearly decided I could not do it anymore.

This stage hit me when I had spent some time in 'quasi recovery', from which I had decided to finally break free. I was spending day after day battling to go against the deeply ingrained, disordered and automatic habits and thought patterns. I was exhausted and emotionally and mentally drained. I had also gained more weight and was not sure I could tolerate much more of anything, especially not when real life was also asking so much of me, as it does of any adult with responsibilities in this world.

It all started to feel so overwhelming. I had emotions that were flying around all over the place. I was as low as I had ever been one minute, sobbing with an inner pain that was deep and intense and the next I was managing to stay afloat, smile and get by but still not feeling happy.

It felt like life should be easier than this by now and yet it wasn't and I was not sure that continuing to pursue 'recovery' and whatever that meant at the end of it all was really going to be worthwhile.

Perhaps, I wondered, the professionals who told me years ago that I would never recover and should focus on quality of life with the illness instead, were actually right. Maybe I was just making myself more stressed, frustrated and exhausted by pursuing what could well be the impossible?

To highlight my mental state at this point in time, I will share with you an entry in my journal:

"Yesterday was a big UGH day. I was so low. I went to bed in the afternoon to block the rest of the day out... although managed to convince myself to get up later to eat. I have been having more and more thoughts that maybe I should stop pursuing the recovery thing; stop being a broken record; stop 'trying' and 'trying' and still feeling like I am getting no where. All that happens at the moment is that I end up more distressed, anxious and frustrated as I try and push myself in challenging ways but then fail to make meaningful progress. And if I am honest, I like my body size now. I can accept the weight I have gained but deep down I don't want it bigger and maybe, physically, this is ok from a health perspective, even if this body is not allowing me to be mentally free. Plus, people live with mental and physical limitations all the time... maybe this eating disorder, as it is now, is the destiny I just have to accept and make the best of?"

As you can see, I was doing well at convincing myself to give up on my whole pursuit to overcome the eating disorder, telling myself some really good 'stories' for why I should just stop and let the eating disorder remain in my life.

However, journalling was always my way to thrash out all sides of a mental argument, so happily, I did not let the journal entry end there and I did not let my recovery end there either.

Here is what came next:

"...But then those thoughts of giving up also make me feel even more depressed, more defeated and more anxious. What if I can still learn to like and accept my body if it was MUCH bigger? What if that bigger body brings me such a wider life that it will all be worthwhile? What if I accept this half-way life when I could have achieved so much more if I don't stop now? And, while the eating disorder is still present, if I stop myself from pushing forward, I will be more likely to go backwards. If I stop here then the likelihood is that I will simply slide back deeper and deeper to the disordered hell I have worked so hard thus far to climb out of. I have come a long way from where I was but I can't stop. If I stop, I might well die from the eating disorder. Therefore, I have to keep making leaps forwards. I can start recovery again, each and every day (no matter how much weight I have gained) as if this is day one of the process. So, if this was day one of recovery, what would I do? I have to stay curious. I have to recommit to all that this process needs. What if I can discover even more true joy and laughter again? What if I can find inner peace, acceptance and even contentment in my life? What if being in a much bigger body is really absolutely fine? Don't I owe it to myself to find out? I can build a new life from the bottom up, and to have a new life that is sustainable and a life I can love, I have to dig deep and find my strength, stamina and commitment. In fact, perhaps I have to go a bit wild and free!"

And so, I pushed on with the fight... and I call it a fight because the whole process feels like a fight so much of the time and I don't care what anyone says about that.

I decided that I had to keep pursuing the feck it, fun, fat and free life that I craved and stay as curious as I could as to what life might look like without the eating disorder in it. I didn't need to be curious as to what life would be like if I allowed the eating disorder to remain. I had excellent insight into that future but the one without it... that was an unknown I needed to discover.

If you like to listen, as well as (or instead of read!) then this blog post is a transcript of a podcast episode which you will find on my podcast series,

available on this website, on all mainstream podcast platforms and on YouTube!

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