How I started my recovery from anorexia

Joyce shares her story of living with anorexia and looks back on her recovery

Written by Joyce Reilly


My struggle with anorexia nervosa started just after I began self harming. At the time, I had developed a deep sense of self hate. I felt as if I was so caught up in a society, both online and reality, with the online world’s perception of beauty. Wherever I seemed to look on Instagram it was always pictures of perfect models.Looking at these, I began to actually forget my own self worth. I had such a poor self image and it got to a stage where I decided to do something about it.

Whenever I ask myself why I starved myself or why I ever risked my life, all I can say is that I wanted to be thin and perfect. I wanted to be the world’s idea of perfect. I was willing to do whatever it took at the time. All I wanted to be was someone who was not afraid of the world, someone who could not be bullied, and I guess someone who was not so vulnerable to the world.

As I set out on my weight loss journey, I would check the mirror everyday and I would still see that same girl looking back at me. It didn’t take long until I found myself thinking that food was the real enemy. I began restricting as much as I could but the reality is that for anorexia this is never enough. Whatever lengths a person goes to the eating disorder part of their head is never satisfied. I was so depressed at the time. I remember one night I came in from hanging out with a mate and my father stopped me as I walked in. He told me we needed to talk and he said “Listen, people have stopped me in the shop, saying how much weight you’ve lost. You have slimmer’s disease, and if you don’t start eating properly, you are going to kill yourself.” I was really caught up in a living nightmare.

I really began to hate every inch of my body and it was a very dark time. Whenever I was forced to eat a meal I would self harm or genuinely cry myself to the point where I would fall asleep. I cannot begin to describe how much I really disliked my body.

As I began to get counselling things got progressively worse for a time. The weighing and doctors appointments happened every single week. However with all the help I was getting, I just was not ready to get better. Things just seemed so bad. I had lost a worrying amount of weight and looking back, at the time, I still felt like that fat girl. No amount of weight loss was ever going to be enough for someone with an eating disorder.

I would tell myself “You’re not good enough. If you were, maybe they wouldn’t have picked on you. This is the only way out.” I would go hours without eating, I would be physically weak that I would not be allowed walk upstairs.

I could see the hurt in my family’s eyes by looking at me wasting away. Of course I’d be hungry, but I could never eat. I could not deal with the guilt. The self harm and anorexia walked hand in hand. The counselling continued, but I was too stubborn and would not listen to what I was being told.

When everything got too much and I did not have the strength to stand, my father, brother and sister were the people who I leaned on the most for support. They encouraged me everyday to get better. It wasn’t easy. The day came where I decided I couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t keep hurting myself and my family. It just was not fair. I opened my mind up to the therapy and through the intensive therapy sessions, my counsellor and I worked very hard to get me to the place where I am today. There were tears, there was shouting, there was pain, but I was sure of my goal. I knew I wanted to get better.

As a matter of fact, in the end I did. It wasn’t easy to get to where I am today, but when I look back I could never do that to myself again. It was difficult, but it was so worth it. Today I am still very insecure, but I’m healthy. I can stand properly. I do have back problems, and chronic pain as a result of my own actions and my own decisions. Anorexia is such a sad reality for so many young people. This was just my experience but it affects so many young people.

Anorexia for me was always just wanting control. That came from years of bullying where I couldn’t control what people would say to me or do to me. I let go of anorexia through many sessions with my counsellor. My counsellor and my father really brought me through this tough time. I realised how upset my family were watching me live like this. I couldn’t see them suffer anymore. What I understood was that my suffering was actually being inflicted on them as well, which I realised was not fair.

Life without anorexia is so much better. You do not need to be controlled by that little voice in your head. With support, that voice will fade away over time. An eye opener for me was that I always wanted to reach my “goal weight” but let me tell you this – there is no goal weight. That’s something that is controlling you. You might reach it and then decide, I want to lose more. This is a vicious cycle that needs to be knocked on the head. Today I can live in freedom and do not feel guilty about what I eat. I can go on holidays and not have to wreck my brain about meal preparations. I can enjoy Christmas Dinner. I can eat and know my self worth. An unhealthy mind will never give you your perfect body. Look after yourself.

If you ever think of restricting food because you want to be perfect, let me tell you this – there is no such thing as perfect. You are you, you are original and you are beautiful! You need to embrace your insecurities and learn to love them. You are worth it.

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