Here’s something worth reading by Scarlett Winter, a 30 something woman in my practice. It’s her story of recovery from severe and longstanding anorexia nervosa and, although hers is a very specific diagnosis, there is much in it for us all to learn about recovery from mental illness generally. I take no credit – this recovery story is all her own work! JO
I count myself as one of the lucky ones and am grateful for the life I am living today. Is my life perfect? No, but in comparison to the hell I lived for many years I am in a far better place. As much as it seems foreign for me to say: I love my life.
Firstly, I need to say that I am still a work in progress. And I will continue to be for the rest of my life. The road here was long, incredibly difficult, frustrating and seemed never-ending. I had long periods of hopelessness and despair. I wanted to quit many times and I never even imagined I would get to a place where I felt ok (let alone happy). I couldn’t imagine living in a body that wasn’t anorexic and quite frankly I sat on the fence through most of my recovery. I was the epitome of indifference. There is no way to sugar coat it: my illness and recovery were the most challenging thing I have ever been through. It has also taken me over 16 years since I was diagnosed to put the pieces of my life (back) together. So, to hopefully save others some time (!) I have compiled a list of top 5 things that have helped me along the way:
1. Get a good GP/Psychologist/Psychiatrist/Counsellor
And by good, I mean great. Someone who understands mental health, and specifically your condition- be it anxiety, depression, eating disorders or the trifecta. But also, someone who is able to connect with you- the person underneath the mental health issues. In my recovery, I saw a
2. Keep busy
When I was unwell I had to fill my time with as many things as possible including full-time work and a variety of other pursuits (renovating a unit?!), to keep my mind at bay. I tried to keep the mental work to my weekly/fortnightly appointments and keep occupied otherwise. It was so important to get hobbies,
What also helped me was routine- and admittedly I was very monotonous. But during those initial stages of recovery having a routine really worked for me. Doing something rigidly was still better than having too much time in my own head.
In the later stages of my
3. Be part of a community
I’ve always been a lone wolf. I am an introvert to the core and actually had bad social anxiety through a lot of my illness. I also never lived close to my family and have always been fiercely independent- and quite frankly I was convinced that I hated all people. I never wanted to rely on anyone either. So, needless to say, this wasn’t an easy one for me.
In the depths of illness, it’s easy to become isolated and, in my case, I stopped being social altogether. It took some time to reconnect with old friends and rebuild the trust that I had broken.
When I initially started to seek new social connections, I attracted toxic and enabling relationships that only served to keep me unwell. I didn’t have a real sense of what I deserved and wasn’t very selective in the company I kept. I went through a few bad relationships and then decided to just focus on myself. It was during that time that I
Fast forward a few years and I have never felt such a strong sense of community as I do now. The main reason for that is meeting my partner, who is one of the most genuine, caring, funny and positive humans I have ever met. He also had a tribe of friends (and a dog J) Lucky for me, his friends are great people and have welcomed me into their lives. A large number of our friends live locally and there is a real sense of connectedness where we live. I feel integrated for the first time in my life and I think for me that’s something I have missed my entire life. It’s incredible how much one or two good people can change your entire world.
5. Eat well (the trickiest of all when anorexia is the problem)
This has been the last and most difficult piece of the puzzle for me. Whilst I had been weight restored for a few years and have previously worked on increasing my range of food choices, I continued to be petrified of weight gain. This caused me great ongoing anxiety. I was also under eating and not performing at a level that I was capable of.
So, I finally got to a point where I knew I had to confront my fears. In the last 5 months, I have started seeing a great dietitian (who has extensively researched metabolism and also happens to fall under the great practitioner category). Can I just say that seeing her has been life changing? Who would have thought that there is so much bullsh*t out there in regard to food,
Had you asked me 5 years ago or even 15 years ago if I would be here, I would have not even been able to imagine the possibility. Recovery is not an easy road, but I can guarantee one thing- you are far stronger than what you give yourself credit for. Life does get better and even the darkest day’s eventually pass. Never give up the fight.
For reliable information, resources and support about eating disorders go to following websites: