We feel it is powerful to share accounts of recovery stories, but in a way that always respects privacy and consent. If you have overcome an eating disorder, and would like to share your story, we invite you to consider sharing on this website.
This letter was sent to B-eat and is reprinted here with kind permission of the author. It gives a tremendous insight into the torture those who suffer with an ED live with day in and day out. It is also a letter full of hope for the future.
I'm not going to say 'dear anorexia' because you're certainly not dear to me. I recognise that I have problems expressing anger to my friends but I've definitely reached a point in my recovery where I'm no longer in denial about the negative impact you have had on all areas of my life and to stand up for myself and vent because I am angry. You took over my life, you physically and mentally tortured me, you caused me to do horrible, deceitful, secretive things that lead to shame and guilt and me disliking myself just at the time when I needed to love and care and value myself. You caused anxiety and worry and fear in both me and my family. You contributed to me having to leave my home and friends in Australia, you damaged my body, my periods, my bones, my strength, my appearance. You have prevented me from enjoying food, from being able to freely participate in social occasions that involve food. You didn't let me eat when I was hungry, you made me self centred and obsessed, you made me compare and feel jealousy and envy of other people, you prevented me from working and feeling confident enough to have a relationship. You are conniving, devious and resilient. I fear that you are something that will always be present in some shape or form in my life but they say that acknowledgement of a problem is the first step to conquering it and in April when I looked in the mirror and had a panic attack at what I saw, had to hide the effort it took me to get out of bed, get dressed and climb the stairs and feared you would kill me I finally did. You are so evil though that despite the terror I had a perverse sense of achievement! Did you have to take me that far to realise how dangerous you are? So less than a year since my recovery from depression (which I and professionals had said was treatment resistant and given up hope of recovery) I proved that I could get better from that and I have the motivation, support and love in my life to "beat" you too. My journey is ongoing and may never stop but I tell you that I'm doing stuff I would never have done a year ago, counting the wins, focusing on the positives and excited about my future. My life isn't on hold anymore. I'm not waiting any longer to do the things I want to do as I know that life is precious and in doing those things its the best sway for me to continue my recovery and banish you as much as I can from my life, and no you will not morph into another ED!
Here is a wonderfully inspiring letter from an amazing young woman who has overcome anorexia and kindly allowed us to share her story, to help others who may be struggling.
I just want you to know that I've been where you are and it's just such a dark place to be. BUT I know that you can and will get through this. I don't mind if you want to stop reading now, I won't be offended or even if you just throw this in the bin after you've read it.
I remember being in a really dark place, like you seem to be now; not wanting to get better, but wanting things to be different and not knowing how to do it and just feeling so guilty all the time for everything that I enjoyed or did. Looking back now, I realise that it wasn't fair. I don't even recognise myself back then and I certainly NEVER EVER want to go back to that again. I realise how ill I was and I can just see a cloud of illness surrounding me back then, even when I was healthy physically and my weight was ok, my mind was just in such a bad place. I'm guessing that you're in that dark place now, where everything is just so much of a struggle and there's just constant conflict in your mind and also between all the people around you like your family.
I'm currently sitting in Cafe Nero at the moment writing this to you and I'm having a latte because I'm rather tired, but also because I just love lattes and there is no reason in my head valid enough for me not to have one.
One of the things that I'm guessing that you're really struggling with is your weight. I know that feeling. It's horrid to be weighed every week and just be so scared and anxious and feel like it’s out of your control and like the number should be much lower, but right now, I actually have no idea what I weigh. About 4 weeks ago, I was still weighing out and measuring every meal that I ate and even though I wasn't listening to my illness and trying to restrict, it was still something that I would think about a lot within a day (not as much as I used to, but more that any normal person). Things are very different to that now, even within 4 weeks! On my 18th birthday, I realised that I just wanted to go out and have fun. So I decided that instead of having something that I knew the calories in, I would choose something that I actually wanted to have. (I had sex on the beach! It was sooooo yummy!) and I thought we'll you know what, i didn't know how many calories were in that, but I'm not dead am I? I haven't suddenly expanded so much that I can't fit into my dress any more? Everything was actually ok. It wasn’t that it was easy, it was just that I was really starting to get fed up of all of that stuff and I just had firm words to myself and said, right A, just have what you actually WANT. I took a leap of faith because in that moment, my illness wasn't on the top of my prioritisation, having fun actually was. If you'd told me that a year ago I would have probably punched you in the face. I would NOT have done that or even wanted to think about doing that. Even the thought made me feel guilty. But now, I feel stronger than that thoughts that tell me that I'm weak if I eat something and enjoy it, or if I have something that I don't know entirely what the calories are. Tbh IT DOESN'T MATTER TO ME NOW. Of course I do monitor my intake more than I used to before I was ill, and worry about my activity/ weight/ food more than I used to, but the difference now is that it doesn't control my life! I'm not even joking, but it is THE MOST AMAZING AND EMPOWERING feeling to be in recovery. It truly is. When you get past the horrible guilty part of taking responsibility for your recovery and choosing to get better, I promise you that it will be the best thing in the world. Even better that before you were ill. The saying that the worst days of recovery are better than the best days in relapse is true, it really is.
I know that I'm probably making it sound a lot easier than it actually is, but trust me, I do know that it's a really really horrible thing to be doing, especially when you're confused as to what you want, but I promise you that really, the only key is to actually JUST KEEP GOING. You have to push yourself and force yourself to do the things that you feel like you shouldn't do, just with the FAITH that eventually it will make things better. You literally have to make yourself, and you will feel horrid after, each time, but slowly you'll look back and realise that actually it is getting slightly easier, even if it’s just a tiny bit. If you listen to your illness then you are feeding it but if you ignore it, it will try to fight back at first, but then you will eventually become the stronger one and eventually you'll be able to learn to trust yourself again. One thing I found really helpful was writing out a list of challenges to all the thoughts I was getting. At first I just kept them to myself because I felt too guilty having them out when others were around me, but then eventually I started taking them to the table with me or carrying them around, so that when I needed to, I would just look at them and remind myself. Try to write them when the thoughts are least strong, so then you are more able to challenge them, that really helped me and I felt like I was the one in controlled my recovery because they were my OWN challenges, not anyone else's.
Of course I'm not fully recovered yet, but I'm well on the way there and I don't think that I will ever feel the need to resort back to my illness again. I just have too much to lose now, I've worked too hard for my life and whereas before I would feel guilty or selfish saying this, I now feel proud of where I am and life is good. Better than it will EVER be whilst I was ill.
I just really want you to know that there are other ways to get there other than talking with your therapist/parents. When you're in a better place I think that it would really help, because since I'm a lot better now, me and my therapist get on really well! Haha. you will get there if you want to, but it has to come from you. It will be hard, probably one of the hardest things that you will ever have to do, but I 100% promise you that you will NEVER EVER regret making the choice to recover. NOBODY who has recovered/is actually in recovery regrets it and I mean NOBODY. 100%
I hope that this has helped, or at least given you a little bit of comfort that there is someone out there that understands.
So much love and support,