I've read an abundance of inspirational and heartfelt blog posts in honour of Mental Health Awareness Week over the past few days, and deep down I had a yearning to contribute my thoughts. It's taken me until the end of the week to gather what I wanted to say and pluck up the courage to say anything at all, because frankly, who really cares what another girl behind a screen has to contribute towards such a massive issue?
Something only a handful of my followers will know about me is that I struggled with an eating disorder from the age of 15. It was year 11, it was prom coming up, it was the ever-common pressure to get 'in shape' that spiraled out of control.
That spiral continued for around 3 years. It wasn't until I moved away to uni that I considered myself to have fully left anorexia behind. The thought of knowing that any set back or relapse could throw my entire degree down the drain was what helped keep those thoughts at bay. For the most part, the 3 years I was at uni was a time when food was an enjoyment to me rather than a fear. I enjoyed eating out with my new friends and was always grateful of how I didn't ruin those times by worrying and restricting any longer. I considered myself recovered.
I always heard people say that "once you have an eating disorder, it never really leaves you" and lately that phrase has been haunting me somewhat. This blog post isn't about whether or not I consider that phrase to be true, just my experience of what being 'recovered' really is.
Almost 4 years after leaving my eating disorder behind, I still have bad days. We all know how Instagram can be a killer for self esteem. The amount of models and diet products we scroll past on a daily basis is hard to ignore, and every now and again thoughts can creep back in. Every day is still a battle with some part of my brain telling me to look a certain way. I still have days where I struggle to eat in public, afraid of what people would think. I still have times where I want to chose the lower calorie option rather than the option I actually want. Yet the difference between now and several years ago is that now I have the will-power to ignore those thoughts and fight against them. We won't be here forever, so eat whatever you want and enjoy it.
Perhaps that voice never fully leaves you, but your ability to banish it gets stronger? Whatever the case, this week has got me thinking about these struggles I still sometimes have and questioning what it means. Am I actually recovered? Is there still an underlying issue I'm not addressing? After a lot of contemplation, I've come to the realisation that the most important thing to remember throughout your 'recovered' life is: these thoughts don't make your recovery any less valid.
You are allowed to have bad days. It doesn't make you weak. It doesn't mean you're back at square 1. Be kind to yourself and remember how far you've come; you're not the person you once were. You've come out the other side stronger and able to fight that voice in your head. Will these thoughts "never really leave" me? Who knows. But I'm ready for them, and I'm ready to put up a fight. I think that's what being recovered is for me, to be confident in saying "no" to that voice, but also not beating myself up if I slip up. We're only human after all.