8 October 2017

One Comment at a Time...

As written back in May 2016...

Being a woman, it is impossible to avoid conversations about food and body shape; they make an appearance in almost everything we talk about. What is being planned for tea, where we are having a meal out at the weekend, or a new flaw we have discovered on our body; it is inevitable that these topics form the basis of most discussions.

As somebody that has been very sensitive to these subjects in the past, I have established an increased awareness of the frequency that the topics occur in everyday life. If it is not communicated in people’s conversations, it is plastered across various media sources, and these are aspects of our life that we cannot escape. In the depths of my illness, I chose to isolate myself as a form of avoidance from having to hear or see anything that could cause me any further distress; but this proved to be impossible. It seems that restriction was the ultimate goal for all elements of my Anorexia, most prominently seen in my diet, but also in my social interactions. The fear of discussing food, diet, exercise or body shape was overwhelming, and the rapid changes in my mood swings could have seen an absurd response to any comment or question, regardless of whether or not it was directed towards me.

Throughout my ongoing recovery I have questioned what I was trying to achieve by avoiding the previously mentioned topics of conversation. Was it the fear of being caught out by other people about the lifestyle and choices that my Anorexia was prompting me to make? Or was it due to the difficulties I had in actually discussing food, particularly regarding the acknowledgment of enjoying a certain meal or snack. In each instance, I can see that the origin of my fears was the prospect of letting my Anorexia down. The anxiety and complex emotions that came with doing something that went against everything my eating disorder was telling me was just so incredibly overwhelming, that I did all I could to satisfy it. This is why recovery is so difficult.

Attempting to rebuild my social life, starting back at work full time, and discussing my mental illness have all thrown challenges at me regarding listening and talking about the previously delicate subjects of food and body shape. ‘I am so full, I don’t think I am going to eat tomorrow’, ‘I should not have eaten that chocolate bar, I am so fat’, ‘I am allowed this biscuit, I am going to the gym tonight’ are all examples of just a few of the comments I have heard. Now, for the people that have said these remarks, it may not have had any significance or meaning to them whatsoever. Chances are, the person that said they wouldn’t eat the following day undoubtedly did; the person that ate the chocolate bar was not fat; and the person that ate the biscuit probably didn’t go to the gym. But I now want to detail how these comments translated in my head. ‘I don’t feel full, does that make me greedy? If they aren’t eating tomorrow, then I definitely shouldn’t!’ ‘Well if they think they are fat for eating a chocolate bar then I am never going to eat one’, ‘So if I eat a biscuit then I must go to the gym. What about that cookie I ate last night, I didn’t go to the gym after that, should I go for an extra long walk tonight?’ These are just some of the thoughts that go through my head, even now at this stage of my recovery. I hope now you can see why avoidance of certain conversations was so vital in attempting to prevent my already weakening condition.

Strength, self-belief and rationalisation are key when trying to reduce the impact that certain comments can have on a sufferer’s mental state and behaviours. Avoidance and weakness, although difficult to challenge, are not helpful in the recovery process. I battle everyday with the conflicting thoughts in my head that ricochet after hearing a passing comment, but I have to learn to deal with it. I do not want to live my life being scared to engage in conversation for the fear that it may ignite the emotions, feelings and behaviours of my Anorexia. I must continue to cement the work I am completing with my dietician and psychologist into my mind, and silence the voice that still believes holds all of the power to rule my actions.  

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