24 March 2018

One Gain at a Time...

I should be used to the experience by now, but this time it did catch me a little off guard.

Obsessively weighing myself is a habit that I tackled a long time ago, but every now and again when I return home from university I do step on the scales to see if I am on track with maintaining my weight or gaining. Since being discharged from all healthcare services I am not weighed on a regular basis, which I used to rely on as a way of monitoring if I was implementing what I have learnt during my treatment as to how to stay physically healthy. Therefore, I agreed with my family that I would just weigh myself on my visits home to check that everything was still going in the right direction. It goes without saying that the best way for me to keep in tune with how I am controlling my eating disorder is to reflect on my thoughts and behaviours, but I am pleased to say that although the intermittent episodes try to drag me back, my mental health and wellbeing is generally stable. However, it is coming up to that time of year with assignments and exams looming, which from past experience, I know that these are some of my major triggers. So when I returned home yesterday I weighed myself to check that I have not been letting things slip.

Let me start off this explanation by reminding you that recovery is not a smooth process. I still have aspects of my journey that I need to work on and accepting weight gain is still one of them. I don’t normally share numbers related to weight, but I want to write this out and prove to myself how far I have come and how much I should not let this experience push me back.

Over the last couple of years I have managed to maintain my weight nice and steadily with a little bit of natural fluctuation. However, yesterday I had a bit of a surprise. When I stepped on the scales, instead of the number reaching its usual result, it kept increasing; not by a lot, but just enough to release a few of those horribly negative thoughts that I have managed to keep nicely suppressed. I glanced down and started to examine every possible area of my body; panicking that somehow I had “catastrophically” changed in body shape and nobody had told me. I started to question everything, allowing those thoughts to start getting louder and louder. And then it stopped. I stopped checking my body; I stopped overanalyzing everything and I started to reflect.

Since starting my treatment, I have gained 16kg. But in all honesty, that means absolutely nothing. Every gram of that weight gain equates to a hundred more positives that I have experienced since embracing recovery. Friendship, happiness, achievement, education, memories, courage; these are all of the gains that they don’t tell you about recovery. And it makes me angry that on this occasion, I too forgot about those gains. I succumbed to the negative thoughts that have been trying to resurface in response to the stress, anxiety and self-doubt that university life has cast over me. Weighing myself was the golden ticket that those thoughts needed to test my strength and motivation to recover. But this time I proved to myself that I am capable of dealing with them. Every time I experience a hurdle in my recovery I know that it is just that, a hurdle. I have the tools that I need to tackle it and most importantly, I have my family and friends that I can talk to in order to give me that extra push I need if I find myself scrambling.

Recovery is not an easy process and you never know what is coming around the corner. A few weeks ago I may well have celebrated this weight gain without any negativity whatsoever, but with a combination of academic pressure and the dreaded ‘time of the month’ colliding at the same time, I didn’t see it coming. However, another challenge is another opportunity to learn!

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