I still remember the day. It was snowing outside in the middle of April, which was typical yet bizarre. The snowflakes were sticking themselves to the window, making it look like someone had shaken a snowglobe. I was shivering a little in the hospital johnny we all had to wear for our daily weights and vitals checks in the morning. After laying down on the couch to have the first set of vitals taken, I stood up, placing my feet together as I wrapped my blanket around my shoulders to try and ward off the cold.
And that’s when I noticed it. As I allowed my feet to roll naturally inwards, my thighs brushed up against each other.
When I was really sick, I was especially incapable of perceiving my body as it truly looked. I can recall the first time I realized I had a thigh gap. It was startling, and to my eating disorder, it was absolutely scintillating. I was in the little adjoining waiting room of the hospital floor I was on, taking a photo of myself in a rare moment of confidence. After posing in several different fashions, I rushed over to my phone and started scrolling through the photos.
That’s when I noticed it. It sent an electric shock running through me; my pulse accelerated and my heart did a little flip or two. Here was definitive proof that I was sick. There was a noticeable, measurable gap between my legs. I felt a sadistic rush of happiness at the same time that I felt a wave of fear.
Now that I am weight restored, my thighs lightly brush against each other even when I’m walking. I know that weight redistribution is real, because I’ve been weight restored for a couple months now, and clothes now fit me differently than they did at first. One of the most difficult things to come to terms with was the loss of my thigh gap. It was like a tangible trophy that proved just how good at having anorexia I was. I was so in control.
What a joke. I was so not in control. Not even in the slightest. My eating disorder had me firmly in its grasp, convincing me that I was fat, stupid, and worthless.
So as I stood there in the flimsy, thin fabric with the blood pressure cuff contracting around my arm, I was faced with a decision. I could either feel ashamed and disgusted with myself, or I could feel proud.
I am happy to say I picked the latter. In that moment, I felt victorious. So maybe my thighs touched now. So maybe this was definitive proof that I had gained weight.
So, maybe, finally, I was starting to beat my eating disorder.
I would love to say that it’s been smooth sailing from then. That I’ve continued to take these signs that I’m regaining weight as signs of regaining strength and happiness at the same time.
But that would make this too easy, wouldn’t it?
It is sometimes physically painful to me to tug on a pair of shorts or jeans and notice that they fit me a lot more closely than they used to. It is sometimes nauseating to look at the way my body now has curves instead of straight edges. It is sometimes impossible to sit in front of a plate of food and not feel panicking and scared about the prospect of having to eat it.
There’s that infamous saying that when the going gets tough, the tough get going. And this is something I repeat to myself every day.
Recovery is hard. It’s incredibly difficult. It requires you to go against every single rule and belief your eating disorder instilled in you. It feels wrong 99.9% of the time. You’re going against something so powerful that it’s literally managed to alter your thought process and your perception. You’re having to rewire your brain. Eating still feels fundamentally bad to me; there’s no two ways about it. I hate being watched while eating. I hate being asked questions about my food. I detest everything to do with the process of eating it, really. I don’t like to think about having to eat, because to do so send my brain into a self-destructive spiral. Actually, I need to be so distracted from the simple prospect of putting food into my mouth, chewing, and swallowing, that I ironically tend to watch the Great British Bake Off while I have my meals.
Lately I’ve really been struggling with coming to terms with the fact that my healthy weight does not entail a thigh gap. For so long I could stand with my feet together and not even have my knees touch. Clothes were baggy on me, and I enjoyed that feeling.
As I progressed through recovery, I could still fit into everything I owned, though albeit a bit more snugly. But recently I’ve encountered a few items of clothing that I can still tug on, though they fit a lot differently now, and this has really thrown me for a loop. My thoughts immediately turn to restricting and overexercising. It’s especially difficult because now it’s too hot and humid to wear a lot of the oversized sweaters and comfortable leggings I was able to put on in the cool weather, and everything feels sticky and gross. Summertime was definitely not meant for recovering from anorexia.
However, there isn’t really going to be a “good time” to recover. I used to wake up every morning with the intent of trying to eat all of the food that was required of me to consume. This would prove too difficult, and I’d find myself promising that tomorrow, tomorrow I would do it. And this never happened. There was never a time that felt right.
One day, something just snapped. I decided I was tired of being in treatment. I didn’t want to have to eat my meals with a residential counselor watching my every move. I didn’t want to have to ask to use the bathroom and be handed my meds from the other side of a window. I didn’t want to have to have routine blood work done every day and have my days be spent learning about CBT and DBT.
So I decided that I would just start. There wasn’t anything auspicious about the day like the time my thighs touched together and I felt a rush of pride. I didn’t wake up in the morning and feel at peace with myself. I didn’t sit down to eat and suddenly feel excited about what was in front of me. I didn’t suddenly have a moment of clarity where I realized that my life was in shambles.
I just made the decision to begin.
To anyone else contemplating recovery: don’t wait for the moment to feel right. If you do, you’ll be waiting forever. It’s a sad and obnoxious truth, but it’s a truth all the same: recovery will never feel good. It will never be comfortable. If you continue to work hard and do the work that is required of you, even if you make a few mistakes here and there, however, it will get easier. That I can promise you. And though like I said, it feels wrong a large part of the time, the moments where it feels good and right are so worth it. That I can promise you too.
The right moment is right now. And it will suck at first, that’s undeniable. It will be scary. Restoring weight will make it seem like your worst fears are coming true. Eating food according to a meal plan and not doing anything to compensate will feel like the stupidest thing ever.
But here’s the magic of having a functioning body: your metabolism will repair itself, and your weight gain will eventually stop. Part of engaging in eating disorder behaviors involves destroying your body. You ruin the function of a lot of your organs and do great damage that, if continued, could end up irreparable. Recovery is the only way out of this deadly spiral.
It comes down to something very simple: either get busy living, or get busy dying. Eating disorders are deadly mental illnesses. If you don’t work your absolute hardest to fight them, they will beat you.
But you can beat it. I know you can ❤