Recovery Update – Part 1

Good morning, loyal blog readers and desperate stalkers who still google my name each week. A special welcome to the people of Quora, your allegiance is heartwarming. Mr SEO analysis, on the other hand, is PISSED. No, scarlet-faced man, I will not dumb myself down so that my piece is ‘easier to read’. Easier for whom? Ignorant folk who aren’t a part of the demographic? That’s a good one. Anyway, true to form, I sat down to type out a few paragraphs and wound up going on a complete tangent. In order to spare you some of the monotony, I will split this into two parts. Let’s begin, shall we?

December 2018 was when I officially made the decision to pursue a healthy life. The problem was, I had no idea what that would entail. All I knew was that my life was not playing out the way I wanted. Ambition? Who is she?

I’m not saying recovery came easily. In fact I fell, face-first, into another pit of despair after deciding to estrange myself from my toxic, abusive parents. Coming to the realisation that I had been cast in the ‘sick child’ role a decade or so earlier was quite the wake up call. I do credit my boyfriend Mike, for playing a part in the decision to escape. In treating me with the kindness and support I had lacked my entire life, by contrast, the behaviour of my parents seemed particularly outrageous. While the outpatient program I was a part of at the time did indeed solidify my reasons for healing, the foundation for my most successful recovery attempt had technically begun months earlier. Thank you, YouTube recovery community. A timely development, given that my job fell through right when I told my parents I was done with their shenanigans, so I had to drop out of the course and move to Brisbane to live with Mike. Everything happened at once. Goodie.

Despite the grieving period that followed, the financial burden I now faced and the nasty emails my parents had taken to sending, I managed to just keep it together. Certain behaviours were still apparent, I was an emotional wreck, the diet pill abuse intensified and my dumb ass (literally) fooled around with laxatives on several occasions. Funnily enough, my dad had accused me of this right before we stopped speaking, so it’s almost as if I thought, ‘hey, what a splendid idea’! A rationalisation one might liken to having that controlling boyfriend who constantly accuses his girlfriend of cheating. While in that situation, I remember thinking ‘well, I’m facing scrutiny for something I’m not even doing, maybe I should just sleep with someone else’? Don’t worry, I realised how insane that thought was and proceeded to ditch him. Wow, you know the relationship was bad when you willingly compare it to engaging in very dangerous, unpleasant behaviour. Mercifully, revisiting the laxatives lasted a month, half as long as that disastrous relationship. But, I digress. 

So, stressed out over income and not working in a full time capacity, I decided to travel to WA and work as a lingerie bartender. They’re referred to as ‘skimpies’. It proved to be a great financial decision that was terrible for my mental wellbeing. I worked long hours, drank several energy drinks each day and barely ate. Naturally, my weight plummeted and some of the regular patrons I served mentioned that I was far too thin. I’m a little glad that two of the pubs left me terrible reviews after my five week stint. The money was incredible but I needed to avoid situations where I felt oppressed and where my appearance was front and centre. Funnily enough, in my last week I was paired with another girl who revealed to me that she had Bulimia and an equally toxic family. I finally had a companion; someone who got me and I actually had fun that week. Unheard of.

While in WA, I had a lot of downtime and I spent some of it continuing to watch YouTubers who were part of the recovery community. Having discovered this about a year before, I would often watch several videos a day. I wasn’t moving forward in my recovery mentally at that point, I was just trying to remind myself that I could be inspired by these brave, intelligent souls who were sharing very personal things in order to help others.

We’ll stop there even though it’s likely I’ll post the second part straight after. As much as I find it amusing to upset the scarlet man, I don’t want to push my luck. Until next time my friends, stay sane, stay safe and stay the f*** home.

I Am The Cautionary Tale

‘You definitely have an eating disorder and it is Anorexia.’

Dr V

I was ill-prepared for this declaration at the age of 31. Three professionals had uttered this diagnosis to me in that month alone; the final being a specialist in the treatment of Eating Disorders. Anosognosia is common among Anorexia sufferers and it was certainly the case with me. Yes, I had been suppressing my weight for years but I was truly convinced that it had never been particularly serious. Having only been clinically underweight a few times, I had opted to stay above too low of a weight. On the somewhat ‘lean-ish’ side so as not to arouse concern. Yet here I was, a miserable and barely functioning adult, voluntarily entering an outpatient programme for the first time. Some of the participants were teenagers, a few in their early twenties, one in her mid-twenties.

Although social situations where I’m the ‘elder’ aren’t necessarily foreign to me, I did brace myself for the possibility that relating to all of them would be difficult. Surprisingly, I found myself among kindred, unashamedly sharing a wasted existence with women who still had their whole lives ahead of them. The empathy I felt for them was overwhelming and I saw so much of myself in each of them. At the same time, I desperately hoped that my being there might serve as a forewarning; ‘don’t end up like me.’

While one might refer to me as a martyr, it doesn’t change the fact that my conviction has and will remain as such. Of course I’m aware that it’s the illness telling me it’s too late for me and this sentiment has contributed to many setbacks in my recovery. As for the programme, sadly I couldn’t afford to complete it. Eight months later and I’m on the cusp of turning 32. Having taken recovery into my own hands, I made the decision to write about it. My experience was not conventional, nor something I could fill a book with. A disjointed recollection of an abusive childhood followed by an unstable adolescence and adulthood.

Depression engulfed me during high school, the eating disorder finally surfacing after a particularly devastating breakup when I was 18. A year later, I declared myself ‘recovered’. But that mask I wore slipped occasionally while my illness transformed repeatedly, ever the shape shifter. I refused to acknowledge the existence of it, even though my body image and eating habits remained extremely damaging. There were four consecutive hospitalisations, ostensibly to treat my depression and BDD. I continued to ignore what was really at the crux of these conditions.

When I moved out of home at 24, sudden freedom gave way to gradual, yet severe restriction, laxative abuse and diet pill dependence. I could no longer deny it, as this was the period where I flirted with extreme behaviour and was faced with terrifying consequences as a result. The next three years would consist of frightful self-abuse, failed romantic relationships, promiscuity, job loss, heavy drinking and an uncharacteristic use of various substances. I existed in a bleak limbo, not quite letting the illness in entirely, not quite sending it away either. Of course, it crept in completely at times and I embraced it like an old friend.

While I’m not the typical embodiment of a chronic case, I have a lived experience and significant knowledge to lend within the recovery realm. After losing faith in the psychoanalytical narrative most professionals have accepted, I found a group of people who openly denounced it. I sought out research papers and literature, all of which suddenly made sense. My own recovery aside, it would be remiss of me not to share the information I’ve accumulated over the years. I have resolved that my life would count for something positive, perhaps in educating and assisting others by providing resources or sharing my struggles. Eating Disorders beget more casualties than any mental illness and are still the least understood. It doesn’t have to be this way.

You don’t have to end up like me.