Trigger warning: this piece discusses themes of anorexia and eating disorders
“One of the greatest moments in life is when you find the courage to let go of what you can’t change.”
Between the ages of 13 and 18 I fought a tough battle with Anorexia Nervosa. Now 26, I am the proud co-founder of Voices of Hope and I run weekly support groups for those experiencing Eating Disorders.
Over the past week I have been asked an all too familiar question: “How did you forgive yourself and deal with the grief associated with all the years you lost to your Eating Disorder?”
For those of you who have lived experience of an Eating Disorder you will feel this deeply.
I imagine that many of you wonder “what if I hadn’t been unwell?” How could we not when an Eating Disorder interferes with our lives to such a large degree?
There is no denying that I missed out on a lot. I fought an illness that completely consumed my every thought. I missed two years of high school, didn’t go to parties, missed out on travel opportunities, isolated myself, gave up all the sports I played…
My Eating Disorder became my life for five long years.
I have had a lot of time to reflect on this and have since found closure for the years I lost and so, I want to share what helped me, as it may help you too.
The first thing I had to do was accept and acknowledge that I had fought an Eating Disorder. Therapy supported me hugely in this process as for so long I had tried to block out these years of my life, pretending they’d never happened and by doing so I was creating some more deeply-rooted issues that would soon have to be released. I started engaging with my psychologist again about a year ago and have spent a lot of this time processing the fact that YES I had an Eating Disorder that stole years of my life and YES it nearly killed me!
Talking through these feelings helped a lot. It gave me an understanding that it was grief I was feeling, I was grieving for the years I had lost to my Eating Disorder. Re-engaging with my psychologist provided me with the tools to combat these feelings, feelings that I had struggled to process on my own.
Positive affirmations also played a large role in this process. I am a big believer in positive self talk.
Something that I would often repeat to myself when I noticed that I was heading down the path of grief was that “I did not choose to have an Eating Disorder and so I will not blame myself for something I did not choose.” By repeating this affirmation when these thoughts of “OMG, I have lost so much time” came up, I felt grounded and able to accept that what has happened, has happened and I can either dwell on it for keep moving forward.
I also feel very fortunate to have found a strong sense of purpose through reflecting on what I went through but more importantly focusing on what I gained and not what I lost from the years I was unwell.
Had I not been unwell, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.
Through my own journey I have become a more empathetic person. I have found a career which I am completely passionate about and committed to, I have met people who have become vital parts of my life, I have learnt skills and built a wellness “toolbox” that I will forever be able to pull from and most importantly, I am finally at peace with what I went through.
My Eating Disorder took up so much of my life and I was NOT going to let it take up any more and neither should you!
As I said at the beginning of this piece... this process has taken time, your feelings towards this are valid and if you are currently experiencing this feeling and are struggling to move past it, I encourage you to try find the positives and remember that your past does not define you!
And finally, you are still here after everything you have been through and boy is that something to be proud of!
Voices of Hope wants you to know that you do not have to do this alone. Click here to ‘find help’ - it’s not weak to speak!