I wasn’t your usual eighteen-year-old. Whilst my friends passed their driving tests, got ready for prom and had their first legal drinks, I hid food, stood on scales and wasted away. It’s easy to regret everything I missed out on, but instead I choose to focus on the lessons I learnt along the way. So here they are, the eight things I’d say to that version of myself –
Everyone around you still loves you
Anorexia is a world of loneliness. You push away those you love in fear that they will discover your secret. You don’t want to lose the all-consuming disease, you depend on it completely and can’t imagine your life without it. However, the moment you decide you’re strong enough to fight, the people hurt most will be the army you need behind you.
You’ll do the things you are scared of, and they won’t actually be so bad
At eighteen, I was terrified of food. I threw plates across the table, I accused my parents of spiking my food and I refused to eat anything I hadn’t prepared. Like any fear, or obsession, you cannot change overnight. You’ll find ways of coping and one day you’ll look back in disbelief that you survived in such a way for so long.
Going to university will be the best thing you ever do
With my counsellor and my parents behind me, I left for Loughborough when every health professional told me I wasn’t ready. I cried through fresher’s week, I packed my bag to leave at least once a week, but I made the best friends I’ve ever had. I realised that I could be a ‘normal’ student, that I could go a day without being stuck in my routine and the world wouldn’t end. It was a risk worth taking and I look back and thank all those who believed in me enough to let me take that leap.
You’ll struggle with food for a long time after you’re considered ‘recovered’
You’ll lose one of the most important people in your world to Alzheimer’s and you’ll cope the one way you know how. You’ll freak out in Waitrose reading the back of a jar of sauce. You’ll have days where you stress constantly. But, you’ll know your triggers, you’ll know your coping mechanisms and you’ll have the people around you to stop you falling down that slippery slope once more.
You’ll learn to love exercise
At first, you’ll use it as a way of coping with eating more. You’ll focus on how many calories you’ve burnt more than how strong you feel, but one day, you’ll go for a ten mile run because you want to challenge yourself, not burn off your breakfast.
One day, you’ll be able to eat without weighing yourself
In fact, you’ll go a year without weighing yourself and feel ok about it. It’s taken me a long time to realise that weight is just a number. A number that, if you let it, can make or ruin your day, so why give it the power?
You’ll meet someone who makes you stronger without even trying
Someone who encourages you to write this blog, accepts all your problems and gives you the confidence to follow your dreams. You won’t need to tell him you’re struggling, because he already knows. He’ll be your best mate and won’t be afraid to stand up to you when you’re being a drama queen.
You’ll quit your job and travel the world
Something I haven’t mentioned on here yet, but it’s true, I’m about to swap my job for a backpack and set off into the big wide world. Something my eighteen-year-old self definitely wouldn’t have been able to think about, but something a lifetime later, I feel extremely excited to be doing.
You’ll start blogging about anorexia one day and be proud of it
I’ve always tried to use this blog to give others hope. My story is not one everyone can relate to; my recovery will not be the same as anyone else’s, but I believe it’s important to talk about anorexia, to reduce the stigma behind it and help others understand.