The very first message from anorexia. I was a person filled with insecurity and self- hatred, one who had never felt quite at home in the world or my own skin. Always searching for something or someone that could help me ease the sense of unrest within. While I do not know the exact reasons for why it entered my life, I do know that each time I listened to it, it became more and more powerful. Restrict. Exercise. Repeat. Gradually the voice felt like it belonged to me. Anorexia and I became one, or so it seemed. It felt natural and necessary to follow it. If I didn't, it was quick to call me lazy and ugly. It turned me into a slave of its rules. A prisoner of darkness and fears.
For over three years did anorexia hold me in this tight grip. Feeding me with one lie after another. The amount of food I was allowed to eat continued to decrease, while the hours of exercise increased. " This is what you want and need.", was what I was told. After nearly fours years in recovery, I am able to see how cruel and abusive this voice was, and continue to be. It bullies, threatens and lies. Back then I was not able to see the true colour of anorexia. As so many of us have experienced, it felt like there was no choice. Often we're not even able to think of an alternative way to live and think.
What I experienced as being in control was in reality to play with the fire of death. Anorexia told me I was fine, even superior to those around me. Why? Because I could turn away from food. I could run for hours. I could control my body. The truth however, was that every cell of my body was starving. Without proper nutrition my mind was not able to think rationally. It did not comprehend the danger of anorexia. Even when my doctor rushed me to hospital, all I could think about was how to eat as little as possible. Those who hold me dear feared for my life, while I obsessed about calories. All I heard was the voice of anorexia.
The day at the hospital was a day of change and marked the beginning of my recovery process. Not because I wanted it. The voice within encouraged me to continue with disorded behaviour, but it was now challenged by something incredibly powerful - the love my mother felt for me. With the help from professionals, she forced me to do what anorexia hated so: to eat. Not as little as possible, but what it took to breathe life into my body. This change provoked intense reactions from anorexia. It turned furious and mean. Every piece of food was met with condemnation. What a failure I was! Unworthy of love and compassion. Unworthy of life. Forced to act in opposition to what I had come to see as natural and necessary, I was filled with fear and guilt. The tension this created was expressed through anger. Because my mind was still under the spell of anorexia, I directed my anger towards what I experienced as the sources of all this pain: food and my mum. I felt threatened by recovery and the prospect of loosing the eating disorder.
Slowly, slowly a change took place. Even though anorexia remained strong, it was no longer alone. Another voice emerged. My voice. It had been there all the time, but the hateful voice was too strong for me to hear it. In the beginning I did not recognize this as my own, as the words of compassion and support it offered felt unfamiliar. It told me I was worthy of love and that there was someone within me who was open to change. Who wanted to heal, not destroy me like anorexia wanted. Food and therapy worked to nourish the voice of life. Did the emergence of my own voice mean the death of anorexia? No. It meant that my mind turned into a battleground between the two voices. One encouraging me to choose recovery, one trying to break me down.
It's been close to four years of recovery now. Four years of learning to distinguish between anorexia and my healthy self and of daring to trust my voice. Use it to challenge anorexias messages. It's been a journey filled with fright and tears, but also of hope and progress. I am still in a process of healing and there are days where the anorexic voice overwhelms me. At times it makes me stumble, but it fails to make me give up. Each time anorexia tests me I have an opportunity to increase my strength and once again confirm my commitment to recovery. Each time I act against it, the weaker it gets.
I know in my heart that I choose recovery. I choose to believe in the voice who tells me I am worthy of life. I choose to believe in myself, not the eating disorder.