My journey to recovery with anorexia
"I had to dig deep to find the motivation to get well." Mental health author, advocate and speaker Hope Virgo shares her ongoing journey with recovering from anorexia.
When I share my story of anorexia people often ask me, “Are you fully recovered?”
I often ponder this question. I think about where I am at, how prominent the anorexic voice is in my head and how much it dictates my day to day.
The reality is, living with that anorexic voice in your head is so frustrating. It’s a constant battle between your best friend and your worst enemy all combined into one. It takes over everything, causing you to hate so much of life and to isolate yourself.
I developed anorexia when I was 13 years old and I loved it. I relied fully on the anorexia, longing for it and longing to make it happy. I thought the anorexia was everything to me. It wanted me and I wanted it. I hid this from everyone around me and it became my little secret. After living with anorexia for four years I was admitted to a mental health hospital. I felt completely alone, I was absolutely terrified and so scared. What was going to happen to me?
Throughout my time in hospital I felt trapped, flinging from pillar to pillar and trying so hard to accept that something was the matter with me. I had to dig deep to find the motivation to get well and then to stay well once I was discharged.
A huge part of recovery from anorexia is your weight changing. For me, it was absolutely terrifying, even when I realised it was totally okay and something I needed to do. When I first started putting on weight in hospital I found it really hard but do you know what…There are times now when it’s felt harder. When I share my story of recovery, I sometimes feel that people are judging me as to whether I look like I have an eating disorder or not. The fact is that people with eating disorders really are all different shapes and sizes.
Here are a few things that help me stay on the right road to recovery:
- Reminding myself that the anorexia never actually made me happy
You think it does, you think it is all your need. But the reality is, it is doing more harm than good. It lies to you and sucks you in with these false promises and feelings.
- Focusing on my motivations for getting well
From travelling around the world, to having my own children to having the energy to do what I want to do – these are things that motivate me to get well.
- Reflecting on how far I have come
This is something that I am not great at but the more I do it the easier it gets. And do you know what? I never thought I would be able to wear a bikini, eat out randomly or spontaneously, but it feels amazing that I can. Getting on top of my anorexia has allowed me to start living my life more and do things that I have always wanted to do. I actually enjoy all of it.
- Reminding myself that what I think about myself is not my reality
This is hard to believe sometimes, but I know it’s something I have to do, and it allows me to stay well.
- Talking about how I feel
I always emphasise this and I must at times sound like a stuck record but it’s so important to talk so that people know how we feel.
The point is recovery isn’t always easy and I am not here to paint a happy, easy picture of recovery because at times it is so so hard. But the point is, it is so totally one hundred percent possible. And totally one hundred percent worth it.
Author: Hope Virgo
Getting help: anorexia
For more information and advice on where to get help, have a look at our anorexia page.