Anorexia recovery is mountainous.
Sharp peaks scrawl across the skyline, rock swelling and rising to kiss the clouds, before tumbling down a sharp, jagged scarp.
I have been cast out into unchartered reaches of the natural world, and I fear I am getting lost.
I try to spot patterns, paths and landmarks. Lines: some indication of safety or comfort or familiarity, or of control.
In response, Recovery shivers in cold disapproval, and the ground trembles.
They move. These mountains that surround me are alive.
Mounds bloom threateningly as I scale each challenge: a visitor at suppertime; a loud noise; a glass of juice. A clash in plate tectonics.
At the summit the earth beneath me shrinks. I adjust to the fresh air of a new altitude, whilst watching another mountain form in front of me.
The ground is unpredictable. Sometimes I forget to tread carefully, and it crumbles underfoot.
Sometimes I’ll cross a line and take a step too far: I’ll neglect to weigh an apple; use my porridge spoon to eat my yogurt; allow myself an extra grape. Then I’ll tumble into Anonymous’ arms. She’ll guide me back down the mountain into barren land.
“You’ll never make it.”
“You are useless. You don’t deserve this success.”
“You need me.”
Anorexia catches me as I fall, then drops Ellie from a height. Then she’ll watch with relish as I wreck havoc over Recovery’s natural beauty.
I erode the soil by restricting food; I slash buds by hiding from people.
I hurl Ellie across the floor, and it hurts her: because recovery is hard.
Sharp, jagged, unpredictable; and really, really hard.
Ascending mountains is exhausting: both Ellie and I agree. Last week, we clambered over a particularly trying one.
I fell ill having shivered all through summer, and Anonymous greeted winter with an eruption of volcanic rage; and I lost an alarming amount of weight. My heart rate and mood plummeted: and those fragile numbers fell back to where I was 2 months ago.
“You can still control it, well done.”
“You can push it further …”
I cowered from the wilderness of recovery in Anorexia’s lair.
I climbed out of that cave.
Ellie found a way to hoist me out by pointing out rocks and roots I could hold onto:
I held onto that time I ate in front of someone.
I held onto the pride in my doctor’s face when I said I ate something cooked with oil.
Soon, I could pop my head out of that crack in the mountainside, and look at how far I had climbed.
From acknowledgement at the very bottom, to completing my final piece for an upcoming Eating Disorder education campaign: it was quite a view.
So I dusted myself down and turned towards the foggy face of the mountain, and began to plot a route up.
I reached base camp yesterday: I did everything my doctor said, and have reduced last week’s mountain into a molehill – for now, at least.
Nature doesn’t rest, and these mountains keep moving. I slip up when I get tired of fighting.
I’m tried of being chased up a hard, rocky slope by Anonymous and her servant Anxiety.
Ellie tells me to use my resources to avoid taking a wrong turn. She tells me to trust my doctors, my clinicians and nurses.
They are keeping me on the right path. They introduce me to terms like “nutrition” and “restoration”. They soften the diction of words like “Anorexia Nervosa”; “Osteoporosis”; “Amenhorrea”
My clinicians are teaching me how to adapt to this turbulent terrain.
I have been taught to keep a ‘thought diary’, in which I record each time I encounter a trigger that sends me into emotional turmoil.
In theory, I should reflect upon the trigger, the thought, and the resultant emotional reaction. Then, in theory, I should consider how I can intercept the thought before it blossoms into a futile, wailing lament: Do they really mean this when they say that? Will that actually hurt me? Is that molehill really a mountain?
Currently, this isn’t going so well. The ‘thought diary’ merely serves as a woeful record of my emotional instability: but it makes for rather entertaining reading at the end of the day.
My route through recovery is marked by appointments and scans, lunchtime shifts at work, and precious time spent with precious people.
I am trying to move with nature, not against it. I am trying to stand my ground against Anorexia.