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5 Things I Wish Someone Would Have Told Me in Recovery from Anorexia

Hope Virgo

I know how anorexia makes you feel. You think she is your best friend; you think she can solve everything. She holds you in the night when you feel alone. She walks down the road with you reassuring you that you are valued. She teaches you how to miss meals and you become a team. A team with a unique bond that no one can break. A team that you believe will lead to an amazing life. A team that completes you. But no – the team will fail! 

You won't know when it will happen or how long but eventually you will lose control to anorexia. She will start winning on her own and she won't care how that makes you feel. In the end, there are only two options: 

1. You let her win. You lose your friends and most likely get hospitalized. Your heart might stop.

or 

2. You gather all your strength and fight her, because you know deep down she isn't worth it!  

Harsh giving you those two definitive options? 

Do you believe them? 

I didn't! Someone told me that once I was 100% sure they were lying! But then after four years of being best friends with anorexia, I ended up in hospital. When I look back over the last few months of being best friends with her, it was a terrible relationship. And I won’t ever forget the cycle. Looking back, I still don’t know how I had the energy to keep going. I hated my anorexia those last few months, but I couldn’t fight her. I had no control. I had nothing in me. Those months turns into weeks before my admission and I would lay awake for hours wishing I would just die. I couldn’t fight this anymore. She no longer made me feel good but I was stuck in this cycle. 

I don’t know where you are at with your eating disorder, but please read this open-mindedly. Know that I am not lecturing you and I am not a health professional, but these are some things that I wish someone had said to me:

1. Anorexia is not your friend.

You think she is. You think she cares about you, but the reality is she doesn’t. She lies to you; she reassures you that losing weight is the best thing to do, but it isn’t. I know how hard that is to believe – I never used to, but I do now. 

2. Talk to people.

This is so hard, I get that – you don’t want to let people in, you don’t want people to interfere, but sometimes getting help is the best thing to do. I guarantee it helps – when I had a bad day I began texting those around me telling them I wasn’t okay and I didn’t want to eat but I was going to do it anyway. This helped me keep going on those tough days. 

3. Ask yourself: what did anorexia ever do for you? 

For me, I thought it was a lot. Yes, she made me feel better at times but that never lasted long, and then this all gradually faded away. In reality, because of her I have osteoporosis, some fake teeth, and I ended up in hospital missing my entire final year at school. I lost my social life, upset so many people, and I didn’t get to study what I wanted to at university.

4. Know your triggers.

This is something I have learned along the way and learned to manage. I know that for me, the main things I have to manage are exercise and when I have a bad day, making sure I have people around me who support me. I monitor these by not exercising too much and if I start to slip, I make myself go cold turkey for a few days. It is hard, but it works. I also find that changing up my exercise helps and making it fun or working out with others helps manage this, too.

5. Recovery is possible and worth fighting for.

Recovery isn’t linear. Some days it feels like a mountain and others you don’t even realize you are fighting, but it is so much better when you are battling her. Each day you do it, it makes you stronger and you really can start to get your love of life back, that I guarantee! 

So, I challenge you to give it a go. Fight her, accept help, and talk about how you feel. Yes, at first it seems scary, but it is so much better to seek help and get well. I never thought I would be where I am now, but I know that recovery is possible and I know that life now is so much better without anorexia in it! 

Hope Virgo suffered with anorexia for over four years, before being admitted to a mental health hospital in 2007. She lived in the hospital for a year, fighting one of the hardest battles of her life. Since being discharged, she has fought to stay well. She now wants to use her experiences of mental health illness to champion the rights of others, inspire them to get well, and help break the stigma of mental illness. Hope lives and works in London. In her spare time, she volunteers for refugee charities and charities that support young and abandoned children. She is a dedicated runner, and has a keen interest in maintaining good mental health through healthy eating and exercise. Hope has just published a book called Stand Tall Little Girl, which tracks the journey of her recovery.