In the coming weeks and months, we have a great team of people working together to deliver top-notch resources, stories of recovery and tidbits of Looking Glass’ inspiration through the blog. One of these great people is Alison - a freelance writer and knows a thing or two about recovering from an eating disorder. After all, she’s a survivor.
My struggle with anorexia began when I was 14, although the underlying maladies like anxiety and perfectionism were at play much earlier. My disease permeated every single aspect of my life, poisoning my mind and feeding off energy like a beguiling parasite. By the time I was 16, it had lured me straight into hospital - solitary confinement, with a locked bathroom and only a heart monitor for company.
After six months I was released and while my physical condition much improved, my mind still possessed. Consciously or not, I once again found myself fighting my body’s need for nourishment. By then, I had also thrown myself into full-blown exercise addiction to compensate for my reluctant eating. It wasn’t long before I was re-admitted to hospital, my body having deteriorated even further beyond where it had been the first time. Again, when I left many months later, my body was stronger but my mind was completely unchanged.
By the time my third hospitalization rolled around, I was beginning to sense a horrific truth closing in on me: I felt like I had no control over my behaviour. Despite having every reason under the sun to live, to thrive, to stay healthy and happy, I found myself so seduced by my obsessions that my behaviour would inevitably, without fail, return to disordered eating. I tried everything I could to stop - extensive therapy, dietary supplements, going to school, changing jobs, moving out, even a fourth visit to hospital - but nothing worked. Nothing could break the cycle of obsession and behaviour for long.
At that point, my disease had robbed me of more than even I could see. Worst of all, as I watched myself spiral downward once again, it marred the last precious year I had with my sister, who had also landed in hospital but with a completely different condition. I was so intoxicated that I couldn’t ever be fully present for her, no matter how much she needed me in her final days. This was, perhaps, my darkest bottom. Faced with a fifth hospitalization, I fell on my knees at last and admitted complete defeat by my disease. With nothing left to lose, I surrendered my obsession with control, with food and exercise, with body weight and shape, and let others care for me the way I could not. Something shifted in my mind, and while I still experienced excruciating pangs of guilt and anger at the hands of my disease, I could let go and let life carry me to whatever end. To this day, it’s an act of surrender that I practice because I know my life depends on it.
And so, here I am, writing to remind myself every day that recovery - and the necessary surrender - is completely worth it. Through a program of fellowship and humility, I’ve found freedom from what I’ve come to see as a spiritual malady, reinforced by a body that responds like an addict to disordered eating practices. For better or for worse, I’m alive and well today, with my health and so much more returned to me in vibrant technicolour. If I can offer even the smallest comfort to anyone out there through this blog, it will all be worth it.
Alison is a regular contributor to The Looking Glass’ blog, is an eating disorders survivor and is an inspiration to those around her.