anorexia relapse and strength ivory magazine Hope Virgo

Relapses can make you stronger

In Healing by Ivory MagazineLeave a Comment

That’s when it happened. That voice of reassurance. I longed for her to take all the pain away. She could fix me. Maybe I could give in to her this time. Just for a bit…

And that’s all it took to be consumed by her again. My best friend, who I had ignored for so long, was back. She understood me like no one else did. I said I was sorry and told her I remembered everything she had taught me.

anorexia relapse and strength ivory magazine Hope Virgo

As I began to play those flirtatious games with anorexia I knew the battle was back. My best friend vs the enemy she truly was.

I was angry at myself for letting her back in, even more so with her. She had preyed on my vulnerability and loneliness. My best friend was the same manipulative, self-centered, arrogant bitch who thought she knew what was best for me.

I knew what I had to do and it took every ounce of courage but I referred myself to get some support and I talked about it. I knew getting support for anorexia when I wasn’t underweight was going to be an uphill battle with the NHS and with myself. The first appointment was a joke. They told me I wasn’t underweight enough. I knew I could make a point and lose the weight if they needed me to, but was that really the answer? I just wanted someone to talk to – was that too much to ask?

As I left the hospital that day I felt so guilty for referring myself. Maybe I was just making a fuss out of nothing… No, I was really struggling and I just wanted some time to get back on track. Whilst I waited I knew I had to act to stop myself getting worse. I was scared about the voice in my head. I knew how easy it was to lose control. I had to act quickly if I didn’t want to get unwell again.

So, I went to my bed and pulled out my ‘hospital box’ from underneath. Meal plans, motivations, cards, notes from my therapy. All my reminders of why I had to get well and not let anorexia beat me.

As I opened the box that day, the thing that really stuck with me was my prompt cards. These were cards I had used in hospital, my motivations as to why I wanted to get well and stay well. For me they ranged from being able to run, to not being in an adult ward, to travelling, to being able to have  children one day. I knew that none of this was possible if I let anorexia come back in to my life. I knew I had to stay strong and fight that voice if I wanted all these things.

I reminded myself of the importance of talking, and the more I talk talked about it the easier it got to beat her. To stop her winning me over. I had people close to me who would check I had eaten enough that day or message me telling me to keep going. I know I’m a strong person but these gestures from those around me really helped me get the courage to fight back.

One of my things I struggled with when I was unwell was over-exercising and this is something I knew could get out of control. I was scared it would happen again. Me being me, I decided if I had something to train towards, it would help. The reality was this fantastic idea I had and it pushed me harder and harder. I told myself I would feel better for it and yes cross the finish line of a half marathon in 1 Hour 31 Minutes is momentarily amazing, but the reality is, I was exhausted.

As I woke up on Monday morning with my knees aching and a lack of energy I knew my real battle to get back on top of my exercise was about to start. For me this meant going back to basics. I wrote myself an exercise plan and made myself stick to it, making sure that after working out I had the right foods to fuel me through the day.

I made myself have rest days again. It was hard at first but I began to enjoy my exercise again. I organised spinning sessions with friends and had some personal training sessions to help me get back on track and vary up my exercise.

I filled my time with self-care, from coffees with friends, to cinema trips, to days out. By being around people who cared about me I was able to start processing how I felt and start enjoying life again.

Gradually I began to build myself back up and see anorexia for who she really was, and I knew I wanted nothing to do with her. Not now, not ever. As I reflect on that year I know that I still have work to do, but I also know my relapse wasn’t a sign of weakness and it isn’t for anyone.

Relapses can make you stronger.

By Hope Virgo, author of Stand Tall Little Girl

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