Anorexia – Relapse and Prevention: The Thin Ideal and Self Hate

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Relapse Symptom: Seeing very thin people and feeling jealous of their figure, hating on my own and wishing I had never gained weight so I could remain a skinny minnie all my life, and thus be apparently beautiful for all eternity. Seeing old photographs of myself at lower weights, or of other people at unhealthy low weights and feeling jealousy over their size, bones and fragile appearance is for me, a sign that I am focusing on an unhealthy objective to avoid dealing with something else playing on my mind. It could be a reduced self-esteem, a sense of failure looming over my head or simply feeling uncontented and wanting something to focus on, something to control in my life, and something that makes me feel special. When I was at my worst with anorexia, I felt special. Not many people could successfully get as thin as me. In my mind, people stared at me because everyone wanted my self control, my innate ability to say no, and my beautiful bones. In recovery, I have learnt to see anorexia for what it is.

Anorexia is not a beautiful goddess envied by the masses. Anorexia is not an achievement and emaciation isn’t beautiful. Nor was I at my most beautiful whilst emaciated, despite what some people said. Their own obsession with thinness and the emaciated ideal is heir own personal problem, and perhaps an issue within society: and I do not want to be a part of that ideal anymore. During recovery I made an active choice to move away from engaging with unhealthy ideals. Controlling my life through food is not a healthy means of feeling in control, and ultimately when it goes too far, ironically you are not in control at all, anorexia is, and she’s a relentless bitch. When I relapse, I forget this and the comfort of nostalgia glosses over the grim reality of existing in anorexia’s presence making the whole ordeal seem like a beautiful dream, when in reality it is a bed of roses. Beyond the rose petals are thorns and they will dig deep in every crevice and destroy you bit by bit. Under the whimsical spell of the disease though, this can easily be forgotten.

How I stay well: Now I am mentally aware enough to spot the early signs within my thoughts. If I see imagery of thin or skeletal people and start thinking about how much I want to be so small again I can stop myself in my tracks. I think back to how weak I was, and how scared I was when I started losing my mind even more so due to starvation. Did I enjoy hallucinating and questioning every aspect of my reality? Did I enjoy staring at people eating whilst secretly feeling sad that I was missing out on one of life’s main joys? How much fun was it to not be able to climb a flight of stairs without nearly collapsing? I’ll tell you, it was no fun at all. Honestly, without the rose tinted spectacles of eating disorder nostalgia, it was shit. I hated myself. I was miserable, vulnerable and really what was I really gaining from a life of starvation that contributes to real happiness and fulfilment: nothing.

So I re-evaluate my response to imagery of such tiny people. I take a step back from my initial response of seeing someone so frightfully underweight and I think about the reality of what it is I am witnessing, not the glossed over fantasy, and ultimately I feel sadness. I ache knowing the constant torment that living with anorexia entails. I want to hug them or tell them it can get better because inside I know they are living in a torturous hell.

Unless I think they are naturally slender and it’s possible there is no eating disorder involved at all, then I acknowledge that we all have different body shapes and types. Their body shape just happens to be different to mine, then I remind myself of what it is I want from my body.

I want health, vitality and strength. I want to be able to battle illness and push to new limits of fitness and achievements. For me, pushing my body in fitness and exercise is an alternative to starving myself. Instead of trying to push myself to my limits with life and death, I am pushing myself for positive achievements that can be celebrated and are fulfilling. From this I have gained a new appreciation, enjoyment and ultimately acceptance of my body. and so can you if you let yourself.

Other signs and symptoms:
1. Introduction: Anorexia – Relapse and Prevention and Counting Calories
2. Weighing
3. Drinking cups of tea, in succession, on after another, after another, after another.
4. Skipping Meals
5. Feeling anxious and out of control
6. Feeling uneasy about “bad foods”
7. Making diet plans
8. Burning calories
9. Denying Hunger
10. Thinking about food

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