This is a post in response to somebody asking me the golden question ‘how do you have a voice’
Thank you for the question I’m glad that it was asked because having a voice in anorexia is impossible and having a voice in recovery is just as difficult. Now, I can only speak from my experience but I’m going to tell you a story, the stages of me finding my voice again.
For my entire life I’ve wanted to blend into the background, I never liked being the centre of attention, I was happy for my friends to be the ‘leader’ I let them make plans and was happy to agree. At college and university I never liked to be the centre of group work, I was never the spokesperson and would get extremely anxious and nervous when all eyes were on me. I thought (and accepted) that I was quite shy and happy to blend into the background because that is how it had always been… How I had made it. Later I discovered that the reason for this was because of the level of self-doubt I possessed. I was never sure if I had the right answer, was scared of looking stupid if I got the answer wrong or worried what other people would think of me, how other people would percieve me.
When I developed anorexia and began losing weight I liked the attention I got, to begin with, the nice comments, I could tell people were being genuine, I did look better, fitter, healthier. When I was in the gym, clocking the miles on the treadmill all the self-doubt I was carrying around with me melted away, I knew what I was doing, I was confident, I had found something that I was good at. Something I could easily do without needing someone telling me I was doing the right thing. Never doubting my ability.
This is where the control kicked in and the full blown anorexia spiral began- I was good at losing weight.
Realising this now, shows me it wasn’t a diet gone wrong but has come from deep rooted issues that began when I was a child. The gym, my new figure was one place I didn’t want to hide away. To me this is when I had a voice. A real voice. But it wasn’t long until I had two voices in my head. My voice telling me I looked good, I was FIT and STRONG and If I could keep getting stronger (in a healthy way) I would be happy. But this other voice told me I didn’t look good, I still had a long way to go, I was fat and the battle began.
The ultimate battle between life and death. Unfortunately my real voice, the one fighting for life was getting quieter and quieter and eventually I couldn’t hear it anymore.
I lost my voice.
The voice of Anorexia. This is the only voice I heard for a while. When my body could take no more I eventually decided I wanted recovery, I wanted my life back.
Well hello voice.
There was a glimmer of me still there it just had to shout very loud to be heard. As I began recovery the conflicting voices were horrible, my head was constant noise, I couldn’t focus on anything except a mixed swirl of arguments for and against recovery. But I knew deep down I wanted recovery and during this treatment programme we were taught that everytime anorexia shouts we have to shout louder, it will start to realise it isn’t winning.
The first parts of recovery were hard- but I was changing the balance, anorexia was there but so were my fighting positive thoughts. I was getting a taste of life and this really helped push the anorexic voice away. I won’t lie and say it’s an upward climb from there because for me it wasn’t. Hitting target weight caused my to slip and just a few weeks of being low, feeling down and anti- recovery wanting to lose weight gave anorexia the chance to gain a voice again. BUT that wasn’t how my story ended, although it could have been. It would have been easy to discharge myself and lose weight again but I still had some fight left in me. I did a period of stabilisation where it allowed me 3 monthes to ‘get used’ and adapt to my new body weight. During this period I had to work very hard, I journaled, used therapy, endless distraction techniques, attended body image groups, I spent an hour every day reading positive recovery quotes about life, anything to challenge the anorexia voice. Most importantly therapy allowed me to see why anorexia found me: realising that I had so much self-doubt, confidence issues and other deeper rooted issues has been eye-opening in helping me see the beginnings of my eating disorder and also helping me recover and help prevent relapses that will inevitably happen in the future.
Through recovery my voice started coming back, I am able to communicate how I was feeling and no longer need to use weight loss to show I’m struggling.
Regaining your voice is the most important way to fight back against anorexia.
The louder you get, the quieter anorexia is forced to be. And you can ask anyone… I’m definitely finding my voice again ☺️
I hope this answers your question, I will post some tips that I found helpful in finding motivation to keep pushing for recovery in a separate blog.