Happiness in Anorexia Recovery

Brace yourselves. As you can probably tell from my blog, I have a tendency to think negatively. I could be the definition of doom and gloom. But this post is going to be different. Very different. Because on Wednesday 24th August, I experienced a day that I have only ever been able to dream of before. And to most people, it wouldn’t be that big a deal. But to me, that one day meant the world. I experienced happiness in anorexia recovery.

So let me tell you about it. My two best friends from work have birthdays in July and September and as their presents, I bought us all tickets to watch Aladdin the Musical in London. So on Wednesday, the three of us went up on the train to London and I had one of the best times I can ever remember.

First stop was Hyde Park. In the wonderful sunshine we hired out a pedalo and bobbed around the Serpentine Lake for half an hour; chatting and laughing (and running over a few swans along the way!) When we finished on the pedalo we were all boiling hot and my friends decided they wanted to have an ice-cream. Now obviously, this is something I couldn’t join in with. I had planned all my food and meals for the day and this wasn’t part of it. So I couldn’t have it, right? I thought to myself “This is something I can aim for. I so want to join in with them and have an ice-cream, this will be a goal for the future…for this time next year to be able to do it”.

But something came over me and against all my usual habits, instincts and fears I told myself “just do it. Do it now. Why wait till next year? You CAN do it now”. So, out of the blue, I bought a Calipo. Eating an unplanned item of food is something I have never done before. Most wouldn’t think twice to ordering an ice-cream on the spot…to me it is a huge milestone. I think it is possibly the first time I have actively chosen, by myself, to go against anorexia. And it was terrifying.

But I am slowly beginning to realise, as I approach my 28th birthday, that if I keep putting things off, leaving everything to another time; life is going to pass me by. So whilst a general person may not see the significance of what I did-I chose to buy an ice-cream…big deal; I cannot express in words how important that event was. The key to unlocking the anorexic chain turned slightly.

I cannot deny that I did panic, that I did feel guilty for hours after. But nothing worth having in this life comes easy. My mind did tell me that I was bad and I must never, EVER do that again. But as my friends said, it is at these points that you have to keep going. If I give in to the anxiety, the fear will only get worse. Fighting anorexia is going to cause a lot of distress, upset and fear to which I have not been able to contemplate facing before. But achieving what I did on Wednesday has made me start to think that maybe I can. If I can carry on making steps like that, it can set me on the road to recovery.

So we all enjoyed our Calipo’s in the shade in Hyde Park, before heading on to Oxford Street for some shopping. And that too was really enjoyable. I had booked a table at Pizza Express round the corner from the theatre so we headed there next. And again, facing pizza and facing cheese for a second time was still worrying. But, when it came to eating it, I just got on with it. I didn’t even give it much thought. We were chatting and having a nice time and facing my pizza and cheese fears was worth it to spend time and have a nice meal with my two friends. Again, I was feeling happiness in anorexia recovery.

The show was brilliant and when it finished at gone 10pm, we realised we had been in London for nearly 10 hours! And what a brilliant 10 hours they were. Not only did I make steps forward in my recovery, but I also spent a day with two friends; out and about doing stuff, something that during the long years I spent in hospital, I would sit and imagine…hoping for but never really believing it would come true.

I have longed for so long to have friends and spend a day with them like Wednesday. I hope there are more times like this to come as I have been lonely for a very long time. Hospital is isolating and very reclusive.  Don’t get me wrong, I do still feel lonely a lot of the time now, but I am building friendships and good ones, set to last, take a long time in the making. The times when I think about reverting to anorexia, I need to remind myself of moments like this week and the friends I am making.

I am not used to experiencing the feeling of happiness but I truly 100% felt it on Wednesday. 100% happiness in anorexia recovery. It baffles me that people actually wanted to spend time with me but they genuinely seemed to be enjoying themselves as well. Anorexia stops you having real friends. There is no room for anything else but anorexia. And this has been my life for many years. Anorexia has been my substitute for living. But now, as I start to make real friends and quieten anorexia, I can tell you whole-heartedly, that real friends are a million times better than the ‘friend’ of anorexia. Aladdin’s three wishes came true and this week gave me hope that mine will too.

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Bex Quinlan blog from 2016 about a day when she experienced happiness in anorexia recovery
Happiness in anorexia recovery – Bex Quinlan

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