22 July 2011

Anorexia: overcoming challenges on the road to recovery

'There are good days and bad and there are days where I feel like I'm going in circles trying to fight the anorexia.' Jenny Spencer shares her story about recovering from anorexia.

"There are good days and bad, and there are days where I feel like I'm going in circles trying to fight the anorexia." Jenny Spencer shares her story about the many challenges that she faces on her road to recovery from anorexia nervosa.

My battle with anorexia began in my teens where I seemed to have overcome the disease without seeking treatment but little did I know that 10 years later I would be fighting the disease yet again.

This time it came back with a vengeance and a few months ago I was in a space where I succumbed to anorexia. I lost my fighting spirit and I wanted to completely give in but somewhere deep inside I knew that as long as I were alive, there was hope. I was already in therapy but I knew that I had to do whatever I could to try and fight this disease. When you are malnourished, you lose your ability to reason and this is where I feel so many sufferers feel trapped.

What I think people need to understand is that anorexia is a disease. It's an illness. When you are engulfed by the daily battle of slowly starving your body, you are unable to make sense of what is really going on. I felt ashamed, lonely and guilty. I felt that this was my fault and that if I had to admit that I had anorexia, people would think: Why doesn't she just eat? Anorexia is not about food. Intellectually I understood this but it wasn't until I began on the road to recovery that I realised there is so much more to this disease.

'Heading for disaster'

I no longer need the anorexia to help me cope. I've forgiven the anorexic part of me for what it has done to me. I'm also grateful that the anorexic part of me was trying to protect me. I've made peace with it. I'm now ready to tell the anorexia that I no longer need protecting in a way that is actually self-destructive. I need to live my life and to learn to cope in healthy ways. I need to experience feelings - good and bad.

The anorexia prevented me from connecting to people (including myself) to protect me from possible pain and sorrow but this actually prevented me from experiencing happiness and love. I've realised that because I am a human being, I have a right to live. The world is not perfect and I will never be perfect but that is no reason to turn away a potential life of joy and happiness - something that I deserve and something that I have a right to.


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