Isolation

April 2020

By Leah

When we were told we had to isolate ourselves, avoid family and friends, social gatherings and social connections; there was a collective sense of fear and distress amongst us.

We’re humans. We’ve evolved into social beings. Some require it more than others, but essentially it is at the core of our humanity, and we need each other for psychological survival.

However, in the midst of my eating disorder, isolation was what I strived for. I needed it. By being isolated, I could allow my eating disorder in.

My anorexia thrived off loneliness and segregation in an attempt to be my only, and my best friend. I avoided friends, family, eating with others, exercising with others…any form of community or gathering I actively opted out of.

I needed to feed my eating disorder, rather than feed myself.

As a result, social distancing is something I am very used to.

In contrast, in recovery it’s the people and the connections that I have made that helped me recover, and keep me well.

I had to go out of my comfort zone and put myself in situations, which at the time felt impossible. Eating with others, allowing others to make meals for me, opening up to others about my struggles with exercise…essentially I had to let people in, so I could get anorexia out. I had to stop trusting the illness, and start trusting the people who really loved and cared about me, and ultimately put trust in myself.

Since being both in recovery and in the best physical and mental health I have ever been in, I’ve always had these people around me. Checking in, being aware, and making sure that the choices and the life I am living is mine and not anorexia’s.

Yet, I’ve had this niggling fear that my recovery, and my happiness is based on those around me, on the life I’ve created and the people in my life that make me happy, and want me to be well. I’ve actively avoided considering whether my recovery is based on external factors, rather than my internal being. I’m safe eating with others and exercising with others. I can let them take control, allow them to look out for me, and keep me safe.

Suddenly, for the first time since being unwell, I am alone again.

I don’t have these people in close proximity. I don’t have many of the things that I believe are the scaffolds of my recovery. The external factors have temporarily gone, and I finally have to sit with my internal ones.

Am I well because of my friends? My family? Those that love and care about me?

Am I well because of the things I am passionate about?

Am I well because I surround myself with people who are good for me?

Am I well because of the life I have created?

People come, people go, situations change, time passes…ultimately external factors are out of my control, and I know I can’t base my recovery on them. Perhaps this is where my fear lies.

So, am I well because of something deeper? Something internal. Something which is stable and permanent, and has longevity.

I feared a time like this. I never wanted to be alone again.

But as this goes on, and the dust settles and we all find a new level of norm. I’m realising I actually need this time. I can’t base my recovery on others, on situations, on factors outside of my control.

I need this time to know I’m well on my own.

RecoverED?

By Leah

workEDout is made up of Carly and I. A fitness professional, and an eating disorder survivor. I am the latter, and calling myself a survivor rather than a sufferer still feels surreal. It’s not something I ever imagined myself being. In fact, I thought anorexia and I would be best of friends for the rest of my (likely) limited days.

If I did ever imagine myself in recovery, I thought I’d be running a mile from anything eating disorder related.

“If I recover, I will never utter the word anorexia again”

I wanted shot of it. I wanted out. And if that meant death, then so be it. If that meant life, then god forbid if anyone ever mentioned it again I’d throw my doughnut at them…because recovery meant eating doughnuts all day long right?

Little did I know, that if I was ever lucky enough to experience this illusive thing they named ‘recovery’ I’d wake up every day not just with a incredible functioning body, but also with a burning desire to talk.

workEDout is the product of one of those talks. For me, recovery isn’t just about moving on, getting on with your life and forgetting what happened. It’s about talking, sharing, learning and developing in ways that can support and comfort those who are where I was. 

I got ill aged 19. Anorexia took five whole years away from me. And every single day of that I was bitter, lost and full of regret. I swore I’d never be the same. That I’d never get over what had happened. That I’d never value life or myself ever again.

Grief. Anguish. Sadness. Pain. Anger. 

I believed all of these emotions would define and leave me crippled in a life that anorexia controlled, whether it was directly killing me, or just living quietly beside me.

And yet…as I got better, and defied the silence…I gained back that control.

Yes, anorexia plagued my life for five horrific years, but I wouldn’t change a day of it. What I’ve learnt and what I’ve gained both mentally and physically is worth every single one of those 1,825 +/- days.   

workEDout is more than a passion project for me. It’s proof that from suffering comes solace. From pain comes growth. And from experience comes change.

Regret? Never.

How can I regret what happened when I have a life and a purpose that I never had before?

Recovery is not easy
Recovery is not what you imagine
Recovery is not being in love with your body 100% of the time
Recovery is not being happy every single day
Recovery is not just about food and weight
Recovery is not avoiding what you went through
Recovery is not going back to the person you used to be

Recovery is appreciating your functioning heart
Recovery is learning to love you for you
Recovery is sitting with discomfort
Recovery is strong friendships
Recovery is open conversations
Recovery is spontaneous decisions
Recovery is internal and external growth
Recovery is about gaining life
Recovery is and will continue to be the best choice I have ever made.