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Anorexia: Recovery is Beautiful 🌈❤️✨

Anorexia recovery is a complicated thing. In fact, it's almost impossible to explain unless you have experienced it firsthand.

As I have pointed out in many of my previous blogs, recovery is not a destination, but a journey - often a lifelong one. You don't wake up one day magically cured.

The reality of anorexia is that - to a certain degree - it will always be a part of its victim's life.

Every anorexia journey is entirely different, and each stage comes with its own complexities and challenges.

To give a bit of context, here is my anorexia timeline (and then we'll get to the more uplifting stuff! 💕)

April 2014: Triggered by stress and discontent, I first started displaying symptoms of anorexia in the form of food restriction and a sudden, unhealthy obsession with exercise. It was never my intention to lose weight - I simply wanted to feel in control of something while the rest of my life felt like it was spiralling.

While those around me voiced their concerns, I genuinely didn't consider myself to have 'a problem.'

December 2014: This was one of the darkest points of my life.

I finally admitted that I knew I had anorexia. My every second was manipulated by it.

I knew I needed help, urgently, but I didn't yet feel brave enough to crawl out of the hole.

April 2015: My weight was at its lowest. I was that frail, even the water from the shower and the weight of the duvet on top of me was physically painful. Most mornings, I was woken by heart palpitations. Despite feeling so weak that I had to climb the stairs on my hands and knees, I still forced my body to run miles every single day.

June 2015: An unexpected lifeline came just in the nick of time. I went to live in Ibiza for a few months, where I quietly began healing myself.

I fell in love with my job, the island, and the whole experience. I made some friends for life, and I'll be forever grateful to Ibiza for helping me realise how valuable life is.

August 2016: By now, I had put back on a healthy amount of weight, and I felt absolutely amazing. I loved my new body.

Although there was the odd bad day, I felt mostly freed from anorexia's grip.

I had SO much living to catch-up on!

October 2019: It was during the stressful planning of my wedding that I began to hear that all-too familiar voice again.

I tried to shut it out - pretend it wasn't happening - but try as I might, I couldn't outrun it. It was back, and this time, it came with an even more venomous vendetta.

December 2019: I got married, weighing even less than I had done back in April 2015. I still don't like looking at my wedding photos. Sadly, I don't see the happiest day of my life; instead I see the pain that consumed me during that time.

March 2020: With wedding pressure out of the way, my anorexia seemed to be easing off a little. Perhaps I would have had a chance to recover sooner, had COVID-19 not hit.

The UK went into lockdown, and my anorexia took a turn for the worse. Josh and I were in the middle of buying our first house, and we had no idea if our jobs were secure.

My inability to strategically cope with stress meant that I was absolutely battering my body with exercise and refusing to consume anything outside of my strict eating plan.

Lockdown was tough for everyone for many different reasons. This period always stands out as one of the unhappiest times I have ever encountered.

June 2021: My second battle with anorexia had stuck around, and I felt no closer to overcoming it. I just felt so tired. Recovering the first time had taken so much willpower and inner-strength, and I didn't think I could go through it all again.

I was hardly eating, and still forcing myself out on ridiculously long runs most days. I never once enjoyed them.

... Until one day, I decided to enter a local 10k race on a complete whim.

That decision alone changed my entire life. ❤️

I placed 10th female out of 500 and knocked 8 minutes off my PB. After years of running alone, it had never even occurred to me that I might actually be any good at it!

And just like that, something inside me changed. Running suddenly took on a whole new meaning.

Running became a way for me and my body to connect and work together, rather than against one another.

It was no longer a tool anorexia could use against me. And without running in its armoury, anorexia became that bit weaker.

December 2022: Despite running changing my relationship with my body, anorexia was still at large.

I'll be honest - some days, I didn't actually want to get better. Anorexia supplies me with the self-control and unattainable desire for perfection that I crave so much. The prospect of having that control taken away from me made me anxious. The truth was, I didn't really know how to be without anorexia.

Still, I set myself a goal to gain four pounds over Christmas. I knew it was a bold move and a HUGE risk - too much loosening on the controls could send me right back to square one.

February 2023: I obtained a tendon injury and was signed off running for a few weeks.

I went to Barry Island for a spontaneous solo day trip to see the Gavin & Stacey filming locations. Despite anorexia's seethes, I rounded off a really fab day by indulging in a chippy lunch and some ice-cream.

It went against my self-set diet plan, and knowing that I'd be unable to run it off afterwards sent my anorexia into overdrive.

... And nothing happened. My life didn't suddenly blow up into a disaster, and I didn't gain 100 stone in 15 minutes.

Yes, I ate a hefty portion of chips and peas, but I had a better day than I would have had I starved myself and miserably walked up and down the coast on the verge of fainting with hunger.

My ability to defy anorexia gave me a sharp boost of confidence.

I was sick of anorexia ruining my days and tainting all of my memories with poison.

I realised that I was ready for recovery. Finally, I wanted to get better.

June/ July 2023: For the first time since October 2019, I finally feel able to make decisions without the dark cloud of anorexia hanging over me.

I very much recognise my current state of mind as the one I experienced while in Ibiza when I made my first recovery. 🌈

This time around. I'm very much aware that anorexia could make a comeback at any given moment, be it in matter of weeks, or in ten years time.

But for now, I'm really, really relishing feeling like myself again.

With anorexia, you have to WANT to get better. Nobody - not your Mum, your partner, your best friend, your therapist, your doctor - can force that. It has to come from YOU.

Waiting for that mindset to hit can be frustrating, but one day, something will just click. One day, you feel strong enough to look anorexia in the eye and tell it 'No.'

It's a day SO worth waiting for, I promise you.

Being freed from the prison of your own mind is an indescribable sensation.

On Friday, some of my lovely colleagues were heading to the food market to celebrate National Macaroni & Cheese Day. I was invited along, and my initial instinct was politely decline. I'd brought my low-calorie lunch with me, and one of my anorexia quirks is that I don't feel comfortable eating in-front of people.

To my surprise, my heart spoke up before anorexia had the chance.

As a result, I had an absolutely lovely lunchtime. We sat in the market, looking out over the drizzly afternoon, tucking into hearty portions of mac & cheese.

I actually felt pretty emotional! Thanks to anorexia, I have isolated myself from people for so long, and it felt beautiful beyond words to sit in complete contentment with good food and new friends.

Recovery is made up of lots of little triumphs like this.

The happiest bowl of Mac & cheese I'll ever eat 😄

My voyage towards recovery has coincided with me starting my new job, which I don t think is a coincidence.

As mentioned earlier, my anorexia is always triggered and worsened by stress. While my previous job wasn't stressful, it wasn't what I wanted to do in the long run. I felt stuck, which led to feelings of dissatisfaction.

My passion for writing has always burned within me, and I dared to dream that one day I could make a living out of it. I still have to pinch myself every morning that I am now officially a Content Writer.

I absolutely LOVE my new job. It's one of the best risks I have ever taken.

You never truly realise just how infected your mind has become until that mask has been loosened. I honestly feel like a different person to the one I was just a few months ago. I hardly recognise the ghost I was.

Without anorexia suffocating me, I can think clearly and on my own accord, which is a blessing I will never take for granted again.

I enjoy exercise and I enjoy food - I am no longer enslaved by either.

During the recovery phase, you have to learn to trust your body.

It’s not always easy, but I know that it’s all necessary. My body has got to do what it’s got to do to repair itself.

One thing I recall from my first recovery that seems to be happening again is an increased appetite. Honestly, no amount of food is enough for my bottomless pit at the moment 🤣

Sometimes, you don’t actually notice that elements of recovery have seeped into your day-to-day life until the realisation hits you like a wonderful, warm wave of utopia.

It’s come to my attention that a tennis match of turmoil no longer takes place in my head when someone offers me a biscuit, or invites me out for food.

In the past, it looked a little like this:

Person: Custard cream?

Me (internally): Ooh, yes please!

Anorexia: WTF are you doing???? You can’t eat a biscuit!!!! Do you want everyone to think you’re a failure? Have some f*****g self control!!! 🤬

Me (internally): But… but it’s one biscuit, and I’m running 10k tonight! Please? 🥺

Anorexia: If you accept that biscuit, everyone will know how weak you are. You’re nothing but a failure!!!!! 🤬

Me (internally): But I’m so hungry… 😔

Anorexia: FAILURE. 🤬🤬🤬

Me (externally), to person offering biscuit: No thank you, I’m not hungry. 😔

Now, it looks more like this:

Person: Hey, wanna come to the markets for some Mac & Cheese?

Me (externally): Yes please - sounds great! 😍

Anorexia: Woah, woah, woah! What on EARTH?! Do you want your new colleagues to think you’re a fat greedy bitch with no self control?! You’re showing yourself up BIG TIME. 🤬

Me (internally): Omg, will you just STFU for once, seriously? It’s Mac & Cheese mate! I’m running later - think of it as carb loading! 🤫

Anorexia: Think of it as FAILURE loading. You’ll regret this!!!! 🤬

Me (internally) says nothing. In fact, I can hardly hear anorexia as I grab my coat and head out with my friends, excited for our meal together.

And funnily enough, I don’t regret going out with friends, making memories and eating Mac & Cheese. I would, however, have regretted allowing anorexia to steal another moment from me.

Last weekend, Josh and I went to the Foodies Festival at Tatton Park.

I ate a Biscoff scotch egg (Google it and order yourself some - you're welcome!), drank freshly squeezed cherry lemonade, and got my face decorated with glitter.

In the evening, we watched my all-time girl crush Sophie Ellis-Bextor perform.

The heavens opened and it absolutely poured down, but nobody cared.

I looked around, and everyone was just twirling their umbrellas or ditching them altogether,

embracing the rain. Every single person was beaming, singing and dancing.

I chucked my umbrella to the side, invited to rain to kiss my face, threw my head back and belted along to Murder on the Dancefloor, alongside hundreds of other free souls.

My wellies splashed rain water up the back of my legs as I danced.

It was such an unexpectedly magical moment - one that defined sheer liberation. I felt utterly alive, and happy to my very core.

Life is full of moments like this, if we only pledge to put our demons aside and seek them out.

It might be a cliché, but we truly never know what's around the corner. Sometimes, it can feel impossible to see beyond the dark days, but I promise, promise, PROMISE you that better days are coming. Better days always come - just hang on in there.

Life is SO miraculous, and I'm so, so pleased that I'm here to live it. ❤️

Cara Jasmine Bradley


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