Once somebody has battled anorexia, they are always fighting against a relapse. For some, the struggle is harder than it is for others.
Some people succeed in turning their back on The Voice for good, some thrive in blissful ignorance for many years after recovery, and some admit that the torture never really leaves them.
Anorexia often starts with a desire for control, and at the beginning, it does grant a thrilling stab of power. Watching those calories melt away in the fitness apps and the miles walked is quite simply euphoric. You’re jumping across the clouds as you heave your battered body back home after another personal best run.
The Voice cheers on your every move. It encourages you like nobody else ever has. It brings out the best in you, as you strive for impossible perfection.
You feel alive. You’re discovering the best version of yourself as you achieve things you never imagined you could. You’re seeing instant results, and it feels as though you are hugely succeeding in this dangerous dabble with numbers.
Anorexia makes you feel superior. You mistake the concerns of your loved ones for jealousy. They’re just bitter because they’re not dedicated to improving their wellbeing!
You snub their warnings, proclaiming that you are just making a few ‘healthy changes.’
The Voice is always on your side, at least for the first few months, anyway. It’s quite happy to take a backseat as it subtly guides you through the first stages of self-destruct.
Then it snatches the controls from your hands and turns on you. Its soothing tones become hisses of accusation and merciless commands.
You fall under the misconception that this is an entirely new phase – one that will surely be easy to escape - but what you fail to realise is that The Voice has been manipulating your every move for weeks, even months. You are already in too deep. The Voice has you exactly where it wants you. You’re at the heart of the quicksand as it drinks you in through a straw, leaving you gasping for breath, holding on by the tips of your fingers.
It’s too late.
The scary thing about anorexia is the thick fog of distortion that it casts across its sufferer’s eyes.
‘I’ve got it under control.’ I don’t know how many times I have said this myself amidst a struggle, but let me tell you now that this is the biggest, most dangerous lie that anorexia creates and promotes.
You might believe that you have it under control, but the assumption couldn’t be any further from the truth. By the time you accept the anorexia, it has already succeeded in half of its conquest. It has you exactly where it wants you.
Anorexia is an addiction. It has the ability to numb all other traces of both physical and emotional pain. It consumes your entire world, and your every waking moment. The escape it provides can be incredible, as it engulfs you in a strangulating hug from the inside. It strokes your hair while it tightens its hold around your neck, and rocks you to sleep while poisoning your veins.
You don’t just have anorexia, you become it. You wilt into all of its sad stereotypes. Anorexia steals your identity. Anorexia spreads petrol throughout the shell of your body, sets fire to it, and laughs as it watches you wither and burn.
Anorexia may vacate your mind for however long, but be aware that it is always scurrying about in the gloom, scratching at the gravel, looking for the tiniest crack to squeeze through.
The Voice, as venomous as it is, is so familiar. It’s almost comforting. It lures you in with its false promises and blinds your senses with its charm.
It is cunning, and will call you closer in a beautiful whisper. You learn forwards, straining your ears, teetering on the edge of darkness. You don’t even feel yourself fall as it drags you down, back into its clutches.
Anorexia isolates you from everything and everybody. It twists your words and your conception, until you’re standing alone, screaming into nothingness, the veins pulsating in your forehead. You’ve pushed everyone away, but it’s okay, because you have The Voice - the one constant through the torpedoing tumult.
You protect The Voice from anybody who risks taking it all away from you. This is your fight, and you want to do it on your own, just the two of you. You make some bargains with The Voice, who gives you a brief release, and suddenly, everything is rosy again. You’ve done it, you’ve beaten it! Or so you think. You haven’t beaten it at all. The Voice always returns, and it always goes back on its word, sneering at your naivety.
The Voice continues to play a sick game of hide and seek, cat and mouse, until you collapse to the floor, begging it for the mercy it has no intention of ever granting.
You can’t sit and wait for The Voice to rekindle your friendship, because that is never going to happen. The Voice was never your friend.
STOP trying to seek its approval.
STOP trying to live up to its warped standards.
STOP adhering to its detrimental requirements.
STOP getting entangled in its web of lies.
While embarking upon the long road to recovery, it is imperative that you drown out the torturous screams of The Voice, no matter how loud they get. The Voice isn’t used to being ignored, and it will retaliate by putting up the most deadly fight yet. It will trash about in your mind’s eye, guilt tripping you and demanding your attention. When that doesn’t work, it will change its tactics, dragging you to the floor by your hair.
Recovery is hard – maybe even harder than the preliminary struggle. Relapsing is hard. Recovering for the second, third, fourth time is as tiring as it is degrading.
You have to wake up every single day and hold onto that fighting spirit with every morsel of strength that you possesses. Wrap your sweaty palms around it until you’re shaking, if that’s what it takes.
You make the decision to recover, not The Voice.
When The Voice offers its barbed wire embrace in your most harrowing realms of sorrow, you must look it in the eye and remember how it felt when the first rays of recovery prised open the blinds and radiated your face. The Voice is intimated by hope, no matter how slight – use this as a weapon against it.
Recovery doesn’t need to be an exuberant display of roaring success; recovery is hundreds of small achievements, day after day. Recovery isn’t a one day turnaround – it can take years. Recovery is a journey, not a destination.
Cara Jasmine Bradley ©