Sometimes I find it deeply frustrating to have the brain that I do. I do not think that I will ever say goodbye to the eating disorder that ruled my life for a number of years. Luckily I am in a better place now than I have been in a very long time when it comes to my body image, however I am always cognizant that I can just be one trigger away from falling into the black hole of body loathing. This might be a little depressing, but at the same time, I also know that I will not feel that way forever, that it is possible for me to find my way back to a place of balance and happiness.
Often I think there is not the narrative space, or understanding to deal with this. In our world the way illness normally (but not always) works is you get ill, then you do what you have to do to beat it. Then its done, finished, you are well again. I don’t think that is how my mental illness works. I will always have a disordered mind that blames all my failings on the way my body looks. I have just learned better, more effective ways of coping with it. This means I am better aware of my boundaries. These days I am not afraid of opting out of social situations that I know will be bad for my mental health, or speaking up when people are talking in ways that I know are damaging to me.
There are some things that I cannot avoid without giving up things that I am not willing to. For example every single time my partner and I go on a beach holiday, I end up feeling anxious about my body. It is the combination of having a lot of free time and seeing a lot of bodies that do not look like mine. I will never give up beach holidays, but I do have to think carefully about ways to minimise my anxiety. Just knowing in advance that I am likely to have these feelings is really helpful.
The good thing is that I have not acted on my feelings of body anxiety for a long time. While the feelings still pop up, I am now able to keep them contained. I do not fall into the trap of disordered behaviours to cope with my disordered mind and this has been very liberating. Sometimes taking care of myself means just means accepting that I will always have these feelings to some degree and that is OK. Being kind to myself is an important component of self care. I think of my mind as being disordered not because I believe that I am broken, but because I have a tendency towards irrational thought patterns and feelings in regards to my body, my eating is no longer disordered, but those thought patterns that caused the disordered eating in the first place can still come into play. Some days are easier than others and very often the good days last for months on end but at the end of the day I am always aware that I need to defend myself from the creeping influence of those thoughts and feelings.