Eating Disorder Awareness Week
This week is Eating Disorder Awareness Week and I am extremely pleased that the founder, Hannah Brown, of aneartohear.co.uk, a peer support site especially for those who are in the midst of their illness, has written a heartfelt and inspiring guest blog for DAWN Coaching. You can find her details below.
When we talk about eating disorders it is so easy to focus on the obvious, the body image, the food and of course weight. Without doubt, the emotion and the meaning that we attach to these things is an integral part of the illness and for me it was the ability to be able to so finitely control these things that drove my illness. But the reality is that like any mental illness, eating disorders and in particular for me anorexia, touch areas of our lives that go far beyond clinical diagnosis.
That’s why recovery, as an all-encompassing endeavor is one of the most beautiful things that one can be part of and whilst it is incredibly tough, demanding and exhausting - recognising its multi faced nature really does help the sufferer to shift their focus away from their meal plan and onto the other areas of their psyche that may have, over time become neglected.
Food, when used either as a comfort or as a coping mechanism means that to take that use away results in a minefield of emotions, fears and anxieties that were once fogged.
Learning to cope with that anxiety and stress is just one part of the process. It requires a level of identification, not only of the triggers but of the inner dialogue that we have with ourselves to ensure we recognise the voice of the illness in opposition to our own. Like a monkey swinging in the tress this constant motion of thought seems almost playful in its ability to jump from theme to theme, tree to tree. It is these most anxious and stress stimulating environments where giving the monkey a banana and calming the thoughts is such an incredible tool to learn and have available.
Anxiety and dealing with anxiety is such a large part and learning to self-calm and re-evaluate is a profound tool.
Finding the motivation to recover or commit to recovery, was another aspect that I had never thought about. I never thought my illness would have the ability to deplete and extinguish my motivation. In the darkest days of my illness, I don’t think I possessed that motivation, instead exhausted by the overwhelming nature of my illness. I knew, that I had once had dreams, goals and aspirations but finding them, reaching out for them, well that was a whole different matter. In all honesty, I struggled to find the motivation to eat and live yet alone think about my future.
Pausing though, to consider that their might actually be a life post illness, and decorating that life with all the dreams I had ever dreamt was one of the most fulfilling things I did. I saw things that I wanted again, I created a vision for myself and suddenly I became able to strive. Motivation, just another facet affected by illness.
Part of motivation is no doubt having the confidence to be able to strive forward, the confidence in yourself and in your ability to change, to recover. It takes so much confidence to stand proud, firm and tall. “Here I am, I am not my illness, I am more than my illness and I will overcome my illness”
Without doubt my illness reduced my confident and bubbly persona to mere insignificance. I had no confidence in myself apart from in my ability to be unwell. Even in my recovery, there were times where I felt weak and powerless, I lacked the confidence to stand up for Hannah, the real Hannah.
There is so much pressure to have the confidence to succeed, achieve, to be something. But this time, I had to find the confidence just to simply be. Find the confidence to speak up and say that actually things weren't OK and that I needed help. Confidence might be associated with being able to speak to 1000 delegates, but it takes so much more confidence to speak to the millions of voices standing in your head.
I've touched so briefly on three areas that as part of my recovery, needed attention and time to heal, that needed time to allow for recognition of and then strengthen. The ability to recognise and deal with anxiety in a new and safer way as opposed to the reliance on a food behaviour. Finding the motivation to first of all start recovery, commit to it and then use it to fuel a life. Finally learning how to build confidence from within, to acknowledge yourself and your right to get help.
Each component deserves its own article as there is just so much to say about them but what I wanted to illustrate was that recovery requires thought and attention to so much more than just weight, body image, food or otherwise. It is a complete learning process, learning the coping strategies, to use motivation and to have the confidence to find contentment in recovery.
It may be a learning, but recovery is an opportunity. By restoring all areas, by really giving time to your whole being, mind, body and soul you won’t need to find the motivation anymore because life, a rich and wholesome life, simply takes over.
Now, using some of the skills that I have developed as part of my recovery, I am proud to be the founder of aneartohear.co.uk which is a peer support site especially for those who are in the midst of their illness. It is synonymous to a big sister in recovery and is very simply a way of reaching out for support and comfort. I’ve been there, I’ve been the worst form of myself but I’ve come back from it with defiance and determination. I hope that by speaking out, telling of my experience and being that valuable ear to hear, I can help to soften the hardest and fiercest of days.
If you would like to book me to speak at your organisation or school, interview or comment on issue surrounding the areas of eating disorders, please do not hesitate to get in touch