Something I wasn’t sure was going to happen occurred… I graduated from university!
First semester was absolutely dreadful for me. I fell asleep at 7 or 8pm daily due to the lack of energy from food. I had no social life. I would miss out on things due to aforementioned lack of energy, or reject invitations due to the involvement of food or alcohol. Additionally, if I couldn’t fit in my workouts, then socialising just could not happen. I had constant brain fog, I was close to fainting pretty much most of the time, and I could not concentrate on academics because food was all that filled my mind whenever I attempted to read anything. Exams were dreadful, as I would cry hysterically whenever I ate a fear food, and it threw me off for the rest of the day.
It was only halfway through this semester that I really gave recovery a shot. Prior to forcing myself to eat 3,000 calories and remain sedentary, I was physically getting worse (though mentally getting better). There were days that I could not leave the house because my joints were in so much pain from the lack of food and over exercising. I had chest pains, and the brain fog worsened. Once I finally started eating enough, my body felt like it had been hit by a brick. Think sleeping for thirteen hours, waking, eating breakfast, and falling straight back to sleep. Despite this, I managed to get firsts in quite a lot of my coursework, and graduated with a 2:1 overall!
Graduation week was a time where I felt as though I were able to live like a normal person (well, as normal as can be for someone who is still absolutely ravenous all of the time!) I had so many little victories which meant the world to me that people would not have noticed.
I ordered what I wanted at restaurants.
I ate out every single day.
I packed snacks for my graduation ceremonies in case I got hungry, and because I fear not eating enough, and no longer fear eating too much.
I drank alcohol without worrying about weight gain.
I ate from canapes at my graduation garden parties.
I ate delicious melted cheese with bread that my friend ordered as a surprise starter without a second thought. We were hungry again at 9pm, and ordered Nando’s delivery. I had the first ‘oh my god I can’t stop this is so more-ish!’ sensation with some spicy nuts that came with the order… and it was in the nice kind of way, not an anorexia binge or extreme hunger kind of way. I met up with this friend’s family for the second time. The first time was the previous semester. All I had eaten that day were bran flakes, I had no energy, and I was a complete shadow of myself. This time, I was cracking jokes, my social anxiety did not rear its head, and I actually felt like me.
These little things, and more, which seem so regular are absolutely mind blowing to me. I’m not saying that I’ve had the perfect week. Sometimes ordering exactly what I wanted was difficult, especially when I saw friends or family order what my eating disorder labels as the better option. It sometimes took convincing from waiters to eat canapes. But each day got a little easier, and I never thought I would actually get to a point like this, which gives me hope for the future.
I have to admit, there was one day where my ED got to me. It was totally sneaky. I went to a friend’s to watch trashy tv, and knew he was going to make me a sandwich. I wasn’t hungry for dinner when I left, so I decided to eat properly when I got back home. Well, I ate the sandwich and also a biscuit, but despite hunger I just never ate dinner. I knew I needed to eat, but I managed to make excuses not to. Thankfully, a friend staying at mine managed to convince me to eat the cheese, quince and oatcakes he brought me, despite my protestations of “I’m too tired to eat now”. The next day I felt spacey, cold, and hungry… this throwback to a few months prior reminded me of why I am recovering, and motivated me to eat up and get my energy back for graduation ball that night. And this is why recovery is worth it.
I snacked during pre drinks.
I ate a filling dinner so that I wouldn’t be sick (anorexia’s idea of having a filling dinner before going out for one drink half a year prior was a veggie burger with no bun and a side of vegetables… great!!!)
I took advantage of the free prosecco, chocolate fountains and ice cream.
I ran out of the ball with my friend to get pizza with him to celebrate the end of Ramadan.
I was able to dance without it causing damage to my physical health
Recovery is completely possible, and so, so worth it, my friends. I’ve been lucky enough that I have had a lot of situations like grad week where I have been forcibly pushed out of my comfort zone, and I owe so much to those times. The only way out is through!