If there’s one thing I could go back and tell my younger self about battling an addition – my particular type being food – it would be this: eventually it gets easier.
That’s not to say that it’s inevitable that people will make a recovery from addiction. I feel incredibly lucky to have teetered on the edge of the anorexic abyss and managed to claw my way back to shaky ground.
But it doesn’t make my message back to the younger Amy any less true.
It gets easier.
For so long I felt like I would never be free of this demon of mine – the sweet release I would feel by pushing my feelings down under copious amounts of food, or starving my emotions away by exercising beyond exhaustion. Recovery, normality, seemed like an impossibility.
Don’t get me wrong. In those years it wasn’t all darkness. I experienced moments of liberating freedom – dancing with friends, laughing with family, connecting with those I cared about deeply – but the monster was ever there. The shadow voice calling to me. Tempting me to eat, to gorge, to annhialite myself.
To resist this voice often felt impossible, to think about not buying food brought on a panic close to suffocation. And so I seesawed my way through much of my late teens and 20s, lurching from overeating to starving, freezing my feelings away or burying myself under food.
It was hard but I took some tentative steps forward. I had some counselling, dared to share some of myself with those I trusted, started to listen, accept and love myself just a little bit.
These were baby bird steps forward over several years and it felt for so long that I took 1 step forward and 50 steps back. Because this was often the reality. But I took those steps forward regardless.
And sometimes, just sometimes, I was able to ask myself ‘will this food give me what I truly desire?’ and I was able to resist my shadow voice. Even if a few minutes later I thought ‘fuck it’ and ate everything in sight.
But I kept on seeking help. I kept taking tiny steps forward.
And I discovered that my addiction wasn’t so much about the food. It was about the anger I kept locked up inside me, it was about the fear and sadness I refused to acknowledge, it was about the pain of trying to find my way in the world despite feeling deeply inadequate, unworthy, unloveable.
And in moments of progress I slowly let myself release little pressurised pockets of rage. I let myself cry, mourn, feel sad, wallow in pity, tantrum, express myself, accept my feelings.
And it was bloody hard. No amount of swear words can express how hard it was. But when I did these things – however gracelessly I did them – life got a tiny bit easier. The shadow voice got a tiny bit quieter.
So I suppose on reflection, it’s not just the message of ‘it gets easier’ that I would share with my younger self.
I’m fact, if my younger self met the older me and heard me say ‘it gets easier’, I think the younger me would want to punch the older me in the face. So let’s just say my message is a bit more like this:
Life is bloody hard, and your fight feels so difficult, so crippling, so futile, dear one. It can feel so often that trying to take steps forward is an impossibility. Like trying to recover demands the impossible of yourself.
But please hang in there. Because millimetre by millimetre, this does get the smallest fraction more bearable. And you do move forward.
First you can’t see the distant travelled because it’s so small, but if you look hard, you’ll see that you’ve travelled a few millimetres, a centimetre, an inch, a yard.
And yes, you do sometimes retreat back to your starting place, or even further back, but that ground is slightly easier to navigate the next time, and the next time and the next time.
And on your journey, you both need to fight against the disordered eating, but also accept that it’s not really about the eating at all – it’s about accepting, loving, forgiving yourself and making sense of what you’ve experienced.
It’s a paradox that feels nonsensical. But it’s true. It’s about food, but it’s not.
So pay attention to the food, but also pay attention to yourself. Value your thoughts, your feelings, your views. Because they may not always be right, but they are valid. You have the right to feel them. So push forward with finding your feet, accepting and listening to yourself.
And know that life feels hard where you are, but it also has the potential for so much more. There is so much goodness awaiting you, dear heart.
Things you can’t see from where you are but realities that are possible. Being loved beyond belief by people. Heck, loving yourself beyond belief. Feeling such a sense of fullness through becoming a coach and helping others. Feeling such a sense of richness through your writing.
Living a life that is light with love as much as it is intense with feelings.
There is so much in front of you that you can’t see. So hold on for just a bit longer. And a bit longer. And a bit longer. Until you’re not just holding on, you’re striding forward.
And you’ll then know that it does indeed get easier.