Space. Something which, only a few years ago, I did not want to take up. I just wanted to curl up into a cocoon and make myself as small and as insignificant as possible. I didn’t think I had a purpose and I couldn’t see my worth. To be honest, I didn’t think I deserved to take up space in this world. Many people who have experienced anorexia nervosa say a similar thing. It is important to note that everyone experiences their eating disorder in a different way, but this is how it felt to me:
Anorexia had taken my personality away from me. The bubbly, kind and positive person I once was had faded, and I was left with a shadow of that person. The real me was still there in the background, but unable to break free from the chains of the illness. The critical voice had really taken over. I was never good enough, never worthy enough and according to this voice, I would always be a nobody.
At times, it was difficult to remember who I was before my illness. And that is partly why it was so hard to let go. A part of me was so afraid that I would be even more of a nobody without the eating disorder, that I would be lost and would lose my identity completely. In some ways, it also felt easier to accept that I was a nobody than to try to be a somebody and fail at it. Somehow doing badly at an exam or letting someone down was worse than not even trying in the first place. If I didn’t try, I couldn’t fail.
But throughout my journey, I have leant that I was never a nobody, I have always been a somebody. I have learnt that it is ok to make mistakes, and it is ok to get things wrong. In fact, I learn so much more from making a mistake than I do from getting something right. By making mistakes, I have been able to grow and change.
Dealing with change, however, is not easy. But for me at least, change was a crucial part of recovery. Challenging, but crucial. I’m not just talking about physical changes – of course my body and shape changed a little, but that, for me was one of the easier changes to cope with. What I found more difficult was coming out of the little cocoon I was in. Doing so meant I was more vulnerable, more noticeable, and it would be easier for others to notice my failings and mistakes. Many times, I tried to curl back up into my little cocoon and, once again, make myself as insignificant as possible. It was safer.
Safe, however, doesn’t necessarily mean better. I have always wanted to make a positive difference in the world, and I realised that I can’t do this whilst I am hiding away. So instead, I decided to allow myself to be vulnerable and allow myself to make mistakes.
I am not the person I was before my illness, after all, everything we experience shapes who we become. But I am no longer a shadow. I am me. A confident and loving person who is deserving of life. A person who has a purpose on this earth. I am a somebody. I have come out of my cocoon, spread my wings, and am learning how to fly.
I say learning because we are all constantly learning. Sometimes life throws things at you that you’re not expecting. Things that we maybe haven’t experienced before. So sometimes, we don’t have that many tools in our toolboxes to equip us for these things. But we soon learn, we soon find the tools, and are able to overcome these hurdles without having to fall back on old coping mechanisms and without having to crawl back into the cocoon.
Letting go of the eating disorder and throwing away my cocoon has meant I have experienced living, not just existing. I have learnt to appreciate the things I do have and to learn from the challenges I face. I am no longer afraid take up space in this world, because I know that every single one of us has a meaning and every single one of us is deserving of space. So please don’t stay in your cocoon forever. Life can be scary, I fully appreciate that, but there is a space out there waiting for you. Go on, accept the challenge, and see what life may bring. One day, you may just look back and, like me, be glad that you took up your space in the world. After all, there’s space for us all!
Onwards and upwards,
Rose Anne x