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Why Eating Disorder Recovery Is Like Moving to a New House

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People often ask me why moving on from anorexia is so hard. I think most would agree that living with anorexia feels like hell sometimes, yet for some reason, many people continue to live within the wrath of an eating disorder, despite really wanting change. Surely, once we realize how much better life is without the anorexia, it is a simple of case of deciding to get better. To “just eat.”

The thing is, it doesn’t work like that.

My family had wanted to move houses for the last 10 years, and we looked around, house after house, yet none of them were “just right.” Eventually, we found somewhere we could picture ourselves living. We imagined a happy future here, and the house was worth the money we were spending on it. And so six months later, we moved in. We stripped the walls, and the floorboards came up while new pipes were fitted. It looked like a derelict building site. I absolutely hated living there. It wasn’t at all how I had pictured it. I was sleeping on a mattress on the floor, and we didn’t have a working fridge, so we were living off food from tins and packets. We had done everything we had been told — we had made a list of pros and cons of moving houses, and moving came out top every time. We wrote list after list of jobs to do in order to make the house a home. We had endless support from friends and family, who were always offering to come around and help us sort it out. But I missed my old house. Yes, the heating didn’t work, and we lived miles away from where I went to school. The garden wasn’t big enough for our two dogs to be happy in, but as bad as it was, I knew exactly how to get around the problems. I had learned to live with five hoodies on, and I was used to taking the dogs for a walk round the block a few times a day.

I now think of having an eating disorder like living in my old house. Living with an eating disorder isn’t nice. It’s hard work constantly having to do things like count calories, but it was my way of life. Sometimes, you are so used to living in a “faulty” house, you forget what it’s like to live in a nice house.

I think recovery is like moving houses. It’s unfamiliar, and exhausting, and painful, and you have happy memories from your old house. You have no idea what the future has in store because each day is just about getting through to the next. But once you have moved houses, it gradually gets better. The floorboards go back down, and the central heating starts to work, and you start to have some better times decorating the house with family. You buy new furniture that is exciting, and then you begin to invite friends over to see where you now live. You begin to make new memories, happy memories, and you realize how much you love the new house and everything it brings with it.

Recovery gets better too. It’s bloody hard work, but you begin to realize what it’s like to truly live. You can go out for meals with friends, sit through exams without completely losing focus, and think about things that aren’t food-related. You may miss the familiarity of the eating disorder sometimes, but there is so much more of the world just waiting to be explored. You have memories of the old house, but so many new ones are just waiting to be made.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

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Thinkstock photo via Lordn.

Originally published: May 22, 2017
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