I never really wanted to do a before and after photo, but I’m doing this for myself and to raise awareness. I guess I would say this is a before and RIGHT NOW photo. There aren’t major differences between myself then, and myself now. I still have the same struggles I just manage them differently and use different coping mechanisms. I’ve learned how to EAT and LIVE as opposed to starve and survive.
I am still 5 feet small. On the left I am very underweight, malnourished, starved and over exercised (and drunk). The right is now. Same dress, different mentality. Not much difference, ey? Actually, if anything, I look better now, I GUESS.
Many people believe Anorexia to be an extreme physical illness. It’s not. It’s an extreme mental one that has physical symptoms. Whilst I hit the criteria for the physical side, others do not. You can’t tell by looking at someone if they have an Eating Disorder or not. As can you not tell if someone has any other Mental Health illness or not. Many times, like others I know, I’ve been told ‘oh but you wouldn’t think it to look at you.’ Well no, you wouldn’t think it, because I don’t eat in front of people nor do I, or did I, walk around with my body on full show. So how could anyone diagnose something that’s going on beneath the surface? You can’t, that’s how. There’s an assumption with mental health illness that It brings about a certain appearance and certain personality traits and actions, these assumptions make an ASS out of YOU and ME, never assume, everyone is a fighting a battle that we can’t see – whether it physical, emotional or mental. It is always important to try an approach people with an open mind in a bid to reduce stigma and break down barriers and walls. It might be difficult as the society and media around us has grown to teach us automatic stereotyping of one another, but if we all try, we can do it.
But now, I write to myself;
HEY SANDI. Your cheeks may be fuller, (a small bit), and your tummy not hollow and concave. But your collar bones still stick out. You still have absolutely no boobs and your legs are still short AF. Whilst your thighs may be acquainted and try to become friends with one another (something I knows serves you great distress and dismay) it’s a sign of ‘recovery’. The picture on the right is a girl who isn’t starved and isn’t undernourished. It’s a healthy girl. If we remember the girl on the right, in constant stomach pain from malnutrition, eating less than 500 calories a day and exercising in secret, is that really living life? It might feel comfortable and safe but that’s Anorexia, again, making you feel like you need to restrict, and you need to control. But remember that brings pain. The reality of this photo is that weight has been gained but you need to see it more importantly as HEALTH and LIFE have been gained. Every one of those pounds from then until now (let’s be honest Sandi it isn’t THAT much) is trying to provide and work toward a better future. So, let it. As your good friend has told you ‘don’t look back’. When you look at old photos of yourself, remember the constant stomach pain, the tiredness, the lack of emotion, the lack of food, the overpowering COLD of simply surviving and be thankful you aren’t that girl anymore. Be thankful that you chose the recovery path, thankful that you tried to eat and thankful that you DO eat. Be thankful that your body can now handle doing a gym class and manage to keep itself a little bit warmer – you know you hate the coldness of starvation and malnutrition. It hurts. What you need to realise is that you haven’t changed all that much, whilst the scale has gone up it hasn’t gone up all that much – be honest, it hasn’t. And you can still wear some of your old clothes. Look forward, not back.
This is a before and RIGHT NOW photo because I don’t know if I’ll ever truly recover. Right now, every day, every thought, wants me to go back to starvation. It wants me to eat the bare minimum and go hours without any food. Right now, I’m more scared of restoring a few more pounds than ever. BUT I know that if I ever want to have a life, have children, I have to maintain this weight. A body any lesser than what I have isn’t fit for creating life and that’s a sad reality I live in fear of everyday, too.
The only choice I have through all of this is whether to fight or surrender. And I swear, it’s the battle of all battles. Every day is a war and no day can pass without me scrutinising my body or my food. Recovery is relentless, it’s an angel on one shoulder and a devil on another, its left and its right, up and down. The line isn’t straight, nor is it always forward. I’ve said it before, but Anorexia recovery really is like quitting smoking or another life consuming addiction, Anorexia is every day, every moment and every breath. It’s a friend and an enemy and an entire society. For someone who is now managing their Anorexia, I can say that It feels like I’m piling loads of heavy car and trucks onto a frail and fragile bridge and just waiting for the bridge to collapse under the immense pressure of all the vehicles its upholding. I’m always ready to snap and always ready to break, I wonder if this will now be my life forever more; having Anorexia just waiting in the wings and ready to come back and take centre stage at any moment.