Through recovery I have learned that even at the times when my illness was at its worst I was still a real living human, although I look back and can’t imagine that girl anymore. Even though I remember being desperately unhappy, at times getting so upset that I would literally shout at my illness to stop, there were still spaces in-between which I now look at as very important and very brief spans of time. As I get further and further away from chronic illness and closer and closer to recovery it is especially important to remember the good days that came between the bad. Of course the bad days are terrible and soul destroying days of spending three hours driving around buying food, eating food, crying over food, and then crying even harder because people were home and you couldn’t purge. It’s something that I am learning being in a relationship too; it’s so easy to think that everything is bad just because of a couple of bad days, when in actual fact you are doing your very best, and your best is actually more than good enough.
My point here is that often when I read about anorexia or think about the very mixed up experience of having bulimia it is easy to think that all you were and all you ever will be is an illness, a mental health issue, a pathological nightmare. But in hindsight, I feel very deeply that I, and the many others who go through these kind of illnesses were most certainly still living without these bounds in the spaces between the good and the bad. These were the days that didn’t frighten us to death, the days where we made sense of it all, if not for a day then at least an hour. I’m talking about the chats with friends, and the watching of a good film, about those moments where we were more consumed with life outside of an eating disorder. I’m talking about the time when my mum left a bunch of things for me on my doorstep, too scared to look at me but loving me far too much to leave me, and in that pile of things being a little present. I’m talking about the university classes that made me want to fight so that I could write and make a difference. These are the spaces that we forget, but that are so very important.
That’s why it is important to treat people that are ill with any kind of ailment with a certain amount of equality and trust. Having a chronic illness is indeed time consuming and it really does take up a lot of time and space in the mind but that doesn’t mean that I, and all the others, were never alive. That does not mean that I wasn’t looking for a crack in the cement of my mind to poke out of.
Pain ebbs and flows, and the spaces in-between are what got me through.