Written by: Kate Barton
I’ve been back at uni for a month, after having to take a year out involving 6 months of inpatient treatment and travelling along recovery road, more so than I ever dreamed possible. I’m finding myself looking around at this little city, Bangor, which I love so very much, and being overwhelmed by how much of it was lost to me. To live doesn’t mean you’re alive. I lived here, but I certainly wasn’t alive. A simple walk to Church Island awakened my senses to the sound of the birds, the sight of the Menai Straits, and the natural beauty of this part of world. The view from my 3rd floor kitchen is astounding – the mountains really are stunning. Despite marvelling at their beauty on numerous occasions over the years, only now do they really stand to my attention. I’m finally living life through glasses which enable me to see things in full colour. Bangor seems like a different place, yet in reality, nothing much has altered, at least not in the infrastructure.
Returning to Penrallt for worship last Sunday was something I’d looked forward to for months – there is nothing like being part of a church family. I spent the entirety of the morning service feeling strangely emotional. Incredibly unlike me. The choice of songs seemed incredibly poignant. I truly felt the presence of God stir in me, encouraging me to fight tooth and nail for my recovery, and in turn my degree.
I’ve felt incredibly blessed to have been welcomed into the community, once more, with open arms. Be it a cheery smile from a stranger on the street or a hug from a friend, every tiny action has made the world of difference. Certain individuals, they know who they are, have been instrumental in making this transition as smooth as possible – and for that, I’ll always be truly thankful.
The ‘devil on my shoulder’ remains perched like a parrot who wants to be involved in every part of every day. However, I’m winning, and that in itself leaves me bursting with pride. I put a little tick by the date in my diary to mark a day following my complete meal plan, and boy does it feel good. I’m like a child who has just learnt how to turn a piece of bread into toast, excited by every meal I cook independently, without a single prompt from a nurse or parent. I’d be lying to say it hasn’t been hard, it has been tough – but recovery doesn’t have a day off, and more importantly neither does life. A day off from recovery means another day of life wasted. I for one, am not prepared to give anorexia the satisfaction of fulfilling her wishes.
I logged on to Facebook on Friday to find a private message from an individual which simply moved me to tears. The message read of how my openness and honesty had inspired them to tread the road of recovery. It spoke of how through my ups and downs I had helped them through theirs, without even being aware of it. Now, I might not be able to see how I’ve managed to inspire others to make a positive change, but I do know that the thought of having done so touches me deeply. In turn, this made me more determined to keep fighting, as recovery isn’t for me alone. It is for my family and treasured friends who have stood by me through the darkest of times. But it is also for all those struggling, to enable them to see a glimmer of hope, to know they are not alone. It is that desire to make a difference which sparked my enthusiasm to raise awareness and funds through my 338 mile bike ride in August.
And so tonight I return from church and type this in my pyjamas, snuggled by the radiator, simply enjoying the solitude of my own company. Something I never felt truly comfortable with before.
We can do more than just survive in this world; we can live in it. I truly believe by being willing to work equally as hard on my recovery as my degree, I can transform life into something that feels rewarding and fulfilling. This requires being patient, present, and accepting during all stages of my progress. It also means looking at myself objectively, and getting to know who I really am – indeed, if I truly love myself, everything else will fall into line.
Choosing life means believing that someday – regardless of how long it takes – you will be free.
I’m proud to say I’m an Eating Disorder survivor and a recovery warrior!