Written by: Aurora Vendramini
I heard many times in treatment, “You can’t recover until you want to recover.”
It is true. However, nobody ever told me how to want to recover. I have read books written by recovered people and listened to recovered people speak. They always spoke about this thing that I will call an ‘Ah Ha’ moment. This is the moment in which they decide they want to recover and from there everything seems to just get better. Nobody told me that after this ‘Ah Ha’ moment it would still be hard. What’s more, nobody told me what this ‘Ah Ha’ moment would be like.
I always pictured that it would happen as if being struck by lightning, echoing something out of a film. I thought of myself standing on a hill, as the clouds part I would be struck by lightning, saying to myself, “I’m going to recover now!” Handle’s Hallelujah chorus would start playing to finish the moment.
I don’t need to tell you that there was no hill, no parting clouds, no lightning bolt and no music.
In fact my big ‘Ah Ha’ moment never came.
I’d heard that hitting rock-bottom was an ‘Ah Ha’ moment because there was no way other than up. That was partly right. I hit rock-bottom and there was no other way to go but up. However, I didn’t have to go up too far before I fell back to rock-bottom. Clearly that was not going to be my ‘Ah Ha’ moment.
I began to get frustrated. Part of me wanted to recover but my heart wasn’t truly committed. I would sit in therapy talking about how hard it was, about how I had tried and failed yet again. I would try and stick to my meal plan and fail. I would try not to self-harm and fail.
One day my psychologist sat back in his chair, looking me in the eye with a look I hadn’t seen before and said, “When are you going to stop trying and start doing? You can try all you want but you’ll keep failing and in the end you’ll fail all your way to the grave.”
I just looked at him. There was no lightning bolt, rather a switch flicked on in my head.
My psychologist was right. I thought I had been making progress, because I was saying I was trying to do something different. In actual fact none of my behaviors had changed. The only thing that had changed was, that instead of telling people I wasn’t going to change, I was telling people that I was trying to change and failing.
That day was just over a year ago and I can count on one hand the amount of times I’ve skipped a meal since then. It didn’t magically become easier. In fact, it was really hard. I was determined. As I was eating, I was feeling emotions and my psychologist became so much more useful to me. Instead of having a bad day and restricting, I’d have a bad day, vent to him, eat what I had to and feel victorious at the end of it, rather than feeling hopeless.
That was ‘Ah Ha’ moment Number One.
‘Ah Ha’ moment Number Two came a few months later. I was working in a job I didn’t particularly like. I was over it. I hated it and it was not what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. When I realized I’d rather end up in hospital than work and started to actively restrict I realized there was a big problem.
‘Ah Ha’ moment Number Two was deciding to take charge of my life and put it on the path I wanted. Again, it wasn’t some big lightning bolt moment but more of a life choice. I quit my job and went back to school. Sitting at my desk when I decided that this was what I really needed to do, I also realized I needed to be in recovery to do it. I’d tried university before and failed due to my eating disorder. I couldn’t afford to do it again, both mentally and financially. I needed to be healthy, or at least working towards health to do it.
Going back to university was probably the best thing that ever happened to me. I was surrounded by ‘normal’ people and for the first time in a long time got to see how ‘normal’ people ate. It has frustrated me that the other students could come to school on the first day and buy something from the cafeteria, without having any idea what food was served. There was no way I could have done that but I wanted to. I wanted to be able to go out to lunch with the others during our long lunch break and didn’t want to just hang around campus. I wanted to be able to go out to coffee after class and not have to rush off to appointments instead. Seeing my classmates eat freely from the cafeteria that first day was another ‘Ah Ha’ moment. I thought to myself that, I wanted that and although I’m getting there I need to keep pushing myself.
Through these series of smaller ‘Ah Ha’ moments, I have found my desire to recover. I was never struck by that lightening moment and it never happened like I thought it would. There was no huge realization. Rather, it was a series of smaller realizations that resulted in me finding my desire to recover.
Was it all roses from then on? Was it easy? Hell no! It was hell. It was harder than it was when I was restricting. I’m not saying this to put anyone off recovery because even though it’s hard, I wouldn’t go back to my eating disorder for the world.
It wasn’t all rainbows and ponies though. It was a lot of hard work. It still is a lot of hard work. I still have days when the last thing I want to do is eat but I still do it.
I remember my psychologist asking me when I’m going to start doing. I think about the career and the life I want to have, I remember all the fun times I’ve had going out with friends to eat and just being normal. Those are the moments that fostered my desire to recover and those are the moments that keep it burning brighter and brighter with each passing day.
Aurora developed anorexia at age 11. After finally being diagnosed at age 16 she was hospitalised many times. Since the ‘ah ha’ moments written about above Aurora is in strong recovery and living her life to the fullest. She is an Australian from Melbourne who is determined to live life to its fullest. When she’s not sailing she’s busy studying and working towards her dream of working in the events industry. Aurora continues to share her story, helps raise awareness about eating disorders and helps raise funds for her local eating disorders charity (Eating Disorders Victoria). She wants to share how wonderful recovery can be without glossing over the hard bits. She truly believes that the hard work of recovery is so worth it.