"A New Day"
Meeting again with Flora is like walking into a room that has jut been decorated. One knows the room is basically the same, yet somehow, everything has changed. As we sit down in a sunny park, Flora glows with a new sense of hope. "The last time we met I was on the turn, but I had not turned completely" I ask her about the changes since the last time we talked. "After we spoke, I had a very intense health scare. I was in a bookshop and all the sudden, my legs went weak, my heart was beating out of my chest, and I was dizzy. I was with my sister and I grabbed her and told her to call 999. I was sure I was dying of a heart attack."
Flora was rushed to the hospital and was found to be having irregular heartbeats, but thankfully, not a heart attack. "In that moment, I understood fully that I had taken one too many risks with my health. Anorexia always gave me, in some small way, the illusion that I had control. When my heart felt that it was going to burst out of my chest I knew that I had no control at all. Although I was eating regularly, and seeing my therapist I was still playing a game with my body. It was a week before Christmas and I was in an ambulance, literally seeing my life flash before my eyes. No more Christmas, no more Easter, no more walks with my dog, no more anything."
I asked her how this traumatic experience moved her recovery on and how it pushed her further towards her goal better health. "My father used to tell me that one event can change your whole life, and I never believed him. That event changed my life. I also was given a particularly scary article about a woman who died a horrendous death from Anorexia. In the days after the scare, I was frightened to sleep as I did not know if I was going to wake up. I was laying in bed thinking, here I am, 23 years old and wondering if I am going to die of a self inflicted disease. All the other 23 year olds are out dancing, having parties, having love lives. I was thinking about dying." Flora goes on to tell me about her determination and commitment to her recovery. "I had to take an adult choice. Instead of being an Anorexic and having that as my complete identity, I am now a person recovering from an Eating Disorder. I am a person, I have a life, and recovery is a huge part of that. Anorexia is not." I asked Flora how she is having a relationship with her body that is not destructive? Surely it takes time to connect the two? "Exactly" she says. "I still have trouble feeling that my head and body not disconnected. I tend to treat my body like a machine that needs feeding, but as you can see I have a lot more love for this machine then I ever did. "
I agree. Flora is dressed in beautiful shades of pink and grey, her cheeks are rosy, her hair is thick and healthy. She has almost lost all the fine hair on her arms and face (lanugo). Her hands are soft and well manicured, where once there were small blue claws that bled in even warm weather. "I have a life now. I used to be in my room, thinking about me, and my body and fat 90% of the time and out of my room 10% of the time. Now, I have to consult my diary to book people in for 3 weeks ahead! I have a job, I am starting my new voluntary work in a few days, and I have a partner whose support has been amazing." Ironically, her volunteer work involves delivering food to those who are terminally ill. She made the choice to do this as Anorexia is a disorder that is so focused on self, she thought it was time to stop obsessing on her disorder and focus on the needs of others less fortunate then her. "That old adage that there are starving children in Africa is true. It should never be used as blackmail to get someone to eat, but for me it was a way to move myself out of self pity."
I ask Flora if there was anything that she could pass on to anyone who may need some hope in recovery. "You know, this is the thing with me. I was talking to my therapist and she asked me to write my own obituary. So I did, I tried to write my obituary. I did not want it to say that I was a person who blackmailed others to love her with illness, that I was selfish and hated myself most of all. I did not want to read that I died alone with no children or grandchildren because my fertility was lost due to an Eating Disorder. I did not want to picture the lack of people at my graveside shaking their heads and saying what a waste I was." Flora and I pause to think about what could have been. I ask her if she has anything else that she wants to add to her update.
Slightly embarrassed she hands me a piece of paper. On it say "Keys
To Recovery". In perfect penmanship she writes: Hope, Choice, Acceptance,
Honesty, Firmness, Gentleness, Consciousness.