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Accepting Your Mental Illness

As I mentioned before, I still find it incredibly hard to accept the fact that I have an eating disorder.

At times I refuse to believe it at all.

However, I do believe that one of the biggest and most important steps to take towards recovery is to acknowledge and understand that yes, you do have a problem.

This step, I’ve found, is much harder than it seems. It takes so much will power and a great deal of mental strength to just be able to believe the sentence ‘I have an eating disorder’.

One thing I have found useful is writing it down; for instance writing a blog post about it makes the whole situation more real and believable to my mind. Another thing which I find useful is to stop myself every time I get overly frustrated about food, just to point out to myself that someone without anorexia would not react the same way.

Even sitting down alone somewhere quiet and telling yourself ‘I have an eating disorder’ a few times, I’ve found quite useful. It may sound a bit mad talking to yourself but it surprisingly helps so much.

In my opinion, this step should take priority over any other. For instance you shouldn’t try and tackle anxiety around food if you can’t acknowledge the problem you have around food.

This is simply because if you don’t think you have a problem, you won’t put the effort you should into trying to recover. To make this idea clearer: if I was offered maths tutoring but I thought I was good at maths, I would not really participate in the tutoring since I would think I could do just fine without it.

When someone finally accepts their disorder, it’s easier to then think ‘Right, I have a problem and problems need to be solved’ – you are more likely to want to recover and engage in therapy.

I used the word ‘finally’ in the sentence above because I need to further highlight that it’s a long process. In fact, here I am months after my diagnosis and I still have thoughts telling me I don’t have anorexia. I wake up some mornings feeling really irritated just because of the diagnosis; my mind tells me I’m not sick and the amount of food I’m supposed to be eating according to the doctors is too much. I’m not anorexic so I shouldn’t be eating the same amount of food as someone who does have anorexia.

I have read in many books about overcoming depression. Often the metaphor used for depression is ‘a black dog’. Although not everyone who has anorexia also experiences depression, I feel like these books include techniques applicable to overcoming anorexia. The black dog can also easily represent an eating disorder.

In the books, many of the authors suggest becoming friends with the ‘black dog’ and stop hating it or wishing it be gone.

This never really made sense to me because I assumed everyone with an illness would rather not have that illness – no one could truly start living without the wish of not having it.

However, recently I am beginning to understand this metaphorical phrase of ‘giving the black dog a hug’.

Neglecting the dog (i.e ignoring there’s a problem) only causes the dog to bark more for attention. And  also, if you ignore the dog, you can’t give it what it needs to calm down.

Having read that, most people will probably assume that the best solution would then be to try and get rid of the dog in some way. But I think not.

This would only cause harsh conflicts and useless battles resulting in you being weaker and the dog still very present.

Instead, as many of the books suggest becoming friendly to the dog is the only solution. You have to accept it’s there and take responsibility for it. Even though the dog may be horrible you have to make negotiations, find out what works at keeping the dog calm and what doesn’t. Maybe you’ll find that a simple walk in a park can quiet down the dog.

Whatever it is, accepting the dog not only helps you find ways of coping with it but also helps you become the owner of it. Since, the dog is just a pet you are in control of it.

So, that’s what I am left to work towards. A simple acceptance can make a huge difference. Except of course , it isn’t that simple. It’s a gradual process but I do believe it’s possible and if you’re in a similar situation I hope you do too. Believing it’s possible makes your goal much more achievable.

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