As soon as I hear the Diet Coke advert, I know that Christmas is on its way. For many years, I wished Christmas would come and go without anyone noticing. All I could think about was how to avoid the food. Screw spending time with family, I was on a mission to eat as little as possible.
Alongside this, I was full of sadness and conflict. Was I going to be with my Dad, or was I going to be with my mum? All I really wanted was one big happy family, like you see in those ‘chocolate box’ movies.
But over the years, I have come to realise that most families are not like the movies, and instead of hampering after something I never had, I have learnt to appreciate all I do have – which is now a big extended family. I have lots of little, and big people around me who all make Christmas a bit different each year. Sure, there are times when I wish we could all be in the same room, but for many reasons that’s not going to happen, so it’s about being grateful for each and every person.
Family isn’t just about those you share genes with; it is actually a lot more than that. Family can be friends that enrich your world and make you feel as though life is worth living, when YOU are not so sure it is. There have been many Christmas’s when I have felt so lonely I wished I could disappear. Everything about Christmas made these feelings of desperation even more acute. It was another year gone by, with nothing to show other than another year wasted to anorexia.
Eating disorders are not just about food, but denying yourself every aspect of pleasure. Christmas therefore, brings up every part of the ugly monster. I felt as though I didn’t deserve kindness, food, gifts, love; all the things Christmas is meant to be about. Recovery has helped me to accept myself who I am at any given moment. I don’t want to be the sad person in the corner of the room, completely absent from what is going on around me. Christmas holds so much more meaning for me now that I am not obsessing about food. My head is free to think of others, to be present in the moment.
If you are struggling with an eating disorder, or mental health issue, my biggest piece of advice would be to talk about it in advance. Don’t let the anxiety build-up; it will only grow and end up becoming a huge monster in your head. You may need some extra support, or to plan your day’s food in advance so that you can feel safe. If this is what you need so that you can enjoy the day, then do it. There is no room for pride or ego in recovery – you have to do whatever it takes to get well.
I know the fear that Christmas brings up when you are living with an eating disorder, but remember to take it one day at a time. If like me you missed out on Christmas for many years, have a think about what you would like to be different this year. Set yourself some goals. No matter how small or insignificant they may seem, they can make a big difference to how you experience Christmas. You deserve to find some peace within…allow yourself that gift.