For Christmas last year my parents’ awesome present to me, my brothers and our partners was a holiday to Noosa, QLD, booked for the end of April. They wanted to rent a house so we could be close to where my brother and dad were rowing in the Australian Surf Life Saving Championships, and we could all go and support them as a family. It felt like the holiday would never arrive, but last week it was finally time.
I can honestly say the seven days I spent in Noosa were some of the hardest, most full on days I’ve experienced throughout my recovery journey. Before we left, Matt and I had been our usual organised selves and prepared a list of things to challenge while on holiday. This is difficult enough, but this being a family holiday, I had the added pressure of having to factor in six other people besides me and Matt. Not being in control of what we were doing or where and what we were eating was really challenging.
From the very first day it was like the ED found a new setting on its volume, turning things all the way up to 11. I did my best to tune it out and “go with the flow”, which meant eating out whenever everyone else was, letting other people choose which restaurants we ate at, and eating in much larger groups than I’m used to. I also had to face fear foods, changes to my exercise schedule and eating out of routine.
This turned out to be much harder than I was expecting. I really struggled to let go of my rules and my need to be in control. I’m not going to sugar coat it: I pretty much sucked on this holiday.
I ended up bailing on pre-agreed meals because I just couldn’t face the ED thoughts and spent a lot of time wandering back and forth past the same restaurants trying to find something I felt comfortable eating. At one point when we were sitting down to a safe lunch (finally, after two hours of walking around freaking out!), I said to Matt, “I don’t know how to fix this”.
We both started laughing. It’s all we could do. The burden of recovering from an eating disorder can leave you feeling utterly hopeless, but sometimes the ridiculousness of it all can leave you in hysterics. Both Matt and I expend so much mental energy on the eating disorder that every now and then it feels good to just laugh together. Hopefully it’s a sign of how well I’m learning to be okay (but not content) with where I’m at.
After that moment of clarity, we reassessed the list and I decided to renew my efforts and keep doing my very best. I realised that although I was really struggling and not at all nailing normal eating, I was dealing with everything a whole lot better than I would have in the past. Laughing at the ED, and continuing to break its rules and prove it wrong, would have been unimaginable a year ago.
So, I kept challenging everything I said I would, which meant a lot of negative body thoughts and near constant request for reassurance to Matt. This was pretty annoying and frustrating for us both (I’m sure more so for poor Matt) and I wish I could have been a little stronger and more confident in the knowledge that the ED was lying, but in the moment I just couldn’t. It’s times like that I’m grateful for a patient support network.
Now, don’t get me wrong. We had some really big wins on the holiday too—I ate plenty of fear foods and was able to actively be part of awesome family holiday fun. But the thing I’ll treasure most about this holiday actually has nothing to do with food at all. As I said earlier we all went as a family to watch my brother row in the Aussie Titles and I am so proud to say his crew won, beating hundreds of super talented rowers to the number one spot!
It was easily one of the best moments— to be there with the rest of my family and watch my brother achieve one of his lifelong dreams. And I know for sure, if I hadn’t made the choice two years ago to do everything in my power to recover I wouldn’t have had the strength to go on this holiday and I would have missed out on this moment. I promise you: no eating disorder is worth that!