How Pole Fitness has fuelled my recovery

For years I’ve absolutely hated my body. This isn’t just been caused by my eating disorder. I’ve always had a feeling like I’m not good enough and that I’d never be one of the ‘pretty girls.’ Don’t get me wrong it was what felt like a million times worse when Anorexia had its grip. Learning to love my skin is an ongoing process. I never believed that I would be able to even begin to love who I am. This was especially what I thought to be the case a few years back.

Although I’ve had my ups and downs in recovery, the best thing that has happened to me in regards to appreciating my body is starting to attend Pole Fitness classes. This is a society at my university and I attend weekly hour long classes.

In the beginning, I felt uncomfortable and not good enough. All the girls already there were so pretty and talented. I felt like a monster coming along. I was embarrassed of what I looked like and scared to wear shorts and a sports bra.

As weeks went by, my confidence steadily began to raise. With the support of the lovely members and a fabulous instructor, I began to forget about how I looked and focussed on learning moves and routines. Of course I was embarrassed that I made mistakes but again weeks went on and I realised so did everyone else. So off went my leggings and in came the sports bra and shorts which made it ten times easier to get upside down onto the pole.

Early December I decided to get involved with a winter pole shoot. At first I was hesitant and I had it in my head that I would just look huge. However it ended up being one of the most empowering experiences of my life. With friends around me and generally just mucking around really helped me feel free. No one judged each others poses or laughed at each other. It was honestly such a good atmosphere.

A few days ago I got hold of the final edits and I absolutely fell in love with them. My first response was that I wasn’t fat or ugly was the best feeling. To feel good when you constantly feel so bad about yourself is precious. It was amazing to be able to have some photos which I can’t even criticise. It inspires me to keep on going.

Eating wise, pole has encouraged and motivated me to keep eating. I’ve been to classes when I’ve had little to eat and I’ll tell you what its incredibly difficult running on low. Although I struggle, pole has been the main thing preventing me from relapse.

 

I’d highly recommend for anyone who struggles with body image to give pole a go or even try something new that will empower them to feel great about how they look.

 

 

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Imagining a life without Anorexia…

So I might as well start with a brief introduction about myself before I dive into the details of this post.  Hi I’m Ella. Currently I’m 22 and in my final year at university studying Media. The past 7 years have been a rocky journey but slowly I am getting nearer to a happier, more meaningful place. The obvious part of this post is that I have anorexia/ recovering from anorexia (it’s a tricky thing to define personally as I find it hard to let go of….I’ll try and explain that later! It will all make sense! So eyes down and keep reading.

In 2012, I went into foster care as I could no longer cope being at home. This was mainly due to my mental health. I moved in with a lovely lady who helped me settle in. Within the first month of being there I managed to get myself into a toxic relationship with a what I deem as a narcissist online. At the time I was unaware of this…to be honest I don’t think it’s common for people to even realise it until its over. Anyway, this dragged me away from nearly every social situation as I’d isolated myself by dedicating all of my time to him. It was toxic, there were games of manipulation but my aim isn’t to delve back into the complexity and messed-up-ness of the situation. It ended though! THANKFULLY! My current boyfriend kind of saved me from everything. We’ve been together nearly 4 years now.

The isolation mixed with not handling the whole moving into care thing very well, led to restriction. Now at the start it was healthy but slowly turned into something very dark and addictive. Counting calories, weighing everyday, purging, taking laxatives and excessively exercising became my routine. I wanted control and seeing the number go down made me ever so happy. I’m sad that it was the only thing that made me feel like I could go on.

As time went by, people noticed. These people expressed their concerns and I rejected them – I was incredibly angry. I didn’t believe anyone who said I was ‘thin’ or ‘sick’ I genuinely believed they were trying to trick me into gaining weight.

Sometimes, I’d weigh myself and the number had slightly gone up or stayed the same and I remember the strength of my emotions hitting me like a tidal wave. Hatred for myself ran through my veins like a snakes venom entering the bloodstream. Those were the bad days. The days where I would refuse to eat unless I took x amount of laxatives or purged as much as possible. I would measure my thighs and waist religiously and if they’d increased I’d react exactly the same way.

At the time Anorexia was all I had. She was my best friend and my worst enemy. She’d celebrate the victories of losing another lb and scream at me for being such a ‘worthless’ person when I gained. She inspired me to keep going and reaching that ultimate goal of being weightless. Of course I was aware that I might die but I didn’t care at all I just wanted total control and perfection. In other ways I wanted people to see that I wasn’t ok and anorexia was a cry for help. I wanted to destroy the version of myself everyone knew.  I didn’t want to be the chubby weird kid who ended up in hospital because of overdoses. Anorexia becomes a part of who you are and I think that’s why its so hard to recover for a lot of people. It is an escape but in NO WAY A CHOICE. My intentions were never to become so out of control but once it has a grip on you it feels impossible to escape.

To skip ahead of this story. At one point I was admitted to the hospital due to my weight seriously affecting my health. The Eating Disorders team back then decided to tell me I had Disordered Eating which infuriated me. Partly this was my own fault because I’d often lie to them making statements like ‘oh I don’t hate how I look’ when clearly I did especially when the numbers didn’t go down. I was kind of left to it on my own from there. Of course I ended up in hospital again but discharged and left accordingly.

Progress

I completed a third year at college because I needed another A-Level to get into university since I dropped one the previous year. This was due to extreme exhaustion. I over exercised at the gym, ate only to make people leave me alone. At points I was in a better place but I was still very much caught up in Anorexia’s spell.

Moving on, I started university in 2015 which I was really excited about. However, I slipped back into old habits because I was in a place where no one could stop me. Luckily when I was in a better mindset I had got in contact with the Eating Disorder’s service in the city. Thankfully I was seen quickly. My weight kept dropping but again I didn’t care. Until they gave me an ultimatum. If I lost any more weight at my next weigh in I’d be forced to defer my studies and start the day patient programme immediately. Obviously this scared the hell out of me so I did what I needed in order to stay in uni.

I started the day patient programme in April 2016 and it saved my life. Finally I got the confirmation that I indeed suffered from Anorexia Nervosa. I was around people in the same situation and we all supported each other’s struggles. There were points where I just wanted to leave and for some part I didn’t carry out the eating requirements at home. But it made all the difference. Although I have relapsed a few times since finishing  it’s left me with this imprint of hope and determination to get back on track.

So now, nearly at the end of 2017 I am finally weight restored. I am eating regularly. There are still behaviours that make eating difficult but for the most part I am able to fight it off. I can now go to the gym and workout because I enjoy it as opposed to punishing myself. I now don’t go if my intake has been low or if  I’m too tired. I am focussed on becoming fit which I’m aware can be an aspect of anorexia’s control BUT for the most part I do it for me. I’ve been to Thailand, joined Pole Fitness and planning on doing a Masters next year.  So, imagining a life without anorexia doesn’t seem so far away after all!