Today, I’m incredibly honored to present my interview with Pippa Wilson. Pippa struggled with anorexia and bulimia, and has been recovered for six years. Her book Letting Go of Ed: A Guide to Recovering from Your Eating Disorder will be published this August.
Below, Pippa talks about her struggles with both eating disorders, her “magical” counselor, two of the toughest parts of recovery and more.
Q: Pippa, please tell us a bit about yourself.
A: I’m thirty-one and live in Kent, England, with my husband and son. I’m an entrepreneur, a writer, a bookworm, a dreamer and a terrible, but aspiring, cook.
Q: How and when did your eating disorder start?
A: It’s hard to pinpoint when really. Looking back, I can see unhealthy thinking patterns and behaviors were present from around the age of six. In my teens comfort eating became binge eating, and then I quite decisively opened the door to anorexia at the age of nineteen – I was tired of being what I deemed to be ‘fat’.
Within a fortnight my anorexic behaviors had taken hold, and from there I became very ill. A year or so later I turned to bulimia, and I swung back and forth between the two from then on.
Q: What motivated you to seek treatment?
A: I sought help after four months of anorexia. The change in my appearance was drastic, and it was impossible to conceal my problem from the people around me. Although I loved the weight loss and the feeling of control anorexia gave me, I had realised by then that I was completely unable to stop what I was doing, and that scared me – I’d never felt so powerless before.
I wanted to feel better inside, and I wanted to be thin, but I didn’t want to ruin my life or die, and I could see that’s where I was heading, and fast.
I had so many dreams for the future – having my own home, falling in love, having children, writing books – and an eating disorder didn’t fit with any of these.
Q: Eating disorders are tremendously treatable but the key is to find the right treatment. How did you go about seeking services?
A: I went first to my doctor, who was dismissive – I hadn’t lost quite enough weight to fit into her criteria for anorexia diagnosis (this was in the late nineties; I think – I hope – doctors are better informed now). So I took that as a challenge and went home determined to lose a few more pounds so that she would refer me to a counselor (through the UK’s National Health Service).
I had had counseling before as a teen and it had helped a little then, so I was hopeful this was what I needed now. Of course, ill as I was, I ended up losing a lot more weight than the few pounds I needed to drop to fit the doctor’s criteria, and by the time I was referred to a counselor I was in a bad way.
But while I was reluctant to give up my eating disorder and the security I felt it was offering me, I was also determined to get better – somehow.
For the next few years I saw various counselors – some for longer than others. Finally I found my last counselor – a private one – and it was with her guidance that I really started to explore the issues behind my eating disorder.
I used to call her magical, because some kind of magic seemed to happen within our sessions together. The connection I formed with her was a major part of my journey to let go of my eating disorder for good.
Q: What have been the toughest parts of seeking recovery and how did you get through them?
A: Two things spring to mind.
The first is shame – I was deeply ashamed of what I saw as my weakness and stupidity at having an eating disorder. I really beat myself up about it, especially when I was trying so hard to get well and, as I saw it, failing miserably.
I remember being referred to one counselor who operated out of a mental health facility, and going there to see her deeply upset me – I didn’t want to see myself as belonging there at all. I would look around me at family and friends and classmates and feel so ashamed of who I was and how I was struggling.
I think this eased for me the further I got into recovery, and the older I became as well. Now, I’m not ashamed of my past – it saddens me that I needed to have an eating disorder, but I don’t hate myself for it or see myself as inferior to anyone else because of my struggles. I’ve done what I can to turn my shameful secret into a recovery I am proud of.
The other really tough aspect for me was making, and accepting, some of the key decisions that helped my recovery. Sometimes, doing the right thing for myself and my recovery wasn’t the easy at all.
So, for example, at one point I left a job because I simply couldn’t manage working – and concealing how ill I was – any longer, and I made the decision not to work for a while but to see my counselor more regularly in the week.
It was a crazy decision on the surface – looking back now I have no idea how I paid my rent for those months! – and I worried a lot about the choice. But I could see clearly it was what I needed to do, and so I decided to try to have faith in my instincts.
The more I believed in myself and in my ability to make my own path in the world, the less I struggled with allowing myself to make big, life-changing decisions like this.
Thanks so much to Pippa for sharing her story. Stay tuned for part two tomorrow!
Check out more recovery stories here.
By the way, if you’ve recovered from an eating disorder, ditched dieting and/or have finally found self-acceptance and want to share your story on Weightless, please email me at [email protected]
These stories are so important because it shows us that we’re not alone, there’s always hope and recovery is very much possible! And please, please remember that it truly is.