To continue “talking about it” for National Eating Disorder Awareness Week (NEDAwareness Week), we’re going to discuss what recovery from an eating disorder feels like and looks like from my perspective.
Recovery doesn’t look the same for everybody. Some will spend years going to therapy, some will go to treatment centers, some will recover on their own. The point in saying this is to say that there is no one way to recover from an eating disorder. If your recovery looks different than what you think it should, that’s okay. There is no one path towards being emotionally and physically well. There is no one way to get out of the world your eating disorder has created for you.
It has taken me a long time to get to the point where I can talk about having an eating disorder from the perspective of someone who is in, or actively trying to be in, recovery. Eating disorders are pervasive, you have to face your fear multiple times a day. Learning to do that in a manner that means you’re taking care of yourself does not happen overnight. I often heard from therapists “it didn’t take you one day to hate your body, it took you years. Learning how to do otherwise will take time.”
That was discouraging to me for so long, but I look back on hearing it and realize that it was meant in a motivational manner. There were a lot of days that I wanted to give up and go back to the safety and comfort of my eating disorder, but I had to continue to learn how to do something different.
That journey wasn’t pretty, and still isn’t sometimes. I cried over plates that should have been nothing more than a meal. I berated my body angrily in the mirror and complained to my mother on the phone. I hid my wallet and my car keys from myself so that I wouldn’t go out to get things that enabled my eating disorder. I had really uncomfortable conversations when my urges were high.
The important part of me owning all of that is the knowledge that recovery isn’t pretty. Recovery from anything isn’t pretty. Sometimes, things that would be easy for someone else to accomplish seem like the most overwhelming task of the day. Sometimes, we look like we have it together when we really do not, and we maintain that outward persona until we breakdown and have to talk about it. Sometimes, it gets really hard to talk about because you “look healthy” and nobody believes that you are struggling.
First and foremost, as I talked about in the last post, an eating disorder is a mental illness. Changing the behaviors is incredibly challenging, but it is measurable. Changing the thoughts that come with the behaviors is much harder to measure. It takes time to change in any capacity, and it takes time to adjust to and accept change.
Recovery isn’t only about your body, it’s about your mind too. The mind takes a lot of time, and for me it has been much more challenging to get my thoughts to change than to get myself to eat what I need to without compensating for it.
Today, my recovery was occasionally staring emptily into the cabinet wondering what I was going to eat. I didn’t move much, I spent a good deal of time in my bed because I am in a lot of pain. I didn’t body-check or weigh myself, I didn’t use compensatory behaviors, and I ate what I needed to eat. Today my recovery didn’t look pretty, but I put all of my effort into it.
Some days recovery doesn’t feel good, but we have to do it anyway. Recovery, to me, is the action of doing it anyway. No matter what you’re thinking, how you’re feeling, or what’s going on in your life–you still need to give your body the nourishment it wants and needs.