WHAT I KNOW FOR SURE…. from years of recovery!

This illness has taken a lot from me. I could speak on the lengths of stays in treatment facilities, or the how deeply anorexia has ravished my body leaving me with medical consequences, but that does nothing for anyone. We all have stories about how this disorder has negatively affected us and our families, and many of us could fill hours of discussion. Sometimes, we fail to see what this illness has taught us. As I’ve traveled through recovery, and hoping to soon say I’m recovered, I’ve realized a lot of things. I’ve learned a lot, and I think passing on what we learn is much more beneficial than saying “this is my struggle.” So, without wasting any more time, here is what I know for sure:

  1. Eating disorders are serious. They are not a joke. It’s not a passing diet, and it’s not something you can control. Eating disorders are all dangerous! The damage done to your body when you have an eating disorder is serious and has dangerous consequences. Thinking you are not “sick enough” or “bad enough” to seek help should not exist. My serious health issues came AFTER I was at a healthy weight.
  2. Recovery is about facing fears. There is a reason you have this maladaptive coping skill. You are running from, afraid of or avoiding something. Recovery is about figuring that out and making that fear less painful. Every day you will face your fears… and every day it will get easier.
  3. Recovery is not beautiful. The end result is obviously beautiful, but the process is hard. It’s like writing a paper, or painting a portrait. It’s a hot mess until it’s finally done. That’s how life works – the process is ugly, but the end result is amazing. Recovery is just like everything else in life. Accept that it’s a ugly process and frequently look back to see how far you’ve come.
  4. It’s hard, but not impossible. There is not a nice way to put it. Recovery is just freaking hard! It’s hard as hell, but it is not impossible. It’s only impossible if you’re unwilling to grit your teeth and do all the dirty work.
  5. You have to jump in. You’ll never feel ready. We always want to “stick our toes in and test the water” but think about the people who do that when the water is cold… they struggle to get their feet, calves, thighs and hips in… and they whine the entire time!!! The ones floating around with smiles on their faces are the ones who decided to do a cannon ball! The next time you have to make a leap – scream “cannon ball!!”
  6. Gaining weight is the easy part. I gave my psychologist a scowl when she said that. I also called her a lair. She was more correct than I ever want to admit. Putting the weight on to get healthy feels like the easiest thing I’ve done in this whole process! The hard part is doing all the work after you struggle through the weight gain. After the weight comes on, the feelings make their presence known!!
  7. Feelings are important; they’re not going away. For me, the eating disorder was the way to cope with a past trauma, feelings of violation, anger, inadequacy, shame. Anorexia allowed me to stay distracted and ignore any feelings that developed. I felt really awful when I had to deal with all of that stuff while not in a full-blown bout of anorexia. Feelings are crucial to living a full and happy life; without them you pretty much experience nothing.
  8. You have to choose recovery. As much as you hate to admit it, recovery is a choice. It is not something that others can force upon you. Sure, you have your therapist, physician, nutritionist, family, and friends, who all keep a close eye on you, but at the end of the day, you have to make the choice to eat what you are supposed to eat to maintain your goal weight. You have to make a choice every day to find meaning in your life without the eating disorder. You have to choose to fight through meals and feelings to make strides. To be honest, the accomplishments I’ve made over the past few years have far outweighed any 10lbs that could ever be gained or lost.
  9. Be careful who you talk to. Not everyone wants recovery. As sad as it is, it’s true. Be careful who you speak to and with whom you seek advice. Your friends, family and loved ones most likely will not understand what you are going through, and that is hard! It’s hard because you just want to feel like somebody understands. That’s what your treatment team is for.
  10. I needed something bigger than me. I didn’t realize my missing piece was God. Whatever your higher power might be, I suggest running fast with open arms, and never looking back. If you don’t have a higher power, I suggest finding something that grounds you. My recovery changed once I made God a priority over my relationship with food.
  11. Recovery is painful. There is not easy way to say it… it hurts physically, emotionally and spiritually. My psychologist said, “In order for something to heal, it has to be broken” and nothing could be more correct. This process will feel like it’s breaking you, and like you can’t continue one, but somehow you find the strength. The pain you feel today is the strength you feel tomorrow. In order to grow, something has to give.
  12. Your treatment team will piss you off, and that’s okay. It’s their job. If you have never been uncomfortable in therapy, you’re not doing it right. Your therapist should push you past the limits you like and make you work. Your therapist is not there to be a friend and simply agree with what you’re feeling, they are there to help you find out who you are.
  13. Recovery is a roller coaster. You have to accept that recovery is going to be a roller coaster of ups and downs and twists and turns that you probably didn’t plan for. You will run toward the finish, and you will fall on your face. Families may not understand. You’ll feel happy, guilt and shame all at the same time. You’ll make new friends and lose old friends. It is ever-changing… but so is life!!! There are some days that I weigh (pun totally intended) the benefits of doing the best I can to grown and learn vs. leaving this all behind and going back down the black hole of an eating disorder. It’s a battle, but what I do know is that there are FAR FEWER days that I battle those ideas than there were when I started this journey.
  14. Relapse happens, and that’s not a bad thing. I was devastated when I was told I was relapsing. I thought I would be the one who did it all without mistakes. I have gained weight, lost weight, relapsed, gained weight, relapsed, gained weight and figured out how to lose weight… etc… I actually learned more about the disorder, and how much I hated it, each time I relapsed. I found that relapse happens and it’s a signal to take things more seriously, get in gear and work even harder. Now when that starts to happen, it’s a red flag that other things are going on and that I need to really take a hard look at my life and what I want. As much as it sucks, relapse can teach you a lot about where you are and where you are headed.
  15. It’s about the journey, not the destination. This is not a one-fits-all path that we will walk. Recovery is a journey of finding out who you are without the eating disorder and that is both frightening and exciting at the same time. This is a process that you have to accept, endure, walk through and not skip. As much as I want things done, I’ve also been told that lasting change cannot be learned over night. Instead of looking at how far you have to go, stop and look at how far you’ve come… it’s amazing to see the transformation.
  16. It’s about letting go. One of the hardest lessons in life is letting go. Whether it’s guilt, anger, love, loss, or betrayal. Change is never easy. We fight to hold on and we fight to let go. One of the happiest moments I’ve experienced is learning to let go of what I cannot change. This journey is about forgiving and learning from mistakes and victories.
  17. Body image sucks. There’s no way to say it… it just sucks. It gets better as time goes on…. but it sucks.

One thought on “WHAT I KNOW FOR SURE…. from years of recovery!

  1. #6 – I’m finding the opposite! Mentally, I feel like I’ve made so much progress and I’m getting to a really good place. But gaining weight is still a huge struggle for me! Hopefully once I start gaining this won’t reverse on me and put me back in an awful mental state.

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