Recovering from ED
Recovery is probably going to be one of the hardest things that you are going to have to do in your life. Trust me, I know. I was diagnosed in October 2015 with anorexia nervosa. I could not believe that I had an eating disorder and I did not want to believe it either. Recovery was a huge struggle but honestly it’s worth it. There were so many things that I learned during that hard time that I wish I had known before. I hope these six things that I wish I had known before can help you through your journey of recovery.
My first piece of advice for you is that you are not your disorder. When I was going through it, being “anorexic” hurt me to say. I could not convince myself to say that I was “anorexic” because it felt wrong for me because there was so much more to me than just my disorder. I want you to think that also. There is so much more to you than your disorder. It is just like a person who is diagnosed with high blood pressure. People don’t describe them as “high blood pressuric,” but instead someone with high blood pressure. That is the same with you now. You are not whichever disorder you have; you are a person with an eating disorder. Describe yourself without thinking about your body, about what you eat or anything like that and you’ll see that there is so more to you than you think. Again, you are not your disorder.
The second thing that I really wish I had known while in treatment is its ok to feel your emotions. ED has changed you to feel like you can’t have emotion. I promise you, this is going to be such a rough time that you are going to feel sad, you’ll feel anxious but also you’ll learn what makes you happy all over again. Don’t be afraid to fell cheerful during this time. Don’t be afraid to cry either. I think I cried every session for the first three months of therapy and probably every night, and I like to think that I’m not a person who cries a lot. Learning what these emotions are, you will be able to learn how to handle them when they come up. Emotions are not bad and won’t make you weak. Feel them and learn what they truly are to you.
Along with the past two things, putting up boundaries is another thing you should know is ok. This is a hard period in your life and probably anything can set you off. I felt bad setting boundaries because I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but your feelings are the most important right now. Anytime someone would say something about what I was eating or how it looked like I gained weight or anything made me crash and burn. It is ok to say please don’t say that, it doesn’t help me. I told my family that so many times. They eventually learned that I didn’t want to know that I “looked better” because I gained weight. Or how I didn’t want their comments about how I would be eating something like a cookie and maybe have a second one and the comment of “oh so I see you really like that now.” I wish I had learned that earlier to be honest. You can set those boundaries because you are an emotional wreck right now so having those boundaries can help you be able to learn to cope with your emotions through this rough time.
Fourth thing I want you to know is that you are going to feel uncomfortable and confused throughout this time. You’ll be feeling good. You’ll be feeling like you’re getting better and back to normal but then someone will tell you that you’re still way sick. Sadly that is part of recovery. I can tell you multiple occasions where I felt like I was doing great and thought that treatment would be over but then be told by my therapist, my doctor or anyone on my “recovery team” that I was far from being done. I was so confused because I thought I was doing great and looked great, but they see it from the reality point of view. They see where we’re at on the timeline of recovery and how far we have to go. Trust them though. The confusion will subside as you put your trust in them. With that though, they’re going to ask you to do stuff that will be hard and you will feel uncomfortable. Your body will be changing and honestly you won’t know what to do. You will be eating more and they will ask you to eat even more, even though you don’t you feel like you can. Plus, you are on an emotional rollercoaster and, for me at least, I also felt so self-conscious because I did not know who I was. But don’t worry because this uncomfort and confusion is ok to feel. Trust your “recovery team” but mostly trust yourself. You will learn that this is not going to be your life forever; it is just for a brief moment.
Next, there will be bumps in the road. Don’t let them knock you down. You’re going to have great days but also terrible ones. There will be days where you’ll eat what you’re supposed to and be happy and coping with struggles really well. But then there will be days where you question why you are doing this, why you are putting your life through this hell to “get better,” and say what’s the point of this? The point is, ED can potentially kill you. These slips ups will happen but don’t let ED win when they happen. Get back up, brush the dirt off and keep going because you can do it.
The last thing I really want you to know is that recovery is worth it. I know I have told you a lot of not so fun things about recovery but it is worth it. Think of it like doing a really hard hike. During it, you are going to feel like it is hard, that it is too difficult and not worth doing. The top of the mountain is so rewarding though because seeing how far you have come and seeing the view from the top is worth it. I know the hiking analogy is cheesy and cliché, but it really is true. I have been fully recovered for over a year now and it has been one of the best years of my life. I am so much happier than I ever was with ED. I work out for fun now, I can go out to eat with friends and not worry about how many calories are in my food, but mainly, I am in control of my life. ED no longer controls me. Having him around is like having shackles around your ankles. You are under his control. Going through recovery, you become strong enough to break ED’s shackles and walk away from him proudly. Recovery is hard but life without him is so much better than with him. It’s an abusive relationship that you are allowed to get out of.
Recovery is difficult, but life with ED is even worse. I want you to remember, you can have power over ED and you can beat him. It’s going to be very difficult but you can do it. I want you to be able to get out of this abusive relationship and be happy again. You can do it. I didn’t believe I could for the longest time, but looking back now, I am so glad I did. Life without ED is the best kind of life.