I’m collaborating with some other writers in a blog series for the entire month of February. The theme is simple enough: reasons to recover.
Today’s post comes from Anne-Sophie over at Fighting Anorexia, who also started this whole conversation that turned into a whole series across multiple blogs. She also did most of the organizing and recruitment, so big thanks for that! What I love about these kinds of collaborations online is that Anne-Sophie is based in Switzerland! Along with one of our UK-based contributors, we’ve got an international group writing about recovery.
I know that when you are in the midst of your eating disorder, you feel like nothing makes sense, life is just a series of horrible days, everything seems grey, bleak and hollow. You are, to put it mildly, in hell.
It is hard to imagine anything other than this. It is almost impossible to believe that life can be colorful, that feelings don’t have to hurt, that being healthy is not an unachievable goal, reserved for other, luckier people.
When friends, therapists or nutritionists tell you that your life can turn around, they lie, right? When they want to help you, they actually just want to hurt you. When they share their concern, they just want to make you feel inferior. When they tell you you need to gain weight in order to survive, they only want to fatten you like an animal.
Oh, how I know these thoughts, and how wrong they are. So utterly, utterly wrong.
I wish I had learned sooner that the people around me truly loved me and that they were incredibly scared of this disease that had captured me. I wish I could have cared. I wish I could have seen how rich life could be and how precious every moment is. I wish I could have opened my eyes and my heart to all the beauty surrounding me.
You can read the full post here. A friend recently wrote me and mentioned that, “Often after good nutrition has kicked in and been in place for a solid length of time…often so much of the pain and self-loathing disappears, and love naturally reappears.” The effects of malnutrition on the body which accompany an eating disorder make it difficult or impossible to regulate emotions and have good decision-making skills.
A poorly nourished brain is a poorly functioning brain! Therefore it takes time to realize that it’s the eating disorder that’s lying to you, and not your friends/family/therapist/treatment team. By the time I sought help and began my recovery process, I had trouble remembering a time where I ever ate normally or had a healthy relationship with food. So quickly had anorexia taken over my life that it seemed as if it had always been there, and so it seemed equally difficult to imagine my life without it. I used to wonder what would be left of me if I eradicated that disease from my life after it had become ingrained so thoroughly into my daily thoughts and actions. As I did the work of recovery, though, things got better, little by little.
By ‘the work of recovery’, I don’t simply mean eating regularly. Re-establishing healthy eating patterns is a central part of recovery, but it’s not all there is to it. All too often I’ve seen people quarantine their disordered eating behaviors (they stop restricting, stop purging, etc) but don’t stay in therapy or keep working on things. In addition to re-establishing a healthy relationship with food, part of the formula for long-lasting and strong recovery is also re-establishing a healthy relationship with yourself. It’s about learning and practicing self-love, and developing lasting self-esteem that isn’t centered around body image or a number on a scale.
My full recovery process lasted about five years. Sometimes progress happens so slowly, we don’t feel like we’re making any at all, but that’s OK. Recovery isn’t a destination. Recovery is something that you do, meal by meal, day by day.