Thursday, July 19, 2018

Can You Ever Recover from an Eating Disorder?

Is full recovery from an eating disorder possible? Sharing my experiences with anorexia nervosa, I cast you a glance into my recovery journey and where I am at now.

Recovery is not black and white, and you are not 'recovered' simply because you have reached a certain weight or (fail to) carry out certain behaviours. Full recovery is more than that. It is being able to see your priorities in life, and living for those. It is no longer hearing the ED voice, rather than simply ignoring it. Recovery is living life without the disordered thoughts and behaviours governing any of your actions.

As described by Christina in Red Ribbons,
I'm beginning to measure myself in willpower rather than kilos, in successes rather than doubts. Each day is a step forward, a small step up the ladder instead of the usual step down. Even standing still would feel like failure.

Full recovery is reached when not when you can distinguish yourself from the eating disorder, but when the eating disorder simply fails to exist. Whilst the former is a relief and an incredible place to be in (well done for getting there, you have crossed the largest hurdle!), there is no need to stop there. Why remain in quasi-recovery when you can completely kick the ED in the butt?!

As reprinted from Lauren Marsh's newsletter, with permission:

Some people think that you are "recovered" just because you don't engage in the eating disorder behaviors: the restricting, dieting, binging, purging, overexercising, etc. But really, most people who simply stop the behaviors just go right back to the eating disorder. It's only a matter of time. 

You know that there is still something to heal if you are still struggling with some aspect of recovery or behavior. So What Does It Mean To Be Recovered From Your Eating Disorder?

Recovering from an eating disorder means learning how to live without the bulimia, the anorexia, the binge-eating. It means having to learn how to eat again 'normally' without using food to cope.

Recovering from an eating disorder means learning how to feel. It means letting all of the feelings come up and sitting with them, without using the eating disorder behaviors to stuff them down, purge them out, or starve them away. It means allowing ourselves to actually feel them, process them, accept them, and let them go as scary and anxiety-provoking as they are.

Remember, "This too shall pass." Recovering from an eating disorder means we have to let others in.  It means learning how to let others be there for us and letting them support us while we do the work - the hard part of recovery - ourselves. It means opening up and sharing our feelings, thoughts and emotions with them whether they understand or not.  

Recovering from an eating disorder means that we have to accept our body exactly as it is, flaws and all. It means we must give up the eternal pursuit of 'thinness' and reject society's distorted perception of 'beauty.' Weight is just a number- throw out the scale!!  

Recovering from an eating disorder means letting go. It means letting go of the comfort the eating disorder provided, letting go of the negativity, letting go of the self-criticism, the perfection and surrendering- letting it all go so that we can be free! Recovering from an eating disorder means learning how to forgive. It means forgiving others for what has happened in the past and forgiving ourselves too- we must process our past and forgive every part of it so that we can heal.  

Recovering from an eating disorder means that we learn to love ourselves and take care of ourselves. It means developing genuine love and gratitude for all of our parts - our body, mind and soul. It means realizing that we deserve to be happy and be loved and understanding that we are worthy of this love, happiness, and contentment. Recovering from an eating disorder means that we accept ourselves fully and live in the present. It means that we aren't ashamed of our past, we aren't anxious or stressing out right now, and we aren't afraid of what's to come. We can deal with life effectively without dysfunctional coping mechanisms.  

Recovering from an eating disorder means that we have to grow outside our comfort zone.  Recovery is like an onion: there are many layers to peel away. Each layer brings with it new things to work on, new fears, new anxieties, and new things to learn about life and about ourselves. As we go through this process, we keep peeling back the layers and we learn how to better manage our lives and learn more about who we truly are.  

Recovering from an eating disorder means believing in ourselves and believing that full recovery is possible. It means having faith in ourselves, the Universe, in life, trusting the process and knowing that everything happens for a reason. Recovering from an eating disorder means breaking the chains - changing and growing and stretching beyond the limits of what you thought was possible - so that you can gain FREEDOM!!

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