An eating disorder is a full-time job, it requires a huge amount of dedication, time and commitment to keep it up; ironically the same goes for recovery.
When I was ill, there was nothing that would get in my way. I would lie to protect my eating disorder; it was mine, all mine and I obeyed it’s every whim. There were times when my commitment to anorexia waivered (it was freakin hard to keep up with its rules and demands), but none the less…I kept going in pursuit of…who knows what in the end.
When you begin recovery, it can feel very much like the same feelings are repeated as when you were ill. Recovery also requires your attention 24/7, which can also become exhausting. The early days of recovery feel as though you are investing a lot for very little return – a bit like a bad financial deal. You wonder if you are ever going to feel better; you may actually feel worse in the beginning. This is the most crucial time to keep going. Your eating disorder will be raging; whilst it is losing its power over you – you are gaining your power over it.
So, how do you keep going? Well, you have to dig deep and utilise your tool kit:
- Remind yourself of the hideous days that existed when you were in your eating disorder.
- Write a list of all the things that you have gained from being in recovery.
- Ask yourself what is you want for your future – I can bet you it is not the life you are currently living.
- Talk to someone else who is recovered, when you start to question why recovery is worth you need to be reminded of why you it’s worth leaving your ED behind.
- Don’t do it alone. You will need a support team around you to keep you focused.
- Be creative; write, draw, doodle, get outside…all these are free to you and are hugely underestimated in their value.
- Link in with social media communities who are aligned to your values, and ignore the ones who unhealthy for your mind.
- Don’t have huge expectations or glorify recovery – it’s damn hard.
- Don’t cover up feelings with food, exercise or any other unhealthy behaviours. Get them out, they will only eat you up…literally.
- Be honest with yourself. You will no doubt have become a great liar in your eating disorder; you can’t do the same in recovery.
- Stay away from the scales; the numbers game can never be won with an eating disorder.
- Get rid of your ‘thin’ clothes. They were never meant to fit.
- Treat your body as all encompassing – your mind, body and soul all work collectively.
I can’t tell you that recovery is going to be a smooth ride; but then being ill isn’t exactly a breeze. I struggled with feeling out of control…not being able to determine the outcome goes against everything my anorexia stood for. You can’t predict everything about recovery, and that is what makes it utterly terrifying because anorexia hates predictability. You can’t control what others do or say, but you can control how you react towards them, and you can be in control of your recovery.
Being recovered is not about becoming a new, shinier version of yourself. You are still you; it’s about applying your character and personality traits to your recovery. You might find that your relationships before recovery are tested even more when you are well. Although you are not a new person, you will be learning new ways to express yourself and use your voice…and that can be hard to swallow for even those closest to you. You will need to stay strong and not revert back to old ways of thinking and behaving…this part of recovery is just as essential as your following your food plan.
What I can tell you though is recovery is only possible if you truly want it. Many times I talked about recovery, but still had one foot in my eating disorder. Even when you actively choose recovery, you may take two or three steps backwards. I don’t believe these are ‘relapses,’ they are merely information nuggets. They are there to teach you what you need to continue going forwards.
So, after all this is recovery worth it? Absolutely! I have experienced many many gifts in the last 5 years, more than I ever imagined. It won’t happen overnight, but the in the weeks, months and years ahead, you will gradually become lighter, you will feel lighter. The handcuffs that caused you scars will loosen. You will heal from the inside out, and you won’t want to go back.