Balance, Wellness

What I’ve Learned From Eating Disorder Recovery

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I never thought that I would be writing this article. In fact, for about five years of my life, I was convinced that I would never, ever recover from an eating disorder; there were many times (and there still are, occasionally) that I felt like giving up, when I felt that I would rather stay sick forever if it meant that I didn’t have to gain weight.

However, at some point, recounting a troubled time only does so much good. Here, I want to focus on what I’ve learned from the long, often tenuous, recovery process. If you’ve never struggled with food or body issues, no need to click away: this advice can resonate with anyone’s journey, and any impediments they’ve faced.

1. It’s okay–even recommended–to ask for help.

As I wrote on my birthday last year, I had to come to terms with the fact that my recovery would not come about as a result of my sheer force of will alone (in retrospect, this should have been obvious, as five years of the disease were clearly indicative of my own consistent failures in recovery, but illnesses often clouds such lines of reasoning). If you’re stubbornly independent like me, know that your autonomy will not be questioned by your decision to seek help–whether it be from a partner, friend, or professional.

2. Recovery isn’t linear.

If you or a loved one are or have been in recovery, you know this truth all too well. One can take three strides forward in one area of recovery, and experience a devastating setback in another. To me “recovery” is a misnomer: it implies that we’re either “not recovered,” “in recovery,” or “recovered”. But, the reality is that our tendencies can still be triggered, that our feelings toward a substance or a weight or a food can still tug at the pith of our soul, daring us to act out. At some point, we’re able to silence these thoughts, but that doesn’t mean they’re not there.

3. Your feelings are not new.

This mantra has been a tremendous help to me throughout the recovery process. Whenever I have a challenging day, I now remind myself that I’ve experienced these same feelings before and successfully moved past them. It’s reassuring and empowering to know that there’s not much that I can’t handle, and that my present feelings won’t be there forever. In fact, they’ll probably be gone by the time I wake up the next morning.

4. No one can be a crutch, but they can be there as a support.

This is probably one of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn, but one of the most empowering. It’s simply unreasonable to expect another person to tolerate all your issues, and be there to lead you through the recovery process. But it is good to have someone present to buttress you throughout it all. My boyfriend, bless his heart, has been nothing but an ally in this journey, granting me space to work through my emotions while always providing a listening ear when I want it.

5. You have to want it.

And yes, you have to want it. To want to recover is to recognize that you have to relinquish control. You cannot begin healing if you continue to feed the disease. After a long time of wanting to remain underweight while simultaneously recovering, I simply had to accept the fact that recovery means doing things that scare you, make you feel vulnerable, and challenge your deeply entrenched beliefs.

I won’t pretend any of these lessons were easy to accept, and they still challenge me from time to time. Any recovery process follows this trajectory. But even in the thick of it, if you’re honest with yourself, you know in your deepest heart of hearts that you know you can make it to the other side.

Related: How Intuitive Eating Changed My Life

Are We Required to Love Our Bodies?

7 Hidden Warning Signs of an Eating Disorder

Joyful Eating for Beauty

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Photo: Justin Mier via Flickr

Molly Lansdowne

Molly Lansdowne

Contributing Editor at Peaceful Dumpling
Contributing Editor Molly Lansdowne lives in Boston, Massachusetts. In her free time, she enjoys writing, practicing yoga, and traveling around New England. Follow Molly on Pinterest @bostonvegan and Instagram @mollyrose009.
Molly Lansdowne

@molly_lansdowne

Vegan. Boston, MA.
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  • Z Zoccolante

    Great article Molly. Number one and two are my favorites. So many of the eating disorder voices keep people from seeking help or accepting it. I’ve met people who feel getting better is failing. However secrets grow stronger the more they are silent. And oh yes! Linear is something that doesn’t exist. I prefer to think of it as a wave 🙂 Thank you for sharing and love to you on your journey. Z 🙂

  • dayna

    i have been “in recovery” since my inpatient treatment in 1996 and i still struggle EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. i have 2 awesome kids, a wonderful husband and a great life but my desire to control my weight and exercise is often my number one priority. i completely agree that recovery is not linear and you have to WANT it. thank you for sharing your experience.

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