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
Photo: Justin Mier via Flickr