Recovery? What does that mean?

My eating disorder started when I was 10. I will save what started my eating disorder for another post, but for now, I just want to get the point across that it was never about the food. When I was 10, I didn’t know what dieting was. I did not hate my body. I never intended to lose weight. I just suddenly felt that I did not deserve to eat, because I thought I was a bad person, and since food was my favorite thing in the whole world, I decided that taking it away was the perfect punishment.

After a many years of torturing myself, I decided I had had enough. I wanted recovery, and I vowed to be in recovery no matter how difficult it proved to be. But to be honest, I didn’t even know what recovery actually meant. Because I was so sick for the majority of my life, I forgot what normal eating and normal living looked like. I’m sure there are many of you who also are confused about what the heck recovery means. So, my first blog post is for you!

Let me preface this by saying that recovery means something different for everybody. I’m just going to share what it means for me. The first thing I did when I chose recovery was make a list of things I wanted to gain from it, and what I would have to give up to get there. No pain, no gain. I knew I wanted real relationships, I knew I wanted to dance, and I knew I wanted to enjoy food again without getting rid of it afterward. To gain real relationships, I had to say goodbye to Ed– and I had to say goodbye every minute of every day. Ed had a super strong grip on me, but that grip was not permanent and I could make it go away as I continued to get stronger in recovery. To gain the ability to dance, I knew I had to eat more than the severely restrictive diet I subjected myself to. I had to risk what might happen with eating more (aka gaining weight) in order to do what I loved to do. And after a long time, I was finally okay with that. To gain the ability to enjoy my food without some form of purging, I simply had to give up purging. No matter how badly I wanted to use symptoms after a big meal, I needed to learn to sit through the urge and use coping skills. Now, I LOVE FOOD! And I don’t need to purge after I eat a yummy meal.

After this step, I had to re-commit to recovery every day. Sometimes, I had to re-commit several times throughout the day. I like to think of my brain as a problem child whom I have to babysit all day, every day. My brain constantly plays tricks on me. When I look in the mirror, body dysmorphia still takes over, and I’d be lying if I said this isn’t still hard for me. My brain says things it shouldn’t. Like, “Don’t eat that cookie, you don’t need the carbs” and “If you eat this food, you need to exercise for 37 minutes to burn off all those calories”. Do you want to know what my response is? “Okay brain, you can say whatever you want, but I am in charge and I chose recovery”. You just have to remind Ed who’s boss!

And finally, I had to accept that my life would not be perfect in recovery. It is not rainbows and butterflies. I feel the good emotions much more than I used to, but the negative emotions (sadness, anger, anxiety) are just as strong, and I no longer have my oldest coping skill to deal with these emotions. Bad things still happen, I still deal with anxiety, but at least I am not in a hospital bed with an IV in my arm. I know you’ve heard it before, but it’s really true: a bad day in recovery is still better than a good day in your eating disorder. If I had the choice to live with my eating disorder and function, or live in recovery and have good days and bad days, I choose recovery 500% of the time. Even on my worst days, I am thriving. I am doing things I never thought possible. This is what recovery means to me.

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