It’s our last blog post for eating disorder awareness week and we’d thought we’d end this saga by talking about recovery. Our previous blog posts have been a lot more factual in nature but this will have a slightly more different, personal, take. We hope you enjoy it!
What is Recovery?
Charli and I have had many conversations surrounding what recovery itself actually is. We came to the conclusion that recovery, like eating and body difficulties, is distinctly individual to the person. Some people have an epiphany moment where they suddenly decide that they need to recover. Others have a multitude of epiphany moments, each time thinking this will be the time that they will try to recover. Some find that re-connecting with their own spirituality or religion helps them to see the way to recovery whilst others find that distancing themselves from unhealthy relationships is the key to their own recovery. Some never have an epiphany moment or a journey paved out for them, but recovery organically happens with one small change after another. The overarching point in all of these scenarios is that the key to recovery for a person struggling with these difficulties, is that they themselves have the desire to do so. No-one can force the mindset of recovery, you may restore a persons weight within the healthy range but the struggles they face are still there. At the beginning of the week we talked about how you cannot tell if someone has an eating disorder just by their body shape, the same is true for recovery.
Help & Hindrance
For a lot of people with an eating disorder, the disorder was not always a bad thing. From our experiences we know that it was a way of coping, of focusing on something that stopped us thinking about everything else that was going on. It was a coping mechanism, a distraction and a form of self preservation. Over time though, it manifests and changes and can take control over your life in ways you could’ve never foreseen. This once helpful crutch taking on its own identity and positioning itself at the forefront of the mind. It takes hold, this once helpful coping mechanism now being your own worst enemy. Many find, us included, letting go of this illness is definitely not straightforward. Over the course of the illness it can shape the mind and change what you think to be your own identity. It has a tight grasp but as the title of this blog post says, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. A single step may mean that you challenge a negative thought, or try a food, or open up about your struggle to a friend or relative.
Recovery can take many forms, for some it’s about addressing the negative feelings that are associated with the eating disorder whilst others find that addressing their symptomatic behaviour is a better form of recovery for them. What is important to emphasise is that the body and the mind can heal at different rates and both take patience from everyone involved in the recovery journey. The path of recovery is by no means linear, there can be setbacks and issues. Things that seem trivial to others can be a huge obstacle to someone trying to recover/are in recovery. Something that seems like a small achievement can be absolutely enormous for someone starting their journey through recovery. It is a very brave step to say goodbye to something that has been such a big part in your life. Recovery is possible, but it is much easier with a great support network, patience and help.
You’re Never Back at Square One
Even for those who feel they are in recovery for years can have difficult times. One of my biggest bugbears is when the media use someone with an eating disorder as a story line, their struggle through the eating disorder may be very realistic, but once they go into recovery all of a sudden everything is okay, and there’s no other mention of any struggle. The truth is even in recovery, no matter how long you have been in it, there can be difficult times. Thoughts may re-emerge on a difficult day. A meal at a restaurant may seem more difficult than the several previous times without reason. Taking a medication that effects the appetite or upsets the stomach can be triggering. Losing weight and not knowing why or how can be triggering and create questions not only from other people but internally as well. Being so busy that you skip the first few meals of the day and finding that dinner may be a greater obstacle. Grief, stress, and traumatic events can lead people to return to an old coping mechanism, even if it’s just one certain behaviour or a “blip”.
The trials and tribulations of being in recovery is not something that is often talked about and one “blip” can make people feel like they are back at square one. People are never back at square one, all the work that they have put into their recovery is not suddenly devalued by a “blip” or a “relapse”. It just means that they are struggling again and, as always, worthy of help, encouragement and patience.
Recovery is possible but remember to be kind to yourself along the way!
If you need to speak to someone or have any questions please don’t hesitate to get in touch.