As I cross into my second year since entering recovery I have been reflecting on the things I’ve learned, the things I’ve overcome, the things I have yet to learn, and the people that have supported me endlessly along the way. Last year for my first recovery anniversary I was really proud, but I was still holding the reins pretty tight and my eating disorder thoughts/behaviors were still pretty prevalent at times. While it was an exciting milestone, I definitely feel stronger in my recovery now in year two. I decided that instead of one long article reflecting on my journey, I wanted to highlight some of the lessons I’ve learned to hopefully encourage those also on their recovery journey. In no particular order, here they are:
Vulnerability is not weakness
I’ve always been prideful and a perfectionist. Together…these things made me terrified to be vulnerable because I viewed it as weak, like I wasn’t strong or capable enough. Sometimes vulnerability is still hard! But through recovery I’ve learned that being vulnerable isn’t weakness. Being authentic, honest, and open about your wants, needs, struggles, and emotions is actually incredibly strong. Hiding or pretending your feelings don’t exist is easy, vulnerability is hard- but that’s what makes it so powerful.
It’s okay to question recovery
There have been hard days in my recovery that I cried or just wanted to give up. Giving the eating disorder control felt easier. It was mindless suffering that felt and looked on the surface like perfection and self control. Even when I knew it wasn’t and that recovery was the right decision, it was still an active decision that I wasn’t always confident in. I found myself out of my comfort zone having to rebuild my body and mind as well as get to know myself all over again. There were days I was super enthusiastic, some days I was completely hopeless, and some days where I was on the fence. This is normal! Questioning your recovery doesn’t make you any less strong, any less hard working, or any less dedicated to it. Eating disorders are extremely convincing and they’re a maladaptive coping mechanism- they’re often serving some sort of purpose for us, whether it’s control or comfort- and learning healthy skills and moving on isn’t overnight and it isn’t easy. Questioning recovery can help you dig deeper into your motivation for it as well as work through what’s holding you back.
Your loved ones want to help
A support system is vital in recovery. They can talk with you, eat with you, advocate for you, and overall- just be there for you. For me, this was my family and my boyfriend. Without their support, I know I wouldn’t be as strong in my recovery as I am today. In fact, I may not have gotten any help at all, which is scary to think about. As important as your loved ones are, however, know that most people aren’t ED experts unless they literally are one or have struggled themselves. They may say triggering things or not be sure how to help, which is why it’s important to communicate openly. Figure out how they can best support you, send any helpful articles/resources their way, and remember that your loved ones love you. They’re afraid, too, and likely have a lot of questions and misplaced blame on themselves to work though.
P.S. Not everyone’s support system is their family. That’s okay! Maybe it’s a few close friends, a partner, or sibling. Same stuff applies!
Recovery has to come first
One of the misconceptions I had when I entered recovery was that it would be something I was doing on the side of everything else, almost like a hobby. I could still keep my energy and focus on lots of other things- but this wasn’t in my best interest and is something I realized early on. A full recovery needs (and deserves) your full attention. It has to come first. There is no life, goals, relationships, or hobbies without being physically/mentally healthy enough to take part in it all. For me this meant leaving college, going to residential treatment, taking a social media break, making my social circle smaller, and taking a break from work while I focused on recovery.
Your timeline is fine the way it is
When I was in the depths of my disorder, one of the things I constantly worried about was my life timeline. When was I graduating? How could I get the “best” job in the “best” location? When would I get married, have kids, travel, and be successful? It was a lot of pressure I was putting on myself before I was even eighteen years old. Having to take a break from college because of my eating disorder was so hard because I had put so much of my time, energy, and worth into what I now know is a meaningless timeline. Everyone’s timeline is different and that’s not only okay, but normal! Keep on your own path and don’t compare or judge anyone else’s. Because of recovery I was able to take a break from college, get the help I needed, and go back.
You have to choose recovery, daily
Recovery is a choice only you can make. Inpatient and residential, as well as being around family or a consistent treatment team- these things can all kind of force recovery on you while you become more medically or mentally stable. But the real work is yours. If you don’t choose recovery and actively engage in the work of challenging fear foods, challenging ED thoughts/behaviors, and working through what you need to work through- recovery just won’t happen. Choosing recovery is choosing you, remember that!
Food is more than fuel
My eating disorder wanted every food that entered my body to be “perfect” and “clean.” My mental hunger was so high that I was constantly thinking about food- wishing it could be to me what it had been and what it’s supposed to be. Eating disorders demonize food or, like mine, tell you it’s only fuel. Honestly, that’s what diet culture is still spewing- but food is so much more. Food is fun, food is culture, food is healing, food is memories, food is holidays, food is family, and food is creative. It isn’t just something we should mindlessly shove down only if it’s under a certain amount of calories, something to fear, or something to view like gasoline going into a car. Yes, it’s a necessity- but it’s also so much more.
I hope these reflections have inspired you or helped you in some way. I’m so grateful to be where I am and am so happy to have this space to share my recovery experience. Much love.
Featured image courtesy of Unsplash.
All content on RecovRoad is based on personal experiences, research, and ideas. Please do not repost/share without credit and be aware that nothing on this blog takes the place of professional help. This is also a formal trigger warning: content about and relating to eating disorders may be triggering to survivors. Please see the “RESOURCES” tab, call the National Eating Disorders Association hotline at 800-931-2237, and remember to take care of yourself.