I love the openness I have found in speaking out about difficult topics. It’s not easy. But they need to be said. Especially when they aren’t so hopeful.
You know I strive to be as optimistic as possible on here, to inspire struggling people to push forward for the light at the end of the tunnel. But I also need to be realistic and emphasize that just because you reach a good place doesn’t mean your work is done.
For some people with eating disorders, their condition is very situational and once they recover, they’re good to go. And kudos to those people. Your fight and challenges are just as worthy as anybody else’s, even if your ED told you that you “weren’t sick enough.”
But for other people, even after getting better, they might not ever feel “fully recovered.” I am one of those people. The characteristics of my ED are partially due to my personality traits I just can’t avoid. I’m still a perfectionist. I still strive to feel in control. I’m still fairly critical. I still like finding ways I can feel unique and individual. In therapy, often my counselor told me that all of those key traits were strictly from the ED and would go away once I recovered. Which for some, yes, that’s exactly how it works, but not for everybody.
I’ve struggled with ED thoughts long before I actually took action. My disorder is genetically based, so it’s just an ingrained part of myself therapy can magically cure. It’s not entirely who I am, but I can’t say it isn’t a part of me. I would be lying to you all and myself if I did. Especially when eating is a necessary function to live, it’s not like any other addiction where you can wean off of it and rarely have to face it. Food is always there. The thoughts are still there. They may seem quieter, and I can distinguish them from healthier thoughts, but they make their appearance nonetheless.
Especially when I’ve followed their suggestions for so long, it’s unrealistic to expect myself to just forget everything and start fresh. I’m still aware of the exact number of calories in certain foods, or wondering about numbers or how much energy I’m burning. It doesn’t consume me anymore, luckily, but if you’re anything like me, you need to approach your ED as an ongoing battle. Once you reach a healthy spot, the battles are not as overwhelming or scary as before. You even get used to it. But it’s a daily struggle to deal with, just like any other mental illness.
Please don’t let this deter you away from recovery. Your ED will probably convince you that if you can’t completely get rid of it, what’s the point in trying? Because once you regain control, life is fantastic. Because you are strong enough to take charge and are worthy of a healthy life. All of the effort put toward recovery is so worth it. You’ll be so thankful you made that choice for yourself. No matter how many people plead with you to change, not until you consciously make that decision for yourself will you ever regain wellness.
In the long-term, complete recovery might mean knowing what coping mechanisms work best for you and what triggers to be aware of. For me, veganism has been a tremendous benefit to every aspect of my life. Actively changing my perspective on my body and fashion has also helped, looking behind numbers and sizes. Most likely, you’ll still have moments of weakness. Some situations will still be difficult. Eating around others is still slightly intimidating. I still catch myself looking in the mirror or at my body longer than I should. The thought and act of gaining weight still freaks me out. But I can’t beat myself up for these instincts. I can’t expect my entire mentality to change in just a few months.
And I still have triggers, and those still scare the heck out of me. I’ve been through relapse, and it’s one of the worst feelings I can imagine. It’s painful knowing exactly what you’re doing is wrong and unhealthy, but you still do it. You still revert back to that false sense of comfort. But as I’ve gotten to know myself better, I can better identify moments where I start panicking from “losing control.”
But when you nourish your body and mind, when you take care of yourself, the fight is much easier. Yes, there are up’s and down’s, just like anything else. The difference now is that you have the knowledge and motivation to tackle any obstacle in your path. You have the healthy foundation to support you, and you have the tools to use. Life is never a stagnant point; it’s constantly changing and moving forward. Don’t expect the best moments to last forever, but also don’t expect to dwell in the bad moments. We have our weaknesses. Food and exercise might never be as effortless as you’d like. Any possible moment, you could fall into temptation. But now that you know what true health feels like, do you really want to? You know how proud your loved ones are of you for your progress, do you really want them worrying again?
If you’re in a difficult spot right now, remember how strong you are. Remember how far you’ve come. You have so much to be thankful for. You are so much more than the food on your plate and the number on the scale. Wellness comes from within. Even if ED holds a permanent residence in your mind, you’re still in charge. (You’re basically your brain’s landlord. The true, healthy side of you.) You have the final say. Trust me, if you believe better days are ahead, they’ll soon arrive.
Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie