Recovery is overwhelming.
I wish you could just snap your fingers and be fully recovered. Like life, there are good days and bad days; moments when you just want to scream and others where you laugh until your stomach aches.
But sometimes, we just want to give up because it all feels too hard.
I’m in the quasi-recovery stage, where I’m a “healthy BMI” (whatever that is!) but I know I’ve still got a long way to go. So, whenever I want to throw in the towel, I remind myself of these 5 things...
Even when you’ve had a relapse, or you start to tap into some automatic ED thoughts and behaviours, remember how far you’ve come. There is always something positive that you’re doing right now, which you thought was impossible before.
I always surprise myself with how easy it is for me to eat some of my fear foods, which I used to avoid like the plague! And that usually gives me a little push to carry on.
Try and compare things you used to find challenging maybe a year ago or a month ago, to how you feel about those challenges now. Think about: body checking, food fears, compulsions. You are probably doing so much better at battling your eating disorder than you realise.
You have one life, and you need to make it count. When the thoughts get too loud or the anxiety feels too powerful, remember what you’re living for! What are your goals? Where do you see yourself in a few years? For example:
Unfortunately, you can’t achieve these goals if you’re stuck; everything is so much harder when you’re stuck in your head. Think about the spontaneity, having fun, the freedom of not worrying about food or your body. You will get there even though it feels out of reach right now.
There is so much more to life than obeying your eating disorder voice — focus on freedom.
You might feel like your eating disorder is comforting. It can feel like a safety bubble when there is uncertainty or triggering events. Taking the pandemic as an example, a few of us might have reverted to bad habits to feel more in control. But the truth is: the eating disorder is not your friend.
If the bullying voice in your head was a real person, what would you say to them? Try and visualise yourself fighting back and defending yourself. True friends love you and support you — your eating disorder is a big ol’ bully holding you back!
A lot of us struggling with an eating disorder want to do things perfectly, which extends to how we navigate our recovery journey. Remember: there is no such thing as perfection! Recovery is wonderfully messy; making mistakes is all part of the process.
When you’re choosing the pro-recovery path, you might also feel tempted to compare how you’re doing to other warriors.
For example, it can be triggering seeing someone practise disordered behaviours that you’ve overcome. Consequently, this might make you feel guilty or think that you “can’t be that ill”, because you’re in a better place mentally. Stop that thought!
Alternatively, you might feel intimidated by the achievements of others. It sometimes makes me feel unworthy or like I’m doing recovery wrong when other people are further ahead. Incorrect!
It might take you longer to overcome some challenges, you might still have a bunch of fear foods or behaviours to rewire — but you’re not doing anything wrong.
The only journey you need to focus on is yours. You can look to others for motivation, but ultimately, their choices don’t affect you.
Eating disorders can make you feel weak and small — I think you are strong and tall! Even though you might want to give up, it does not mean you will. You are a survivor.
You are totally allowed to have down days and moments where you’re angry, exhausted or sad. (I cry into my pillow at least once a week.) There is a Japanese proverb: Fall down seven times, get back up the eighth.
Each stand you take against your eating disorder is another huge clap for yourself! Things often seem unbelievably hard before they get easier, so reframe how you view challenges.
Personally, it always feels more rewarding when I achieve something by putting in a tad more effort. This is a true test of resilience and strength. So, when you are recovered, you’ll feel invincible and ready to take on whatever else life throws at you.
And if nobody has told you yet: I’m so proud of you — keep going!