Recovery: Noun, A return to normal health.
That is what the Oxford dictionary defines the word as. But what is a return to normal health? What is recovery?
Well, in the short of it, there is no definite answer to that question. My experience as a 23-year-old male with anorexia has taught me that ‘recovery’ is a pliable term that you can mould into whatever shape you want it to be. It doesn’t have to conform to any clinical definition or societal goal. It is yours to influence, yours to shape and yours to own.
The beauty of it, if you can describe it like that, is it can be as simple or complex as you want it to be. It is unique to you. Examples may be to be discharged from hospital and return home, rebuild relationships or start that farming course you’ve always wanted to do. Personally, I believe having an idea of what you want ‘recovery’ to be is an important step to whatever that is. At the beginning of my inpatient stay, I had no idea when or if I’d ever recover. My idea then was very much akin to the dictionary definition – I suppose you could say I was wondering when I’d be cured. My self-esteem had been shattered; as the illnesses took hold, my outlook on life got bleak. I lost all sense of self-worth and belief. I was a broken man and those breaks were nearly terminal.
As the months wore on, I came round to realising that I was much stronger mentally than I’d ever thought. One by one I began to confront the demons of my eating disorder and could feel the start of something new. Coming home brought a whole new set of challenges. The biggest being my place in the world.
I should think that nearly everyone experiences this feeling at some point in their lives. But for someone who has suffered from an awful mental illness, it can feel like the end of the world. No matter how hard I tried I just couldn’t see how I was going to fit back into the world. There were too many unanswered questions; when would I find work? What would I do? How much money can I live off? When will my parents get off my back?
So I devised a simple solution: talk it through with my therapist. This was an excellent idea, as it allowed me to plunder her wealth of experience and knowledge to find ways of tackling these questions one by one.
I found it useful to talk things through with my therapist, but if you are not as lucky as I was then are a number of different outlets you could use, Beat is a great resource, as is Mind. What I have come to realise is that eating disorders are formed of complex emotional threads that do not have quick and easy fixes. More often than not, the key to engaging in a meaningful ‘recovery’ is for it to be governed by what you want, not what someone else does.