What’s the Word #1: Recovery

**Written March 31st, 2018**
Today’s word? Recovery.

What I plan to do with these is to simply make a list of anything and everything that pops into my head that’s relevant to the word. Bullets probably won’t flow coherently from one to the next; rather, it’ll read more as a stream of consciousness type of list. Hopefully these can be helpful in getting to cover a larger scope of details about the word as opposed to focusing on one point about it!

  • (I know I’ll get asked this) My eating disorder recovery consisted of two inpatient stays, one php program, three or four completely different outpatient teams, 10+ therapists and nutritionists, an attempt at FBT (family-based treatment), and a whole lot of relapsing. Way to set the vibes for this post. Cool.
  • Recovery is not a one and done deal. My personal opinion is that nobody 100% recovers. Before you label me a pessimist, let me explain. For me, at least, I know that “life after recovery” means living with consistent strength. I can’t unlearn the terrible behaviors and beliefs that are rooted so deeply in my brain. I can’t unlearn what a certain amount of calories looks like, or what it feels like to behave in a specific way. I’ll always know those things. I’m not in recovery anymore. Not in the conventional sense. I’m years past my eating disorder. However, I believe that everyday is a choice, a choice to accept that I know these things, and subsequently choosing to defy their irrationality.
  • If you’re not uncomfortable, you’re not in recovery. The defining characteristic of recovery is that you’re experiencing discomfort. Why? Recovery implies that you are taking on a challenge, moving past a time of comfort and familiarity and choosing to leave it behind. That’s scary.
  • Be willing. Every relapse I’ve faced had been the result of me shutting down, rejecting change.
  • It’s the hardest thing you’ll ever do in your life. But not a day will pass years later when you’re not flooded with gratitude for it. When the sun bleeds through your window and wakes you up, and you roll over and look out and realize, hey, life is good, it’s worth waking up for, I have a place, I’m capable…do it for those moments.
  • Recovery has to be the most selfish time of your life. Comparison will kill you. This is the hardest part about recovery. You have to watch everyone around you do the things you itch to do, and have to accept that you can’t. Watching my sisters play sports and grab 100 calorie snack packs for breakfast-on-the-go made my ED furious. All I wanted to do was prove that I could do “better” (workout two times as hard, fueled by nothing at all). This is the fine line between relapse and recovery.
  • Positive self-talk saved me. Constantly reminding myself that the discomfort is temporary.
  • Distract yourself! Recovery fails when taken on in the solitude of your room. You’re going to be thinking about food and exercise way too much. You’re going to want to fall back on old habits. Keep busy. Be willing to socialize. Realize that the pain in socializing is far less destructive than the pain of isolation. Especially when in that isolation you are free to relapse.
  • Have fun with it! This is a time where there is so much unexplored territory. Find yourself. When the distractions of food, exercise, and body image are stripped away, what can you dedicate your time towards instead? In my recovery I found that I actually love to color, and read books upon books. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed learning; my time with my disorder left me with brain fog and stripped my appreciation for school. Once I began to recover and leave behind these detrimental behaviors, I found myself again.
  • Don’t focus on “eating healthy” in recovery. Today, I’m a strong advocate for whole foods, but I hate the word healthy. Health is relative; what is healthy for me is not necessarily healthy for you. In recovery, health means something world’s apart from health for a person who is stable in body and mind. Accept that right now, you are not the latter. In recovery, “healthy” means anything that will bring you to the point of stability. I constantly get asked how to gain needed weight “the healthy way” and I want to scream. I restored 50+ pounds and did so by eating whatever I wanted. I saw recovery as a time to finally, finally after four years, honor my body and enjoy the foods I was craving. Was I scared? Like hell. But I decided to see recovery as a time of letting go of responsibility, at least for the time being. Eating disorders are reliant on being in control; passing on the responsibility of food to my doctors, hospital programs, and my parents took off so much pressure. I was finally able to breathe and focus on working through other issues.
  • You’re not better than recovery.
  • You need recovery.
  • You’re not weak for choosing recovery.
  • Stick to it. You’re going to want to give up almost daily in the beginning. Don’t. Talk to someone instead. Reach out. Go downstairs and tell your mom that you’re really uncomfortable in your changing body. Call your best friend and cry and don’t explain why, just get it out. Reach out to ME.
  • What’s scaring you about recovery? Take the time to write these fears out or say them out loud. Getting them out into the open and evaluating them from an outside standpoint allows you to realize how irrational your fears are. I used to always cry to my mom that I was scared to eat more because my body would change. Then I realized, wait, isn’t that the whole damn point of recovery? To improve my relationship with my body? To become more accepting of it? How would I be able to do that if I stayed stagnant?
  • Your recovery will be 100% from the next person’s. Embrace the fact that there’s no blueprint, no set of steps or rules. As long as you are bettering yourself, your health, your mind, your body, you are recovering.
  • It’s crucial to maintain good decision-making throughout your recovery. Every single action and thought impacts how well your recovery goes. At this point in your life, you’re extremely fragile. It won’t be like this forever, but for the time being, it is. So pay attention to that. Make plans accordingly. Will going out with this specific person trigger me right now? That kind of thing.
  • Did I mention how harmful comparison is? Yes? Am I bringing it up again because it’s critical? Major league yes. FOCUS ON YOU.
  • The current state of treatment centers infuriates me. I’ve watched countless people get sent away from inpatient care or released far too early in the name of insurance coverage. I promise you, if this is an issue that is stopping you from getting treatment, you have the ability to fight it. Be persistent. It’s an intimidating hurdle, and unfair, and frustrating, and cold and cruel and impersonal, but you can fight it. As legit as it seems as an obstacle, it can be overcome. For those who aren’t familiar with what I’m referring to, insurance companies will evaluate patients based on a mere set of numbers to see if they still need to be in treatment. This is wrong. Eating disorders are mental manifestations. They fail to be captured in their entirety through a set of numbers. The need to meet a number determined by some stranger in order to be declared “well” is disgusting. I was in treatment for months; I watched those who needed the same be sent home after a week. There’s steam coming out of my ears right now.
  • Accept all the help you can get.
  • It’ll come up, someone will ask, and I’m an open person about all this bullshit. Was I on meds? Yeah. Try staying inpatient for months and not finding yourself on that pharmacy line every morning and night. Even after treatment, I was on low dosages of medication. I’m not a doctor, and definitely not comfortable providing medical advice as I’m not qualified to do so. Do I think these helped me? I was diagnosed with general anxiety and depression, and was taking a medication that worked to alleviate the symptoms of both. I think this definitely helped me in my most vulnerable stage of recovery. Once I was more stable both mentally and physically I was able to slowly come off. A story for another time. But the point is don’t be so adamant to think you’re above any sort of option.
  • Don’t go into recovery expecting anything. Understand that life works in funny ways. Everything happens for a reason. The course of your recovery is unknown. Embrace that. Don’t expect anything other than for it to be hard, but worth it.