anorexia

4 Small but Powerful Benefits of Eating Disorder Recovery

If there are two things I know I love in the world, they are:

  1. Recovery from an eating disorder, and
  2. Numbered lists.

And when you do a quick Google search of “signs of recovery from a restrictive eating disorder,” your search results will list the main, clinical diagnosis points: weight stabilization, less rumination and disordered thoughts, etc.

But recovery doesn’t always work in broad strokes.

Sometimes it’s the little things you didn’t realize were messed up — until, all of a sudden, they’re not.

These are just four awesome items on my list of recovery benefits, but they’re ones I didn’t really think about until much later. They weren’t the reasons I chose recovery, but hey, I’m sure as hell happy they’re here.

As always, these reflect my personal experience: Your personal mileage may vary.

But if you’re wondering what life in late-stage recovery actually means in concrete terms…

And if you, like me, have an ever-abiding passion for lists…

Well, this one’s for you, my friend.

1. Better Sleep Patterns

In the midst of my disorder, my sleep schedule was whacked all to hell. I’d sleep maybe 45 minutes a night — but would spend a full nine hours in bed, tossing and turning.

This wasn’t because I was ruminating about what I had or hadn’t eaten that day, although I certainly had nights when that was the case.

I was just laying there, staring at the ceiling, exhausted, but totally unable to fall asleep.

Why? Because my ED had screwed up my body’s internal workings so much that it didn’t know when to sleep, or for how long. I’d trained it not to listen to its innate signals, and as far as I can tell, it extrapolated the pattern all the way to sleeping.

I don’t have the science to back this up — scientific method is not exactly my forte — but I do know that after a few years of recovery, nine out of 10 times I’m sleeping about thirty minutes after my head hits the pillow.

As someone who loves sleep like Pitbull likes listing city names, this is no small benefit.

2. Functional Digestive System

TMI warning: I’m gonna talk about poop real quick.

My ED really did a number on my digestive system. I never used laxatives (for obvious reasons, my support team shot that option down), but the effects of not using them went on for weeks at a time, which was kind of awful.

Now, keeping my system regular really isn’t so hard.

And for y’all who are wondering how awesome it is to have a digestive tract that actually digests things the right way, let me just say this:

It’s fucking glorious.

//end poop talk.

3. Enhanced Creativity

I didn’t really think about this one until recently. I was a creative writing major in college, and when I was working on cranking out a short story a week, it seemed to me like my creative juices were flowing pretty regularly.

But I flip through old notebooks from time to time (a dangerous endeavor, not to be attempted by the faint of heart), and I can see the difference.

My characters are more developed now. They’re more confident. More interesting.

And my scribblings in the margins of my school and work notepads reflect a mind considering more than food.

My college notebooks boast wordless scribbles, black squares, mindless doodlings, the occasional frustrated outburst on a bad day.

The notepad on my phone now features marginalia like:

Did Renaissance Jews wear hats?

Villain’s personality: Artful Dodger + Ursula + Loki 

Cross-pollinating a hangover with an exorcism

What does the early modern tradition think about the bottom of the ocean?

Now, maybe these examples say more about the nonsense that goes on in my mind than any rise in functional creativity. But I think the point stands.

And in case you were wondering, yes. Renaissance Jews did generally wear hats.

4. Fearless Media Consumption

I went through this phase — OK, it was like two years — when I read almost every piece of fiction about eating disorders I could find. I would pour through books looking for mentions of people with anorexia, and then reread the passages over and over, without really knowing why I was doing it.

I wrote eating disorder fiction myself, and for all the wrong reasons. I’m not proud of it, but it is what it is.

There are plenty of theories about why people dealing with EDs fall into these patterns, but whatever the cause, I fell hard.

In early recovery, I veered in the opposite direction. Nothing that mentioned eating disorders made its way into my purview…

Or dieting.

Or weight.

Or bodies.

Or food.

I just wasn’t equipped to handle it, and it was easier to push it to the side.

Now, I can flip on the TV and see a preview for a Biggest Loser–style show or new diet pill without feeling the need to hop on the treadmill, or to turn off the set and engage in a healthy coping mechanism.

With every day my recovery grows, it’s easier to watch and read content that used to trigger the living shit out of me.

And it makes it easier to work in an office where diet talk is practically a daily thing, too.

Sure, big-picture recovery is the end goal. But sometimes it’s worth it to celebrate small victories — however they show up for you.

So, fellow recovery warriors, what are some of the small but kickass benefits of recovery you’ve noticed in your own journeys? Let me know in the comments!

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Good Days, Bad Days

Sometimes I think I’m over it.

That it doesn’t matter how I look, or what size I wear, or what I grabbed to go from Chipotle on my way home from work because I’ve been pulling 13-hour days a few too many times this month, and sometimes you don’t even care that guac is a dollar more.

But sometimes I feel like I’ve been lying to myself all that time.

It can be any number of things that set the feeling off.

A glance down when toweling off after a shower, which even after all this time I studiously refuse to do, because the wave of sadness I get from looking at my new Buddha belly hurts more than I usually feel comfortable admitting.

Another goddamn rejection letter, when for some reason I really thought we were going to get somewhere this time.

Another lunch break sacrificed to a meeting or a project I don’t feel like I understand, or that I’m good enough to do. Hello, impostor syndrome, my old friend.

Whatever it is, it usually ends the same. Lying flat on my living room floor, staring at my bookshelf without any intention of picking up a book, wondering why my current lifestyle refuses to let me lose weight.

Yes. Yes. I know.

I know that diet culture is a cruel cocktail mixed by capitalism and the patriarchy.

I know that before I chose recovery I was no happier, in fact much less happy.

I know that I still reap the benefits of thin privilege in about a million different ways, and that my health is not in any way connected to the way my body looks.

I can rationalize my way through that. Most of the time I do. I can hit you with a Health at Every Size–based rant at the drop of a hat, literally or figuratively. Like, if you actually throw a hat at me, I will catch it and say “$20 billion annual profits of the US weight loss industry” in the same breath.

But some nights I don’t want to.

Some nights I want to wallow a little in the self-pity I try not to allow myself too often.

I want to acknowledge the weight of a small creature perched on my chest, pressing the breath from me and keeping me here on the floor, this small creature that does not feel exactly the same as my eating disorder did, but is close.

Quieter.

More subtle.

It is the whisper in the back of my mind that says “You failed at being thin. Just exactly the way you fail at everything else.”

I wish I weren’t writing about this. I realize that it isn’t helpful. But maybe the admission that I don’t always have it all together, that I’m not always here to be helpful, maybe that’s worth something. I don’t know. I’m not convinced my thoughts make sense, and I think it might be important to admit that, and edit a little less. Radical honesty does not always make for lucid prose.

But that’s all theoretical. What matters is tonight.

Tonight, I will let these feelings hang there, for the amount of time it takes to write this blog post. Because they are real, and they matter.

And then, also tonight, I will stand up, close my computer, and go do something else. I don’t know what. Sing along loudly to the Sweeney Todd  original cast recording, or finally start the latest Toni Morrison novel, or watch the rest of Season Two of Orphan Black. Anything else.

Because my residual ED feelings are part of my life, but so are all these things.

And they are real.

And they matter, too.

The Art of Not Thinking About It

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Ask me three years ago what recovery looked like, and I’d have painted you a fairy tale story that would have made the Brothers Grimm shake their heads and mutter about “suspension of disbelief.”

I simultaneously wanted a world where food was delicious and abundant and unrestrained, yet in control and socially acceptable and restrained and guilt-free.

I wanted a life where my body and my fears didn’t hold me back, and yet I never wanted to let go “too much.”

If you’d offered me a bag of magic beans to go along with it, God knows I’d have taken you up on that offer.

Well, here I am now, summer of 2015. Out of college, full-time employed in corporate America, wielding my English degree like a weapon. Suddenly I’m worrying more about figuring out health insurance than the homoromantic subtext of Twelfth Night. (Although let’s be clear here: I still think about that a lot. Sebastian and Antonio are a love story for the ages. I just also need new glasses.)

And if there’s one thing I’ve learned about my recovery, it’s that 98% of the journey is an exercise in “not thinking about it.”

Yes, I still wish Starbucks would stop posting calorie counts on their menus so I could get a damn latte in peace. And I wish I could learn the art of short runs, instead of waking up far too early before my 8 a.m. shift starts so I can get my workout in on its designated days.

But those moments used to dominate my long- and short-term planning. Now, they’re occasional nuisances.

No, not quite that. They’re like a fan you turn on before you go to sleep. The longer you lay there, the more used to the sound you get, until eventually you forget it’s there at all — except for those weird moments you jolt awake at 3 a.m. and snarl at the wall, “Has that fan always been so goddamned loud?”

But gradually — gradually — you start to notice you’re sleeping through the night.

That one of your best friends comes up to visit and you’re in the living room eating gelato out of the container while watching Voyage of the Mimiand you genuinely aren’t nervous.

That you go for a walk not because you’re anxious about burning calories, but because your legs got antsy after sitting at a desk for hours, and going for a walk is a great chance to listen to the latest episode of Sparks Nevada: Marshal on Mars.

That you sit down in front of your computer and start to write, not about your eating disorder, but about what would happen if the Fates started accidentally bringing people back to life instead of killing them, and how Zeus would feel about that. (This is a half-apology for my less-than-stellar posting schedule, for those playing along at home.)

That those painful, infuriating, scream-inducing moments drift back at the worst possible times, and while it hurts like a mother in the moment, you know it’ll be better in the morning, or in a couple mornings, because you’ve felt this before, and it does get better.

That you’re genuinely angry sometimes about the years you spent studiously avoiding broccoli cheddar soup, because broccoli cheddar soup, guys. There is no way I’d have made through this frozen hellscape of a winter without broccoli cheddar soup.

That you still feel the nagging urge to ask family members, when they visit, “Do I look different to you than I did at Christmas?” but you catch yourself, sometimes, most times, because what would the answer matter anyway?

That I’m reading articles submitted to us over at Adios Barbie, my Internet home-away-from-home, and I no longer have to pass ED-related pieces to my co-editor every time, because I will not always be triggered.

And that I know and trust myself enough to ask for help when the opposite is true.

This is not a one-size-fits-all recovery blueprint. Your mileage and experience will vary.

I can’t pretend to be an expert on anything but my own life, and even that feels like a poorly dubbed foreign film nine times out of 10.

But I’m gradually getting better at the art of not thinking about it.

And for what it’s worth, most of the time “not thinking about it” is a pretty comfortable place to be.

Why I Hate It When You Call My Eating Disorder Recovery A “Battle”

Eating disorder recovery can be a tricky thing for support systems and loved ones to talk about. Finding words can be tough. I realize that. And I have so much respect for people that try that I almost don’t care what words you use. So long as you’re offering support, acceptance, and unconditional love, who the hell cares how you phrase things.

That said.

Every time I hear people dragging the good old war metaphors into eating disorder recovery discussions, I get the same sick feeling in the pit of my stomach as when people use the phrase “binge-watch” to talk about Netflix. It just … it just feels gross. And while the reasoning for the latter should seem obvious (by the old gods and the new, folks, just say “marathon-watch”), I’ve spent a couple of months now trying to figure out why I feel nauseous when people reference my “battle” or my “fight.”

It’s not exactly an uncommon metaphor. So I feel a little weird calling it out. For some people, it’s empowering. Because here’s what it does: It externalizes the eating disorder. It makes it something you can see and touch and tackle to the ground in a no-holds barred gladiator match to the death. And in a battle, there’s only one possible outcome. Someone will win, and someone will lose.

In defense of the metaphor, we know that eating disorders are a formidable foe. They have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. Our “battlefield,” if you want to put it that way, is haunted by the ghosts who have come before us, and those who will still follow. It’s sobering. It’s powerful. I see why people use those words.

But I hate it. I hate it so much.

For me, I often hear the metaphor replacing the noun when it comes to recovery. That formulation looks a little like this:

We know you’ve been battling this a long time.

If you need help with your battle, just give me a call.

Every day you keep battling, you’re doing a great job.

I just want to stand on something and shout at everyone to call it what it is. I am recovering from an eating disorder, dammit. It’s not a curse word. It’s not something I’m ashamed of anymore. I don’t need you dancing around the issue, afraid to call it what it is. What you’re demonstrating, to me, when you do this is that my mental illness is something that needs a euphemism — that I should be ashamed of it, because you are.

I know this isn’t what people mean, when they say this. They’re trying to help. And I appreciate the sentiment. I really do. I try to accept the message as it’s meant. But that doesn’t mean I don’t still feel a twinge when I hear it.

But that’s a personal issue. That’s an issue with wording. That’s something that can easily be addressed. My issues with war metaphors stem deeper than that, down to the actual substance.

Because in my mind, it just doesn’t fit what I’m trying to accomplish.

I am not trying to stab my eating disorder on the steps of the Roman Senate. I am not meeting my eating disorder in the Coliseum, watching it bare its lion-sharp teeth at my throat, and demanding of my support system, “Are you not entertained?” (I am not trying to only use Roman metaphors, but if the shoe fits …)

The end of my story is not a winner-takes-all match where I kill my eating disorder, or my eating disorder kills me.

I’m just trying to live here.

I just want to be able to go about my life without worrying about (not) eating and (not) exercising — at least, a reasonable percentage of the time. I want to hang out with friends at a restaurant and eat an entire bowl of saag paneer because it is delicious, and not worry about what that says about me as a person. I want to go for a run because it makes my legs feel good to move and it clears my head from a long day at the office.

I’m not in it for guts or glory.

I’m not a goddamn warrior. I don’t want a medal for what I’m trying to do.

And I don’t expect to stab my eating disorder through the throat and watch it squirm, never to rise again. That’s not how this is going to work out. I know that.

The metaphor of “war” and “battle” demands a conclusion. It asks for a winner. It wants everything to be clear and easy and tied up in a bow at the end. Who won the American Revolution? Obviously. Who’s winning my eating disorder recovery? Hell if I know.

When you call me a “fighter,” it means you demand that I win. Because that’s what fighters do — they defeat their enemies, every time, every day, and the day they slip up, they die. That’s not what recovery looks like. There are good days and bad days and days that defy categorization. There are days where you just look around at your emotional state and go “Well, that doesn’t make a damn bit of sense at all.

But you keep going. Because it’s all a part of your life, the ups and the downs and the turns. And setbacks aren’t “losses” when you think about it this way. They’re just experiences. You learn from them. You embrace them. And you keep living.

I’m not trying to strip the power of metaphor from anyone it helps. Plenty of people like the feeling of “recovery warriors.” It makes them feel in control of their trajectory. It’s a powerful way of sticking it to your eating disorder, telling it to go fuck itself because your body is Sparta and there’s only room for one Leonidas here.

But that doesn’t mean I have to use it for myself.

So next time you want to ask me how I’m holding up in my recovery fight, I’d really appreciate it if you could just not.

Just ask me how I’m doing.

Because that’s all I’m trying to accomplish here.

Can I stop fighting for a bit?

Can I just live?

The Myth of the “Perfect Recovery”

Want to know a secret?

I run a recovery blog. I bring conversations about sexism and gender equity to places they aren’t wanted, from my fiction writing workshops (“Are you really sure ‘attractive’ is the only adjective you need?”) to the movie theater (“Seriously, why is Kiera Knightley’s role always to stand around in a corset and look confused?”). The constant fat-shaming in Game of Thrones is about to give me a tiny heart attack.

Basically, what I’m driving at is that body positivity isn’t a throwaway for me. It’s a big deal.

And this evening, I’m sitting on my couch, looking at the wall of my apartment and wondering Why the hell can’t I just lose XXX pounds? I’d be happy then. And tonight isn’t the only night recently this has happened.

Some days I’m desperate to change my body. My wonderful, badass body. The one I put through so much in college when recovery was a project for after finals, or after I passed physics, or after I got just thismuch skinnier. The body that got me through a half marathon in September, and a full marathon of all four seasons of Blackadder two weeks ago.

That body. Sometimes I still hate that body.

Part of me thinks this makes me a fraud. A failure. The voice in the back of my mind, the one that sounds eerily like Lord Tywin Lannister (in the film version of my life, my eating disorder will be played by Charles Dance), that voice always has something to say.

Aren’t you the one supporting others?

Aren’t you supposed to know better?

Fraud.

Stop pretending you know what you’re talking about.

If you read that to yourself in Charles Dance’s voice and aren’t at least a bit intimidated, you’re braver than I am.

Am I allowed to call myself within spitting distance of recovered and still occasionally wonder if I shouldn’t go on a three-day cleanse to make my old pants fit like new pants?

Of course. Of course. It’s okay.

The whole point of body positivity is taking outside standards about how you should present yourself for a nice long walk off a short pier. That includes any bullshit notions of perfectionism or infallibility. That means being okay with yourself, just as you are, right this minute. Triggers and doubts and days almost-seriously-considering diets and emotional experiences with your jeans and all.

Recovery and life after would fail any “walk this straight line” DUI test. It’s a nonlinear cycle that doubles back on yourself when you least expect it. There’s no such thing as a “perfect recovery,” and mine is no exception. Progress isn’t when bad days stop happening  — as far as I’m concerned, they might not ever stop completely. But when the good days start outweighing the bad, and when life begins to revolve around something other than what / when / how to eat …

That’s still something to celebrate.

But coming to terms with a perfectly imperfect body-positive life — without the guilt of “failure” — is easier said than done. Here are three things I’m trying to make it through the rough patches, and back into the light.

1. Check Out Those Dark Shadowy Places

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(You knew this was coming. If a day ever comes for an obvious opportunity to quote The Lion King and I don’t take it, send help. I’ve probably fallen and I can’t get up.)

There are certain situations I know will still spark my inner negative monologue. Pants shopping, for instance. Or eating a meal at a different time than usual. Although I know, logically, that there’s nothing at all wrong with eating a bigger lunch one day, that doesn’t always make the residual discomfort go away. But leaning on logic gives a reliable handhold to turn back to.

Figuring out the root cause of an ED-related reaction — and eight times out of ten, that cause has nothing to do with food — is a crucial step for regaining a sense of understanding and power.

There’s a world of difference between “I hate my body because it’s ugly / gross / terrible” and “I’m feeling uncomfortable about how I look because the people in the cubicle next to me are talking about their 30-day cleanse / I have a big presentation tomorrow I’m nervous about / final exams are coming up and I don’t feel adequate / I didn’t sleep enough last night.” One places the blame on your body; the other shifts focus back to where it belongs. One feels dispiriting and impossible; the other makes sense. And recovery is making sense out of the chaos, and putting anxiety and discomfort in their place.

That place, by the way, is way the hell off on the sidelines.

So get up there on Pride Rock the next time the voices start. Everything the light touches is your recovery journey. Once you figure out what’s really going on in those dark shadowy places, it might not be as overwhelming and confusing as it seemed.

2. Catastrophize for a Reason

You’ve probably heard the phrase “Fat is not a feeling” as a rallying cry before. And while it can be tough to take that statement at face value when you’re absolutely sure you’re feeling fat right then and there, grammatically it’s just fact. “Fat” is a noun, describing the necessary collection of cells and tissue that protect our organs and let our bodies move through the world.

Would you argue that on a bad day you feel “muscle” or “cartilage”? Because that’s what I’m hearing when you say you feel fat.

But “fat” is also an adjective describing a certain body type. The fat acceptance movement is rightfully returning this word to its original meaning, removing the moral and value judgments society put on it and calling it for what it is. For the record, even though fat is a body type, that still doesn’t make it a viable feeling. You can’t feel “blonde” or “high cheekbones” emotionally. That’s not how emotions work.

I keep this as a kind of mantra for when weight panic sets in. It cuts the anxiety out of ruminating on weight, little by little, step by step.

I feel fat I’m so fat I’m gaining so much weight I’m so fat —

Okay. So. Maybe. What’s the worst that could happen if I was fat?

Am I going to hate or love my job any more? Are my friends going to care about me any less, and will I care about them differently? Is the sunrise on my commute down 55 going to look any less beautiful? Are nachos going to be any less delicious? Is the sexism on Netflix’s Marco Polo going to make me want to punch a hole through my wall any less?

Nope. Literally the only thing that changes is that I would be fat.

Any other negative consequences that might arise are a direct result of society’s fatphobic underpinnings, which my panic about weight gain is (albeit unwillingly and painfully) perpetuating.

Will this knock off the thoughts once and for all? Almost certainly not. But it helps stop you in your tracks for at least a moment to see the larger picture.

And the big picture is almost never as scary as the close-up, particularly when the close-up is that distorted.

3. Lower Your Expectations

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Ah, Amy Poehler. Speaking the truth my soul needs.

I’m not saying “don’t expect recovery.” I’m not saying “don’t expect you’ll ever feel completely happy and in control of your life ever again.” Of course I’m not saying that. I believe it’s possible. I’ve seen people do it. It’s what’s keeping me going. Recovery is possible, and we can do it.

But no one expects you to have it all together all at once. And telling yourself any differently reveals a whole different problem that has nothing at all to do with your weight.

If you haven’t read this article by the amazing s.e. smith about impostor syndrome yet, go read it. It’s cool. I’ll wait.

For the click-averse, impostor syndrome is the feeling that, despite all evidence to the contrary, you are inherently less-than. You’re not living up to others’ expectations of you. You don’t deserve to be where you are. You aren’t qualified. You’re just faking it, and everyone around you already knows it. Even when you know, objectively. 0% of this is true, that doesn’t help.

This summed up so much about my life, both personally and professionally, when I read it that I needed to take a step back and reframe. No one expects me to have it all together. No one is scandalized and horrified when I make a mistake at work, or when I have a lousy body image day and call my support system to vent and yell a little. No one, that is, but me. I’m holding myself to standards that I’d never impose on anyone else.

It’s not fair. It’s doing me way more harm than good. And it’s not easy to stop.

But I’m working on it. I’m cutting myself some slack. Lowering my expectations, so to speak. I’m trying not to feel totally deflated when something goes badly, because things go badly for everyone all the time, every day. Even the most active body image activists need support, help, self-care, and a little slack now and then.

That Amy. So wise. One more piece of wisdom for the road:

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And so we keep on. I’ll keep trying. And on the bad days, I’ll take a shower at a weird time, curl up in bed with a book, and wake up in the morning to try again.

And again.

And again.

Until, maybe next week, maybe in fifteen years, one day I wake up and never need to think about trying again.

But today is not that day.

Today, I’ll keep working.

Mental Relapse… That’s A Thing, Right?

Sometimes we've got to be our own calming manatees.

Sometimes we’ve got to be our own calming manatees.

Happy eating disorders awareness week, folks! Although really, for anyone who has, has had, or knows someone with an eating disorder, the idea of there being a week at any time in which we just weren’t aware of eating disorders is kind of nonsense. But it’s great to see resources, support, statistics, and awareness pouring out onto the interwebs this week. For those of you who were able to join me in the #AdiosED Twitter party on Monday evening, thanks for your support. It was a huge success, and we couldn’t have done it without you.

NEDAwareness week came at an oddly ironic time for me this year. Yes, I know it’s the same week every year, but it landed straight in the middle of a… well, I’m not really sure what to call it.

What exactly do you term a sudden preoccupation with your weight and the amount of food you eat, if you’re determinedly not weighing yourself and you’re eating maybe even a little bit more than you ordinarily do? Can it still be considered a relapse if to the outside observer, you’re doing totally fine, but inside you feel like everything’s falling apart?

Disclaimer: I am fully aware that outside stressors in my life are taking their toll on my mental health, and they are doing that in the way they have decided to do since my mid-teens. At the moment, I am working two jobs, taking a full load of university courses, trying to raise almost $1500 to publish a literary magazine, navigating at least three university bureaucracies, trying to figure out how to spell bureaucracy, learning how to do basic html code, and finish a 335-page senior thesis in the next three weeks. Oh, and find out what to do with the rest of my life post-graduation. I recognize that my inherent inability to say “no” to anything is beginning to wear on me, and I’m coping with it as I usually do. But knowing that this is the case doesn’t make it any easier.

Instead of going back down the eating disorder path physically, I feel as if I’ve been taking the opposite road. I cannot actually motivate myself to do anything besides my (not-insignificant) walk to class and to work every day. The gym? Forget about it. Healthy eating? Okay, but once I’m through with dinner I’m going to barrel through that ice cream, because I’m stressed, okay, and sugar makes me feel better.

Briefly. Until I realize that I’ve felt this way before, during the early stages of recovery, when I was rapidly gaining weight like nobody’s business. It’s the same feeling of fear. Of being out of control. Of disgust and shame and wanting to talk to anybody about it but not being able to because I’m supposed to be better.

I had to stop and look at this image for at least five minutes when I first saw it. This is actually scary accurate. That's why it gets included in this post, and you get a bonus image. Puts things in a really visual perspective.

I had to stop and look at this image for at least five minutes when I first saw it. This is actually scary accurate. That’s why it gets included in this post, and you get a bonus image. Puts things in a really visual perspective.

Is this a rant-post? Partially. But I also think that there should be more attention paid to relapses that don’t involve resorting to behaviors. I haven’t stepped on the scale in over two weeks, admittedly partly because I’m afraid to but also because I can’t see what good that would do. I haven’t skipped a meal in months – in fact, I just came from a snack. To all intents and purposes, these are the fluctuations in the eating patterns and exercise habits of a recovered person. Vegetables and time logged on the treadmill take a back seat during the final semester of university, when there’s more things to be done than there are hours in a day. Maybe that’s normal. But I don’t feel recovered. I feel just as out-of-control and afraid as I did months and months ago.

And yet, because physically I’m healthy and functional and not losing weight, you’d be hard-pressed to find anybody who would treat this as a relapse. I don’t need to go speak to a medical professional. I don’t need intervention. What I need, most people would tell me, is a nice long nap and a dose of perspective. But that’s not helpful in the midst of this.

Those are some of the complications of recovery that I never thought about until I experienced them. People expect you to be “better” once and for all. Particularly in my position, when I spend so much time writing about eating disorders, talking about recovery, organizing recovery-based events, and what all. People assume that once you’re “recovered,” you no longer need support and your mental state will take care of itself. This is not always the case.

During #AdiosED, one tweet particularly stood out to me, and I bring it back for you here because it’s the most honest thing I’ve read in a long time.

True facts. But the need for a hug doesn’t stop after you’ve been labeled (or have labeled yourself) recovered. Hard times still show up. There are still days when it’s hard to think about inhabiting your body, or look at it, or move around in it in certain ways. I had hoped that there wouldn’t be, but sometimes there are.

If you have a friend in recovery, and you’re comfortable talking with them, ask them how they’re doing from time to time. Be prepared for celebrations if they’re invited, but also be prepared for an honest, open discussion about how sometimes things are still hard.

And if you’re in recovery, and you’re feeling like you’re having a rough time, either mentally or physically, don’t lose hope. This will pass. It won’t go on forever. Because you are stronger than your eating disorder. It puts up a hell of a fight, but you don’t have to take it. Even though it’s hard at the moment, I don’t plan on taking it.