I have been wanting to touch on the topic of eating disorders and recovery for a while now and I figured that with summer approaching and the inevitable influx of shitty advertising for bikini bodies, detox teas, last-minute challenges and other often self-deprecating measures it would be a pretty good time to do so.
I first talked about my history a while ago and I will definitely keep doing so in the future because recovering from a disorder isn’t a linear process you can summarize neatly in one single post. In fact, as I said before, I believe that as with lots of diseases you never really rid yourself of it completely. And I’m not saying this to sound mean or make anyone feel like there’s no way out of the misery, it’s just that I firmly believe that recovery can be a slippery slope.
Just like someone who has a healthy approach to alcohol won’t fall into alcoholism with just one too many glasses of wine whereas a recovered addict has to be extra vigilant, I feel like – in some cases – this can be similar with food related addictions.
Just cause you got the monkey off your back doesn’t mean the circus has left town. (George Carlin)
With that being said, please also note that I absolutely don’t think that everyone who has ever suffered from an eating disorder is constantly on the verge of falling back into the depths of it. For a fact, I know that there are people who come out of it and are able to (re)adapt a perfectly ‘normal’ relationship with food and body image. And I want to explicitly state that I am very happy for anyone who is able to do so, but I also want to point out that this might not be the case for everyone as this isn’t a one size fits all/cookie cutter thing.
In fact, I know that it ain’t for me.
I am aware that I still know how to lose weight. Quickly. And maybe even a little bit better than some other people.
I also know that I have to be very cautious when I am stressed and part of me wants to rigidly control what and when I eat just to feel like I have at least some tiny part of life taken care of.
The problem with eating disorders is that at first they are highly gratifying, because they yield such a seemingly high reward. Just a little twig here and there and you lose weight. And especially when facing major life changes and/or challenges to have this one area of control can really trick you into feeling safe and secure.
Your eating disorder basically becomes this best friend who is always there for you and whom you trust a 100 percent not knowing that she’s just a hot mess. And as you’ll learn later on, her allegedly awesome ideas turn out disastrous.
And as with any other friendship even when you manage to cut her out of your life she may reach out to you from time to time.
For me, I have come to understand the signs.
It’s when I freak out and become defensive because I’m being at a dinner not knowing how many courses we’ll be having. So you better fill me in on the details because I will feel safer knowing exactly what’s coming.
It’s when I want to cancel plans to go to a restaurant, because I already ate out the two days before.
It’s when I read the menu and although the burger with fries (and bun!) sounds delicious, I order the salad because it’s the safer choice.
It’s when I start saving up calories for later, but later never comes.
It’s when I read about a diet and suddenly feel this rush of excitement that comes with having a clear, very black and white kinda plan of what to eat and what not to eat.
With all those examples you might wonder why the heck someone who has all of this going on in her mind considers herself recovered. But before you’re eager to diagnose me as still disordered let me remind you of the beginning of this post.
The thing is, I might be hearing the voice and even make sure to acknowledge it, but I don’t let it lead me down the wrong path.
It might be the third day in a row to go out and eat something not knowing every single ingredient and although I panic for a hot second, I push back the feeling and still go.
I am aware that with admitting all the above I am opening the doors to all different theories about what is recovery and when is recovery really recovery etc. And sure, we could throw ourselves into the intellectual debate over the ‘right’ amount of recovery and at which point one deserves to claim the badge ‘fully recovered’, but I think that this isn’t more than purely cognitive entertainment.
Fact is, recovery isn’t linear and no one gets to decide if you’re recovered and if you’re recovered enough or not.
You might feel like you’re 86 % recovered on Monday, 99 % on Tuesday and only 20 % on Thursday and let me tell you: it’s fine. It really is.
The very act of letting go of the need of complete control and always thriving for the full 100 % is in my opinion what does set us apart from the formerly disordered ‘perfect’ versions of ourselves. And with those numbers in mind throwing in the towel because you can’t do it anyways would be stepping back on the train to good ol’ disorder town.
Long story short: do I have this shit figured out? No. I am still just winging it. As pretty much everything else. 😉 Do I feel like sometimes my old ED mind is still in the driver’s seat? Sure. Does it define me and my story? Fuck no, but I pay attention and make sure to not let her sit behind the wheel for too long.
And before I leave, I want to say that if you ever want to reach out and talk about what’s going on, please feel free to do so!