Recovery is not Linear

“Recovery will feel like you’re dying a million times, and every inch of you will scream at you to stop. But don’t give in. Life is waiting for you. And it will get better. It will get easier. I promise.”

I want to be really vulnerable with you. I  want to be real. I want to talk about the things no one really talks about. I want to talk about how hard this truly is. I’ve been in recovery for 3 months now, and even though so many things have improved and become easier, there are a lot of things that are still really hard. I want you to know that I am far from perfect and I still struggle. A lot. There are good days and bad days in recovery. Here’s a list of some things I’ve been struggling with. The nitty gritty stuff in recovery that just truly sucks. 

1: Body Image
One of the biggest struggles in ED recovery is body image. I’ve struggled with my body image for the majority of my life. It is hard work to rewrite the thoughts you have had about yourself for so long. Having an eating disorder causes your view of your body in a totally distorted way. The way I see myself is different than the way everyone else sees me. And that’s not something that can change overnight. For me, being in recovery meant gaining weight,about 20 pounds actually. That is really hard when your mind already sees your body in a distorted way. It’s really hard for clothes not to fit as well as they used to or look how I wanted them too. I am still adjusting to this new body that I have. I have to remind myself every day that the way I feel is more important than the way I look.

 Something that has been so important in my recovery is yoga. I started doing yoga at TK and have kept up with it since then. Yoga has taught me to truly appreciate my body and what it can do for me. I also don’t weigh myself. When I go to appointments where they need my weight, I don’t let myself see it and they don’t tell me what it is. I don’t need to know because weight is matter, but weight doesn’t matter. Lastly, I try to limit time in front of the mirror. I’ll look in a full length mirror in the morning to make sure my outfit matches and all that good stuff, but that’s about it. My therapist has said that body image is one of the last things for ED voice to let go of. These things help me overcome body image issues. 

2: Appointments
Something many people don’t realize is all of the appointments involved with recovery. Recovery is a process. It’s a way of thinking and a way of living, and it takes a lot of people to keep me in recovery. My “Recovery Team” consists of 3 main people: my therapist, my dietician, and my doctor. I see my therapist and  dietician once a week. My doctor is once a month, but we keep in touch. It’s easier now that I am out of school to make these appointments, but scheduling 2 hour long appointments with people 30 minutes a way while I am in class is a little trickier. All these appointments are time consuming, hard to schedule, and not to mention, expensive. Did you know that insurance doesn’t cover therapy? It’s been 3 months since TK and we’re still fighting with them for reimbursement. 
But, my team is everything.
As annoying as all the appointments can be, I know that my team is on my side. They want to see me healthy and happy. And they work so hard to make that happen. They know what I need and will do anything for me.

3: Meal Planning
This was something I did not expect to take so much time and energy. Before TK, meal planning was easy. I didn’t eat anything. And if I did eat something, I walked to the cafeteria at school and saw what they had. Now I am living on my own and am responsible for all my meals. I am responsible for grocery shopping, meal planning, and cooking. One of my hopes for recovery is that my mind would not be so focused on food. I still think about food all the time, but it’s different. Instead of thinking about what meals to skip and how much I would allow myself to eat, I have to think about when I need to go grocery shopping, what I need to buy, when I need to eat, what I have to cook, and if I’m meeting my meal plan. My meal plan means 3 meals and 3 snacks every day. I have to plan days in advance what my schedule is going to look like so I get everything in . Then during each meal and snack I have certain nutritional requirements to meet. It takes some planning and some thinking, which is something that I am not used to at all. The good thing is I know more about nutrition than I ever expected I would! I also have to track everything I eat for my dietician. I have pages and pages of meal logs with everything I have eaten since TK. 

One of the biggest struggles with meal planning is hunger. They say that accurate hunger/ fullness cues could not come back for a year or so. It is so hard to eat a full meal when I am not hungry. That’s been one of my biggest struggles recently. I want to eat and stay on track, but I’m not hungry. If I am hungry, I usually feel full quickly. Something that helps is to set out all the food that fits my meal plan, not just what I’m hungry for. It takes me awhile to eat sometimes just because I don’t feel hunger and fullness like I should. That’s something I never expected to be such a long lasting problem. 

4: Media triggers
Diet culture is an awful thing. It was something I didn’t notice until now. On social media we worship the thinnest celebrities and praise people when they lose weight. Everyone is on a new diet fad that they post about all day long. Everywhere I turn it’s food, weight, body. I didn’t realize just how triggering some of these things could be. Whether it’s Netflix, Instagram, Facebook, magazines, or people just talking, I am much more aware of how focused society is on physical appearance. Last week I was watching one of my favorite shows and there was a new character on the show. Another girl (who was actually the worst) encouraged this character to start purging and restricting. I finished the episode because I thought I’d be fine. I was in recovery, right? I watched another episode and quickly realized I could not handle that. The girl who kept encouraging her to purge and restrict felt like my eating disorder voice live, on screen, talking to me. I quit watching the show, and I haven’t touched it again. Just 2 episodes caused me to have one of the hardest weeks I have had in recovery. 

As much as I want to shield myself from all possible triggers, I can’t hideout in my room and not associate with society. I’ve found a few things to help. I have cut back on social media tremendously since TK. I have decided that whenever I see a post about a diet or someone losing weight or any negative food, weight, or body talk on social media, I close out of the app. The sad thing is, it doesn’t take very long to see one of those posts. I have found that the less I read those posts, the better I feel. It’s about being aware of what I can handle and what I can’t. 

5: Restaurants
I’ve never really loved restaurants. Since I’ve had a complicated relationship with food my whole life, I’ve never enjoyed social food settings. When I started to get sick, restaurants became more and more anxiety producing. 3 months into recovery, restaurants are still really hard. I feel ok with familiar restaurants with a few people that I am very comfortable with. But a restaurant I have never been to or a group of people I don’t know very well is really hard.

However, I can’t stay away from restaurants forever. My dietician recommends I go out to eat once a week just for exposure.. When at restaurants, I do best if I sit at the end of the table and by people I’m most comfortable with. I realized if I sit in the middle of the table, I feel way too overwhelmed with all the people and food. I also look up the restaurant ahead of time and read the menu, so I know what to order beforehand. I’ve also started locating the bathroom and the exit in every new restaurant. Then if I get panicked, I can go to the bathroom or step outside for a few minutes. Just knowing the way out is comforting and makes me not feel as trapped.

Recovery: 
1: A return to a normal state of health, mind, or strength
2: The action or process of regaining possession or control of something stolen or lost

A return to a “normal” state. I expected to leave TK, go back to my life, and move on. I didn’t expect things to be perfect, but I expected to pretty much go back to a normal life. But what is normal? A “normal” life is a boring life. 

The second definition is what recovery actually is. It can be summed up as a process. There is not an end to recovery. It is a new way of thinking and a new way of living that will never end. It’s not something to achieve and move on from. Recovery is something I make a part of every decision,  situation, and day.

Recovery is not linear. This was said all the time at TK, but I never really understood it. Now I get it. Recovery is not just a constant upward slope to becoming the “perfect” person. Recovery has ups and downs. There are good days, bad days, and days when it doesn’t even feel like I’m in recovery. But like I’ve said before, it’s baby steps. I still have lows, but each bad day seems a little bit better than the last. I’m constantly learning more about myself and how to cope with the tough stuff. 

I know that was a lot. But I want to encourage you. What’s the hard thing in your life right now? The pain in the butt thing that just doesn’t seem to be getting easier? I get it, I’ve been there. I was there this last week. Keep going. The best stuff in life isn’t easy. You are doing it, and I am so proud of you. 

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