Stages of (Restrictive) ED recovery – where am I?

Lately I’ve felt pretty terrible, not going to lie. I am really sick of recovery, at least parts of it. Body image has been consistently the hardest part and recently is at an all-time low (I’ve said that before but now is the worst I can remember). I’ll talk about that more in a moment, though. Once again I’m not hungry and food doesn’t usually sound good. I have some feelings of jealousy and resentment. There are so, so many benefits and things I am thankful for that can only happen because of my recovery, but those aren’t at the front of my mind right now. I’ve been beating myself up over this. How could I still have negative feelings when I’m this far in (~7 months since starting resi, 5-6 true recovery)?

I ran across an article I have read a few times before, “Phases of Recovery From a Restrictive Eating Disorder.” Every time I previously skimmed this I was either very sick or in quasi-recovery. It scared the shit out of me. I am a very logical person and use it to calm me, but the ED was way too powerful for that to work here. I’m luckily in a much different head space now and can use the information to further not hinder my recovery.

Currently, my biggest threat to recovery is my body image. I only see myself ballooning more and more when that part should be over by now. I see my stomach which protrudes no matter how much I try to hide it, my hips and thighs that are incredibly large, stretch marks multiplying everyday that all the positive spin in the world can’t help, piles of clothing that no longer fits, fat instead of tone, everything larger than ever in my life. At times it takes every ounce of me to stop from tearing away at my skin. I wish, at times, that I could give in or give up recovery altogether just to make it go away.

Reading this article today has given me hope. I first was sure I was in Stage 3, maybe 4 (the ED fueled horror when I feared it may be the case). I’m actually quite certain my body isn’t there yet, but in Stage 2 still. I obviously have not experienced any sort of weight redistribution or really stopped gaining. That alone has caused hopelessness and other negative emotions. Another clue I may not be in 3 is that I feel like my body is off. I have hunger all over the map. I’m having issues with fatigue, GI problems, and food doesn’t give me the expected energy it should. Lastly, I’m barely at 7 months in recovery max with around a month of relapse. It feels like forever but with all the damage I’ve done it really isn’t. My body doesn’t trust me enough to move past the fear of starvation and pain again, and I don’t trust it in the least bit to handle food correctly, keep from forever ballooning out, and give me correct hunger cues.

Initially knowing I had more ahead until my body would be healthy again was disappointing. I have worked hard, yet none of it was enough to make my body okay again? I’ve thought about that more and now see that this is a good thing. I am still not comfortable – with my body or in my body while experiencing physical issues. This isn’t the end, though, which means that it still gets better from now. I can look forward to more acceptance and the return to a new normal in the future. It really helps me breathe a sigh of relief as I’ve felt so hopeless about the future of my recovery.

On the other side of things, I have become more cautious and aware. I had a relapse because of my failure to accept where I was at physically and not attempt to “fix” it. I know now that this is part of a normal process but one that can be a trap from the ED. This is all temporary that eventually will lead to a healthier me, both inside and out. I need to accept and fight the feelings that threaten to send me back into sickness.

Lord knows I am not healed mentally from my eating disorder. In many ways I never will be. The same thing applies physically. My body isn’t in the end stages of recovery yet, but that is okay. I need to give it time. Now is the prime time for relapse. I can’t go down that road again. It was terrible and terrifying all in one. Right now I need to trust: God and His ability to be my strength in this, my body as it heals, that my disordered thoughts are not real, the truth that it will get easier. I am healing each day and reviving myself more and more.

*Note: I don’t agree with all Your Eatopia has to say on this topic or in general. Nonetheless I do believe this is a good resource.

Eating recovery day

Its been crazy with projects and papers and tests. Finals week is in two weeks and all the stress is happening. I probably won’t be posting much until after that. Today I decided to write one because its Eating Recovery Day! This is put on/sponsored by Eating Recovery Center. I would definitely recommend going to their facebook page and watching the live stream videos. Candace Cameron and two recovered patients who went to ERC speak on their recoveries, as well as professionals and Jenni Schaefer. I really enjoyed it.

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July 2015 / April 2016

There is a world of difference between these photos. On the left I was in Ludington, my favorite place in the entire world. My family and I were on vacation yet I was too wrapped up in my eating disorder to even enjoy it. I restricted and avoided even my favorite restaurants/meals. I constantly thought of ways to exercise more. I only put my swimsuit on to go tubing and always covered up with shorts and a life vest. I didn’t enjoy much of anything and I was miserable. I don’t even remember much of that vacation. That photo goes beyond just my time during that week. It was my life for years, minus the small bouts of quasi-recovery. Constant fatigue, looking half-dead, putting every ounce of energy into my eating disorder, grey skin, wishing I were dead, body checking and weighing myself, losing interest in everything I love, losing relationships, avoiding foods I once loved, feeling weak, isolation, anxiety, thinning hair, and passing out are only a portion of what I’ve experienced in my eating disorder. I could smile and put on a fake front as much as I wanted to, as seen in this photo, but it never completely hid the illness that was destroying me from the inside out.

The right photo was taken just a few days ago. Mentally, physically, emotionally I am in a place very far from where I have ever been. I cannot remember a time where I’ve felt more alive and hopeful for the future. Recover has helped me gain weight, yes, but also a life worth living. I look healthy. My eyes are bright, my hair is growing back again, my skin has color, my eyes are less sunken (minus the permanent bags under them because I get no sleep), and my smile is REAL. Food and exercise and calories no longer take up my thoughts. I am able to eat alone in the dining hall, follow my meal plan, keep from overexercising, have my once feared foods, let my body grow stronger, enjoy spontaneous pizza or dessert from friends, honor my hunger, exercise in a healthy way, hold conversations, laugh and mean it, concentrate better in class, and put more energy into everything in my life. I am beginning to love myself and my body FINALLY.

Recovery is really, really hard. Although I’ve had a multitude of excuses and fears about entering into it, none of them really came true. I didn’t give up my purpose in life, I’ve only gained new ones. Instead of losing strength by not exercising anywhere near as much I am rebuilding the damage I’ve caused. My body image is slowly getting better than it was when I was deep in my sickness. The weight gain that was one of the main issues I had with recovery doesn’t bother me most days. I no longer have my once coveted “anorexic girl” title but not being defined by this disorder is freeing. All of the setbacks, relapses, tears, and moments where I wanted to give up are worth it. Recovery is more than I ever imagined for myself.

If you are struggling, take my story as proof that things can and will get better. My true self is still evolving and I know I’m going to love who I become. I am so much more than anorexia. The only way to get to a better place is to put your all into this. Invest in yourself, for yourself. Extrinsic motivation is absolutely fine to start recovery, but I’ve found to make it work you have to do it for you. Within the past few weeks I’ve realized this and it has been a huge turning point. Wherever you are and whatever your feelings or fears towards recovery, make those steps. As my friend says, you can always go back to the eating disorder, so why not at least try recovery? I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Writing this all makes me tear up and remember how thankful I am for my recovery. I am so blessed and proud of myself and my progress.