Over the last few months, I’ve had multiple messages and emails regarding my eating disorder recovery, so today I wanted to share with you what exactly it was that helped me break free from the eating disorder and all of its dysfunction.
Firstly, you have to know that there is no simple answer to recovery. I spent nine years in my anorexia and have spent many years since struggling in recovery. During that time, I’ve had many epiphanies which were exactly what I needed at the time to help me move forward towards becoming fully recovered. Sidenote: I say “epiphanies” because thats just what they are. I know many people in recovery who feel guilt and disappointed when they aren’t able to “turn a corner” or “breakthrough” the conflict with their disease. This isn’t how it works. In eating disorder recovery, we need to think of stepping stones, not advanced progress in weeks or months. You’ll find that each tiny stepping stone you take becomes significant on your path to healing and when looking back in six months or a year, that is when you see your progress.
In this post, I’d like to share my personal epiphanies that pushed me over the edge, onto the “other side”, onto the way to being “fully recovered”
1. I made a comitment to myself to recover, no matter what.
So, you might be thinking, “Well I/you am in recovery from an eating disorder, so doesn’t that mean I made that commitment to 100% recover too?“. The answer to that is, NO! Many people in the midst of anorexia, bulimia, or EDNOS are still “on the fence” as to wether or not they fully want to break free. I’ve been there, and there are many reasons for that.
In essence, you may not be able to imagine a life without your eating disorder or its habits and behaviours because its been a part of you and your life for so long. You may have started the recovery process to please a parent, spouse or your partner, or because you think you should. I know for me, for a number of years, I could honestly not imagine my life without anorexia. Without controlling my weight. Without going to bed hungry. Without getting out of bed dizzy. Without those damned blue digital scales. Jesus, I mean, what else would I spend my days thinking about?
For a long, long time, recovery for eating disorders is like having one foot in the door and one foot out. Like hanging from a tree, contemplating wether or not to let go. I wasn’t fully committed to losing my life to anorexia, and was in a bizarre state of wanting recovery (and life) but being terrified of letting go at the very same time.
Making the decision to ((finally)) recover was the biggest leap of faith I ever made, moving away from simply being just
half-arsed “recovering” to being on my way to being actually “recovered”. This decision meant I was finally working towards something, towards the light, healing, towards new goals and opportunities. Recovery meant I was able to start building a new life for myself instead of continoually chasing myself in circles.
Another reason you may not have made the decision is because you may not believe recovery is actually possible for you. You might believe what the many “professionals” (thats for another lengthy post!) out there have said, and you may have listened to the statistics which have both stated that “you may manage your symptoms but you’ll never be free of your disease”. This is simply untrue and I believe that full recovery for eating disorders, no matter what the severity or length, is possible for anyone, but you have to first believe that it is possible.
2. I wholeheartedly believed it was possible for me to fully recover.
Belief, in anything, is power; and belief is quite possibly the biggest force that helped me break free from my eating disorder. As I have mentioned previously in this blog, I was reading a lot at the time, not just about personal development, but about how the human brain and our physiology can be altered simply by believing something to be true.
“Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve” – Napoleon Hill, Think and Grow Rich
Gradually, I began to realise that if I truly wanted a life without anorexia and its behaviours, I first had to believe that that life was possible for me. So how did I develop this belief? I had to think beyond my everyday rituals and disease and start thinking of what I truly wanted for my future. I began to dream of all the possibilities, opportunities and of the things I could accomplish if I wasn’t constrained and chocked every waking hour by mental illness.
I also started asking myself questions like, “What would complete recovery look like? How do I want to feel? How do I define full recovery?”, and once I’d defined those answers, which took a while given the length of time I’d been in my eating disorder, I began to visualise myself being and feeling the way I wanted to feel. I began to see myself waking up each morning to living life with a meaning and not with an eating disorder.
Admittedly, some of my visions for my recovery were extremely frightening and overwhelming at first. Yes, I wanted to feel comfortable in my body, I wanted to be able to eat mindfully, I wanted a healthy relationship with both food and myself. I also wanted to get to know myself a little better, develop self-confidence, self-esteem; and the desire to feel fulfilled and worthwhile in a way that didn’t involve the use of food. Admittedly times got tough, and of course, I faltered and fell, many, many times, though each time I got right back up and kept reminding myself of one simple thing….
A belief is simply a thought we think over and over again.
Its true. The anorexic life I had been living, that I was now breaking free from, all came down to a matter of a belief, or thought, that I’d conditioned myself to think over and over again. By getting “straight back up again” when I faltered, I was re-conditioning my mind to change my beliefs and habits into daily practises that would serve me better for the rest of my life. Therefore, changing my very existence.
Recognising an unhealthy thought, stopping it, and choosing a healthier thought as soon as one surfaced, supported me to continue onto solid foundation to a full recovery.
It is important to take baby steps, especially during the start of recovery, so that you don’t get overwhelmed. Eating disorder recovery is like that of climbing a mountain without a hand book to point you in the right direction, but with practise (and belief!), you will move closer to full recovery one day at a time.
3. I started to look at my recovery (and life) as a Grand Journey, an experiment, with life lessons to learn along the way.
One of the third major things that I began to do, was look at life in a completely different way. I stopped caring and comparing. I stopped looking at what others were doing with their lives and stopped caring about what I “should” or “shouldn’t” be doing with mine, and that went for my recovery too. Instead, I started asking myself, “What am I learning from this?”. Remember – everything you go through, GROWS YOU!
In addition, each time I encountered a challenging situation, or fell backwards, I stopped feeling guilty and beating myself up about it. I stopped criticising myself for the mistakes I had made and started congratulating myself for the ways in which I was moving forwards.
In focusing on the positives of recovery, and what I was gaining from it, I started feeling enlightened and uplifted. In order to get results, we have to take different actions to the ones that aren’t serving us and I started approaching my recovery like a big experiment. I started to discover what worked for me, and I kept doing it.
I started to grow, learn things about myself that I never knew existed. I made mistakes, learned how to take care of myself (all over again!), and started doing things I never dreamed I thought I would a few years ago.
When you begin to view life in this way, everything changes. You start to see the world with fresh eyes. Everything has a new purpose and you can start to learn from every experience in an refreshing new way.
There are four minds shifts to recovery – making a decision, believing, persistence, and learning lessons along the way. As I continue to move forward, continue to grow and expand my place in this world, I still remain consistent in applying these principles in my everyday life. Not just in my eating disorder recovery, but in anything I feel passionate about achieving.
I hope this has helped to answer some of your questions!
Peace, Love & Recovery!