What a Day in the Life of My Early Eating Disorder Recovery Looked Like
Editor’s note: If you live with an eating disorder, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “NEDA” to 741-741.
What recovery looks like when you’ve recently discharged from intensive treatment is different than what it looks like after you’ve been in recovery for months or years. This is a day in my life as someone recently out of an intensive episode of treatment and still relatively new to eating disorder recovery. Many of us who find ourselves in this space are all too familiar with it. So my hope is for those of you also in this space of early recovery that you’ll find solidarity in the parts of my day that seem familiar. For those that have not experienced an eating disorder, I hope this piece helps give a glimpse of what a day in the life of early recovery is like.
My alarm goes off. I want to go for a run. Can I go for a run today? Damn. No. I missed a snack yesterday and my agreement with my treatment team is if I don’t eat according to my meal plan, then I won’t exercise the following day. I shouldn’t run today.
I really want to go for a run, but I won’t. I agreed to this plan so I could be cleared to run. I also really do want to take good care of my body. I can always run tomorrow.
I get up to take a shower. I can’t look in the mirror or I’ll start body checking. I also really want to weigh myself and just know where I’m at. I’m not supposed to have a scale anymore.
I check what I planned out to eat for the day. Each week when I meet with my dietitian, we make a menu of what I’m going to eat for breakfast, a.m. snack, lunch, p.m. snack, dinner and evening snack every day. My eating disorder can make me really indecisive and sometimes I can spend an hour trying to decide what to eat and eventually just get so frustrated I give up. Making a weekly menu with my dietitian ahead of time helps prevent eating disorder indecisiveness. It’s tedious, but it feels good to have figured out how to short circuit the eating disorder’s system.
I make some coffee (because Lord knows I cannot do mornings without coffee). I make my breakfast according to my menu. I open the meal logging app on my phone and take a picture of my breakfast so when my dietitian checks later today, she’ll see my breakfast meal log. I take my medication and vitamins since I’m still working on restoring some of my vitamin levels to normal.
I double check to make sure I’ve got my a.m. snack, lunch and p.m. snack packed and I’m out the door and on my way to work.
I’m at work and in my first meeting. I love my job overall and truly it is nice to be able to be mentally present with my work. It’s still harder some days than others, but I can tell a dramatic difference in how present I am compared to when I was really sick.
Morning snack time! I grab my snack and log it on my app.
Lunch time. I’m trying something new for lunch today and feel a little anxious, but I know I can do it. I check Facebook and Pinterest to distract myself from the anxiety I feel while I eat. Of course I also log my lunch on my phone.
I’m having an urge to purge, but I am determined to sit through it. It feels like trying to resist a tidal wave and I take several deep breaths trying to sit through the urge and remember it will pass.
This sucks. This feeling is not passing. Literally everything feels terrible. I hate this. I can’t do this… but I just need to keep breathing.
I’m feeling less panicked. I’m OK again, but now I’m really tired. I can do this. It will be OK. I’m proud of myself for trying something new. I couldn’t have done this six months ago. I’m getting stronger.
It’s my p.m. snack time. I feel a little dread since I felt so anxious after lunch, but I know my body supposedly needs food, so I better just do it.
My snack is done and went fine! I log my snack on my phone and get back to work.
My phone buzzes. It’s a notification that my dietician has checked my meal logs for the day and has given them her official thumbs up. It may sound patronizing, but the accountability is actually really helpful. It’s like having an ally against my eating disorder’s tricks and manipulation in my back pocket.
I’m off to dinner with some of my friends. I’m actually kind of excited. Two months ago when I was still in the intensive outpatient level of treatment, I had to be there every night from 5-8 p.m., so I couldn’t do things like this. Also, going out to eat with my friends would have been super nerve-wracking when I was in my eating disorder, so in a lot of ways, this feels like a newfound freedom.
I’m back home, curled up on the couch and watching NCIS (I cannot figure out why I like that show, but I do). I have my evening snack, log it and chat with my roommate.
I remember when I was really sick, I couldn’t sleep. I’d have trouble falling asleep because I was so hungry. I’d wake up with nightmares about food or wake up in a cold sweat because my blood sugar had crashed in the night. These days I don’t sleep perfectly, but I sleep pretty well.
Today was a pretty good day, too! I ate my meal plan, didn’t purge and actually enjoyed myself when I went out with friends. Those are all small victories! They may be small steps, but they are important ones because each one of those small steps gets me further down the road to recovery. For today, though, I’m ready to sleep because I know I’ve got to wake up tomorrow and do it all over again.
If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.
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