My Therapist's Awesome Response to the Exhaustion I Felt in Eating Disorder Recovery


A couple months ago I made it (yet again) through finals. That wave of relief washed over me as I walked out of my last exam. “Done,” I thought. To be honest, this previous term was one of the least stressful I’ve had in a while, however I always anticipate the exhaustion that comes with the end of term. The deadlines and countdown to exams… that’s just been my life for so many years now. It usually goes away, but this time was different.

I have been in recovery for over two years with one solid year under my belt of no binges/purging… until this April. I relapsed, and it sucked. I don’t have to explain the depth of that guilt to those who can relate. It really sucked. However, I bounced back. I called those I knew could support me at any time, was honest with my therapist about it, and the guilt didn’t last much longer than a couple of days. I got back to what was right.

Getting back to what was right for my recovery was nothing new In fact that has been my motto for the last couple of years. Wake up, get up, get back on track, Emily. That’s exactly what I did, and I didn’t let my relapse take away from the amazing progress I have made because honestly, every day is a victory when recovering from ED.

A couple weeks later, however, I found myself in tears in my therapist’s office. I wasn’t upset about the relapse, nor had I had any other urges to do so. I was simply exhausted. This wasn’t my first go at recovery, although the treatment I have received these past two and a half years has been unlike any other. In fact, the thing that drove me to get such serious help this time was exhaustion. I remember calling my mom sobbing, barely getting the words out, “Mom I feel stuck. I can’t decide what to eat for breakfast. I’ve been up for two hours and I can’t even leave my room let alone my house. I am too tired to hurt myself anymore. I can’t do this.” Attempts at recovery had never been one-on-one with a therapist or a dietician, and I always thought I would be “cured” in a matter of months. By the time I got to seeing the team I work with now, I had already been in “recovery” for two years.

I sat there with my therapist and cried, “I’m just tired. I’m tired of working so hard, every day. Nobody gets how hard this is to keep up. Even this far into recovery I still doubt whether this will ever fully go away.” Her response was so awesome, because she just embraced my exhaustion and reminded me, “You are definitely tired, that’s completely understandable… but you’re 95 percent of the way there, Emily. You have worked incredibly hard, and it’s OK to be tired of this.”

Each day this battle gets that much closer to being won, fully and completely forever, by me. I have rid my life of the major things that made my eating disorder all-consuming and toxic, and it is so much easier to recognize and tweak the little things now. I can zoom in with perspective, I can be honest with myself about who I am, what I want in life, and what I get pure joy from. These are the amazing opportunities that come with recovery, but you don’t get them without persistence and determination. I have a lot of that, yet I can become exhausted.

Every now and then I will hit a wall. A wall that says, “Give space for exhaustion!” with fine print a bit more in your face, “Because you’ve worked really effing hard.”

So, for everyone out there getting through today, getting through one hour of recovery, or five years… It’s OK to be exhausted even when you’re doing great. Even when others tell you how hard you’re working and how proud they are, it’s OK to say, “Thanks, but I’m really tired of this.”

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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