How I Knew I Wasn't Strongly Recovered From My Eating Disorder

I remember the first time I tried applying to become a recovery mentor. I was filling out an application and came upon a question that asked, “What do you perceive to be the difference between recovered and strongly recovered?” At that point in time, I had wanted to be a recovery mentor because I thought it would help me become stronger too. But trying to answer that question was difficult and if I was truly “strongly” recovered, it wouldn’t have been.

I had been in denial for a short period of time before deciding to apply. I was still profoundly upset at the way my clothes were fitting to my changing body. Often times, I still used food as a way to cope with my emotions. My triggers were still apparent and I hadn’t yet learned an effective way to deal with them. All I knew was at that point in time I was much better than I was before — but that didn’t mean I was strongly recovered.

Being a recovery mentor meant needing to be strongly recovered because I’d no doubt run into instances where my own thoughts and memories might be triggered. I knew I wasn’t strongly recovered yet because I was still unable to find effective ways of dealing with my emotions in a healthy manner. But thanks to that application, I finally learned what I needed was my own mentor. So instead of applying to become a mentor, I applied for a mentor. That single question on the application helped me realize how far I really was and that was truly a blessing in disguise. It helped me see that I still had a ways to go, but that was OK.

With my mentor’s help, I was able to learn so many new ways of coping with my emotions. I learned how to identify and deal with my triggers in a healthy manner. Now, whenever I’m upset, I process my emotions and let go rather than linger and punish myself for whatever it was. Instead of looking at myself in the mirror and only accepting myself, I now look at myself with acceptance and love. That’s really how I knew I was strongly recovered — because I no longer hated or was “OK enough” about what I saw, I loved and accepted it for all I am.

I learned it’s OK to admit you’re not actually where you perceive yourself to be on your journey. Sometimes we have to take a step back to reflect and prepare ourselves for the next part. I was so busy trying to convince myself that I was OK, I didn’t realize it was perfectly fine to admit I wasn’t. I was on my way to where I wanted to be, but I kept thinking if I was convincing myself I was already there, then it would make my journey feel or be shorter/easier.

I thought if I was a mentor, it would help me focus less on my own problems. I was making it a distraction, or I thought it would motivate me to be stronger for someone else and in turn, more focused on getting to the point of strongly recovered. That wouldn’t have made me a good mentor at all. I wanted to be strong for those I was mentoring and to do it out of my will to help others, not because I needed further motivation to help myself. I wanted people to look toward me as a sign of hope that the possibility of a full recovery was there and to use my story as a tool. But that wasn’t yet possible knowing my story wasn’t over. I’m now a recovery mentor for young girls who I see so much of myself in. I hope I give them the inspiration and help they need to see that what they want — self love and acceptance — are possible.

Don’t be afraid to not be where you want to be on your journey yet. It’s tough, but if you stick to it and never give up, you’ll see the results. Sometimes it takes time to grow and blossom. They say people are like flowers — we are all born beautiful in different ways and can grow in unexpected places and ways. When we finally fully blossom, it’s at our own pace, which may be slower or longer than others, but it’s still beautiful.

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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