When You're Afraid of Eating Disorder Recovery
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.
If I learn to care about myself, will I still care about others? Will people still like me if a “recovered me” is different than the old me? If I don’t obsessively have to have everything “just right,” will I still be me? If I’m not worried about making others happy all the time, will I be self-centered? If I’m not X size or weight, will I still be loved? Will people be disgusted by my appearance? If I don’t put on the appearance of having it all together, will I be a burden or annoying? If I don’t have an eating disorder, anxiety or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), will I still be me? What if I never recover?
These thoughts, or some version of them, go through my head on a regular basis. Lately I have been struggling with intense fear. I have been afraid to write this blog post because I am afraid of disappointing people, including my readers and my treatment team, but truthfully, this is where I’m at right now. I want to strive to live vulnerably and talk about even the messy parts of this journey. I’m on, so here goes…
I am afraid of recovery. These past few weeks, I have been faced with very strong relapse urges because I feel fearful and hopeless. Throughout the course of therapy, I realized that I’ve struggled with anxiety and OCD since the age of 5 or so, and I’ve struggled with intense eating disorder and body dissatisfaction thoughts since around the age of 12. I cannot imagine my life without these things, and I am simultaneously afraid that I will never recover, or that I will fully recover.
It’s almost impossible for me to imagine a day without obsessively thinking about food, without hating my body, without feeling like I’m not enough, without obsessive thoughts about disappointing others, etc. It’s hard for me to know what of these things are me and what are mental illness and what are spiritual/heart issues. It’s all very confusing for me, really. Essentially, I am being faced with a huge identity crisis (plus I’m already a junior in college, which in and of itself is an identity crisis) and I’m scared. I want to go back to what’s comfortable, but there’s a part of me that still believes what’s comfortable isn’t who I am created to be.
This past weekend, I had a few of my worst days in recovery thus far. I have been afraid to tell a lot of people because I am ashamed and don’t know how to process these things, but I believe there is power in telling the truth. I was trying to look at a lab report from my doctor, and they accidentally put my weight in my records. I had not known my weight since before treatment, and I was crushed.
In my eating disorder, I was at a very low weight for a long time until, in the last year of my eating disorder, my body responded to long term starvation by gaining weight. This has been incredibly difficult for me and has made recovery very hard, and a part of me had been believing that in recovery I would lose the weight I put on. However, this was not the case.
I was so angry. I felt betrayed by my body, and I felt so anxious and depressed. I was angry that this even mattered to me when I knew that I should know that my outward appearance and my weight does not matter — my heart does. I cried. A lot. I cried because being X weight is “not where my body needs to be at right now.” I cried because this reminded me that I do not know what recovery and freedom holds, but I know that my eating disorder promises security and control. I cried because the girl who was X weight and who pretended to be OK is not me anymore. I cried because I wish I could change so much about the past four years. I cried because I hate that I care so much about this. I cried because I felt unloveable, disgusting and worthless. I reached out to a few people, but until I am writing this, I have found it so hard to process these emotions and I feel so much shame that it is hard to talk about. So, I reached out to my eating disorder for support instead. While at first my eating disorder numbed these feelings and promised control, I was also quickly reminded of just how miserable life in my eating disorder is.
So, today, I am once again choosing recovery. Am I still scared? Heck yes. I can’t say that I fully believe I’m worth fighting for right now, but a part of me knows that I am not created to live this way. I am trusting this part of me that my dietitian calls my “truth channel.” I am trusting that the journey is worth it. I am trusting that for every time I fall in recovery, there are a million reasons to get back up and keep fighting. I am trusting that freedom is scary because it is new, not because it is bad.
Even though I don’t know a lot about what my future holds, I know that my eating disorder leads to death, and I was created to fully live.
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Thinkstock photo via openeyed11