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When Your Eating Disorder Recovery Takes Longer Than You'd Hoped

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For five years I have struggled with an eating disorder. I’ve struggled with the loneliness, the exhaustion, the sadness and the hopelessness that often comes with it. I lost more than just weight — I lost friends, shopping trips, movie nights and parties. Anorexia can break people, and can even take people out of this world all together. When I first entered treatment, I was told that after four weeks of therapy I would be back to my normal, happy self. Four years later after having been transferred from one treatment team to the next, my eating disorder was labelled as severe, complex and chronic. I was told I would have to live with my eating disorder for the rest of my life. I watched people enter treatment, get the help they need and then move on with their lives, while I just stood at the sidelines and watch them come and go, wondering why it wasn’t me. Hell, I could do the best motivational speeches of them all, and make everyone feel better, except myself.

See, I’ve always wanted recovery, I’ve always wanted to be happy and get better. I didn’t picture myself in 10 year’s time still living under the wrath of an eating disorder, yet for me there has never been “a light bulb moment” when I could just start eating again and leave the disorder behind. It’s followed me around wherever I go, despite countless attempts to shake it off and make peace. I’ve been on more medication than I could count on two hands, and I’ve had all different kinds of therapy — CBT, DBT, mindfulness, family therapy… I’m the perfect “recovery student.” I can make lists of pros and cons of recovering, make goals and construct the steps to get there, write lists of why I want to recover and yet when a meal is put in front of me, I cannot bring myself to lift up the fork.

It has taken me a long time to begin to comprehend what I was doing wrong, what I was missing. The answer in short? Nothing. Because sometimes you can have all the medication in the world and be in therapy for years, yet still not feel recovery in your heart. Sometimes it takes more midnight chats, more hugs from friends and more time in the sun. More homework to do, more movies to watch, more hands to hold. Because sometimes when you fall apart, it just takes a little time to put yourself together again. If you’re still in the darkness please listen to me now: things will get better, and not just for everyone else, but for you too. Don’t lose hope. Stay close to the things that keep you feeling most alive. I know, I’m tired too, but sometimes I’m not as tired anymore and sometimes laughing is easy and sometimes I figure out the things I should be doing and it’s worth it — it’s worth recovery. It’s not about forcing happiness, it’s about not letting the sadness win. So please, give it time: just give it a little bit more time.

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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Thinkstock photo via Lite Productions.

Originally published: July 12, 2017
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