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'I'm Fine' Does Not Always Mean 'I'm Good' With Eating Disorder Recovery

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This morning, I read an article from Monte Nido called “Combating ‘Fine.’” The article, meant for people who are just starting to consider getting help for an eating disorder, described how people are often deluded by the eating disorder voice into thinking they’re fine and don’t need help, even when those around them are concerned.

“The disorder will use any available evidence to prove to you that you’re fine: you’re still getting good grades, you’re still a star employee at work, your blood tests look normal, you get admiring comments from (terribly misguided) people on the street about how thin you look, you’ve seen sicker looking people than you online…or the greatest argument of all: you yourself have been sicker than this before (however you measure that), and see? You’re fine right now.”

I’ve been here. I was one of the ones who quickly went from “I’m fine” to “I can’t stop,” but that was over a year ago, and now? Now, I am fine. I got help. I had a great support system. My weight is up, and most of my health issues — easy bruising, low heart rate, fatigue, dizziness, irregular periods, bloating and constipation, headache, poor memory — are gone. I’ve been to therapy, and I’ve got all the apps: Pacifica, Recovery Road, Headspace. I don’t exercise compulsively, and my mother asks me what I had for dinner out of curiosity, not concern. I listen to my body and respect that it’s doing the best it can to keep me alive. I am fine.

This is the tricky part: “fine” is not “good.” Because even though I eat an appropriate amount of calories and keep the panic attacks to three times a week and the “bad” relapses to once a month, I still spend my days preoccupied with food and calories and how much space my body takes up. I still recoil when people touch me, and I still restrict when I’m eating in public. I still bargain with myself, trading exercise and food for a manageable anxiety level.

I am fine, by the standard that I am not starving and I am not dying, but being “fine” does not make me “better” in any way except better at pushing it away and smiling instead. Sometimes I get glimpses of “good” — days where I feel loved and whole and fulfilled before the anxiety and disordered thoughts creep back in. There comes a point where you must choose if you are satisfied with “fine,” with glimpses of “good,” or if you are willing to go the distance for yourself.

The article I read today was not just for first-time treatment seekers. It is for me. It is for you. It is more anyone who is settling for anything less than wholeheartedly “good.” It is for anyone who is halfway between “sick” and “good,” far enough from “sick” to feel decently healthy but still close enough that you feel discouraged from swimming across the abyss to “good.”

I’m asking you to swim. The article this morning asked me to start swimming and keep swimming in the direction of “good,” knowing it will be murky waters while we visit “fine” and asking me to keep going anyway. Don’t settle for a halfway recovery. Fight for the light, the color, the vibrancy of life. Reject the pieces of your eating disorder you are keeping, and find new ways to cope. Find motivation in the world around you – find it in smiles and shivers and tears and warmth and laughter and love. That is where you are meant to live, not in the abyss of “fine.”

I’m going to strive for “good.”

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 by cyano66

Originally published: January 24, 2017
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