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The Truth About Eating Disorder Recovery (From Someone in Recovery)

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Recovery from an eating disorder is not synonymous with y = 2x+1. It’s not a linear equation. Speaking realistically, it’s closer to a sine graph — constant waves representing peaks and troughs. If you are someone who is wondering whether or not recovery is truly something you are “cut out” for, keep reading. 

As cliche as it may sound, nothing worth having comes easy. This is a phrase that just about defines the entirety of recovery. I used to think recovery would be a straight shot to healthy once I had the motivation and resources I needed to get the work done. However, recovery was not my own personal y = 2x+1, and it’s not something that would ever be defined by a simple linear equation. 

Recovery is hard; there are no if, ands or buts about it. This is a truth that is seemingly difficult to accept. So many of the social media platforms, including tumblr and Instagram, can place a filter on recovery, making it seem simpler and significantly easier to obtain. I’ve scrolled through my feeds, looking at the recovery hashtag, hoping to find someone who speaks the truth about the recovery I’m feeling. But as you may imagine, I haven’t found it yet. 

Cyberspace often paints a picture of recovery as a smiling girl who is happily weight restored, body positive and posting photos of every meal, perfectly arranged as if it was only for show, and not for eating. There’s nothing wrong with this picture, as I have hope that one day that’s what recovery could mean for some of us. But it’s become so taboo to even talk about eating disorders, that we feel pressured to place that Valencia filter on our recovery process, often out of fear of what the rest of society will think of us. 

I want to tell you about recovery — the unfiltered, messy, roller coaster that it is, in its harsh entirety. 

Recovery is waking up in the morning, and not being hungry. It’s having to convince yourself to eat the breakfast your mom has begged you to consume, and keeping it down after she leaves for work. Recovery is having to restructure your life — whether that means work or school — completely around eating. It’s setting reminders on your phone to say it’s time to have a snack. It’s eating your entire lunch and immediately regretting it, because you live with the fear every day you take up too much space, and can’t bear the thought of getting any bigger. It’s crying, lots of crying. Crying at your food, at your friends, at your weight. It’s listening to the voices in your head, but actually hearing them. It’s not about drowning them out anymore because you have to hear them and decide to disobey them. It’s listening to and often agreeing with them, but refusing to let that be the reason you act on the symptoms that almost stopped your heart, killed your electrolytes and made you so weak you didn’t know who you were.

I started to self-harm; it’s a way of symptom substituting so you can continue to take out your pain on yourself, but convince your friends, teachers and parents that you are thriving as a weight-restored or nutritionally-sound individual. Recovery is trying on the clothes you’ve been wearing since your freshman year, begging the question as to why you can’t get them to fit anymore, even though you truly know the answer. Recovery can seem just as brutal as your eating disorder. It’s the pain of the refeeding process, constant blood drawls and becoming someone you have probably never been before. Recovery can feel like you’re dying, but it’s really just the fear of truly living for the first time in your entire life. 

There’s nothing wrong with living for the happiness that recovery will bring. It’s withholding the details that make us think it’s a straight-shot deal that presents a problem.

Recovery can be sunflowers, but it is remembering that first flowers must grow through dirt. 

sunflower with a butterfly on it.

The Mighty is asking the following: What is a part of your or a loved one’s disease, disability or mental illness that no one is aware of? Why is it time to start talking about it? Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Originally published: May 20, 2016
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