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How to Know When You’ve Recovered From an Eating Disorder

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Editor's Note

If you experience suicidal thoughts or have lost someone to suicide, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

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 741741.

Recovering from an eating disorder is one of the hardest things I have ever done. I struggled with an eating disorder for 12 years. Going to treatment was like a revolving door. I would go, discharge before my time due to insurance or I would leave confident that “this time was it,” only to find myself walking back through those doors again a few months later. One thing you commonly hear patients going through the recovery process ask is: “how do I know when I’m recovered?”

This is how I knew I was recovered.

There was never a single thing that made me suddenly “recovered.” I was recovered when I stopped asking myself how I would know when I finally reached that milestone of being recovered. I became “recovered” when I started simply living my life. It is something that happened gradually for me and in all honesty, it happened without me realizing it. The process just became part of my life.

Now, there was a day when I realized, “Hey, I think I’m actually finally doing it.” I was driving home from an appointment in the middle of rush hour when my mind started to reflect on the past year. That past year, I had had eight surgeries, two of my friends passed away, my grandfather passed away and a family member attempted suicide right in front of me, leaving me to use my medical skills to care for him while waiting for an ambulance. One surgery alone in the past was enough to send me spiraling down into the depths of my eating disorder, but this past year it didn’t. Everything listed as a red flag in my relapse prevention plan happened to me, and I didn’t fall into my eating disorder. Instead, I coped with situations that felt unbearable in a healthier way.

Reflecting back and being able to see how I handled stressful and traumatic situations differently is how I finally knew I was recovered. The funny thing is that at the time, I wasn’t even aware I was using my skills to cope differently. It just happened.

Recovery happens differently for every person. It is a very individualized process. So, to answer the question, “How do you know you are recovered?” You don’t. You just do it, and then one day it just clicks and you realize you have already been doing it. Don’t try to focus on the “when will I be recovered” question; just go along with the process in the moment. It will happen.

Photo by Marcis Berzins on Unsplash

Originally published: February 10, 2020
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