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Why NEDA Week Is Actually Harder for Me in Eating Disorder Recovery

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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 741741.

Throughout National Eating Disorders Awareness Week this year, I was thinking about what I wanted to say. I’d sit down to write, cry a little, erase, scratch out, delete, cry a little more. I struggle to figure out why this week is so hard for me, especially since this was the first time in nearly eight years I am physically and mentally healthy enough to consider myself “in recovery.”

Last night (at the time of writing), I was scrolling through Facebook reading all the posts about NEDA week and it comes to me. For me, every week is NEDA week. Every day is Eating Disorders Awareness day; every moment, I am painfully “aware.” I feel angry, frustrated, and sad. Am I jealous? I ask myself this as I’m feeling a rush of emotions overcome me.

It’s not jealousy, I determine, because I’m truly thankful for and proud of all of my fellow recovery warriors who are solidly and boldly in recovery. I am not jealous of them, because deep down I know they have all been through both similar and unique pain, and I am so happy they are in a place in which they can confidently, bravely and even sometimes ostentatiously proclaim their recoveries.

For some of these fellow warriors, this week is about telling their story. For some, it’s about raising money, and for some, it’s about simply (or not so simply) celebrating recovery. For others, this week shouts, “hide your face and don’t let anyone know you’re sick,” and for even more — dare I say most — it’s just another week in February. For me, this week is about survival. Just getting through, because (like I said) I’m already oh-so-aware of eating disorders. Awareness is not something I need a special week to contend with. I battle my own awareness every time it’s (again) time for a meal, or a snack, or even another painful sip of water.

I feel confused, because I really am doing the best I have since I was diagnosed nearly eight years ago. And still, with my blatant awareness and stable recovery, I want to spit when those words cross my lips: anorexia nervosa. I remember the first time I heard them being used in relation to my own struggle. I was so deep in my disorder that I really just felt proud I was skinny enough to be called “anorexic.” Now, I want to cry when I hear those words because I hate them so much. Because this disorder is so evil, despicable, dark, confusing… I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone.

And so here I am, obsessively trying to figure out why my own “awareness” and recovery are so hard for me to shout from the mountaintops. Or, I guess to share online. Why is it easier for me to say, “yes, I’m quite aware of eating disorders” than it is to proclaim my own recovery during NEDA week? Why was NEDA week so much easier when I was deep in my disorder than it has been when I’m deep in my recovery? Why does this disorder, as life-threatening and terrifying as it is, bring me so much more comfort than my own recovery ever has? I may never have an answer to these questions, but this is what I do know: it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter which feels better, because I only have one option anymore. Before I used to debate my steps backward and forward, in and out of recovery. Today, there’s no debate. I walk in recovery, because any more steps in my eating disorder could be my last. That’s not to say I never make mistakes or have disordered moments and slip-ups. That’s not to say I’m perfectly in my recovery. It means I’ve been able to taste more than just food in my recovery. I’ve had tastes of life — life without an eating disorder, without self-hatred, without starvation and endless morning runs. And it tastes good. Today, I am able to have a full-time job I love, spend time with my family whom I love, munch on snacks and goof around with the friends I love, and even tell these people I love them without the fear of causing them pain with my own suffering.

I don’t always love recovery, but I do love what it brings me.

I don’t always love recovery, but I do love what it brings me. Yes, I know I already said that, but I need so badly to believe it — to believe I love being home more than I love being in treatment. That I get more joy waking up and going to work than I do waking up in a hospital bed. That I love my dog more than a random therapy dog brought to visit me in the hospital. These things can’t be real without my recovery. I can’t be real without my recovery.

Happy National Eating Disorders Awareness week to everyone who celebrated this year, because while this week still kind of irks me, it’s important for those without awareness to gain some. For those of us with a little too much awareness… well, here’s to another year, month, week and even day of recovery. Here’s to another week living free of this monster. Here’s to another week living free.

Photo via Pixabay/Pexels.

Originally published: March 15, 2019
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