Some people can recall the moment with acute vividness, and some have no bloody idea how or when it started. But from the moment an eating disorder sneaks its way into your brain, you feel its touch. Whether its insidious and pervasive, or a delicate breeze upon the nape of your neck. To borrow the language of addiction, I believe we are always in recovery, and recovery is a process that can be both horrific and wonderful. And not being “fixed” is absolutely OK.
I wish someone told me that when I was 14 and in the midst of a battle with bulimia and anorexia. I distinctly remember feeling that if I could only just “get over it,” then everything would “go back to normal.” But the dismal amount of people that knew about my “problem” didn’t know how to “fix me,” nor did they know that they couldn’t fix me, nor did they know that I would never be “fixed again” — because human beings aren’t objects that can be fixed.
The way we (as people who live with eating disorders) talk about eating disorders is so crucial to the way we find and maintain our recovery. We aren’t broken, and we don’t need to be fixed. As with any other major life event, we are changed. We aren’t the same person who we were before the eating disorder started.
This might sound dire, but in retrospect, this information would’ve been very healing. I wouldn’t have put the extraordinary amount of pressure on myself to try and fix the parts of me my eating disorder “broke.” I wouldn’t have examined myself in fragments, trying to discern the “normal” from the “messed up.” I might not have discarded psychotherapy and psychiatry so frequently throughout the 15-year struggle with my eating disorder. I wouldn’t have been so discouraged when I didn’t feel fixed enough, I wouldn’t have quit due to lack of results and maybe I wouldn’t have had to fight for so many years to find recovery.
If you’re fighting an eating disorder, you fully comprehend the ramifications of feeling too much pressure; after all, the pressure we put on ourselves because of and as a result of the eating disorder is enormous. And it can feel like that pressure will never abate, and that we will be trapped in this world of the eating disorder for the rest of our lives. But both of those things are not true.
Discovering and embracing recovery is one of the most difficult things I have done, and one of my proudest accomplishments. Letting go of a companion that shadowed me for 15 years offering false promises of happiness and rewarding my trust with misery seemed like an enormous sacrifice. But ditching my eating disorder security blanket brought up monsters trapped in my 13-year-old head. Letting go of the need to feel “fixed” opened me up to finally learning how to cope with the dark “unspeakable” traumas that fed my eating disorder and move towards self-awareness and healing.
Throughout my ongoing recovery, I’ve learned that my eating disorder is a part of my story and a part of the person I am each day. Those thoughts that seem disordered and wrong come and go, and I let them. But these thoughts don’t have to define you, and they shouldn’t.
You can learn a great deal about yourself when you allow the eating disorder, and the painful memories of your battle with it, to teach you. And even as you’ll never be the same because of it, you can be OK, successful and happy. Even if you still feel its presence in your life. Even if you have a bad day, and even if you find recovery slipping away. Accepting the self that you are, and the self that you fought to become because of and in spite of an eating disorder, is a crucial part of recovery. Rarely do I allow myself to feel the pride I deserve to feel, and if we could supplant words like “broken” and “incurable” and “relapsed” with “progress” “accepting” and “beautiful,” I think we can find recovery much more palatable, and eventually, never let it go.
The Mighty is asking its readers the following: If you could go back to the day you (or a loved one) got a diagnosis, what would you tell yourself? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.