In one of my sessions this week, my client raised a really common but really painful truth. She is struggling in the last few stages of recovery and admitted that if she is to recover she wants recovery to look a certain way. She said she only feels recovery will be okay if she can recover and be thin, not recover and live in a larger body. When I asked her what she feels would be different in those two situations, she said she can’t bear the idea of recovering and having someone comment on her body in a negative way. Broken down, essentially what she was saying was “I only want to recover if I can rest assured that I won’t have to feel painful feelings, especially those pertaining to my body.” I wish this was a guarantee, that we could somehow recover and build immunity to criticism. How much easier life would be if we could only experience feelings that feel good or make us happy. Sadly, the reality is that life is going to hurt. That is true whether you recover or not.
It is important that we realize that we can’t recover and stay sick at the same time. Eating disorders love to make recovery conditional and while in the depths of our disorder, we try to make decisions based on our experience of being sick and not our experience of being well. Having helped hundreds of people suffering from all different types of eating disorders, what I know to be true is that recovery is always worth it. Sometimes it looks exactly how you imagined, sometimes different, and often better. What I have never heard is someone say that recovery feels or looks worse than they pictured. It is true that coming home to your body is often the last piece of the puzzle, and for many it is one of the hardest ones. But it is also the piece that creates the freedom that just about everyone who struggles with an eating disorder is looking for. So if you are currently struggling and trying to figure out how you can come to terms with recovery I want to recommend these 3 things:
- Complete Recovery is possible. It is hard and will take time but it is possible. I think one of the most important things you can do is hold onto this hope especially in your darker moments.
- Know that your relationship with your body will be an evolving one. Even when you recover you will still have days where you feel out of sync with your body. This is normal and okay, especially given we live in a world that over emphasizes the value placed upon bodies. What isn’t okay is feeling like your body is to blame for all the pain you have experienced in your life. Your body is merely a container for your life. It is what allows you to engage in the things you love, be with the people you love and follow your own path. It isn’t your body that needs to change, it is your minds messages about your body that need to change.
- Try to focus on the pieces of recovery that you feel will be positive. Look at the parts of your life that you will gain back, the freedom and joy you will experience, and the opportunities you can take advantage of now that you have your life back. If you get anxious thinking of your recovered life, then leave it alone for awhile. It is better to focus on taking care of yourself in the moment than to try to find a way to control what you want the future to look like.