Long Term Recovery
There has been little research on long term recovery in eating disorders.
This is probably due to a number of factors, including a lack of consensus in the field on the definition of recovery, very few longitudinal studies on eating disorder recovery trajectories, an absence of assessments to measure indicators of recovery, and reluctance to participate in research after recovery.
Nevertheless, personal stories shared by recovered individuals who were brave enough to identify themselves and speak out have indicated that long term recovery is worth the struggle that it took to move away from their eating disorders.
People have described not only living a symptom-free life, and improvement in functioning, but also discovering who they really are, what they like, and goals that they never thought they would achieve.
Many have indicated that they are grateful for the lessons learned from their eating disorders. These include not only difficult experiences, and the coping/resilience that they demonstrated, but also the positive aspects of their personality that they have utilized to have a successful life.
When I first began my recovery from anorexia, I envisioned a day where I would wake up, not hear the Eating Disorder (“ED”) voice in my head, eat when I was hungry, stop when I was full, not over-exercise, not weigh myself, not obsess about my body image, and go about my work.
Later, when I had achieved this, I asked myself,
“Who am I without ED?”
“What do I actually like to do, instead of what other people think I should like to do?”
“What do I want to accomplish with my career, family, friends, personal life?”
I realized that I will always have a baseline level of anxiety, specifically Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), that emerged prior to my anorexia and still has trait remnants.
Instead of fighting it, I decided to capitalize on it with my attention to detail in most aspects of my life, which overall has served me well.
I am the researcher who edits grants, papers, and presentations on our study to correct any errors.
I am the member of our family who coordinates celebrations and vacations to make sure everything is booked.
I am the mom who completes all of the paperwork, schedules all of the appointments, buys all of the necessary items, and outlines the plans for the days.
I am the friend who reaches out to others to plan visits so that we don’t lose touch over time. For my personal life, I arrange for different appointments with providers to keep me healthy, and try to get some down time in between.
So, my long term recovery from anorexia looks like an absence of “ED,” a discovery of “the essential me,” the recognition of personality characteristics that are constant, and the use of these tendencies to enhance all areas of my life.
It is better than I ever could have imagined.
About the Author: Heather Hower
Heather, MSW, LICSW, QCSW, ACSW has served on the Board of the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) since 2013, and collaborates with her NEDA colleagues on Eating Disorder research studies, papers, and presentations. Through her position at Brown University Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior, she has also been collaborating with her local Rhode Island Hospital/Hasbro Children’s Hospital Eating Disorders Partial Hospital, Outpatient, and Home-Based clinical programs since 2013. Heather had Anorexia Nervosa for 23 years, and has been recovered since 2012. Her blog posts can be found at:
Project HEAL: http://theprojectheal.org/blog/
Jenni Schaefer: https://jennischaefer.com/blog/eating-and-body-image/recovered-eating-disorders-professionals-stigma/
You can also follow her on
Twitter: https://twitter.com/heatherhower Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/heathermeghower/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/hhower and