What I Want Others on the Verge of Eating Disorder Recovery to Know
You are at a critical moment when you have decided that you want to recover from your Eating Disorder (ED). You have tallied up the pluses and minuses of your ED, and determined that the minuses are too severe to continue to ignore. This could be a gradual realization, or it could be an “aha” experience, where you suddenly find a clarity that you could not see before.
Small Picture: Maybe you’re just sick of it all. ED yelling at you. The routine and rules that must be followed. The predictability of each day that involves weights, calories, exercise. The feelings of hunger, body loathing, anxiety, and being obsessed with every detail of yourself.
Big Picture: Maybe you’ve realized that you’ve sacrificed too much of your life for ED. That his promises for “perfection” are empty. You have strained your relationships, and you may have even lost some that used to be very close to you. There are experiences that you skipped out on, because they involved food, or wearing a bathing suit, or in some way you felt exposed to others. You look back on your life, and you regret that you weren’t fully engaged.
However, you are scared. You are really scared. You want to leave ED behind, but you are afraid to give up what you know (even if it is horrible), for something that you don’t know (how can you be sure that it will be better?). Fear of the unknown has held you back before. Others who have been through recovery talk about a leap of faith, where you jump without being certain where you are going to land. To trust the professionals who will guide you, and most of all, to trust yourself. This is hard when you’ve never trusted yourself before.
Like the rest of life, recovery is uncertain. It usually does not go in a smooth, straight, line. Most of the time, it is a few steps forward, and a step back. When I began my recovery, I put a lot of pressure on myself to “get better as soon as possible.” I had a lot of momentum. Later I realized that recovery (again, like life) is a marathon, and not a sprint, so I had to pace myself. This was a much more realistic approach, as it was sustainable over a long period.
So what does the recovery marathon look like?
Well, if you’ve ever run a real marathon (or endured an experience for a while), you know that there is excitement (and some nervous energy) at the beginning, a period where you are finding your stride, moments when you see yourself comparing/competing against others, times when you are exhausted, debate the pros and cons of continuing, breaks that you take to fuel/hydrate/go to the bathroom/just walk, noticing the sights and sounds around you, catching a second wind, realizing that you have come so far, that you are really proud of yourself, and that the effort was totally worth it.
If you are on the verge of eating disorders recovery, it’s perfectly normal to be scared. What I, and others who have recovered, can tell you is that you will find a freedom that you never had with ED before. You will rediscover who you are, what you enjoy doing, the people who really matter to you, and what you want to accomplish.
This process may take a while, but as you go through it, you will realize that it is the most important thing that you will ever do.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: HEATHER HOWER
Heather Hower, MSW, LICSW, QCSW, ACSW has served on the Board of the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) since 2013, including as the Conference Committee Co-Chair, Research Advisory Council (RAC) Feeding Hope Fund (FHF) grant reviewer, and Development Committee contributor to NEDA events, programs, and positions. She collaborates with her NEDA colleagues on eating disorder research studies, papers, and presentations, including at NEDA conferences, the Academy for Eating Disorders (AED) International Conference on Eating Disorders (ICED) conferences, and the International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals (IADEP) conferences (she is also a member).
She serves as an eating disorder grant reviewer for the Department of Defense (DOD), a conference proposal reviewer for IADEP, a manuscript reviewer for the International Journal of Eating Disorders (IJED), an advocate for National Advocacy Days for the Eating Disorder Coalition (EDC), and a contributor to professional and program development (University of California at San Diego [UCSD] Eating Disorders Center for Treatment and Research). Through her Research Project Director position at Brown University Warren Alpert Medical School, Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior (2007 to present), she has also been collaborating with and supporting her local Rhode Island Hospital/Hasbro Children’s Hospital Eating Disorders Partial Hospital, Outpatient, and Home-Based clinical programs since 2013. Through her Faculty-Research Associate appointment at Brown University School of Public Health, Department of Health Services, Policy, and Practice, Hassenfeld Child Innovation Institute (2016 to present), she has also been collaborating with her Healthy Weight and Nutrition colleagues to submit grant proposals.
She has been blogging from both a personal and professional perspective for NEDA, Project HEAL, Medium, and Jenni Schaefer. Her posts can be found at:
Project HEAL: http://theprojectheal.org/blog/
Her podcast on Anxiety in the Assessment and Treatment of Eating Disorders with colleagues Walter Kaye, MD, and Guido Frank, MD, can be found at: ED Matters by Gurze/Salucore Episodes 99 (Part 1) and 100 (Part 2):
People can also follow her on Twitter: https://twitter.com/heatherhower
and LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/heather-hower-b60/