Recovery Is Not A Straight Line

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By: Jessica Koller

I am in a comfortable place in my recovery journey where I would like to talk about some of my achievements and some of my downfalls. Throughout the time leaving treatment at 12 years old to my life as a 20-year-old young adult today, a lot has changed to say the least.

My recovery journey has helped me learn more about myself than I probably would have never discovered. I have learned how powerful my voice is, and that there is no reason to try and live your life desiring to impress others. Growing up, and especially when I was very sick, I was always a perfectionist. I played sports and ran, which was my biggest joy in my life, yet I always had to be the best and fastest. Also, in school, I would beat myself up over anything less than an A. These signs of having to be perfect are often very common among those with eating disorders. I now know that I do not have to be the best in everything I do, because as long as I’m working hard and trying my best, that is enough for me.

Also, when my eating disorder had taken over my life, that was all I cared about. Nothing else mattered other than food, calories, and the number on that scale. Throughout my recovery, I have discovered my own thoughts and how I really felt about things, the way Jessica felt, not what my eating disorder made me think and feel. That being said, recovery has not been a straight line in any means. Through recovery, I have gained my relationship back with my parents, that my eating disorder had destroyed due to the constant arguments over food and how mean and isolated my illness made me become. One achievement is that I graduated from high school, with not all A’s, but A’s and B’s throughout, which I learned is good enough! I had the best four years in high school meeting some great friends, and my boyfriend senior year, who I now live with today! I also got to go to prom two times, which my family never thought they would get to see me do.

I have enjoyed my years since my darkest times stuck in my eating disorder and am so happy I chose recovery. Recovery is still a daily choice, however not a daily struggle. I want to emphasize on the meaning of this in a couple different ways. First, throughout high school I tried my best to stay strong in recovery even through some difficult times. I was still listening to my eating disorder a lot of the time, which made some days harder than others. There were a lot of days when hearing the negative body image talk throughout my friends really began bothering me, yet I did not stop them or engage in conversation. I now remove myself from bad body image talk or ask the person to not talk that way about themselves because it is triggering me, and to let them know they are beautiful just as they are.

Senior year I was just ready to get out of high school, and ready to move into my summer shore house with all of my friends. However, I was not putting my all into recovery, and definitely not eating enough to sustain the energy I needed to get through each day in school and work. I wanted to look good and slim for prom and the summer, which gave my eating disorder a happy burst and thought it was his time to help me achieve that goal. Luckily, I stayed healthy throughout that summer and reached out to my friends when I knew I was beginning to slip up. This is what I mean when I say choose recovery. You see, a huge accomplishment for me is reaching out to people when I need some extra help. I recently reached out to my old therapist who I haven’t needed since I was 14 years old, yet I knew to prevent a possible relapse, I wanted and needed her help. I used to be embarrassed and ashamed of my struggles, but now I know the worst thing you can do is keep how your feeling inside. When I felt most alone, I began feeling anxious all of the time and of course out of control. To keep myself on track, this is what I need to do, and I will continue to reach out whenever I need to.

Another huge accomplishment for my recovery is eating intuitively. I was so scared for most of my life to eat when I wanted, and how much I wanted, until I was full. I always had ED on my shoulder telling me I’ve had enough to eat, and I continued to listen to the rules I had made up in my head regarding food. However, today in my recovery I am able to eat my fear foods I once had for a very long time as much as I want and how often I wish to chose to eat them. I no longer listen if ED wants to chime in when I am out to dinner and see the calories listed on the menu, wanting me to choose the lowest amount possible. I chose what I want to eat and that to me is my biggest achievement. I feel the strongest I’ve ever felt especially knowing I have the power to ignore ED in order to keep my sanity and health. I want everyone to know how much work I put into my recovery even to this day, and it's okay to not be perfect. It is completely normal to have bad days, as long as you do not allow your bad days to overpower the good ones. Recovery is not a straight line, yet it is the most rewarding gift waking up every day freeing myself from my biggest demon that once controlled every aspect of myself and life.

About the Author: Jessica Koller resides in Philadelphia Pennsylvania. Jess works as a daycare teacher for infants and young toddlers.  At Project HEAL, Jess is working on monthly blogs for our site to help share with others her story in hopes of inspiring individuals who are currently struggling or in recovery as well.  Jess is passionate about helping others, animals, and playing sports. Her favorite icecream is mint chocolate chip and loves spending time with friends and family.