Why I am Grateful For My Relapses
By: Lily Over my near-decade long struggle with an eating disorder, I have relapsed a countless number of times. Some of these relapses were large enough to lead to returns to treatment centers while others were smaller, yet still significant. For a long time, I looked at these relapses as nothing other than moments where I had failed. I always compared myself to others I had met through treatment, measuring how quickly they seemed to get better to the length of my struggle.
Recently, I hit a milestone in my recovery journey as it has now been three years since I first began recovery. In these three years, I have spent the vast majority of the time in and out of treatment centers, with little time between stays, up until this most recent stretch of time where I have managed to be treatment free for the longest time since first entering it.
I remember that two years ago I felt frustrated that after several years in recovery I still was not where I wanted to be. I found myself focusing on my perceived failings and being discouraged by how much I was still struggling. I am happy to say that this year was much different. This year I looked back at all the times I returned to treatment, and I felt proud of knowing that more than once I have made the brave choice to continue fighting.
Each relapse and slow build back towards recovery taught me valuable lessons about resiliency, bravery, and my personal strength. I have decided to look at those times in a new perspective with gratitude for the chances I received to forge ahead. I learned something new about myself with each relapse, and I can now look at those times and see just how many times I have chosen not to let anorexia defeat me. The relapses gave me a chance to pause, look at what has brought me to a place of increased struggle, and then move forward with new insights.
I am learning that recovery is not about never struggling or having a rough day. Recovery is about being able to pick yourself up and keep going. All of my demons have not disappeared from my life because I have chosen to recover. However, I am learning to handle them differently. I am learning that there are other solutions to deal with the pain besides self-destruction. It is far from easy, and my fight is not over, but I now know that I do not have to do recovery perfectly. I just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Years ago, the words "bite by bite, I will fight" became a motto and anthem for me, one that reminds me every step forwards matters no matter if it is a leap or a tiny step. I just have to keep moving.
About the Author: Lily is a twenty-something year old with a passion for advocacy in mental health. She has been in recovery from an eating disorder and other mental illnesses for several years. She uses her own recovery story to help bring these issues out of the shadows in an attempt to lessen the stigma through her personal blog "Life and Recovery" about her recovery journey. Her hope is to return to school and enter into the field of Social Work where she can use her struggles to help others find freedom.