Life after treatment is supposed to be perfect, right? You are supposed to be "cured" and back to your normal self. At least, that's what everyone thinks. You dedicate time out of your life to do whatever you can to achieve recovery, to reach a life free from your worst demons. But the thing is, it isn't all sunshine and happy days once you finally get through the treatment process.
That's the thing with recovery from anything — it never stops.
At some point, you have to accept that you are going to live with this disorder for the rest of your life.
That's just a simple fact. The important part is that you apply what you have learned in treatment and in life to fight those voices and come out victorious during your battles.
Everyone on the outside has a hard time understanding this because they haven't been in your shoes. You have good days and bad days. All the while you are putting on a mask to those around you that you are better and that you aren't struggling anymore.
The alarm buzzes and you put on the mask. You shower, get dressed, do your hair, put your makeup on, tell your family you love them, and then walk out the door. You start your day, all the while thinking about how you are going to convincingly fake it till you make it. You laugh to yourself, because you know that that is all you have done for these past few years. Day in and day out you can't let anyone know how you are feeling — you can never appear weak.
This society makes us think that it isn't OK to not be OK. So you put on your mask to paint a picture that everything is just how you want it to be. You wish someone would be able to see past your leather tough exterior, to get into what you are really dealing with, to what you are really feeling. You wish someone could see past that mask to see that you aren't OK. Someone who cares enough to know that you need more help and support than what you're hinting at.
Instead, you decide to hide beneath the mask that has gotten you this far.
Not only is the mask always there for your safety, but your eating disorder is patiently waiting for you to give it another chance.
It promises you safety, worthiness, deservingness, and that you are good enough. When you get rejected by the guy you like or the friends that you want so desperately in your life, that disorder is there. It's there to remind you that you aren't good enough, you are fat, no one likes you, you're not deserving, your life is a piece of crap, you need to restrict and exercise, and that the future is hopeless.
No matter how much you remind yourself that this thinking is wrong and that you have so many positives in your life, your eating disorder is louder.
It has controlled you for so long that it's all-consuming — you can't see past it. So you start to believe it. You believe that it must be right and that's why your life isn't what you want it to be right now. You start to think that maybe it is right, maybe it can promise you all of the things that you want. So you start to go back to it, slowly but surely. You don't want to, but there it is, always in the front of your mind waiting to prey on you when you are the most vulnerable. It tells you not to open up again because you will just get hurt. So you start to isolate. You begin to restrict because why do something that will make you even less loveable? You start to find ways to exercise when you shouldn't be. This leads to a depression that is so unbearable. You hate yourself for giving into it but sometimes it's all that you know. It's the only way you can think to deal with the things that are going wrong in your life. You don't want to do anything or be with anyone, only the eating disorder that knows you so well.
But what is the point in telling anyone this? No one will understand and nothing will make it better. You would have people worried about you because you are supposed to be better, you are supposed to be "cured." So you decide to hide behind the mask once more, pretending that you're fine. You've lived to survive another day right? Thank God for that mask, because without it, who knows where you would be.
The thing about recovery is that isn't a one-and-done process, it is a lifelong battle. It sure isn't linear either — you have good days and bad days. The important part is that you wake up every day choosing recovery. That you accept that there will be setbacks and struggles, but that you will do what you can do to come out stronger and better than ever because of them.
Recovery from any mental illness is tough, so be patient with those who are in any stage of recovery. Try to realize that just because someone is in recovery or is done with recovery, that they are going to come out "cured" and happy. You don't have to understand their disorder and what they go through daily but you can at least be sympathetic, encouraging, and supportive of those who are in recovery. You never know who could be putting on that mask.
As someone who has recently gone through Eating Disorder Treatment, I can relate to the thoughts and feelings of thinking that you need to be "all better" when you come out of treatment.
That's what people expect. For my entire life, I have fought the feeling that I need to be perfect in whatever I do. When I got back from treatment and found myself still struggling at times, I felt terrible about myself. But the thing is, my struggles have shown me how strong I can be when faced with them. I have learned tools to help me when I am struggling. People still expect me to be completely better but I find myself reminding them that it isn't like that, that it is something that I will never be completely free from.
Recovery is a lifelong battle filled with ups and downs but it is something that I have to choose every single day