How I Recovered From An Eating Disorder
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Health and Wellness

How I Recovered From An Eating Disorder

Part three: freedom.

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How I Recovered From An Eating Disorder
Freedom

This is the final part of a three part series about my personal eating disorder story as well as a look into a life with ED.

I should disclaim that every eating disorder is different and every person with an eating disorder has a different reflection of it. So, I am not, by any means generalizing myself as a prototype, for lack of a better word, for everyone who has fallen into the grasp of a life-sucking eat disorder. Also, there is some triggering content and what I describe is very straightforward. But my goal here is to expose the demon that is an ED, kill the stigma, to educate and show people the truth behind this brutal disease.

In parts one and two I explain the behaviors and mentality behind my eating disorder i.e what I did, how I felt and who I was. In this last part, I will focus on the challenges and reality of ED recovery and what comes after life with an eating disorder.

Personally, I made recovery a more difficult road for myself, at least at the start. I suppose this is where I stray from the norm of recovery - I kind of did it on my own. Many people pull in a lot of outside support while recovering from an ED, which is not at all a bad thing. In fact, I think it is brave and a great thing that people feel comfortable enough to communicate these feelings to others. But, it just wasn't my cup of tea. I tried therapists and nutritionists, but I was so out of my element and uncomfortable, I felt I was resisting and taking steps back, rather than forward. I am a very 'proud' and 'to myself' kind of person, so, while I kept family and friends curiosity at ease, I never really let them see the whole struggle as I recovered.

I sometimes wish I had been more open to communicating with others. I feel I could have helped the people around me understand better and made progress myself by being open about these issues. But, ultimately, I stand by my choice of doing this on my own (without a lot of outside support) because, if I have learned anything from recovery, it is that my recovery has to be my choice. No one else can recover for me or make me recover. I have to actively make the decision to take care of my body and mind. I have to gain confidence and self-love and no one can do those things for me.

Recovery is tedious. Waiting for progress is like watching grass grow. I remember taking weeks just to eat one 'normal' or regular meal without purging it. It look months to go more than a week without binging and/or purging. Up until 5 months ago to stop taking laxatives. And 10 months into recovery and I still struggle some days - I still get consumed by ED thoughts, I get triggered by certain things, I still get sensitive about talking about food or my eating sometimes, and still have work to do before I am fully 'recovered' or as recovered as I aim to be. But that is all internal stuff, and for most part I am not bothered by these things anymore because they are usually just passing thoughts - I know one day they will fade a way, just like other parts of my eating disorder have. Physically, I am healthy. My ED is no longer present in my physical body or my behaviors. But mentally, I still strive to go further.

Having an eating disorder is hard, but trying to recover from one brings the term 'hard' to a whole new level. Physically I had destroyed my body, so returning to 'normalcy' was quite literally painful. As I began to eat regularly, not purge and stop laxative abuse, my body went through an adjustment period. My body would retain water and my hands, feet and face would swell up. I gained weight very quickly because my body had been in 'starvation mode' for so long that it was storing fats. I as bloated for weeks at a time. And, this wasn't your typical period or end of the day bloat. This was painful, constipated, looked 4 months pregnant kind of bloating (see below).

(after 2 weeks of bloating - couldn't zip up my jeans & it hurt to stand up)

The physical part was rough, there is no denying that. And these changes did not help my mentality. All these things were incredibly triggering - I felt more disgusted with myself during these times than I ever did during my ED. I was so tempted to throw in my towel and go back to my ED. But, I just kept pushing, praying and hoping this was just a 'storm before the calm' kind of thing (which it was).

Taking care of the physical behaviors was only a small piece of the puzzle. In my opinion, it is the quickest and easiest part of the process. Many people do this and claim recovery - since they are weight restored or not purging and they look better, they claim they are better. WRONG. It's both the behaviors and the emotions that need to be catered to. With one thing comes the other - it is like two sides of the same coin. So, you have to heal the mind and it's feelings too. Which isn't a number of a scale or lack of an action, it is changing a way of thinking. And, if you have ever tried to change a fixed mindset in yourself or another person, you know it like trying to brake a brick wall with your pinky finger.

An ED is not just a way of thinking to shift attention from ones emotions, it becomes an identity. It takes pieces of who you are, from your everyday actions to even your personality. So, along with basically learning how to eat, I had to learn who I was. My day to day life with ED consisted of thinking about food constantly, planning my day around my binges and purges, and my body-image controlling my mood and attitudes. So, when I dedicated myself to recovering, I basically found myself tying to identify who a was, what my everyday routine would be and, and what felt like my whole life without this thing that I once held so close. But, at the same time, that is what I wanted so badly. I wanted to know who I was without my ED controlling and inhibiting my mind and body. It was, for the longest time, my only means of motivation.

The thing about recovery is you can't just quit cold turkey, you have to face one fear at time, let go of one behavior at a time and address your emotions as they come. For example, I was terrified of consuming (meaning eating and not purging) bread. So, after I finally started eating regularly and no longer purging, I decided to start facing fear foods. The first time I ate bread, I freaked out and ended up relapsing. It was a snow ball effect; one purge turned to another, which turned to a binge and purge, which replaced a meal and there was, two weeks later, head first in my ED again. Now this was my first and last relapse, about 6 months ago. While it was quick and I bounced back, it made it harder to gain this 'food freedom' I longed for.

When it came time to face bread again, and I started to panic, I took a (mental) step back and focused inward. I wasn't scared of the bread or it making me fat, I was scared of the uncomfortable feeling of letting go of control, of eating this food that was not allowed by ED for whatever reason. Whether is was because it was carb or sugar loaded which can make you gain weight (lose control), if not eaten in portion, or just too many calories for my ED to justify eating. While eating doesn't need a justification, my ED often made me believe I was not worthy of nourishment because I felt a certain (irrational, for lack of a better word) way- I couldn't control my feelings, but I could control my body, weight and food intake. So, I had to separate these disordered thoughts from myself just to eat 'normal'.

If you an picture me doing that with all the fear foods and disordered behaviors, you can probably see why recovery is such a challenge. With every behavior, thought or urge comes a feeling, and mending that feeling prompts progress, and moreover, recovery. Now, I eat bread almost everyday, without second thought. I know a piece of bread won't make me gain weight. And honestly, who freaking cares if it does. If I am listening to my bodies needs and wants, I will be healthy. healthy is not a body type. healthy doesn't mean thin, or lean or not fat. It can mean thin, but it can also mean this so called 'fat'. But realizations like this took me so long and so many trails and tribulations to understand and believe.

I see food and my body differently now. Food is truly wonderful. Because it can taste great, but because it can fuel me. I think having taken advantage of the amazing thing food can do just for my mood, brain capabilities, and decision making skills makes me appreciate it even more. I not longer see my body as a definition of my beauty or worth. I see it as something truly strong. Think about it, you're body take you places, it can reproduce other human beings, it can run 26 miles or lift 200 lbs if you work it to. And, it is not because it looks a certain way, it's because you take care of it.

Let me tell you, there is nothing more exhilarating yet cathartic about looking in the mirror and actually liking the person looking back at me, or finally wearing clothes that aren't 2 sizes too big, or eating out at a restaurant and not being haunted by the unknown calories, let alone thinking about calories. Food freedom and body acceptance are two incredibly important things in life that get narrowed and manipulated by conditions and standards. Those two things are what recovery has given me that I will never take them for granted, simply because I know what it is like not to have them.

Now, I am happier, stronger and better than I have ever been. That is why I can talk about these things. I know I will have bad days, even weeks. But I also know I will NEVER go back to the place I was almost a year ago. I hated myself then, and love myself now. Along with ridding of my ED, I have fallen in love with taking care of myself. I eat and have energy to go out and be active, and to think clearly. I take care of my body and love this vessel of strength I created - it is truly and beautiful thing.

Now, if you have stayed with me through these three parts, (1) thank you for hearing me out and, (2) hopefully you learned some things about eating disorders and the toll they can take on a person. I share my struggles and my story to keep this conversation going and to finally rid of these stigmas that keep ED's in the dark. I dream of a day when we don't need scapegoats and distractions from feelings, and we can address these emotions knowing people will seek understanding and not judge.


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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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