Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Truth about Recovery

When I first went into treatment, I thought that because I hadn’t had an ED for so long, and because I wasn’t binging and purging every single meal, that I would recover before the summer was out. I thought treatment would magically work and I would be in recovery without having to even try to keep behaviors at bay. Oh boy, was I wrong.
The truth is that recovery is work. Very hard, long work. You have to take baby steps to get anywhere and for every two steps forward you take one step back. Treatment won’t cure you if you don’t put in the effort. This is unfortunate, because people with EDs are usually ambivalent about recovery so they have an natural disinclination to put in the work.

What kind of work?
Well. First, you have to keep stock of what you eat, but not too obsessively, or it will lead to bad things. You just need to make sure you’re eating enough and not overeating. Then, you have to challenge yourself to slowly go out of your comfort zone by eating foods you don’t think are safe. You have to prevent yourself from eating 10 cookies even when you feel like you’re about to cry. And worse, when you’ve eaten 10 cookies, you have to prevent yourself from purging.
You have to make sure that you don’t exercise too much.
You have to practice the skills you learn in treatment. Every day. And every single time you have an urge.
You have to cope with things without throwing up or eating or starving yourself. You have to deal with people without a crutch.
You have to face your demons. You think you’re uninteresting without your illness? Let’s find out.
You will hate yourself at first. Eating more always always always makes you think you’re fat. For a bit. But then when your body begins to calm down and you realize you’re not eating enough to gain weight, it will be okay.

But all this work will pay off, right?
Not necessarily. Recovery homework never stops and it never lightens. It probably gets easier to longer and more you do it, but just because you go through the motions does not mean you’re recovered. For example, I am constantly working towards recovery, trying to set goals to get better and battling inner thoughts. It gets better sometimes, and then sometimes it gets worse. Sometimes I feel like all my effort is for nothing. I believe that in the end, once I’m fully recovered, it will be worth it, but in the moment, I just feel cheated.

The bottom line is that treatment will not make you better. It will give you skills that you can use to get yourself better, and it will give you support. But recovery is about you and if you don’t decide to do what it takes, you won’t get better.
I wish it were different. I don’t feel capable of doing it myself. I wish there could be a guardian angel standing on my shoulder telling me what to eat and what to avoid and that I shouldn’t purge my breakfast. Or someone to chain me up whenever I want to binge.
But there’s not, so I have to do it. And I can do it. And I will do it. Even if it takes the rest of my life. 


  1. I'm glad your taking these steps to recovery. I've slowly been doing the same! And it's good to know i'm not alone trying to get better :)

  2. Yes, its hard...Discipline is very important when trying to recover, but its so hard to stick to it when its easier to slip. I always promise myself tomorrow I will be better, behave better..sometimes I keep my promise for weeks, sometimes I just forget about it and don't even care. Its always easier to find excuses why we don't get better...than it is to work hard and see results. Eating is what terrifies me the most, gaining...all the bad memories related to being overweight...
    Lets just pray and hope that one day we all will be better..I know we will...
    Of course you can do it, you have always so many good advice's on your blog which I try to use and most of them work..
    No matter how long it takes, its worth for you to feel and be better

  3. So very moving dear. And you're so right. I thought my first round in treatment, I was better. I was only there for 3 weeks, but I was convinced I was better. Boy, was I wrong. Now here I am, 6 months later, and desperately trying to get back into treatment. I'm so happy to see you motivated to get better and work everyday towards recovery. You are very strong willed. Keep up the good work my dear.

  4. I don't know what to say really, only that I really liked this post:)

  5. This is so true Emily
    Recovery is probably the hardest thing we will ever do
    I've been to treatment many times thinking that just being there will make me better
    But that couldn't be further from the truth
    Like you say, recovery is work, hard work
    And it makes it all the harder that we resist getting better
    I don't think that I can say I'm in recovery
    I'm not even trying at the moment

    Loved this post
    Insightful as ever x

  6. I don't really believe in "RECOVERY" in the sense that I will be all better one day. This is the flu it wnt go away, its like diabetes it forever. I have had times when I felt so normal about food I thought nothing was wrong anymore, but just because I was feeling good didn't mean I was cured. Just like diabetics will feel fine they still have diabetes, but they are managing it. Although I do believe Recovery can be like that for some people, and I hope it is for everyone.

  7. This was a very moving post. I'm not too familiar with treatment, so I really appreciated the insight. I never really considered how much courage it takes to follow through with it.

    You sound very motivated and confident in yourself. I really admire that and I hope I can be that way some day!

  8. this was a brutally honest post. i especially agree with the fact that ED people usually don't want ot recover and recovery itself is a really hard thing to do.
    there will always be set backs. a lot of people remind you that once you have a mental illness, you'll be battling it forever sort of thing but really, when you think about it, even if you do slip-up in 17 years time or 10 or even 2, it's just worth it. recovery is a chance at living again.
    when you are eating enough to sustain your body, you are alive.
    its like nothing else. it's definitely worth it.
    -Sam Lupin

  9. That's exactly how recovery seemed to me only two weeks ago... it seemed like I hardly had a chance of getting better, because I didn't even try hard enough, even though I tried my hardest. I felt like I would never recover fully, at least not in the next few years.
    And then, I don't know how to explain it, but something happened... Somebody mentioned this website to me and I had a look at it, which somehow changed everything. I haven't been purging for 10 (!) days now, after two years of bingeing and purging almost every day, often multiple times. I feel extremely energized, I feel like finding peace with my body and myself is not so far away anymore.
    Most importantly, I am finally able to allow myself to eat. I cannot describe how relieving this feeling is. After months of depression, of emotional breakdowns every day, I have been incredibly happy for the past week. I am LIVING again!
    I would post the links to all of the articles on this website, if I could, but I'm just going to post the two that have helped me the most:

    Full recovery IS possible! And it is worth it!

  10. Yes I see exactly what you mean - recovery comes from within, and there has to be a conscious, constant effort... It's hard because it's all in the mind, and affairs of the mind aren't overcome easily, there isn't a 'bulimia' off switch.

    I do hope, however, that the 'inner demons' CAN be overcome eventually, and that it does not remain a constant struggle.

    Princess xxx

  11. Thank you for all your comments! They were really moving and I'm always glad to hear when people are inspired by something I write.
    I agree with all of you- full recovery is possible, it's just hard to get there. But we can do it!


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