Life In Eating Disorder Recovery

For two years now, I have been fortunate enough to be in recovery from my eating disorder. But I must never forget that I am in recovery. I am not cured. And I have to exert fairly constant vigilance on myself, to make sure that I don’t slip back into old habits. I know now that I spent the majority of my life cultivating the thought processes that eventually led me down the path of disordered eating. What this means, is that my two years of recovery pales in comparison to the 23 or so years I spent in the throes of my eating disorder. I am still very much a beginner in this thing.

What people don’t tell you about eating disorder recovery, is that it is not like taking a medication and having your painful symptoms disappear. It is more like choosing to live and show up to your one life by taking the medication, but then having all the same painful feelings you were having before. If anything, the feelings are extra loud and insistent. You have taken away your coping mechanism. Now when that damaged part of yourself tells you to starve, you can not. That energy must be used elsewhere.

I have come a long way with these voices, but my body dysmorphia is particularly bad right now. There is no reason why – I have not gained weight, and I have not lost weight. For some reason though, the feeling of my skin is making me extremely uncomfortable. I would love nothing more than to reduce the size of the human I see in the mirror. And I know that if I do, I endanger my life and everything in it. I will lose time to fighting myself and my energy and vitality will leave me. I have spent the last couple of days feeling angry that I think I have gained weight. Angry, and tired from all the diet computations I have had to mentally work through and let go.

Whenever I hear someone claim that they are cured of their addictions, I cant help but feel skeptical. For something as relentless as an eating disorder, I find it hard to believe that someday I will not find myself obsessing over what I have eaten. Or making some plan to lose weight, or catch myself scrutinizing my body in the mirror. But I don’t view these moments of weakness as failures. I view them as human moments. It took most of my life to get into this thought process. I expect to spend real time learning to live around it.

Because moving away from any addiction is utterly terrifying. You are left without a form of self containment. All that remains is the intense craving to go back to your dangerous safe place, a craving that you cannot give in to, or you risk dying. Those are some gnarly odds, and the decision to eat, to take in life and give yourself the chance to live is the most radical thing you can do. The day that I decided to eat, was the day that changed everything.

And this knowledge is my anchor in the world of health and eating. My body dysmorphia is bad right now. But that does not mean that it will be bad in one hour, one day or even one month. Everything changes, and discomfort now can mean happiness and strength tomorrow. However, what I do know to be true is that starving myself, ends in a lot of pain for myself and those around me. I know it, because I have lived it. It is a slow and gradual decline, but it is a decline. There is too much possibility in my life these days for me to give in to those old, mean voices.

What I found, as I began to get some time in recovery, was that whilst the voices never go away, they certainly fade. They become a background noise that is easier to drown out. And in a way, I found them extremely beneficial. In the past two years, whenever those voices have gone away, I suddenly realize that I have stopped eating. I gave in. And I had to start again with feeding myself. Sitting with them, and looking them in the face has been a treasure trove of insight. My desire to starve comes from a place of feeling unheard and worthless. I was a sensitive and shy child. As an adult I used starvation as a means to separate myself from me. I felt less, spoke less and needed less when I was starving.

And so, today I decided to not give in to those voices. I will continue to ‘think through’ my eating disorder. This to me means thinking about starving. Reliving the high and sense of control it gives me. And then going further. Remembering the exhaustion of climbing stairs, the constant anxiety, the distance from my loved ones. The brain dead energy I brought to my life. The feeling of hopeless dread over nothing.

So, for today, I will continue to commit to my three meals a day. I will exercise in a way that gives me strength and faith in my body – not in a way that diminishes my size, energy and capabilities. I will meditate. I will avoid mirrors as much as possible. And I will throw myself into my life and relationships with all the energy that eating properly allows me.

Because that is all I can really do right now. I am not the result of one massive lifestyle change. I am a culmination of every little action I do throughout the day. Living in recovery is extremely challenging. Sometimes the only thing I am capable of is thinking one step ahead. If I get too caught up in my future, I lose my grip on the present.

So today, try doing the small things that bring you back to center. It is all about progress over perfection after all 😀




Main Photograph | Jeremy Choh

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