Where do I start with recovery, how do I recover? Does full recovery exist? What does recovered mean? These are all questions I’ve asked a some point.
First of all I believe you start by accepting this is not a normal or optimal way to live your life with an eating disorder bound by rules and invasive thoughts. You do not need to wait to become motivated to recover, you will be waiting forever if you do. You just have to take a leap of faith and start.
I believe motivation follows later. You don’t even have to want to recover, at first I didn’t want it. But the further in I got, the more I desperately wanted full recovery. Day one of recovery, it seemed like an insurmountable task and sticking with what I knew seemed easier. But recovery doesn’t have to be complicated, it can be messy. It’s not perfect and accepting that has been part of my recovery.
There are many ways to approach recovery. It is not a one size fits all, yes the pun is intended. I am lucky, I don’t shy away from this. I am a white, British female. I was fortunate enough to pay for private treatment, I chose to seek treatment privately because I am a doctor. At the time I got help I was petrified of my “sordid” secret being made public through receiving treatment publically. My family in the UK did not know the extent of my struggle, I had hidden it for many years. I also have thin privilege. I wish “thin privilege” wasn’t a thing, but sadly it is. These points have many issues, I hid my sessions from colleagues, family and when I was very very sick I refused admission because I would be treated by colleagues. Now, I would have approached it differently. Eating disorders feed on secrecy and shame. This is the very thing I want to “quash”. I would have had access to many more resources and it would have been less stressful trying to recover rather than trying to work shifts and schedule appointments out of hours. But at the time it was what I felt I needed.
Some people require a “recovery team”, consisting of various disciplines from doctors, psychologists, dieticians, OTs and recovery coaches. The team and levels can increase or decrease depending on the stage of recovery.
Some recover alone. For me, having a therapist helped. But that’s me. I have had a few now. I have met with them almost daily at some points in recovery, to now I see my therapist almost as a check in monthly. This will reduce with time also. I did a lot of the ground work myself, reading self help books, following recovery orientated social media. I chose to see a therapist as my family is in the UK, my husband is my main support and I didn’t want everything to be about the ED. I think It’s good to have someone impartial and looking outside in.
For, me, following people in recovery, or fully recovered has been by far the most influential tool in my recovery. In my opinion lived experience is invaluable. People who get the intricacies, the minutiae that you wouldn’t dare externalise to another sole unless they had been that same crazy person. We are all the same on some level, our weird thoughts, fears and behaviours are shared on a massive scale. I remember reading a post about tea spoons. I was at a point in my recovery where I could only eat with a tea spoon. If I didn’t eat with a tea spoon I would feel immense anxiety, I knew it was weird, it is fucking weird as a 30 something to be eating anything other than a yoghurt with a tea spoon. The post shared how they had once done the same, as had many others, it’s a form of restriction. And it’s weird. It had to go. I weaned myself off it, no joke one meal at a time with the caring banter from my wonderful husband. It was hard. It’s a measure for me of where I’m at, if I start thinking about using it. I stop and re-assess. Fortunately I haven’t felt the urge for many many months now. I have finally graduated to adult cutlery at 33. But I’m not complacent. I know it’s a warning sign for me.
I follow blogs, YouTube channels, podcasts of positive influencers and recovery coaches. At dark and lonely times in recovery these have been my comfort, voice I needed to hear and in more positive days reminders of what is possible. How to get to full recovery. So If you are recovering, be it alone, with a team find something that helps you. Something that works. It will be different for us all, but I truly believe carefully selected resources can get you out of some difficult moments.
I have read many recovery directed books, website articles, research papers. For me if I understand why something is happening I can deal with it far better. An example I spent hours researching the effects of restricting on the brain. I wanted to know if my brain was damaged. There is a ton of evidence and reputable studies looking at this.
Once I started seeing physical changes to my body, to help me cope, once more I asked the internet, podcasts, blogs etc if I was normal.
Questions like, will the weight gain ever stop (which I know now is both a disordered thought and a common fear), when will the weight redistribute, all the questions that others have asked and answered. My weight is uneven, because my body is holding onto a bit extra as it doesn’t fully trust me yet, in case I introduce another famine. So I’m sporting a recovery belly. Most days that’s fine, because I understand it’s keeping me alive and I’m grateful. Some days are harder because I still have some work to do on neural rewiring , I need to teach my brain the opposite of what I have taught it.
Weight gain is not a negative attribute, skinny doesn’t equal happy. I believe it more and more and I think when you have been through an eating disorder your attitude to body size, image becomes more positive than someone who’s never been through it. So I am grateful in so many ways.
Not the same kind of journal you kept as a kid, writing about latest crush. No I started using a journal as a person to talk to, to see my thoughts for what they were. To document phases of my recovery. To learn from experiences. Separating myself from “HH”helps me focus on things I need to work on and evaluate the progress I’ve made.
I’ve listed a few of the people I follow below, some are fully recovered. Some are in active recovery.
1. Tabitha Farrah. She’s a fully recovered from anorexia. She noww coaches eating disorder recovery. Takes a very blunt approach which I think at times can be useful to hear. Also loves animals and often shows them. Her YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/c/TabithaFarrar, has a blog, previous podcast and lots of excellent books
2. Follow the intuition: also a recovery coach, has a great YouTube channel and various other resources that have been really helpful. Elisa is just lovely. Recovered from bulimia, Orthorexia, dieting. https://www.youtube.com/c/FollowtheFruitFly
3. Megsy recovery: she’s English, very funny and honest. Has shared her recovery and highlights the ups and downs of recovery without pretending it’s perfect: https://m.youtube.com/channel/UCey1WBhNthBx0vDy-pHe9uw
4. What Mia did next: YouTube channel by Mia Findlay. Another fully recovered, recovery coach. Intially started capturing her journey during recovery from binge eating, anorexia binge purge subtype, exercise addiction. Has lots of resources and videos on her channel, instagram:https://m.youtube.com/channel/UCTvnKA-Oef-wruoTQ3SsLFA
5. Kate Noel, an American actress & model trying to raise awareness surrounding eating disorders, promoting HAES. Has a YouTube channel and podcast. Another genuinely open and honest person not afraid to share the truths and change attitudes.https://m.youtube.com/channel/UCTwwKc3RGOd9hq3dLI3syMg/videos?shelf_id=2&sort=p&view=0
These are just a few of the resources that have helped me. Check them out. Let me know if there’s other’s you’ve found useful.