Today I was lucky enough to join in an #AEDchat hosted by the Academy for Eating Disorders (@aedweb). Aimee Liu (@aimee_liu) and Andrea LaMarre (@andrealala89) led the discussions and I found their answers to be spot on. I will post a link to the conversation in the coming days, but I highly suggest you check out what both of these these women have to say!
Oddly enough, this comes on the back of a week of stumbling across a number of badass people who are writing about their recoveries from eating disorders, and it has been beautiful reading them. Some people are just beginning to seek help, others have been in recovery for years and are requiring "maintenance" of their symptoms. The differences and similarities among us continues to astound me. The fact that we can all be on the same, but different journey, and at different extents of it, is just beautiful to me. In a very awe-inspiring, otherworldly kind of way. My whole life I tried to keep away from people and protect myself and here, in our deepest struggles and darkest moments, we find each other.
I am in awe of the honesty. I am not sure if I would have been able to write so openly and publicly when I was going through my recovery. I mean, as if seeking help isn't brave enough, these men and women I am finding are talking about it as they deal with it! It is a truly courageous thing.
As I was reading through (and some discussions were related to this during the #aedchat), a lot kept touching on where the person wanted to be and hoped would be and I realized, I have tried to be such a strong advocate of "recovered" that I do not want to give off an unobtainable ideal of what it was and where I am.
I say "recovered" though for a number of reasons. One of them is that, back during my recovery, I read or heard (I can't remember) someone saying that you never really recover from an eating disorder. And that pissed me off, honestly. Because a) you don't know me and b) geez, way to be hopeful here.
I can understand what they might have been trying to say, of course -- that it could always be a battle, that whatever inclinations we may have toward an eating disorder might always be there, that ED's are -- really -- an addiction, and addictions require on-going, continuous assessment and maintenance.
But that you can "never fully recover" -- I don't believe that.
When I speak of my recovery, it's in the past tense. I am recovered. This, however, is not to say that thoughts do not try to creep back in or that I have some days where I feel uncomfortable and horrible and catch myself judging my body. But they are few and far between. The vast majority of my life is spent outside that place now. And, if I fall back into it, I have been removed so much from it and have practiced new ways of dealing with things, that I am usually able handle it. Sometimes on my own, sometimes with the help of my friends and family, sometimes with wise words from my therapist.
Was it always like this? No, definitely not. Early in the recovery it was a fight to eat. I wanted to, I needed to, and I did. But it was a fight. There was anxiety I couldn't explain. Self-loathing. All that good stuff.
Will I always be recovered? I certainly damn well hope so. I feel confident that I have my support system of my family and friends, my therapist, and my self to keep me in check. And trust the methods of coping I have learned through out the past 8 years. I explained it to my husband like this:
Back, early on in my recovery, I was on one side of a cliff and the eating disorder was across a very small crack on the other. As recovery went on, the gap between the cliff grew and grew. In the beginning, if I fell, I fell right onto the other side, right into the ED. But now, when I fall, there's this huge big chasm between me and the ED, full of family and friends, my therapist, and a myriad of coping mechanisms I have worked very hard on.
So, while the ED might always be there on the other side of the cliff. And some days maybe it's found a megaphone or might be trying to build a bridge back to me, that doesn't negate any of the work I've done or the space I have created between it and me.
Here's what I guess I'm trying to say. We can't have expectations about recovery. We can't give ourselves timelines or guidelines. I guess we can't say that we will be recovered 100% and never ever deal with those thoughts again.
But what we can say is that there is hope. That there are badass people fighting their fight alongside our fight, every day. That recover/ed/y is a word and what really matters is what we choose to do in this moment.
And that nothing, not even if we stumble, changes the fact that we are a community of warriors.