It took 10 years into eating disorder recovery, but I did it. I now consider myself fully recovered from an eating disorder.
Recovery can be a long process due to the complexity and individuality of eating disorders, taking 2-7 years on average to recover, and sometimes even longer. As hard as that time was, I believe it taught me so much about myself, the eating disorder, and the recovery journey.
There are 10 vital lessons I want to share with you, which, looking back I wish I had known much earlier in my journey!
Lesson 1: Responsibility over Blame
Responsibility is where we take 100% ownership for where we are in life and how we are going to move forwards. HOWEVER. RESPONSIBILITY DOES NOT EQUAL FAULT.
I blamed myself for the eating disorder for years. I felt so much guilt over how it affected my family. All this did was send me spiraling into a deep place of self-loathing, rather than motivating and empowering me into recovery.
My message to you; the eating disorder is not your fault. You had to cope with whatever was going on at that time in the only way you knew how! However, you must take responsibility for where you are right now and make the commitment to yourself that things have to change!
Lesson 2: What does Recovery from an Eating Disorder Mean to You?
Trying to live up to some of the aspects of general recovery definitions was very overwhelming and daunting to me. For me, personal growth is a never-ending work in progress. Even after recovering fully, I understand that knowing my purpose is a process.
My message to you:
Recovery from an eating disorder can mean different things to different people.
Think about your eating disorder and what being fully recovered means to you. This clarity will help keep you on track as it is personal to you and your journey.
Lesson 3: Start with Realistic and Achievable Goals
I remember becoming overwhelmed trying to think long term. It made me pull away from recovery, rather than lean into it. I learned that our minds can’t tell the difference between getting to the top of the mountain (fully recovered), turning around and going; “YES, I DID IT” and walking 2 steps up and going; “YES, I DID IT”.
My message to you; start small, setting yourself something really realistic and totally achievable. It can be as small as; “just for today I set myself the goal of X”. This will help to nudge you in the right direction and build your confidence.
Lesson 4: What Else is Going On?
My recovery was impacted by my chronic illness, EDS which affects my digestive system. At the time I chose to focus on my EDS which delayed me from getting help for my eating disorder.
My message to you; other issues and challenges may arise and this is very common. It is important to be aware of other factors which could impact your recovery and work closely with your therapist and support system to ensure that you can still make progress.
Lesson 5: There is Always Another Option
Throughout my journey, I had tried so many approaches and therapies with some progress, but I still felt stuck! An Eating disorder is so complex and personal; it makes it hard to know where to go next. I remember sticking with therapies I felt were not helping me in the way I wanted, but I just didn’t know what else to do!
My message to you; look at your current treatment plan and ask yourself what is and isn’t working and what am I missing? You may need to combine approaches, build a support team, or even change treatment in order to get the help that is right for you. That is all OK!
Lesson 6: You Feed What You Focus On in Recovery
I had days in recovery where I was totally consumed by the eating disorder. I learned that what we direct our focus on, our attention feeds the energy and keeps it alive. On these days, focusing on food and my ED thoughts and feelings made everything feel worse.
My message to you;
On the hard days, be selective in your focus. Concentrate on activities, people, and places that have no link to your eating disorder.
Focus on anything you do in your day that brings you good feelings, as these are the things you also want to grow and feed.
Lesson 7: Keep Looking Forward
I found that I had to keep bringing my awareness and attention to my goals. I learnt that in our minds we have a system called the ‘Reticular Activating System’ or ‘RAS’. This allows us to filter the immense amount of information flooding into our brain, in order to find what is important. The more you decide to focus on good things and where you want to be, the more these will show up, by the way of your RAS.
My message to you; it is so easy to get caught up in the eating disorder ED and focus on reasons why we can’t achieve our goals.
Your point of focus determines the thoughts that occupy your mind. If you chose to focus on reasons why you can recover, you will find them!
Lesson 8: Shift your Focus Internally
I spent years looking outside myself for solutions to ‘fix me’ and trying to control people, places, and situations. Unfortunately, this was exhausting and took away even more of my strength. I started making real progress when I shifted my focus and begun working on resolving my inner emotional challenges first, in something I now call my inside-out recovery.
My message to you; I know how exhausting it can feel trying to manage yourself and everything going on around you. That is OK, be kind to yourself. It so important to take some time for you. Bring the focus back on you and work on building your inner resources. You are the number one priority!
Lesson 9: Dig a Little Deeper in Your Recovery from an Eating Disorder
Whilst I felt like I was making progress, there was part of me which still felt stuck. I have now learned that 90% of our daily behavior comes from our subconscious minds, which holds our habits, beliefs, values, and identity. I realized that the eating disorder had become stored unconscious and was actually being fueled by a deep belief that I was not enough.
My message to you; if you feel stuck, take some time for yourself and do some self-exploration. I asked myself this to find out what was driving my subconscious ED program; “ if there was something I believed about myself that was at the root of the ED, what would it be? Beginning with I or I am?”
Lesson 10: You Already Have Everything You Need to Recover from the Eating Disorder
Coming out the other side, the biggest realization was that, everything I did in recovery came from within me!
I was the one who had to step up, do the work and make all the changes!
My message to you;
Although you may not realize it, you already have all the qualities, strengths, and resources you need to be free from the eating disorder!
Going through recovery will just help you to build an EVEN BIGGER toolbox to help you navigate through your life.