The concept of recovery is so complex and took me quite a while to truly comprehend. How could I be “recovering” when I don’t look sick? Or how I could be “in recovery” when I’m not underweight and don’t need to gain any?
I asked my therapist these questions one day, and she reminded me that I wasn’t healthy…
Just because I don’t need to gain weight, which is what I believed recovery from restriction was all about, doesn’t mean I am not in recovery or don’t need to be.
Now that I’m over half a year into recovery, I’m starting to better understand what it means and what it’s truly about. Recovery for me may not involve the need to gain weight, but it certainly involves the need to regain my health and life. So, when I do start to doubt if I need to be in recovery at all and imposter syndrome gets the best of me, I remind myself of these three major aspects that help me realize how crucial and valid my recovery is.
1) Physical Recovery
Many of us look at our weight or appearance to judge how healthy we are, when in fact, our outward appearance has absolutely nothing to do with our physical health. For example, I may look “normal” or “healthy” to others, but I suffer from vitamin D deficiency that results in extremely painful joints and exhaustion, as well as weakness that prevents me from engaging in any activities that involve standing for too long. So, when I think about recovery, I remind myself that I need to regain my physical health to be able to function and do what I love.
Regardless of what type of eating disorder, we have caused some sort of damage to our bodies no matter how minor or severe, and each day in recovery we are preventing our bodies from further damage which is what we should constantly be reminding ourselves of.
2) Mental Recovery
Mental recovery is something we don’t think about very often but just like the body, the mind needs to heal. Personally, recovery means I need to heal from all the negative thoughts that played a role in me getting to my worst, as well as learning how to develop healthy ones.
For example, how can I think about food differently or in a way that makes me not feel guilty? How can I think of myself in a non-deprecating matter? And how can I learn how to not get stuck in a dark place that I feel I can never get out of?
To me, learning these things and lessening the negative thoughts means health and recovery because it all starts with the mind. So, even if you don’t necessarily suffer from any physical health problems, remember that your mind still needs to recover, otherwise, you would not be suffering from an eating disorder.
3) Living and Being Free
The final but major thing I remind myself of when I hear the word “recovery”, is being able to enjoy living again and being free from my eating disorder.
When I think about how my life has been consumed by my eating disorder and how most of my actions and decisions have been determined by it, the word recovery means I’m slowly and steadily breaking free. Every day I work hard to make sure my ED plays less of a role in my life, and do what I desire to do. Of course, it’s easier said than done, but trust me, every little step you take, even if it’s just adding honey to your tea, you are giving yourself more power and your ED less.
Think of it as slowly loosening those chains that held you back for so long. And if you feel like you don’t “need” to recover physically or mentally, then remind yourself that learning to live your life as you wish and being able to enjoy life more and more each day is no doubt an extremely important aspect to recovery that we all deserve to work towards.
You’re Not an Imposter
We don’t need to be in critical condition to start recovering, and just because someone else’s recovery involves being inpatient, therapy sessions, having to gain weight or anything else that is not part of your own recovery, does not make your recovery invalid or unnecessary. Any improvement or regaining your energy and happiness is recovery. Your recovery is valid, and you are not an imposter just because it doesn’t look like someone else’s.