Look Recovered, But Don’t Feel Recovered? You’re Not Alone…

 don't feel recovered: image of a woman's face reflected in a mirror, with a serious expression

Are you recovering from an eating disorder? It is very possible you look recovered but don’t feel recovered. If so, you are not alone. While there is much to be said about recovering from the initial physical sickness of anorexia, there is more.

There is a long-term recovery. I’ve seen so much about those first few years but not as much about the long haul. I wanted to add my voice to those of us who are past the point of weight restoration. We are healthy as far as our bodies are concerned, but we still have not reached the point where we can say we are fully recovered.

When many people hear about eating disorder recovery they think of skinny girls trying to gain weight. Restoring weight is just the tip of the iceberg. There are many forms of eating disorders and the way that we recover from them is different.

(still) in recovery

I struggled with anorexia and have been in recovery for close to eleven years. Almost half of my life.

I’m in a very healthy place right now both mentally and physically. I’ve been listening to my body better in the last year and a half than I have in over a decade.

So why don’t I consider myself completely recovered? If I’m not sick why do I say I’m still in recovery?

Well, my recovery has been like the ebb and flow of the waves of Lake Michigan. I don’t consider myself completely recovered because there are still some things in my mind I struggle with that come and go. I haven’t gotten to a place yet where I can 100% let go of controlling of food.

Am I healthy? Yes! Do I restrict? No! Do I think of myself or food in wrong terms sometimes? Unfortunately, yes. Did you catch that word? I say sometimes because for each time I struggle there are many times when I don’t struggle. These are beautiful times.

So I struggle – then I don’t –  then I struggle again.

Riding the waves

My recovery is like the waves on Lake Michigan lapping at the shore or staying still as glass. As time passes, it changes. I grow.

Though I’ve been working on my recovery for a long time, I still believe complete recovery is possible.

I believe true and complete healing is possible.

Each year changes the surface of my recovery like the wind changes my beautiful lake. I believe that each year I get closer to being able to say, “I’m recovered.”

One winter, the lake froze so solid that my dad brought the snow blower onto the ice and cleared us a rink. We brought our skates out and cut paths through the ice that a few months earlier had been water we swam in. It was a season. 

I’m not frozen solid like the lake, unable to thaw into a healthy lifestyle. I’ve thawed, I’ve recovered, but I haven’t reached that languid place where no eating disorder thoughts exist. But I’m getting there. And I see the beauty in the process, the changing seasons of recovery.

Seasons

Maybe you’re still in that solid place. Or maybe you’re in the ebb and flow like me.

Either way, I want you to know that it gets better. I know full recovery is possible, and I’m swimming for that. I hope you and I can see the beauty of growth as we change like the lake I love.

Long-term recovery is a journey.

Sometimes I become frustrated that I don’t consider myself fully recovered. But when I look back and see how far I’ve come, I see beauty.

I’ve learned to trust the process and lean into my struggles until they pass. And you know what? I always come out the other side stronger. There is beauty in the struggle. There is a strength.

Don’t be discouraged if your recovery changes angles, faces, or textures. Think of it as the lake and dive in, warrior.

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