During my six months at an intensive outpatient treatment center, I kept a list of “milestones”- small victories during my journey to look back on during particularly hard days. Some days this list included items as minor as “I ate all my snacks today,” and other days I was conquering fear foods or eating intuitively and socializing.
Most of my milestones revolved around my weight restoration goal and eating habits, because that is where ED’s voice was strongest. It was hard for me to admit that certain foods had become so scary to me that eating even a bite of them was “a victory.” My therapists reminded me that each milestone was a growth moment.
I had to remind myself that life isn’t linear. Things that were “easy” in my past became giant hurdles once ED’s voice entered my life.
Last week, I looked back on my milestones and grinned ear to ear when I saw how many of these “victories” I now do on a weekly, if not daily basis. ED no longer speaks directly in my ear during meals. He doesn’t control when or how much I eat. He doesn’t have a voice when it comes to what I fuel my body with day-to-day.
Victory and struggle
But that doesn’t mean I’ve silenced him.
ED has become much more vocal in other areas of my life- he’s front row when it comes to body image and self-esteem. He still controls my guilt around eating certain kinds of foods. And he doesn’t like when I eat out or practice too much self-care.
He has shifted over to speaking into my self-image and self-worth.
I will be honest, some days he wins. I’ve had anxiety attacks at work when a spontaneous lunch outing gets thrown on me and I have to eat out. I have my “safe clothes” that after trying on dozens of outfits, I revert to because they hide my body.
I will find any small chore to do before allowing myself time to relax on my slower days. And I still shut down when dessert is suggested at a restaurant.
But this all makes sense when seen in light of a talk I had from my therapist once day. She said “Recovery is a lifelong process. You’ll be constantly recovering with some periods of time being easier than others.”
I hated hearing this. What was the point of spending money, time and effort in a treatment center if I would never be fully recovered? Why bother?
Now it all makes sense…
But then I discharged and suddenly understood.
Because of my time in treatment and the tools, strategies and exposure I received, I now experience more of those “easy periods.” The eating disorder thoughts I still battle don’t prevent me from living my life.
Even when I’m struggling with body image, socializing, or self-worth, I still carry on with life and embrace the plans I had in place.
Now I know how to reappraise his thoughts, how to work around them, and how to focus on the “milestones” I have every single day.
You may “fully recover” in one area of your eating disorder, but be in the deepest depths of another. And that’s okay. Every day I remind myself of all I have overcome so far. This helps motivate me to work on the few things left that do need my full attention.
So, for anyone out there wondering if seeking help is worth it, please know that it is.