Why Your Recovery Isn’t Just About You

Image: @brookecagle

I was sitting in group therapy about halfway through my treatment, feeling pretty darn good about myself. I hadn’t binged in a few weeks. I was eating intuitively, meditating, and taking care of myself. I felt in control of what I ate. I thought I had this recovery thing down pat.

And then, just nonchalantly, my therapist says: “You know, it’s not about the food.”
She may as well have punched me in the face.

How could it not be about the food?

We all came here for help because we couldn’t stop eating! Of course it was about the food!

I leaned forward in my chair and stared at her, desperately waiting to hear her answer to the obvious question: Then what IS it about?

She finally answered: “Self-acceptance.”

I had never considered anything other than the significance of each forkful of food. If my problem was eating too much, then not eating as much meant my problem was solved, right? Yet…there was still that nagging stress and self-consciousness and social anxiety and general dissatisfaction with almost everything in my life that never seemed to change no matter how much or little I ate.

So maybe she had a point.

Finding self-acceptance

I thought I could never accept myself as long as I had all those problems.

So, imagine my surprise when I realized the reason I had all those problems was because I didn’t accept myself.

So, I made the huge leap from just worrying about what I was eating to actually accepting myself (and kinda liking myself)–over many, many months. I thought after such a huge insight I could be “recovered” and just go on merrily living the rest of my life. Surely I had crossed the finish line.

But there was more.

Seeing the bigger picture

I started to wonder what this was all about. I needed to see where my personal struggle fit in the grand scheme of things. Why did my recovery matter?

Nothing I accomplished felt solid or permanent until I started to see my recovery (and that of all the women going through it with me) in a larger context. When it’s all about me, it feels tenuous and malleable.

The more we talked about the sociological context of eating disorders and our larger purpose as agents of change, the more solid our foundations became.

Eating disorder recovery isn’t limited to the scope of your life. You’re recovering for everyone who is struggling and desperately needs a model of transformation. You’re recovering so you can discover the real meaning of your life, and live it completely. You’re rebelling against the oppression of unrealistic body standards for all women.

When you add purpose to your individual struggle, it completely changes the game. It’s not just about you anymore, and that gives it so much more value.

So don’t stop at self-acceptance…there’s a significant reason for healing beyond the confines of your individual experience.

What about you? Have you found where you fit in the bigger picture?