by Amy Gilbert
Why is recovering so terrifying? If you asked people with different illnesses if they wanted to recover, the answer would very likely be “of course”. With an eating disorder, it is different. Many people are more ambivalent or even resistant to getting better. This makes recovering so difficult. Eventually there comes a time when you realize that you will need to get better. Eating disorders are not a sustainable way to live. Either you beat it or it beats you. It is scary, but if you don’t recovery you will eventually die.
I have made it to the point where I am able to see this. I am able to see that engaging in my maladaptive behaviors has only landed me in the hospital every single time. I know that my eating disorder takes me away from the things that I want in my life. I am at the point where I am sick of all the loses that it brings. For these reasons I am working toward recovery. I thought once I made up my mind that this is what I wanted, that it would be easy. I guess that this was my eating disorder trying to convince me that I was in charge.
Getting better is scary and unbelievably hard. I often don’t feel ready to recover, but I don’t know if I will ever fell 100% ready. My eating disorder helps me. It is hard to leave the disease, when it has been by my side for so long. The eating disorder screams that I need it. I think it is attempting to stay alive and it is upset that I am trying to kill it. I try not to listen and to remind myself that it is all just lies, but it is nerve-racking. What if I do need my eating disorder? How will I cope on my own? Who will help me through my difficult emotions and poor self-esteem? What will I do when I feel sick and no longer look sick?
People assume the eating disorder is quieter now, but this is not exactly true. It is screaming and using every last power it has to stay alive. The eating disorder is fighting, but so am I. I am pushing harder than ever and it is exhausting. I am trying so hard to ignore it and it is incredibly difficult for me when doctors, therapists, parents and friends assume I am doing better and don’t need the same amount of support any more. It terrifies me, because if anything, I need the support now more than ever. It is not the time to lessen the services and help.
I am doing better physically and medically. People tell me I look so much healthier and it makes me uncomfortable. “See” my eating disorder tells me, “everyone can tell you have gained weight. People will never understand your pain and suffering anymore”. More lies but it is so easy to believe the lies that have been engrained in you for years.
To everyone supporting someone with an eating disorder, please don’t mention how the person looks. Even saying that they “look good” can be triggering. Also please don’t assume we are better when we are using less behaviors. Don’t assume the eating disorder is weaker, instead realize that we are stronger and need continued support.
To everyone who is struggling to recover, I want you to know that it doesn’t have to mean that all of your problems are resolved. You can be in unimaginable pain and still fight. I know it is hard. If you are working toward recovery, I am proud of you and not because you are getting better, but because you are struggling so much and pushing through it in spite the discomfort. If you are working on not listening to the eating disorder, you are courageous. Recovering is a strong (and incredibly hard) thing to do. You deserve support even if you are recovering or recovered.