I loved reading this post “How Do We Define Recovery” on your blog. It is something that had me fascinated and confused for many years. I am a firm believer that everyone’s idea of recovery is different, and there is enormous space for a multitude of opinions and experiences. Here is my definition and experience with recovery from an eating disorder
1. What does recovery mean to you? What does it include?
Recovery to me means living with freedom from the mental obsession and physical compulsion of the eating disorder. It means living life without the eating disorder dictating and constricting your thoughts and actions
2. When does recovery start?
A tricky question. I always thought that recovery would start when I “got well”, when I was “on the other side”. But now, looking back, I can see that it started long before then. It started when I became interested and passionate about recovering, when I spent as much time researching and getting help to recover, as I had engaging in the eating disorder.
3. Do you believe that once you have an eating disorder you will be in recovery for your entire life? Why or why not?
I do not believe this to be true. This is a controversial issue, but I will just give my humble opinion, based on my only qualification – my experience. I have found that today I am completely free of all eating disorders. I never binge, starve, purge or obsess about food or my weight – never. I don’t get any form of therapy that specifically addresses the eating disorder, although I still use other recovery tools to deal with emotional issues that come up in my life. I talk to people, meditate, journal and most importantly – try to help others dealing with this illness.
However, I cannot say that I feel that I am “in recovery” for an eating disorder, as I do not show or express any eating disorder symptoms. I act the same way around food as my “normal” friends who have never had an eating disorder.
I will, however, say this: I believe that if I were to ever try to engage in any form of eating disorder behavior like calorie restriction, over exercising, obsessing about “healthy food”, weighing myself or laxative abuse, the disorder could potentially resurface. So perhaps my answer is conditional. I am recovered only to the extent that I do not try to control my food or weight ever again. I have seen how powerless my attempts are and how no matter how much strength and willpower I may have – I will always lose. My mind becomes the enemy and the eating disorder will always win. As long as I stay out of that deadly game, I win.
4. Do you believe it is possible to be recoverED? Why or why not?
To answer this question, I got this definition online:
2. To restore (oneself) to a normal state:
I guess this one is tricky and depends on what you consider “normal”. This is a subjective definition, and I will give my subjective opinion and experience, as I believe this was the most important thing that helped me get to where I am. I wanted to be a “normal” eater and I had to define what that was for me. Here is what I came up with and what I used in daily creative visualization meditations to create that reality for me:
I eat what I want
I eat when I am hungry
I stop when I am full
No food is off limits
I only think about food when I am hungry
After I finish a meal, I never think about it again
I don’t diet
I don’t obsess about my weight
I only exercise for my health
I think my body is just right the way it is.
That is my definition and what I wanted so desperately. I focused on that vision for the last 2 years of my eating disorder, hoping, but not knowing that it would one day become my reality.
Today I live that exact vision. My definition has come to be my reality. That is what “recoverED” meant to me and I am a firm believer that if it was possible for me, it is possible for anyone.
If you want to read more of my story – what it was like – you can find it here.
Nina has been recovered from all eating disorders for several years and aims to help people through sharing her story, experience and recovery on www.helpforeatingdisorder.com
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