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To recover or not to recover...that is the question

Posted Nov 18 2009 10:37am

Hi all - I got this question from a reader today, and it struck me that it really gets right to the heart of the question "to recover or not to recover?" So I wanted to share it with all of you - hope it helps you ask and answer this question for yourself as well!

Q. As I struggle with recovery of my anorexia, I know I have 2 choices. 1.  Hold on to the eating disorder, stop fighting and give into it. (which feels the easiest) OR 2.  Make the decision to let go and fight it daily. No matter what choice I make, I know neither one will be easy. However, I'm getting so tired of fighting.    After 20 yrs. of a daily battle, I'm starting to lose hope. Where do I go from here!

A. The first thing that comes to mind is that you have a strong awareness of your choice to hold on to the eating disorder or continue fighting to break free. Awareness is the first step to action. So having awareness of your options, and having awareness of your ability to choose one or the other - but not both - is also a big sign that you are making progress on the recovery journey.

Where the hard work comes in, as you make mention of, is acting on whatever choice you make. The good news is that the work will be equally hard whichever choice you make. I, personally, cannot think of any work that is harder than being a slave to an eating disorder day in and day out. But my perspective comes from realizing that, when I was working hard to keep the Ed voice satisfied, I had no pockets of true joy that came from all my hard work. When I transferred my energy and efforts to breaking free, however, there was no joy in the world that could compare to those bright moments of triumph, no matter how small!

We are going to work hard at whatever we do, and all of life's challenges require daily hard work and effort. The choice then becomes much more simple - where are we going to invest our time and energy and hard work? With the choice to break free, you do not get out of the hard work involved, but you give yourself the gift of HOPE, and hope is the most powerful energy of all.

So where you go from here is to keep on fighting. Over the years I have gotten so many letters and emails from sufferers who somehow have gotten the idea that there is an easier way to recover than the way they are doing it. I don't know if it will be reassuring to you to hear this, but it is really this hard for everyone. Everyone gets this tired. Everyone wonders if they have the energy to keep fighting. Every single sufferer I have ever met (myself included) fantasizes about giving up hope and sinking into the Ed forever.

So I will challenge you to try it - I know this sounds radical - but just try. It's like trying to give up living. You will lie on your bed for awhile, staring at the ceiling, waiting for the end. But then you'll have to pee. Or your favorite TV show will come on. Or your child or your pet or your spouse or your friend will need your attention. Or you will get thirsty or hungry. Or it will occur to you that you're pretty bored and you're not really too fond of yourself when you're cowering in your bed and letting this stupid Ed get the better of you.

There is a quote that I included in my book Beating Ana: How to Outsmart Your Eating Disorder and Take Your Life Back that I just love - I heard it in a story about a Holocaust victim, and it has stayed with me all these years. The quote is "You are irreplaceable, unrepeatable." This is the truth. And this is why giving up is not an option - even when we think it is - it is not an option.

You see, we just are not programmed to give up. We are programmed to LIVE. To SURVIVE. To preserve the unrepeatable and irreplaceable in life - and that includes US.

And that is why I know that, underneath the question you ask, you already have your own answer. You already know you are going to keep fighting - because that is what you are programmed and born to do, and that is what you WANT to do. I don't think you are really asking which choice you should make, or even if recovery is worth it. I think you are asking if you, too, can really do this - and if what you are experiencing is "normal" in the course of struggling to overcome an eating disorder.

And you are asking if you are alone in this, or if there are others who are sharing the fight, persevering through their fatigue and fears and sense of failure to keep trying.

And the answer to all of these questions is YES. It took me 20 years to break the Ed's grip on my heart, mind, body, and life. My spirit was never enslaved, however, and THAT - along with a lot of support from my mentor and later friends as well - was what kept me going when it was unbearably hard to continue.

Keep fighting. You already are, and you already have your mind, heart, and spirit set on recovery - even when you think you don't. And you are NOT alone in this. We are all here - recovering, fighting, surviving, and thriving - TOGETHER. You might also consider joining MentorCONNECT if you haven't already - you can find a literal wealth of recovery support within our global community of eating disorders survivors.



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