“And remembering recovery is indeed defined by progress, not perfection; every valiant act of courage taken in hope of overcoming an eating disorder should never be underestimated.”
Finding the Strengh to Carry On
Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, ICCL
The prospect of recovery being ongoing can be a daunting prospect. Yet, the concept of being completely “recovered” from an eating disorder is something of an ongoing debate. At what point can a person who has struggled with an eating disorder consider themselves fully recovered, and how is this defined or measured?
While the answers to these questions may not clearly be spelled out in easy to define ways, there are many measures that are telling of progress in recovery. Recovery by any means should be considered nothing less than a fight for life and freedom from the overwhelming burden that is an eating disorder. However, the striking reality is that this picture may be painted differently for each individual walking this road.
For the middle-aged woman who is battling a decades-long fight against bulimia or the college-aged male who is struggling with anorexia, progress in recovery may look completely different – though differences do not negate what is momentum against these psychiatric illnesses. For one person, recovery may mean choosing life each and every day; for another, recovery may mean the bravery to work with a therapist to face a painful past.
“Every single courageous step taken in the name of eating disorder recovery is powerful; momentous enough to shatter the stronghold of an eating disorder.”
When you are facing an unknown future with the presence of an eating disorder, it is easy to limit your perspective with the reality you are currently faced with. The mind convoluted with an eating disorder views things in terms of the disease: “How can I avoid eating this meal?”, “Where can I get rid of this food?”, “Why would anyone love me as I am?”
Recovery, in contrast, looks ahead in face of these fears and questions and asks instead, “What must I do now to stay alive, to truly thrive in life?” When asked in these terms, the prospect of recovery becomes much more attainable – meeting you where you are today and empowering you with the hope you need to keep moving one foot in front of the other.
The truth is this: your life is meaningful and valuable. You are worthy of love and care, and having an eating disorder does not lessen that. Because eating disorders are chronic diseases by nature with strong biological underpinnings, this may very well be an ongoing part of your life. Rather than wallow in the overwhelm of what lies ahead, mindfully meet yourself in the present to act on what it is you need today to keep yourself moving forward.
No act in recovery is too small or insignificant to continue challenging the eating disorder that calls you away from the life you want to live.
“Even in the moments where it feels like all hope is lost or that you cannot possibly pull yourself together once again, there is opportunity for healing and restoration.”
Wherever you might find yourself today, it is important to understand that recovery can meet you exactly where you are at: in the midst of brokenness, confusion, shame, guilt, frustration and the overwhelming messiness of life with an eating disorder. You cannot wait for yourself to reach a certain standard that will never be met. Recovery can start with the simplest of steps: confiding in a friend, eating that next meal, staying off the scale, asking for accountability, connecting to help. Sometimes recovery means pulling up the blinders and resisting the tendency to compare to what everyone else is doing; simply focusing on the here and now and asking yourself, “What is the next step I need to take to keep moving forward?”
And remembering recovery is indeed defined by progress, not perfection; every valiant act of courage taken in hope of overcoming an eating disorder should never be underestimated.
“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” ― Brené Brown