Today marks eleven years in eating disorder recovery for me. December 14, 2010, I walked through the doors of residential treatment scared, hopeless and willing to do anything to build a life worth living.
Last night in our Alliance Monday night support group, we discussed “Is full recovery possible?”
Cliff notes: YES IT IS. AND…it isn’t always what you think it is.
***AND I acknowledge my privilege in the ability to access care and will continue to fight for mental health treatment to be affordable to all.
Eleven years ago today I did not believe recovery was possible. Hell, I did not believe I would ever be able to live with food in my pantry and not have it haunt me. The life I live today was simply unimaginable to that scared, hopeless 29-year old woman walking through the Carolina House doors.
Full recovery is not skipping in a meadow, shitting rainbows of joy.
I had the expectation that recovery would be a singular box that I would check and move on with my life. Little did I realize recovery would be a forever journey of self-discovery, unlearning and worthiness.
So often we get hung up on labels – Am I recoverED? Am I in recovery still? As if, recovery can be so easily defined. Recovery to me will look different than what it looks like to you.
Here is what I know to be true about my recovery today:
I am 100% fully recovered AND I will always be working towards recovery. Recovery means living life out loud, messy and imperfect. It means showing up as myself, never wearing the proverbial ‘I’m fine. Everything is fine’ mask. My recovery means I still have gremlins that say I am not good enough. Recovery means I still look in the mirror and say ‘UGH!’. Recovery means I see a diet trend and for a split moment think, “What if…”
Recovery does not mean gremlins and negative thoughts vanish. Recovery is the GIFT of being aware enough to say to the gremlins: “I see you.” And then ask yourself: “What do I really need in this moment?”
And sometimes there are moments where life is moving so fast or life is flipped upside down, you forget all of your recovery cues. You find yourself lost in the noise of life and inner gremlins. I found myself there this year. I was running as fast as I could, trying to escape the trauma lurking in the shadows. I did not want to slow down to feel, process and frankly I did not want to look at my reflection in the mirror.
But that, to me, IS full recovery. It isn’t about being a perfect patient on the therapy couch or having a perfectly balanced life/relationship with food and body. Recovery is about getting lost AND knowing how to claw your way back out. And that is what I am doing. I am, once again, finding myself and my footing. I am learning to look in the mirror and see the gift of life I gave myself and honor the grief that comes with its scars.
I think some people feel you can never fully recover from an eating disorder because you have to be 110% forever okay with food, your body and who you are. But I don’t know a single soul on this planet who is every day, all day ‘Rah-Rah Life and self love’. And if I ever meet that person I probably will not like them.
Give me someone with scars, not afraid to show up messy, imperfect and present in this brutiful life. Give me someone who is not afraid to live outside the filtered box of life. That is who I want to sit next to. That is who I strive to be every day in this messy journey of recovery and life.
So on this eleventh year of recovery, I am reminded the work is not, nor will it ever be done. And I am fine with that. In fact, I am SO grateful that on this day eleven years ago, I gave myself permission to NOT be okay and to ask for help. That is all any of us can do for ourselves and for each other.
Recovery is no longer pretending to be okay when I am not. Recovery is not trying to do everything all alone. Recovery is silly dancing with my kids. Recovery is not changing outfits 392 times before going out. Recovery is flying to see my best friend and meet my goddaughter at the last minute because life is too short not to. Recovery is texting a friend to hold your worry. Recovery is telling my kids I need space (and then inevitably have them find me in my hiding spot). Recovery is not feeling sexy in my body, but being with my husband anyway. Recovery is calling my therapist for an extra session. Recovery is tossing on my swimsuit and swimming with my kids. Recovery is resting when my body is tired. Recovery is wearing (and owning) sequin pants on a Tuesday because it is your birthday. Recovery is knowing when an ordinary moment is special because I am free from the eating disorder and fully present in my life.
I am thankful for every minute of every day for these past eleven years. My recovery will never be over and I am thankful to still be here recovering every day. I would not be where I am without extraordinary people along the way. To those who have walked, carried and stood beside me on my journey, I am and forever will be grateful – paying it forward today and always.
Last week I turned the big 4-0! I could not be more excited for this new decade and grateful for my recovery journey thus far. I am ready for life’s next adventure…and hurdle! In honor of my 40th birthday, help me raise necessary funds for our organization, the National Alliance for Eating Disorders!