What do you think recovery is?
For some, recovery might just be a word they’ve heard family members or treatment teams say. It might feel like an intangible concept, so far off in the distance that a path isn’t visible.
Recovery might be what other people experience. For you right now, well, you just might be trying to make it through each day.
You might not even want recovery. Perhaps it feels completely terrifying to let go of something that feels so familiar, safe, and secret. And we get that. Eating disorders don’t appear out of nowhere, so often they’re a very creative medium for responding to underlying needs.
Many people who reach out to Orri feel ambivalent about recovery. They know that something’s not quite right about their relationship to food and eating, but they’re also very fearful of change. Even if that change means something positive.
How we come to understand recovery is so dependent upon how we understand our eating disorder and the story of our lives so far; the underlying belief systems or past challenges that have caused us to feel unsafe or unworthy in our bodies and minds.
Bringing an awareness to these elements of our sense of self can help map out the barriers we need to overcome in recovery. If we can plot those barriers like landmarks on a map, we can find paths around and over and through them.
Recovery is more than food
For some, it might seem that recovery is all about improving the relationship to food.
When we’re in the midst of an illness like anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating disorder, often our preoccupation with food is so strong that how we show up in our lives and relationships is pretty much dictated by how we feel about food and our bodies.
This, coupled with the very real risk that eating disorders pose to our physiology, means that this part of recovery is particularly important, especially in the beginning.
But once we’ve done this important piece of work, recovery becomes so much more than food.
In fact, as we start to move away from using food behaviours as a coping mechanism, we realise that food has been the scapegoat the whole time, distracting us from the underlying complexities that were fuelling the eating disorder in the first place.
Recovery is about b e c o m i n g
But what does “becoming” mean?
Becoming is something entirely personal and sacred. It’s an evolution, a growth, from a place that we trust no longer serves us.
As we learn to separate ourselves from the beliefs that fuelled the eating disorder – beliefs like, ‘I’ll never be good enough’, ‘I have to change’, ‘they’ll never like me’, ‘I can’t say no’, or ‘I am not allowed to do X or Y’ – we make room for beliefs that foster kindness and compassion.
“I am worthy, just as I am right now.”
“I deserve to assert my boundaries.”
“I am strong enough to handle this.”
“I can look after myself.”
“I can trust my emotions and needs.”
In recovery, we reconnect to our needs, responding to them without judgement, and instead with a tenderness that appreciates how all emotions – even the really tense and challenging ones – give texture and colour to life.
You become secure in yourself. You no longer fear being alone. You have strong boundaries in relationships that protect your energy and keep you safe. You aren’t scared of feeling sad, anxious, angry or disappointed. You honour the emotional intuition that you have, and you recognise how hard you’ve worked to protect yourself from pain in the past.
You gradually come home to yourself. You’ve dug deep and found yourself again, and slowly allowing that person to come back. They might have changed a bit, but that’s also ok.
You’re proud of the strength and commitment you’ve demonstrated in recovery, and you’re forgiving and gentle during those incredibly difficult days.
You develop a resilience along the way and a recognition that recovery isn’t unicorns and rainbows, you will still experience challenge, as we all do in life, but you no longer over-identify with challenge and see it as a reflection of personal failure.
Becoming is a state of knowing that change is inevitable, that as humans, we’re in a constant state of flux as we respond to ever-changing environments around us. You feel secure in this knowledge and trust your ability to adapt and move with the change.
One last question for you…
What do you want your recovery to look like?