I had a bit of a wobble this last week but I didn't write because it made my recovery 'messy' (for want of a better word). My perfectionism didn't allow for this blip. I want to recover but, as with everything else, I want to do it perfectly. Mainly because I want to show other sufferers that it is possible but also because I am in a desperate hurry to 'catch up' with my peers from treatment who have substantial clean time and are living life. Of course, the reality is that recovery is never a straight line on a graph, but rather a zig-zag with a general trend upward. It's two steps forward, one step back. It is going to be different for everyone. I was in recovery for three years before relapsing. Some won't relapse at all. Some will relapse several times before 'getting' it. We're all individuals so our journeys will be unique to each of us. The important thing is a forward momentum. It is certainly not a race. It's okay not to be okay.
So what did my wobble look like? Well, I think I had been getting a bit ahead of myself, putting pressure on myself, and I experienced some very bad anxiety (tears, the works). I started to freak out over the weight-gain, the latest increases to my meal plan, the going cold turkey with my OCD. It all felt too much. But, hey, I'm here to tell the tale. Nothing terrible happened, I just felt terrible. I am so grateful to be living where I do as I had people to talk to and it was that simple act - talking - that got me out of my panic. (I say simple but I still don't find expressing my fallibility, my vulnerability, easy). I just needed to put the brakes on for a bit and take it easy. I have needed more sleep these past few days so I have allowed myself to rest. I have been for gentle walks in the park (yesterday accompanied by my mum's dog!). Today I took myself on a coffee date and spent a good hour nursing my americano and working on my novel. I popped into the supermarket and bought myself some chocolate on the way home. It's the little things that make a difference. This being kind to myself is new to me. Today I am feeling much more me and it's just such a relief.
In my work with eating disordered clients, I have met many individuals who have been plagued for years, and who are recovered today. I have worked with clients who have been treated in various institutions across the world, and who themselves had given up their fight, who are recovered today.
How your treatment team understand and treat eating disorders is vital, as not only does it affect the type of treatment you receive, but also the actual outcome itself.
We believe it is a myth that eating disorders are about food or weight.
We believe that it is a myth that eating disorders are about control.
These are symptoms of the disease.
Can someone have full recovery from their eating disorder. The answer is yes, but much like the answer, it depends on where and how it is understood and treated.
One thing that is commonly agreed upon is that it takes time to recover from an eating disorder. In fact it is recommended that those seeking treatment for eating disorders should look at a minimum of three to nine months residential care.
Although a contributing factor, this is not due to the complexity of physical consequences or the weight restoration and stabilization required. The length required in treating eating disorders is due to the decoding of the eating disorder language of food, weight, and body image into real emotions.
It is in finding a new way of expressing oneself, finding a new way of defining oneself that recovery is achieved. And this takes time.
Even though there are no accurate South African statistics on the prevalence of eating disorders at this point, the annual mortality rate has increased by 93.3% since 1990. This is a serious and life-threatening illness that requires serious attention and expert treatment.
What we do know, is that eating disorders affect many people. Not determined by race, age or sex, eating disorders not only destroy the lives of the individual suffering, but the lives of those around them too. Family, friends and colleagues watch their loved one be ruled and condemned to a life valued only by the calories consumed. This is not life.
When dealing with addicts, it is commonly believed that recovery is lifelong. With eating disorders, the debate stands to whether a person can recover fully or will be in recovery for the rest of their life. If someone doesn’t believe that full recovery is possible or that they’ll always struggle to some extent, then fighting for recovery and finding recovery is far less likely.
Many people suffering with eating disorders give up in their search for recovery, losing hope in treatment, professionals, help, and their own ability to overcome this illness.
Many people suffering with eating disorders run out of funds, don't get the right help, or don't get the help they need.
Many people suffering with eating disorders have co-morbid conditions that negate the treatment process, making it longer and harder.
Many people suffering with eating disorders, don't believe they need help.
One of my clients said to me once, "recovery is a process", my question to her was "are you ready to give that process up?". If recovery from an eating disorder meant living life through your body, through your fears, through the food you eat, through the size you are, then I wouldn't do what I do. Recovery is no longer being defined by these things. It can be done, but it depends on what level of freedom each client wants.
Many people suffering with eating disorders are satisfied with better, with no longer engaging in overt destructive behaviours.
Safety measures need to be in place to keep you from relapse, but life in recovery is not meant to be an aftermath of the illness or a prison of new constraints. Recovery is not determined by weight, body, size but is defined by a new way of living, without obsession and compulsion.
Recovery is a journey of self-discovery and self-healing that perhaps the rest of the population should work towards achieving.
Is full recovery from an eating disorder possible. The answer is highly dependent on who you ask. But, I want to tell you with absolute certainty that there is more, there is freedom.