A comment that always upsets me when I hear it made about someone with an eating disorder is, ‘…but they don’t want to recover’.
According to who does this person afflicted with one of the cruelest and potentially life threatening illnesses not want more from life?
I am sure that in the years of my illness, this comment was made about me by professionals, family or acquaintances and if these words were attributed to myself, they were never true.
There is not one minute that I have lived in this shitty illness that I did not want to recover.
However, to the outside world, that might not have always appeared the case.
Those of us who have lived with this illness know that we do not choose to develop an eating disorder and do not choose to stay sick.
We don’t want this illness, we didn’t ask for it and we would love to be guaranteed a future life in which we do not face the inner torment from the eating disorder each and every day.
Eating disorders destroy us and slowly take every thing life ever offered us… relationships, love, warmth, happiness, holidays, social occasions, emotions and career prospects and year on year we become more isolated, more deprived of any joy from life. Nobody wants to live like that.
So, why do people think that we don’t want to recover?
Perhaps we do resist any help offered.
We might even say we want to stay sick.
But it’s more likely that the truth is that we do want to recover but we are terrified of recovery.
The process of recovery: facing panic inducing fear each day, making ourselves vulnerable and experiencing intense distress so as to get well, can be such an overwhelming thought and the thought itself seem too terrifying, that it becomes easier to avoid it.
We might have even been told that we will not tolerate the distress recovery will cause us… But do they mean we will not tolerate our distress or others do not want to deal with it, I often wonder!
It is also the case that for many it can be impossible to visualise an existence outside the illness after decades of living inside the eating disorder’s rules & rigidity.
To grasp the concept life could be different when you have lived with the eating disorder for years or even decades can be impossible.
Perhaps too, we lost hope in our ability to recover as we have been a ‘revolving door’ patient through treatment cycles – inpatient and outpatient over the years which has never allowed us to get well.
Or worse, though once we did believe we could recover, we have now been told that we won’t by professionals who should know better (see post Severe And Enduring Eating Disorders (SEED) for more).
Nobody chooses not to recover from an eating disorder.
Nobody wants to be hungry, cold, emotionless, driven, rigid, isolated and scared.
No matter what a person is saying or how they are acting, deep down they want to be free of the illness… but they are scared and they cannot believe that recovery is an option for them. They need help to believe that life can be better for them too and supported in the right way to see that better life become a reality.
Please never say “..they don’t want to recover” about a person with an eating disorder.
Hold hope for them, help them, care for them and let them tell you their truth – their real hopes and fears that they hold so deeply buried that the world has stopped noticing.