When it comes to eating disorder recovery, it gets worse before it gets better. The side effects of recovery are often unpleasant, frequently distressing and at times just plain brutal!
When I started out on this very determined and most definitely final recovery attempt a few months ago, I jumped into a process of eating disorder recovery that, like treatment from a lot of serious illnesses, has quite a list of not particularly fun side effects!
If you are also going through eating disorder recovery and wondering, ‘does anyone else get this?!?’, I thought I’d list some of my experiences, so that you can know that very definitely yes, other people do get the same symptoms and yes it is normal!
Here is the not so pretty list:
- Crippling, skin crawling anxiety which gets a lot worse before it gets better and I had to learn to adjust to its ever presence.
- Panic attacks
- Anger, irritability, frustration
- Poor sleep
- Intense distress at times and varying degrees of depression
- Periods of time of more intense social withdrawal or disinterest with the world and life in general
- Becoming overwhelmed by tiny things
- Terrible concentration
- Self disgust, self loathing or thoughts of failure
- Grief, sadness and feelings of loss
- Crying a LOT!
- Distressing flashbacks to miserable moments when I was deeply entrenched in the eating disorder.
- Even more intense and constant thoughts of food than ever despite eating lots more!
- Fluctuations in hunger and appetite (sometimes within a few minutes!)
- Fatigue (see post on Extreme Exhaustion In Recovery)
- Weird body & muscle aches & pains
- Constant bloating that varies in severity & at times is uncomfortable & painful
- Weight changes
- Brittle skin, hair, nails
- Belly aches
- Painful gas!
- Acid reflux
- Constipation or diarrhoea
- Feeling hot all the time
- Night sweats
- Blood sugar fluctuations
- Urges to start drinking, smoking, taking drugs or find any way to manage intense surges of emotions that hit unexpectedly…
Sorry, not to make the recovery process sound more attractive!
But let’s face it recovery is not much fun and there are times I nearly regretted ever starting out on the process…. that’s until I remembered the reality of how awful life in the illness was and stopped looking back at it through rose tinted glasses!
There is nothing in this list of recovery side effects that we cannot tolerate though. Yes, in the moment they feel intolerable, but that’s just the eating disorder attempting to lure us back.
The side effects to eating disorder recovery can be shit but if we trust the process, and go with it and hold on regardless, then the unpleasant side effects can also be interspersed with some good bits:
- Feelings of exhilaration at achieving a win over the illness… it might be as small as eating a tiny bit more at breakfast but when you get past the anxiety and let yourself feel proud – darn that can feel good!
- Actually being ‘allowed’ to eat and not just eat crummy ‘safe’ disordered foods but eat what the heck we want and enjoy it!!!
- Finally letting ourselves rest like we always should have been but never felt ‘permitted’ to when we were constantly and obsessively exercising or moving.. and resting is definitely a good thing!
- Finding interests in things outside of the safe and rigid world of the eating disorder once again.
- Connecting with the world, finding colour, finding life.
- Appreciation of the small things in life!
So if you are in the midst of the worst part of recovery at the moment, experiencing some or all of the side effects listed above (and possibly more) please don’t give up. It does not last forever, it just feels like it will when you are in the middle of it.
Please keep going, keep eating, keep resting, keep trusting your body and the good bits will start to happen to make it worthwhile.