How many times did I seek the magic answer to eating disorder recovery over my years of illness?
How many times have I been asked the question or asked it myself of others, ‘…but HOW?!?’.
“But HOW do I eat more / rest more / stop my weird and not so wonderful eating disorder behaviours and routines???”
“But HOW do I recover??”
With an eating disorder, we get desperate. We are so miserable and life is so horrific to live day by day under the dictatorship of an eating disorder that we urgently seek answers to how to escape the grip of the illness from any source we can.
And we might be told how to recover or we might read about how to do it or how someone else has done it, yet those steps seem so impossible and the fear escalates to such a great extent just at the thought of doing it ourselves that we still seek further answers….
Yet calmly stop and just examine the question for a minute and recognise just how ridiculous it sounds when rational brain is switched on.
Eating disorder recovery involves eating a lot more food, resting and stopping the weird and not so wonderful behaviours.
We do all know how to eat more food (yes, even you); we do all know how to rest (trust me, you do) and we do all know how to not engage in eating disorder behaviours. Yes, we do all really know HOW to do those things that will take us to recovery.
Recovery is not complicated, in fact it is very simple. But the eating disorder brain will make it the most complicated thing in the world, leaving us feeling that we need to find a magic trick with weird and wonderful solutions to get ourselves into recovery.
YOU know HOW to recover from an eating disorder. Stop seeking magic answers.
You know how to recover, what you need to work out instead is how to deal with the shit storm that results when you try to put in the recovery action.
The fear that can arise from going through recovery is paralysing at times. It will have you unable to think clearly, you will feel you are in a mental fog and have no idea which way to turn, your brain will come up with stories of why eating more, resting more, gaining weight is so very wrong and why you must not do those things.
Trying to put in recovery action will cause absolute feelings of wrong doing and a sense of guilt that feels worse than if you have just murdered your own grandmother!
Instead of asking how do I eat more, ask, how do I recognise when the real fear has set in and not let it win. When the mental and physical freeze paralyses me as I try to face more food or rest, how can I push past it and still act?
When my brain is convincing me that eating disorder recovery action is not a good idea, not today, maybe tomorrow, how do I do it anyway and not let this day go to waste?
These questions are things to ask yourself. And really, it comes down to knowing what the right course of action is (eating more is always right, resting is always right) and following through with the action, no matter how strong the fear, no matter how wrong it feels and no matter what your brain has to say about it.
The other issue when you have had an eating disorder for a long time is the fact that the behaviours of restricting our eating or compulsively moving are automatic. The brain pathways for these disordered patterns are so very strong and ingrained that we do them without realising it and going against them is hard work that takes considerable mental concentration and hyper-alertness.
In recovery, it is learning to recognise when an automatic behaviour or response is starting or even when it has started and to take back the control. Acting opposite.
The question in recovery is not ‘how do I eat more or rest more?’ but it is instead ‘how do I deal with the fear and the automatic behaviours?’.
And the answer to this is that you have to find ways, you have to use all your courage and commitment and blind faith and do it.
You use the support you have available to you and use support you really would rather not because anything is better than nothing.
You learn to recognise the ED bollocks and use methods I have written about before…
– Use Curiosity
– Radically accept weight gain
– Allow it to be simple
– Use frustration and negative emotions
– Keep going despite what else is happening
– Make life changes in the short term if you need to
– Understand the desperation and need for a magic solution is the illness!
– Allow yourself to be vulnerable
– Don’t waste energy on comparing and despairing!
– Develop your recovery mantra
And learn to eat and to sit and to gain weight despite every fibre of your core being screaming at you not to.
At the end of the day, you have to find ways through the fear and the automatic behaviours and restriction and you have to accept weight gain.
As you do so, with practice and a lot of tears and a lot of distress, it does and will get easier but it takes ongoing practice, staying on your guard, repetition and more repetition and recognising when things are sliding back (because it will) and pulling yourself back on track each time.
Most of all, it is taking a blind leap of faith that it will be worth it!!!
Please, stop wasting time and energy seeking the magic answer to ‘how to recover’.
Use the years I wasted seeking that magic solution and take it from me, there is no magic answer and there are no short cuts in recovery.
Recovery is not a pain free process – not for anyone; if it were we would all do it from the word go… So, you expect it to be hard and to hurt (a lot) but you do it.
You work out how to push through the fears and the terror and the automatic behaviours and you go through with the very simple actions of eating a lot more food, resting and allowing weight gain, because at the end of the day, recovery is that simple, if we let it be.
2 replies on “Eating Disorder Recovery – “Tell Me How To Recover!!””
Thank you for writing that piece. It goes beyond words. I am a parent of someone trying to recover for more than 12 years now and it had me in tears. My daughter sent it to me to read; wish the whole family would read it! It clarified her feelings for me. Thank you!
Thank you so much for your comment. I am so sorry that you have experience of an eating disorder in your daughter… it must be overwhelmingly confusing and distressing to watch your child go through an illness such as this and I am sure you feel lost in how best to help and support her. I am though pleased that your daughter felt that my post spoke to her and that it also helped her to communicate to you some of what she is experiencing. Never ever lose hope. She can recover and it sounds like she is determined and that will mean that she will get there!