Is the dreaded ‘quasi-recovery’ an inevitability in the recovery process from an eating disorder?
This is a question that occurred to me recently.
Before I continue though, for those who are not aware of this term, ‘quasi recovery’ refers to the half-way (or maybe a bit more than half-way) recovery state that many people hit and that many treatment approaches might get us to, where we are deemed ‘recovered’ to the outside world (we might have gained a good amount of weight, be able to function better in life) and yet we are not mentally (and probably not physically) all the way there yet in terms of being fully recovered.
Quasi recovery is a point of no longer being at our worst, mentally or physically, but also not at our full recovery potential.
We might have gained weight and be within a ‘normal’ or even higher end BMI range but we still have not let go of the eating disorder fully enough to allow our body to gain all the weight it needs to to completely repair and function at our set point. Though we have accepted and tolerated the weight gain to now, deep down we are still terrified of gaining even another kg.
Mentally we might be eating more, eating fear foods, have broken weird rules and routines regarding the how and when we eat but we do still have some rules and restrictions in place, albeit invisible to those around us and so very easy to deny, even to ourselves.
Perhaps we have overcome compulsive movement and exercise to this point in our recovery and we are no longer the blatantly obsessed movement addict that we once were, but there are still little sneaky habits that we have not fully let go of just yet, which people around us might even praise and encourage as ‘healthy’ and yet are keeping us mentally compelled to move and so still disordered.
Our lives have opened up from the narrow existence we were living, we can socialise more, be more flexible around people and not just be thinking of doughnuts when someone is holding a conversation with us, but our lives are not yet as open and free as they could and should be.
Quasi recovery can be a hard place to be.
All too often, this stage of recovery is one that is very easy to settle at. It is here that we can fool the world, our family and friends that we are ‘recovered’ because of how far we have come. But it is still a life lived in eating disorder hell, not completely free, not happy and yet because people around us are so relieved we are not seemingly crumbling anymore, we are left here and it can be incredibly lonely.
And to continue in recovery from a quasi-recovered state can feel as impossible as those first steps into early recovery.
This time around, we are making changes with a brain still screaming at us not to gain weight, terrified of many aspects of facing yet more food or continuing to rest when the world is obsessed with movement and now we are having to push through with people less understanding of the why…. This then merely adds to our doubts about allowing more weight gain, even though deep down we know it is the only thing that will get us recovered.
In quasi recovery we have not yet fully rewired our brains and unless we persist with eating unrestrictedly and as much as possible, as well as resting and not manipulating our body weight and shape then we never will fully rewire the eating disordered thoughts and patterns… And that ultimately just leaves us in a space of half recovered living for years at best or relapse to full ED hell at worse.
None of us want to hit and stop at a quasi recovered state, but as I said at the start of this post, is it inevitable in recovery that we will hit and perhaps tread water at this half living / half recovered state for a time?
Is Quasi Recovery Inevitable?
I am not sure I know of anyone who is fully recovered now who did not get stuck at this point of quasi existence for a while at least.
And the reason I think perhaps it is inevitable is that the recovery process from an eating disorder is hard, long and so incredibly painful.
We often start recovery at a point of being depleted physically, mentally and emotionally and living in a very cold, hard and disordered inner world.
Those early stages of recovery where we have managed to somehow muddle our way through eating and resting more, gaining weight and breaking other rules and behaviours to get this far was a process that was distressing, exhausting and felt like a form of slow torment and torture.
To have achieved quasi recovery feels like a golden gate has opened up to us when we arrive from where we have been….
Discovering early quasi recovery where we can suddenly live with a little more meaning, freedom and flexibility once again and function a bit more like a normal human once more, which we might not have experienced for years or decades, is a gift in itself.
And when we do hit this point, well, don’t we deserve a breather and a bit of time to enjoy these early recovery benefits?
Sure we do… BUT in this quasi recovery state, despite on the surface appearing and feeling in many ways much better, underneath the surface it is still a desperate paddle to stay afloat.
And the danger at this point is that the behaviours and disordered patterns not yet fully eradicated will slowly creep back if we are not careful because we have our back turned and are busy again enjoying the parts of life we have not been part of for too long.
Life stress is also a real risk at this point. When we have used eating disorder behaviours automatically for many years to manage our emotions and to cope with stressful life events and we have not fully rewired and eradicated them as of yet, we are in high danger of an eventual slide back to the illness when we encounter stressful situations.
Eventually in quasi recovery, the truth that hurts the most is there is still more work to do.
To keep progressing from this quasi recovered stage is another massive leap of faith that will take even more tears, frustration, distress and turmoil. It is little wonder, so many in recovery avoid it and stay put for years half recovered.
But half recovered is not living and that is not a state anyone should settle at.
The other danger in quasi recovery is that we rebuild too much of a life again before we are fully recovered and in doing so we take recovery off our priority list and don’t keep space in our life for the world left to do. However, high on the priority list is very definitely where recovery needs to stay until we are all the way there!
Every one of us has the potential for FULL and not just QUASI recovery. I believe that. But it is hard and it is painful and it takes a very long time to reach the golden gate that represents not a half way point but the end of the journey.
If you have reached a quasi recovery stage and rested there for a time then don’t be hard on yourself…. it is perhaps inevitable for us all. Recovery is exhausting and all consuming.
Continuing forward though is the only way…
Heading for the fully free future.
This might mean making more life changes to keep recovery a priority and it might mean being more determined, stubborn and a bit f**k it when people surrounding you do not understand. But if the simple actions of eating as much as possible, resting and allowing the body to reach its natural weight will break down all the walls of the eating disorder prison you remain trapped in, then surely that will be worth it?!?