When people talk about recovering from an eating disorder, they hardly ever mention that the struggle is always on-going, as to not scare away potential recoveries. But I believe that it can be more helpful to just be honest with the whole process and to let people see how hard it actually is.
I'm not going to sugar coat the process. It straight up takes a lot of strength to make the first step, and also years of a consistent mindset, devoted to healing, in order to get to a place of health and happiness.
Recovery is about being able to choose the right method of coping, every time, when triggers arise. It's not a one decision thing. You don't choose to recover and then do nothing. Recovery has to be a second-by-second, day-by-day choice to do the right thing. You can't choose to eat one day and then the next choose not to because you're having a bad day. Recovery is choosing to eat at every single meal no matter what.
My recovery process was filled with ups and downs. I would spend a couple days in the hospital, tell me mom I didn't want to be like this anymore, decide to try harder, then a week later I'd be back to my old routine of cutting calories and exercising too much. This cycle continued for years. I would talk-the-talk, but I wouldn't walk-the-walk.
Finally, during one of my "I need to get better" days I told my mom to call a treatment facility and get me in. I told her I couldn't do this on my own anymore and needed to go someplace to get better. Long story short, a week later, I arrived, and two months after I arrived, I was back at home.
At first, when I got home I was angry at my body for being so disgusting and angry at myself for even going to treatment. I felt let down because I didn't feel any better than before I went. But I also knew I didn't ever want to go back there, so I became determined to stick with the process.
This lasted for a year or so, until I went off to boarding school, made friends, then got back-stabbed. And before I knew it, I was back to using all my old coping strategies. It was around this time too, that I met Ben, and began confiding in. He was my best friend and always had my back, which made me believe in myself, at least enough to start eating again. I told him everything and he helped me stay on track. I eventually pulled myself out of the spiral and gained weight.
This also lasted about a year, until I went off to college and found myself without any friends. Alone and depressed in my dorm room, I devised a plan to start exercising and eating less because I felt out of control and needed to cope with the pain. I full out relapsed, getting down to an even lower weight than what I entered treatment at. I coped with the only thing I thought I was good at, losing weight. I felt better than others because I could be thinner than them.
Needless to say, I dropped out of school after the first semester because of my relapse. I could no longer function during my classes. So I headed home feeling like such a failure. I couldn't do anything right. My future was ruined. I would never become anything.
I cried for weeks, until I came across a blog that ultimately saved my downward spiral. Unfortunately this blog doesn't exist anymore, or else I would link it, but regardless, it compelled me to make a change. The most inspirational thing about the blog was that the girl writing it was so freakin honest! She told things as they were, and she didn't apologize for the way she felt. Most of her posts would feel as though she was writing what I was feeling, and that gave me hope, for the first time ever. I was not alone.
So this is where my REAL recovery began for me.
The key that made this recovery work was that I had something to cling to. Food as strength. I learned from this blog (and others) that I could get stronger (something I had always wanted to do) by weight lifting and not doing so much cardio. Before this I was walking two to three hours a day all while eating close to nothing, so the idea to now eat to get stronger was scary but also intriguing.
The thing about people with eating disorders is that they don't hate the taste of food. We just learn to not care because we're scared.
So when I realized that I could eat food in order to help me gain strength (muscle), I was in heaven. I wanted to be able to actually taste food again without feeling guilty, and of course at first, this was hard, but I kept telling myself that the food was giving me muscles. And I kept reading the blogs which gave me confidence to trust the process.
So here I am, four years later, still going strong, and still getting strong.
I still treat food as a source of nourishment for my goals of becoming strong and healthy. I eat in order to fuel my body. I eat to fuel my muscle gains. I choose foods that will help me reach my goals, but I also choose foods based on my wants. So yes, I can choose to have donuts now and not feel bad about it.
However, and this is where the honest part comes in, I still hear Ed's voice every single day. He whispers now but he's still there, waiting for me to decide to listen to him. But I don't. I don't listen to him because I am choosing better thoughts to listen to.
Here's what a bad food or body image day looks like:
Ed: You feel disgusting so you probably shouldn't have a snack today. You know you'll feel guilty.
Me: I know I feel like crap, but I need to eat to fuel my body. I'll feel better tomorrow.
Ed: You're fat, you shouldn't eat!
Me: I'm going to eat. And I'm not fat, I choose to love my body.
This is just one part of the conversation I have with Ed throughout the day. It goes on and on. This is what happens every single freakin day. I consistently have to choose the right thing, to listen to the right voices. I could easily decide to side with Ed, give in, and skip a meal or skip that peanut butter, but I don't. I don't because that's what recovery is.
Recovery is choosing, again and again, to listen to your voice, over Ed's. It's knowing what will happen if you do, and making the choice to not go down that road. It's a choice you have to make every second of every single day.
Being recovered doesn't mean you don't struggle. I continue to struggle all the time and I often thin about going back to Ed, back to the world of addiction, but I know nothing good ever comes from that, so I find ways to cope that don't involve hurting myself in any way.
Even though some days we might believe we deserve to harm ourselves, be it by starving, drinking, cutting, etc., just know that none of us deserve that. Our bodies don't deserve that kind of treatment. Our bodies deserve to be loved and treated kindly. Even if we don't feel like it.