This past week (February 21-27) has been National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. I usually try to post several things about eating disorders during that time, but this year it just kind of snuck up and slipped past me.
However, I did want to post something about my own journey. I’ve written on the site about my decision to enter treatment and shared lots of info about eating disorders over the years. I think it’s important to be open and honest, mental disorders don’t have good treatment options because people tend to shy away from discussions about them. But today I just wanted to talk about what life looks like for me 7 years after entering treatment.
I still struggle with knowing if I label myself as “recovered” or “recovering” from an eating disorder. I am not actively restricting or using eating disordered behavior. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t have those thoughts. And there are times that I really want to restrict and those desires are particularly strong lately because I do feel like I have very little direction over my life. Thus the impulse for “control” over something.
But the reason I don’t act? I have a child. And she needs me. So I just can’t restrict. I need to be here for her. I want to be here for her.
So is that what recovered looks like? You have enough skills and knowledge to recognize those urges and can dismiss them? Or is that still recovering? Do those thoughts ever go away completely?
I recognize that I have chunks of memory that are just not there from the years that I was really bad with restricting. Friends/family will say something about that time and I realize I don’t remember that event hardly at all. That really bugs me, that my actions truly did cause me to miss out on some of my life. It isn’t like they were consciously decided upon actions. But it was still my actions that lead to the holes.
I really get bugged out at restaurants with calorie counts posted. I let that decide for me what I will eat. “Let’s see… that thing has 486 calories vs that thing has 5. Yes, I will take the pile of lettuce, please.” It’s like all intuitive eating skill flies out the window when confronted with that.
I think I’m eating too much sugar these days. My dietitian worked really hard to get me to stop having “bad foods” and looking at things as all-or-nothing. So I started incorporating foods that I wouldn’t have touched. For the most part, I find that it really is okay and I don’t fall victim to craving the enemy food all the time. But sweets… I love sweets these days and need something sweet after lunch and dinner. Maybe I don’t NEED need it, but my brain sure seems to think so. I’m scared to cut food groups or try to make “regulating” rules for foods again out of fear that I will just start going crazy and end up with an endless list of food rules once more. And once you have that, you pretty much have no options left. So for now… I will eat sugar.
I do not go to any formal treatment or counseling. That ended when I had my daughter because I just don’t have the time. My former therapist is way way way on the other side of town and to have an hour appointment would take about 3 hours out of my day for drive time. Not feasible. Some days I think I need eating disorder counseling still, but really I probably just need someone to talk to because I feel really isolated. My life now revolves around taking care of my kid, work, taking care of my kid and a little sleep and run sprinkled in. I don’t really have much of a social life these days. Since I don’t go into an office (I telecommute) I don’t get the casual office chit-chat that many get. Sure, I banter with my co-workers on instant message, but it’s not a replacement for friendly, real-life, human interaction and it’s typically pretty job-centric.
I’m glad I entered treatment. I’m glad I have a lot of tools to help me counter the impulses to act on eating disordered thoughts. There are still ED voices in my head, but I think they’re quieter. I just don’t know if the recovery process ends or if you’re always recovering.
Thank you for sharing about your journey, Jill. I wonder if it’s hard to know if you’re always recovering, just because we are all faced with food decisions everyday?
I think that’s one of the aspects that does confuse the issue. 12 steps are taught in recovery treatment a lot, but it’s not like an alcohol/drug addict where you just remove any relationships with those things forever… you have to eat to live. It’s just a fact of life. So removing something you have a strenuous relationship with isn’t viable, you have to learn to make peace. Also, the world is so screwed up in that we “earn” our meals and food now has moral values assigned to it… “Oh, that’s so bad.” The messages are constantly screaming in opposition to the peaceful relationship you’re supposed to have!
That’s true. Sometimes I feel guilty about food choices, and that’s probably not the best way to look at it.
Thank you for sharing your journey through this with us.
I know it could not have been easy for you but your story will help others to feel like they are not alone and there is help out there.
Thank you! It was super hard to come forth with it, but I think the more I talk about it, the easier it becomes! And the more it is discussed more people realize they or their loved ones are not alone in this battle.