So, if you didn’t go to treatment, what did your recovery look like?
Asked one very intelligent student of mine at the recovery center one night during a special Q&A class during which I already shared much of my recovery story. I said I never went to treatment and rarely sought out therapy during the throes and early days of my eating disorder. (I do recognize the value in BOTH of these things, I just was not aware they were even available to me. And so I healed myself through the worst of it.)
In response to her question…
Messy. Is the word that flew out of my mouth.
Shit, I thought to myself. Should I have really said that out loud? It felt like the most honest response because, well, my early recovery was a fucking mess. And I had to make peace with that and the fact that, as I quickly learned, recovery is not linear and it takes many many different forms.
I paused then explained:
Everyone’s recovery path is going to look different and I did not know what kind of help was available. No one in my little college world talked about this stuff [Eating Disorders] except in the context of “it’s an easy way to stay skinny.” My recovery might have been expedited had I been aware of help available or had I not been so ashamed. [There’s that buzzword: shame!]
I didn’t tell most of my friends, I didn’t even tell my mother because I didn’t want her to take on the burden. In retrospect, I wish I had gone to more people because now, over 10 years later, I’m learning the value of being vulnerable and asking for help.
I went on to further explain, my recovery was beautiful and multi-faceted. My recovery was introspective. My recovery was difficult. My recovery looked like surrounding myself with people who lifted me up. It looked like me in my bedroom surrounded by yoga books, putting together sequences, noticing what felt good in my body and what didn’t. My recovery smelled like patchouli and armpit body odor and looked like the tiny yoga studio in Bloomington that accommodated 15 students at most. Always cheering each other on. (And, by the way, it never looked like cute yoga outfits.)
My recovery looked like brutal honesty with myself and daily reminders that I was making a choice to get better. My recovery looked like trust in myself that I could do this. My recovery looked like my college boyfriend as my rock, a person who believed in me, reminding me to believe in myself. It looked like the one tiny old woman therapist who told me “one day at a time, honey.” Those words were gold. It looked like undiagnosed depression and massive bouts of what I now know were anxiety attacks.
And those were just the early days. My recovery from an eating disorder turned into recovery from negative body image and body dysmorphia. And then recovery from not believing in myself. And now it is recovery from any thought, belief, person, or thing that does not bring me to light.
My recovery looks like setbacks sometimes. It looks like hours spent talking to a therapist and life coach. My recovery looks like journaling and writing and meditation. It looks like time spent in the woods. It looks like allowing myself to feel pain and uncomfortable feelings, but not to dwell in them. And if I notice I’m staying the the pain for too long, my recovery now looks like asking for help. A helping hand to pull me out of my hole.
So now my recovery looks like feeling ALL the feelings. Even the ones I thought I had done away with years ago. It looks like processing old breakups and the losses of friendships. It looks like celebrating my triumphs today and from years back. It looks like bidding farewell to always trying to control and avoid pain so that I’ll only feel good happy things.
I am pleased to share with you that today, my recovery looks like imperfection. And I’m beyond OK with that.
What does your recovery look like? Please share below in the comments!
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