(a chapter from Telling Ed No! by Cheryl Kerrigan©)
While in recovery, “Are you better yet?” was a feeling, a wish, an expectation that emanated from the people who loved me. They knew I had gone into treatment and they saw me eating, so they figured I was totally cured. However, as we know, an eating disorder is not only about the food, and recovery is not just about eating.
While I was grateful that my family and friends wanted me to be free of the pain they knew I was feeling, their hopes that I was “all better already” just added more pressure. I felt I was expected to make a miraculous recovery, to exhibit zero behaviors and zero anxiety, and to be in a good mood forever! It’s not that quick or simple!
One day I was stressed out and anxious about an upcoming event I needed to attend. I was still learning to deal with emotions rather than react negatively to them. As Rachel and I ate dinner, she noticed that I was exhibiting some old, unhealthy rituals. She calmly brought my behavior to my attention and asked if I wanted to talk; I said no. After a few more minutes she noticed I was still having trouble and asked again. At that point, I realized I needed to reach out, so I accepted her offer and we talked about my feelings. I was frustrated that eating a meal was still difficult, but had to remember to be patient. Like Rachel was being patient with me, I had to be patient with recovery process—and myself.
Overcoming an eating disorder is a journey with twists and turns, hills and valleys, and we must realize that we are not fixed lickety-split just because we are “in recovery” or have gone to treatment. There is no quick fix, which can be hard both for us, and our loved-ones, to accept. We want it to happen overnight, but in reality learning entirely new ways to relate and cope takes time. We must go through the process one step at a time, knowing we may take steps back before we take another step forward. All steps, no matter if they’re forward or back, are still steps; we still learn.
Recovery takes time, patience, commitment, and hard work. Having the support of friends, family, and a treatment team behind you is a great foundation of strength upon which to build. Everything comes in time; be patient.
Recovery takes time, hard work, and patience. Think about the last few days. Have you allowed yourself to slow down, experience, and feel each step of your process, or are you rushing through it? Take a few deep breaths and use a mantra or an affirmation for support and grounding. Example: “Recovery is a process, one that I accept with patience and love.” Write down three things that you have learned over the last week about yourself or the process of your recovery.
With health, hope and strength,