Recovery from an eating disorder is no quick and easy feat, no matter how much you wish for that to be true.

It’s a lesson I learned firsthand – over and over again.

t5q0zhkI began struggling with an eating disorder when I was 11, yet was in denial and didn’t seek out treatment until just before I went to college. The tipping point? A lot of persistence from a good friend. Four weeks before I went off to college, I said enough was enough. She was right – it was time to get help.

At that point, though, I didn’t know exactly what I was getting myself into. I figured I’d go into treatment and come back two weeks either recovered, or would fake my way through it or remained unchanged. No big deal.

Neither of those happened.

Treatment was not a one-time deal. After first getting admitted to a residential facility in August 2013, I returned weeks later – while making the difficult (yet in hindsight, right) decision to postpone college for a year. The cycle continued, to the point where someone referred to me as a “revolving door patient.”

Whether intentional or not, that comment really got to me. It made me realize I needed to commit myself to getting better.

This meant abandoning the expectation I had about recovery and it having a linear path. I realized recovery can’t happen overnight with the flip of a switch.

Looking back, here’s what I’ve learned about recovery and what it truly means to me:

Recovery doesn’t look the same for everyone – and that’s okay. It might take longer for some or involve more setbacks. It’s never a race against other people or the clock. Everyone is different, as is every journey.
Recovery takes time and a lot of patience. It might mean going through many levels of care, or in my case, multiple times. There is nothing quick or perfect about it.
Recovery can mean putting some important things on hold or making sacrifices. Missing my first year of college was a painful decision, but one I’m very glad I made.
Recovery is about adapting. You likely will have many setbacks or disappointing adjustments to your treatment plan. They happen. I had multiple relapses. I messed up from time to time, and accepted that.

Yes, there are many ups and downs. Yes, it is likely the most challenging thing you’ll go through. Yes, it might sound easier said than done. But try not to get discouraged or give up.

The hope of living a life without an eating disorder is out there, alive and well.

Trust me, I know.

Rose Kelleher is a junior at Endicott College, who, in her own words, dedicates her life to helping those who struggle with eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia and associated diagnoses to help guide them on their path to recovery.

Learn more about the type of treatment that helped Rose on her road to recovery.