Topic Tuesday: Recovery

“Recovery” (By: Emily Grinstead)

Half-recovered, quasi-recovered, not-out-of-the-woods-yet-but-almost there.

Whatever you call it, those of us currently in recovery or who are recovered know the phrase. The plateau in progress where you accept the gains–mental and physical–you’ve made but are hesitant to go forward because staying where you are seems good enough. It’s that state of stability, comfort, or as someone recently told me “hanging out with your eating disorder”.

This place is easy to settle into: eating just enough for maintenance yet reluctant to gain more weight; following a meal plan but remaining socially isolated; exercising in compulsive ways such that the thought of giving it up is terrifying. We’ve experienced enough discomfort, so why would we want more? Whatever your partial recovery looks like, please, please remember this:

We can’t afford to grow complacent in recovery.

Don’t get me wrong, any progress in recovery is a victory, and a huge one at that. But eating disorders never settle for less than full destruction. The longer we stay in a partially recovered state, the more opportunities we give the eating disorder to creep back in and start making demands. And then before we know it, we find ourselves in a full-blown relapse.

I personally resonate with the latter of my partial recovery examples above. I’ve been in a good, stable place since this past September: weight restored, following my meal plan, keeping up with my appointments. Of course, I’ve had the occasional speed bump, but this has been my healthiest school year for sure. Yet just a few days ago, I was told that I need to temporarily give up exercise. Again. Exercise was reintroduced into my recovery plan months ago, but it has since become an unhealthy and compulsive habit that is compromising my internal physical health, although I feel fine–great, even–while doing it.

My initial reaction was anger and disbelief; I had been doing so well for months, and now I’m being punished for my hard work? It seemed absurd. But after leaving that difficult appointment, I mulled the conversation over and realized that you know what, I don’t want to be a slave to exercise, and if it’s bringing back negative physical symptoms, I need to let it go. I can commit to giving up my workout routine because my recovery matters more.

Trusting your treatment team and those who care the most about you is what’s important, especially when you are unable to see that certain behaviors are still holding you back. Sometimes what you think is good for you is exactly what’s keeping you from reaching true freedom. Eating disorders cloud our vision from seeing that true health is still attainable. While no one chooses to have an eating disorder, we can choose to become healthier, one step at a time.

I urge you to settle for nothing less than full recovery. Because you deserve it.

About the Author

Emily is a sophomore at Vanderbilt University majoring in Medicine, Health and Society (and possibly English!). She loves Jesus, journaling, brunch foods, and all things Christmas and Disney. Houston, TX is her proud home, but she is slowly becoming a converted Nashvillian. She hopes to attend medical school and become an Adolescent Medicine physician, so that she can use her own experiences with anorexia and orthorexia to treat patients with eating disorders.