R.E.C.O.V.E.R.Y acronym (I DID NOT MAKE THIS UP MYSELF. I would love to give credit to the original creator of this beautiful acronym, though!).
Realizing you’re worth it
Until I believed that I was worthy of treating myself with kindness and healing the maladies inside me, I could not start recovery. I stayed sick and tormented. I did not believe that my problem warranted help, and for a long time, I dismissed the severity of my eating disorder. In fact, I didn’t even know my issues consisted of an eating disorder until I received an actual diagnosis! You would think that dropping thirty pounds on my already normal frame in two months, losing my period, freezing my ass off all the time, and refusing to eat almost anything would have convinced me to go to the doctor. But, no. You would think stuffing myself senseless with food, punishing myself with hours upon hours of exercise, starving off cravings with excessive amounts of water and calorie-free drinks would make me realize I had an issue. It took awhile. I was convinced it was a willpower problem, convinced I could fix it on my own. It took so long to realize I was worth help. No matter how little or how much you eat or weigh, if it is affecting your functioning and quality of life, you have a problem, and you are WORTH more than the suffering you are inflicting on yourself.
Experiencing true happiness
Happiness is stable over time, as much as we like to believe it is fickle, fleeting, and depending on situational circumstances. I used to wait on happiness. Like many, I relied on external sources to lift my mood: boyfriends, wealth, success. And yet, happiness is innate. It lies within us. We all know the happiest moments (those BIG huge moments we can hardly wait for) pass. It’s the day-to-day mood that counts. Being able to experience the virtues of true, unadulterated bliss is what my life is now all about. Be present. Be rich with feelings. Be authentic with your needs. Happiness is a choice: each day, I do my best to wake up and CHOOSE it.
Caring about yourself
Caring about myself? What did that once mean? Pushing myself to extreme limits. Always working, never resting. Putting the needs of others before my own. Caring about myself was something I could do later. I really learned about the importance of self-care in graduate school. My professors emphasize it in every class on a daily basis. It is that important. Taking care of myself now means checking in with my emotions, learning how to distinguish what is and what is not in my control, doing activities that make me feel good, visiting places that I like, spending time with people who make my time worthwhile, and being able to relax! For someone who was always go, go, go, really learning how to relax took practice! I care about myself: I now care about myself the way I would care about a best friend. Finally!
Overcoming your own demons
My demon was my eating disorder voice. I nicknamed her Bee and personified her pathology in these letters. At the time, separating my eating disorder from my existence made it easier to confront and dissect. I had to recognize what was factual and what was eating disordered logic, as it had all mushed into my reality. Bee was harsh: she told me I didn’t deserve to eat or that I needed to eat everything in sight, she wanted me to exercise when my body was exhausted, she always needed me thinner and prettier, she told me I was never good enough and that I would never get better. Bee scared me, but she was the only real voice I knew. I have learned how to overcome her voice through a variety of coping strategies: writing to her, talking to my support team, relaxation training, meditation and yoga, etc. I now know when I am overreacting or faltering between the dichotomous thinking. I now recognize when I am being triggered or vulnerable to eating disordered thoughts and behaviors.
Validating your worth
I am worth anything and everything. What does that even mean? It means that I can and will stand up for what I believe in. I deserve the best and nothing less. This may sound conceited, but it’s not. I used to settle for the mediocre because I thought that was all I could get. Because I thought that was all I was worth. Wrong. I am worth treating myself with kindness, nourishing myself with love, and providing myself with happiness. That mantra has changed my entire life perspective.
Eating without regret
With an eating disorder, eating is never just a neutral act. It’s an emotional ritual: a challenge, a fear, an internal battle. We may look normal to any outsider, as we delicately sip our drinks and play around with our food, but inside, we are in genuine, deep pain. Most of us experience the regret and remorse after an eating episode from time to time. Especially when learning how to break the barrier between “good” and “bad” foods. Especially when we eat more than we desire. Especially when we are having a low body-image day. Eating without regret is one of the hardest challenges to overcome in recovery. In order to achieve this, we must PRACTICE eating while continuously telling ourselves that we DESERVE to nourish our bodies. We need food to survive, and nothing can possibly make us gain or lose significant weight in one day. Therefore, no matter how difficult our days in recovery may feel, eventually the emotions stabilize. In recovery, we can learn how to ENJOY and SAVOR food once again, without fear that we will restrict, binge, or need to compensate for the eating.
Relapse- it’s going to happen at one point or another, and that’s okay.
My current therapist told me Relapse is a part of recovery during our very first session. This terrified me. Throughout the year, I slipped. I made mistakes. Take a couple steps forward, take one step back. That’s what she used to say. Relapse is a part of recovery. It made me feel doomed. I wanted to be the exception. I wanted the perfect recovery. I wanted to just be cured and healed and forget any remnant of my vicious disorder. It didn’t happen quite that way. Again, I wanted the black-and-white, when really, I needed to learn how to exist comfortably within the shades of gray. Still, I pushed. I kept trying. Picked myself up. Wiped away the tears and put my fighting face back on. Relapse is hard: it’s painstaking, gut-wrenching, and exhaustive. It makes us feel defeated. In fact, I believe relapse is harder than life before recovery. Because before recovery, we are often in denial. In recovery, we have gained acute awareness. We acquire resources and tools to overcome our triggers and habits. Some of us gain a willingness to get better and a sense of motivation to heal ourselves. Thus, we feel like failures when we engage in behaviors that detract us from those goals. We are not failures. Every lapse is a learning mistake, a teachable opportunity, a chance for us to try something new. The message and reasoning may not be immediately obvious and clear, but it always comes. Relapse is okay. Nobody told you that you had to be perfect. Your journey is your own, and it will take you to extraordinary places so long as you trust the process.
Yearning to live
I used to look at recovery as the SUBTRACTION of things: subtraction of the obsession with food and weight, subtraction of eating disordered behaviors, subtraction of feeling triggered, experiencing negative thoughts, subtraction of feeling worthless. Now, I perceive recovery as the ADDITION of things: addition of the joys and treasures that make life worth living, addition of new ways to indulge and take care of myself, addition of wanting to experience and savor each moment as it comes, addition of feeling worthwhile and beautiful. I used to yearn to do. Now I yearn to be.
Preachy or not, repetitive or not, I like to leave a positive note at the end of these journal entries to remind ALL OF YOU that my life has been transformed by virtues of choosing recovery. It may be the hardest decision you ever make. It will hurt. It will feel uncomfortable. You WILL have to take risks, bust out of your homeostasis, and learn to sit with difficult feelings. You WILL feel shame, fear, and humiliation. You WILL need support and a positive mindset. I’m not some unique know-it-all hotshot. I don’t have all the answers (or any of them, for that matter). I don’t believe in the I-can-do-this-so-can-you comparison game of recovery, because everyday is still a learning lesson for me.
I’m just an everyday girl who decided that there was more to life than the food I ate and number I weighed. I hope all of you can one day choose to believe the same 🙂
Recovery is a gift. Everyday, I get to choose to reopen it. And being able to open it is the most amazing miracle.