Room in Recovery

Related: A Week

[Content Note: Discussion of eating disorders, some of which might make recovery harder. I don’t actually endorse the feelings here as ones I want to have.] 

I remember when I first started following other people writing about eating disorders how shocked I was that they prided themselves on not being in recovery. They seemed to not want to hit ‘recovered’, and I could not understand. I thought of recovered as necessarily good, a picture in my head of resetting the clock and going back to ‘normal’. And oh god, did I want ‘normal’.

I had friends who had recovered from OCD, depression, anxiety. Their lives were unquestionably better for it. Even a little bit of recovering, a little bit less depression, anxiety that wasn’t quite so debilitating, was wonderful. I wanted that. I expected that.

But I don’t think that’s what most of us get, recovering from an eating disorder. Of course, there’s little things: having more energy, fewer dark circles under my eyes. Less distress at the prospect of picking out clothes in the morning. But on the whole? Eating enough food means beating back the brain demons that think it makes me repulsive, horrible. It means spending willpower to remember that yes, you will eat lunch today. It means deciding to be more stressed and less happy because I’ve forced some bit of myself to remember that depriving isn’t good for me.

This isn’t part of the recovery narrative you hear, right? The part where you decide to pick “less happy, more healthy” over and over?

I want there to be space for hating recovery. For clawing at it with your fingernails, for wishing you hadn’t, for being less happy as a result. For putting on a brave smile to encourage others because it’s wrong (even as it’s also right) to say aloud that sometimes the only way you tolerate recovery is by viewing it as a challenge that will make others happy. And you love challenges.

I want there to be space to discuss the hard questions. The ones that sound like “If I eat, I’ll be too anxious about it to study for this exam. Which matters more?” and “Do I tell him that the things he likes about my body are the same things that make me cry?”

Recovery can look like this too.

2 thoughts on “Room in Recovery

  1. When I was recovering from my depression, I hated it too. I was less suicidal, but more distressed as a result, because I couldn’t choose to say ‘it’s okay, if things get really bad, I’ll just end it’. I just had to sit and deal with the bad, and that was pretty scary. So I understand what you mean.


  2. I can really relate to this. My issue is anxiety stemming from developmental trauma, and somewhere along the lines in my (long, probably lifelong) road to recovery, I lost my ability to be able to work with my agitation and anxiety and whiteknuckle it through deadlines. I’m also a whole lot less tolerant of even lesser distress than I used to cope with every day. I know I need to do this, that my life will be better off, I’ll be able to function better and one day even I might be happier… but some days I wish I could go back to thinking I was depressed, had poor coping skills, and complained too much about the fact she was a bit of a worrier (rather than someone with a serious anxiety problem which causes lack of coping skills and depression).

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