Recovery: Reflections On Perceived Loss And Gain

A recovery focused moment feels like a complete loss of security, but also an opportunity to gain flexibility.Flexibility seems so ambiguous when juxtaposed with the familiarity of hunger.Each success leads to the need for a still more daunting step forward. The mere act of eating is only a success once, the next success is more complicated – following a meal plan or not compensating for nutrition through purging behaviors or eating a specific fear food without judging yourself harshly for it.The figurative and very temporary sandcastle of each proximate success is washed away leaving you confusion, yes, but also with the strength to reach a little further for that next small triumph.Anorexia begins to define its victims. I’m not proud of it, but my identity these days hinges on my eating disorder. With every meal I force myself to consume I obviously gain nutrition; I lose my sense of self.Yet I only lose my identity because at these moments my anorexia is so loud and convincing when it tells me that without the feeling of exhausted starvation and the obedience to the arbitrary rules of my disorder I am nothing.In recovery we gain connection and the energy and desire to maintain these connections. At this point in my recovery I’m so fixated on the loss of my skeletal body that I’m often too self-conscious to want these connections.In continuing to push ourselves to have that cup of coffee with a friend or to simply pick up the phone when we need support we begin to lose the ED as our only “friend” and we (hopefully) gain confidence in our own ability to relate to others and accept their love and concern.We lose the comforting, disconnected numbness of malnutrition and our rejuvenated brains begin to experience the onslaught of emotions we have purported to avoid for so long.We regain our “sparkle,” our humanity, our sense of engagement and our curiosity. We lose the facade and deep-rooted denial that with a quick smile says “Everything’s ok,”even when that is far from the truth.I hear it said that through recovery one gains her life back. It sounds terribly cliche for one thing, it also sounds overwhelming. “Life” has been synonymous with “anorexia” (according my mental thesaurus at least) for so long that I’m not sure what to expect from a real, full life. Not to mention that many of us who suffer from EDs believe that we are not deserving of a fulfilling existence. Maybe gaining life is gaining the ability to tear down your seemingly perfect sandcastle before the waves reach it. Maybe it’s knowing when it’s time to try something new – trusting that you are creative, adventurous and sensible enough know what you need.

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