Updated: Feb 23
First things first, I am not the voice of every person who has ever had an eating disorder. I can only confidently talk about my own experience. With that said, however, over the course of my career, many brave souls have shared their stories with me.
In fact, (a zillion years ago) when I was writing for Seventeen, I read an overwhelming amount of stories from young people who were looking to share their experiences. At the time, most of my letters came from tween and teen girls but let me be clear — eating disorders do not discriminate.
Eating disorders impact people from all genders, all races, all socioeconomic backgrounds, abilities, and sexual orientations.
I will list at the end of this blog my favorite experts and voices who speak more regularly on this topic but for now, I just wanted to share the one thing I want people to know about eating disorders.
You can recover.
Recovery is not linear + it can last a lifetime.
This isn’t to deter you from thinking that someone can’t recover from an eating disorder. They most definitely can. But I think we have a very warped view of what that recovery looks like. And it varies for every individual.
Sometimes we want to get healthy so badly that we don't acknowledge when we are slipping back. That's a part of recovery. Recovery is far from being a straight line.
In my experience it was ten steps forward, five steps back…sometimes. Other times it was LEAPS ahead for a while….then a regression. And at other times a nice steady hum of personal growth and moving further away from the behaviors of the disease.
In my experience, recovery was a LOT of unpacking.
Childhood trauma. Learned behaviors about dieting from my family.
Cultural pressures of a child-performer to assimilate to a certain view of what is considered “beautiful”. Abusive relationships, self-harm. You name it - I was unpacking it!
So if you are in recovery right now - for the first time - or someone who has been down this windy road for a while…”HELLO, WELCOME” — “YOU GOT THIS”.
Yes, it’s totally normal to slip.
Yes, it’s totally normal to not feel like you are making progress.
Yes, it’s totally normal to compare your recovery to others.
Yes, it’s totally normal to even sometimes not want to get better.
Yes, I said it.
It can be scarier to really do the unpacking because it means you have to say goodbye to a life that has protected you, behaviors that have comforted you, and an attachment to our ED identity that has served us…until it no longer does.
You don’t get a new life without unpacking, discarding, and reorganizing the old one. That’s why it can take a lifetime. Or look different at various times in your life.
THAT IS ALL NORMAL.
Ok, maybe there is one more thing I’d want you to know.
RECOVERY IS AMAZING.
And not in a fairytale movie ending kind of amazing.
As in: holy fuck, I love my life because I am more IN MY LIFE, now.
I am not obsessed with behaviors and Dominant Stories ruling my actions.
I have more self-awareness now, confidence in my ability to do some hard things, and the courage to continue to face the recovery process which in the end is really all about LEARNING MORE ABOUT…ME!
When I stopped looking at recovery as a "me vs the ED" kind of lens and started thinking about it as an opportunity to UNLEARN some seriously fucked up things I had learned in my life (belief systems, cultural norms, stereotypes, self-loathing, etc!) — it was then that recovery really became about a journey about coming home to myself.
And let me be super clear — I couldn’t do any of this work without therapy.
I’ve been active in therapy for over 15 years with the same therapist.
I have insurance, I have access, and I have the financial means for it. I know not everyone has those same opportunities. So no matter where you are in reading this — reach out to someone — a parent, a counselor, a teacher, a friend, a hotline — the sooner you can get help and get started, the less alone you will feel.
Today my recovery looks like:
Creating a Good Life: a life designed on my terms, rooted in my values
Cultivating a mindset of: Always learning, always growing.
Self-care that uses rest to reset, food for fuel and exercise for energy!
Feeling JOY (yes, really!) even when I’m unpacking these destructive patterns that have shadowed my life.
Allowing myself to be more present, let love in, and cultivate a sense of gratitude for the bumpy parts that brought me here.
This recovery is yours to create. It won’t be perfect. It’s not supposed to be.
You are allowed to move on. You are allowed to thrive. You are allowed to heal.
And so it is.