A Day In The Life Of Eating Disorder Recovery
I’ve also discussed how parents can help on Psych Central’s main blog, World of Psychology.
Below is no exception. Elizabeth writes honestly and eloquently about the trials and triumphs of eating disorder recovery day to day.
While recovering from an eating disorder is hard, remember that every day is another day you can choose recovery.
I roll over and look at the clock. 5 am. I jump out of bed. I love getting up in the morning. Mornings are my favorite part of the day. It’s so quiet and peaceful. I turn on the coffee pot and take the dogs out.
Waking up early is not new for me. When I was in my eating disorder, I would wake up at 3 or 4 in the morning eager to weigh myself and find out what the scale said I could eat that day.
Now, thankfully, I wake up early for an entirely different reason. I need some quiet time for me before the busy day begins. My eating disorder is quiet in the early morning. I’m not sure why – maybe he likes to sleep in.
It’s 7:00 and I need to start getting ready. I pack my lunch and snacks, making sure I include everything I need. Then I head to my closet, feeling a knot in my stomach. This is usually when it begins. Some days, it’s okay. I pick out my clothes and put them on without too much thought. Today…not so much.
I guess my eating disorder set his alarm for 7:00.
I try on an outfit. Nope. Another. Not a chance. These pants feel tighter. That shirt doesn’t hang like it did.
I must be gaining weight. I stand staring at my clothes, tears forming in my eyes.
“If you weren’t so fat, you could look good in your clothes, Elizabeth.” My eating disorder’s voice is loud and clear. “No- I can’t let it do this to me. I just need to get dressed- I’m fine.” I put on one more outfit and hear him again, “You look terrible. You might as well get back in bed and not go to work- no one should see you like this.”
I crumple onto the floor, sobbing. I stay there for a few minutes trying to get my disorder’s voice out of my head. I have to coach myself through these moments- otherwise he’ll take over. “Elizabeth, you have to go to work. You cannot let him win. Get up and get dressed.” I throw on the least triggering outfit I can find and grab my bag.
I’m definitely not going to eat breakfast. I pick up my keys and stop. “Elizabeth, you know you need to eat breakfast.” “No, I don’t. Besides, I’m not hungry.” “Okay, you want to skip this meal. Where will that get you? You skip one; you’ll want to skip another. Do you really want to relapse? You have to eat breakfast.” “Oh my gosh, skipping breakfast does not mean I’m going to relapse!” “You don’t know that. It doesn’t take long for your eating disorder to completely take over. Today, it’s breakfast. Tomorrow- lunch. By Friday, you won’t be eating at all. And in two months, you’re back in treatment.” “Fine! I’ll eat breakfast!”
And I do. As I’m driving to work (obviously later than planned – these conversations with myself sometimes take awhile), I feel proud.
This morning, I won.
Lunch seems to be pretty easy these days. I take my time eating, practicing mindfulness as I take each bite. I think lunch is easy because I love my job. I feel productive, worthwhile, and happy while at work.
I see a professor walk past my door. “Dang, she’s thin. And she seems to have it all together. A Ph.D at 30 years old? You’re just finishing your Masters program. You are so behind,” the voice starts talking. “You’re right. And I shouldn’t eat snack this afternoon,” I respond. “Stop! No! I can’t go down this road right now. I am not behind. I am right where I need to be at this moment in time. We are all on different paths. And I will eat snack this afternoon.”
But he isn’t done yet, “Okay, eat snack. But you really should lose 5 pounds. You’ll feel so much better about yourself then.” I start to waiver again and then somehow find the strength to talk back, “What does losing 5 pounds ever get me? Back into the hell of my eating disorder and I’ve seen where that leads. That is not what I want. Look at my life today- it is so much more than I ever imagined it would be.”
I take some deep breaths and write out some affirmations. Those shame spirals come quickly and it’s difficult to get out of them. Sometimes, I can talk myself out in a few minutes like today. Other times, it takes awhile longer. At times, I need to do a reality check with someone I trust or journal about the life I want to live.
My eating disorder cannot give me that life- this I know for a fact.
I walk into the break room and a colleague says something to me about the calories in her lunch. I give a half-smile and walk out. “Why is it so normal to talk about calories in food? Ugh!”
I feel angry as I walk back to my office. I question whether I should have said something, but I think leaving was probably the best thing.
I open an email from a friend asking me to meet her for coffee. I smile as I think about how different my life is today. I reply, “Yes!”
I get home from work, let my dogs out, and begin cooking dinner. I love my home- it is my safe place. I sit down to dinner. I take my time to focus on my hunger/ fullness cues.
In the evenings, I try to do something I enjoy. I spend time with a friend, watch TV, read a good book, or take a long bubble bath. Sometimes I do all of these.
Tonight, I decide I need to journal. I need to figure out what’s going on- why did I have a meltdown this morning? I know it’s not really about my body. That’s just my go-to coping skill when things get tough.
As I sink into my bed, I feel exhausted, yet satisfied and successful. I made it. I’m pretty sure I will have to fight the eating disorder voice again tomorrow, but I know that I can do it.
I’ve been doing it for over two years. My confidence grows stronger every day.
My war is not over, but the daily battles are not quite as big as they used to be. One day at a time, I do what I need to do to take care of me.
I say a quiet “thank you” to God for the gift of recovery as I close my eyes.
Thank you, Elizabeth, so much.
Can you relate to Elizabeth’s post? What has been the toughest part of recovery for you? How do you overcome the obstacles? What helps you day to day?
Tartakovsky, M. (2011). A Day In The Life Of Eating Disorder Recovery. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 13, 2016, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/weightless/2011/02/a-day-in-the-life-of-eating-disorder-recovery/