I regularly feature Q&As with individuals who’ve recovered from eating disorders, binge eating, negative body image and any kind of disordered eating. If you’d like to share your story of recovery, I’d love to hear from you! You can email me at [email protected].
Today, I want to share with you another story of recovery. This story comes from Alexis, who writes the eloquent blog Surfacing After Silence.
Below, Alexis talks about why she started her blog, what precipitated her eating disorder and what propelled and finally led to her recovery. What I find especially inspiring — just one of the things — is that Alexis went through several hospitalizations and outpatient treatments, but she didn’t give up. And she recovered.
One of the biggest myths about eating disorders is that recovery is supposed to be smooth, that you’re supposed to get better after a few months in therapy or after one hospitalization. And, if you don’t, you’re doomed.
But the reality is that everyone is different. Some people will need more time in treatment; others less. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how many hospitalizations or treatments you need: There is always hope, and recovery is always possible. Remember that recovery is not linear. It has its ups and downs and jagged edges. You may experience relapses but you can use those as opportunities to learn (to check in with yourself and see what you need) and become stronger in your recovery. The key is to keep working (and make sure you’re getting effective treatment).
I hope you find Alexis’s story hopeful. Stay tuned for part two tomorrow, when she talks more about her recovery, the toughest parts and what insights she’s gained.
Please tell us a bit about yourself and your blog.
I’m currently attending University of Missouri (Mizzou), working toward my doctorate in Literature with a concentration in Creative Nonfiction Writing. I’ve finished one full year and then took a year off after being diagnosed with Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Dysplasia (ARVD), a very rare genetic form of progressive, irreversible and untreatable cardiomyopathy and needing to have an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) put in. I’m looking forward to returning in the fall, when I will be taking three classes and teaching two classes.
I started my blog, Surfacing After Silence, because I wanted people to know that you can fully recover from an eating disorder, that you don’t have to manage the symptoms for the rest of your life. I think professionals do clients a great disservice when they say you can’t truly recover from an eating disorder. Where’s the hope in that statement?
How and when did your eating disorder start? What do you think contributed to it?
I would have to say I started over-exercising as an adolescent. I didn’t start restricting until I went to college. I think that the level at which I participated in athletics influenced my eating disorder—I was a two-time All American in Track and Field as a freshman in college and remember thinking that I would have placed higher at Nationals if I had been smaller.
As it was, I was the smallest competitor in my events, but my body image was so distorted I couldn’t see that until years later. I’m also a perfectionist by nature, have Bipolar Disorder Type 1 and the eating disorder symptoms always intensified when I was depressed, and I have a history of early childhood sexual abuse and rape.
What motivated you to seek treatment?
Initially, to be honest, I was forced into treatment and was very resentful about that. I didn’t decide that I really wanted to recover until 2005. I was in the hospital and my brother brought my nephew to visit me on Christmas Day, and I realized that I didn’t want my nephew growing up visiting me in hospitals or watching me get sick and then get somewhat better and then get sick and then get somewhat better over and over again. I wanted to be an active part of his life, and to do that, I needed to be healthy. It took two years of intense inpatient, partial hospitalization, outpatient and another trip back to inpatient for me to really let recovery set it.
Eating disorders are tremendously treatable but the key is to find the right treatment. How did you go about seeking services?
As I said, initially, my therapist always threatened to commit me if I didn’t go voluntarily. Then when I decided I wanted to recover, it was a matter of finding a hospital that took my insurance and had multiple levels of care. The first times I was hospitalized, I always went from inpatient treatment directly to home with no transition at all. In 2005, I was hospitalized in a very strict program, which I needed, and transitioned to partial hospitalization and as I got stronger was able to take days off to make sure I was able to follow through with my meal plan on my own.
What led to your recovery?
I already mentioned one major influence: my nephew. The second major influence was, and remains, my heart. I am a survivor of sudden cardiac arrest and a myocardial infarction because of my heart disease. I finally got to a point where I realized that my intention was never to die, but that if I continued with the anorexia, my body would not make it. My heart needs as much care as I can possibly give it.
Thanks so much, Alexis, for sharing your story! Stay tuned for part two.
P.S., Please check out my guest post on the three best body image tips at HealthyGirl.org. I’m so honored to guest post on this fantastic blog!