I’ve been wanting to write about things that no one tells you about eating disorder recovery for a while but haven’t been able to come up with the right words. So instead, here I am at 3:14 am writing it now. I’ve decided to turn it into a bit of a series – the first one being 14 things no one tells you about depression.
*This blog post is based off my experience with anorexia nervosa and eating disorder recovery
Being weight restored doesn’t mean you are fully recovered
I think that this is one of the most common misconceptions of eating disorder recovery. Eating disorders are seen as something that only happens when you are underweight, but this is far from the truth. You can have an eating disorder no matter what you weigh. Lots of people assume that once you are at a specific weight, you have officially recovered from your eating disorder. It doesn’t work like that at all. It takes your brain/mind much longer to catch up!
If you know someone who has an eating disorder and they are weight restored or they were never underweight, please do not assume that they don’t have one.
Related post: 5 things I wish my friends knew about eating disorder recovery
It’s very easy to slip back
I just assumed that once I was recovered, everything would be fine. There have been a few days where I have very easily, slipped back and could not snap out of it. Luckily, I eventually managed to, but it was so tough.
It starts with skipping a meal, but then you get SO hungry – you want to eat, but maybe it’s close to another meal now and you don’t see the point. What we don’t understand is that it is okay for someone without an eating disorder to skip a snack or a meal every now and again. But, it is NOT okay for us to do that. We need to eat, it is essential that we eat at all the required points because it just is far too easy to slip back into old habits. I didn’t realise how important it was to have a relapse plan in place – on my last therapy session, we put a plan in place but naively I never thought I would need it. Now, I have it readily available in my room whenever I need it.
You will miss your eating disorder as you separate
When I was in the depths of my eating disorder, I called it my best friend. I distinctively remember saying to my therapist and my parents that it was my best friend and the only one on my side. That is obviously not true, but I didn’t understand that at the time.
I would be lying if I said I didn’t sometimes miss my eating disorder. It makes no sense because it completely ruined my life, so why would I miss that? I won’t go into any detail because it’s triggering for me and others who have EDs. But, sometimes it told me what I wanted to hear, that if I just lost x amount of weight I would feel better etc. I now know that it isn’t true, in fact, I probably got more insecure the more weight I lost. But it’s like a relationship or a friendship – you want to remember the good times, it’s only natural too. But, it is so important to remember that, really, there were no good times.
The constant worry of not feeling ‘sick enough’
I was so worried that if I got over a specific fear food too quickly or I gained weight too quickly, it meant that I wasn’t sick enough. Like it was too easy for me, and maybe they had wrongly diagnosed me or maybe I didn’t deserve treatment or counselling. Being so anxious about all of this definitely slowed down my ED recovery – I was scared of what others thought about me. I wasn’t admitted to the hospital and I didn’t lose my period – those were the two main things I believed that determined how sick I was. I thought to myself, if x happened then maybe I’d feel like I actually had anorexia.
Not knowing how to live without your eating disorder
This was a massive worry of mine. Almost all of my thoughts were to do with my eating disorder. I wondered what normal people think of throughout the day, whether they were thinking about food and what they’d have to eat next time there was a meal or a snack.
My eating disorder truly felt like a friend and I didn’t know how I was going to cope without it. Who would be there to make all my decisions? If you know me, you know that I am very indecisive. During recovery, I felt even more indecisive. It’s like if someone offered me a biscuit, I couldn’t figure out whether to say yes or no. In the depths of my eating disorder, anorexia would just decide for me and it would be a clean no. But in recovery, the eating disorder didn’t always have a deathly strong grip on me – it still had a lot, but occasionally, I could make the decision myself – after a lot of back and forth. Though often the wrong decision was made and the ED still had the vice-like grip over me.
It’s not straight forward
Recovery isn’t linear. For someone who hasn’t had an eating disorder, it is very easy to say ‘just eat’. Please don’t say that! It’s very harming and it can make us feel very stupid for not ‘just’ doing that.
Related post: 6 things you shouldn’t say to someone with an eating disorder
There is also not a specific endpoint. Like I said earlier, weight restored doesn’t equal recovered. Different people take different amounts of time to recover. I know some people who take less than a year, while for others it can take a decade. It doesn’t mean that one deserves treatment or to recover more than the other.
Some people believe that you can never be fully recovered, while others believe you can. Personally, I don’t believe that I will ever be 100% recovered. I make an active decision to choose recovery every day, but some days it is a struggle. I mean, maybe that will change and it would be amazing! But, at the moment I’m not sure it is possible.
You have to make the choice to recover every single day
What others don’t realise, is that we have to make the recovery choice every day. If you don’t choose recovery, you choose death. It’s brutal but it’s the truth. Some days, I didn’t want to choose recovery, I thought it would be easy to just die. But I’m so glad that I kept on choosing it because my life is a lot better than it was during recovery. Don’t get me wrong, I still struggle some days, but it isn’t every day like it used to be. I am a vegetarian now! Something that wasn’t possible for me for a very long time.
You rediscover so much about yourself
Naturally, with therapy, you get asked a lot of questions. I thought that I just had some kind of disordered eating, I didn’t realise that I would be diagnosed with depression and anxiety. I remember being asked a lot of questions about when I started to feel sad, if I was always anxious etc.
During recovery, you are trying to leave the eating disorder behind and make your own decisions. I had to rediscover who I was, who my friends were, what I actually liked and disliked. It has taken me years to discover who ‘Caroline’ actually is, what her values are, her life goals and how she wants to live her life.
I’m going to talk more about this in another post.
You will lose friends
This seems to be a common theme of mental illnesses. I had so many appointments, I had to go home for lunch, I was constantly having one-to-ones with my tutor or having a counselling session and I think my friends couldn’t cope with all that. Having clinically depression made me feel so out of tune with them.
Sometimes they would ask me lots of questions about what was going on, and I felt like they cared. But that quickly turned into something else. They would want to know everything about me but then refused to share what was going on with them, it was totally a one-way street. It was almost like I had some juicy gossip to share and they want to know exactly what it was. But it wasn’t gossip, it was my life! And as soon as I told them, they wouldn’t hang out with me in larger groups. It was a chat on the way to school, disappear for the day and then sometimes a chat home. I stopped sharing what was going on after that. So instead, I just isolated myself. I spent my breaks in the toilet or in the library and threw myself into revision on the weekends.
Related post: The missing years
You are known as ‘the girl with anorexia’
The mental illness label becomes a part of your life for a long time. Even before I was diagnosed, I remember someone coming up to a friend of mine and asking if I had anorexia. I think it was around the time that ‘All About That Base’ by Meghan Trainor came out. I don’t remember exactly what they said, but it was something to do with the song.
Now, a year after I’ve been discharged, I feel like that is what I am. The girl who used to have anorexia, the girl who’s depressed etc. Coming back from university, I’ve especially felt like that. Where I’m from, now has a lot of bad memories for me. I think it’s because it’s the place where my mental health deteriorated, whereas in Bournemouth I was a new person and no one knew much about me. I know that if I’m not careful, I could easily revert back. It’s very hard to get rid of the label, especially when anorexia was a huge part of my identity. I feel like I still need to prove to people that I am more than a label.
So, yes recovering from an eating disorder is the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my whole life. But, there are so many good things that have come out of it! I don’t want you to read this post, see all the hard stuff and decide not to. I just wanted to spread a bit of awareness for other people to know what it is really like, or if you are recovering, to know that this is normal. You can get through this <3
If you are struggling with an eating disorder, please reach out and speak to someone.
Best wishes, Cx
Thanks for sharing your experience, Caroline! As someone who hasn’t had an eating disorder or known anyone who has, it is definitely something I know too little about. But that’s why I should be reading posts like yours, to be informed so that if I do need to support someone later on, I’ll know a little at least.
Thank you ❤
Your experience and this post is really strong and definately something that as a reader you cannot forget. I am glad that you decided to share it since it does help those, like me, who never had an eating dissorder, to understand what it is all about.
I understand that it was and is a constant fight. Thank you for sharing it!
Thank you x
This was such an eye-opening post. Yet another reminder that recovery is not easy and that some of the things that some as setbacks are actually quite normal.
Thank you x
Thank you for sharing your experience Caroline, I’ve learned a lot from reading this post, I haven’t or don’t know anyone who has suffered with an eating disorder and it’s helped me learn more about it x
Lucy | http://www.lucymary.co.uk
Thank you Lucy ❤
This was a great read, Caroline. I had no idea what recovering from an eating disorder meant, and I had one of my schoolmates go through it but never felt like asking questions because I am not sure she felt comfortable enough. Hopefully the road ahead for you is as straight as possible and so is your recovery x
Thank you Simona x
I find the hardest thing is to be able to tell the difference between what’s the eating disorder and what’s a normal level of being uncomfortable/feeling unhappy with your body. It’s such a grey area.
Yeah, it’s such a complex thing x
Well done for raising awareness of this. This is one illness that I knew little about apart from the reference to Princess Diana having it.
Pastor Natalie says
Caroline, I sincerely appreciate you sharing your story and bringing awareness to this important topic. So many deal with eating disorders and it may not be recognized sadly. It hits people of all ages and is difficult to overcome. Most importantly is to acknowledge it and get the necessary help. Wishing you the very best in overcoming this. ♥️
Thank you ❤
Kelly Diane says
This is such an important topic. ED is a lifelong illness where something can trigger you and you take a huge step back. So many people are oblivious to this and think that once you’re in recovery thats it. This post will hopefully open others eyes a bit more.
Della Driscoll says
Thank you for sharing this and being so open! I’ve learnt a lot from this post and it’s so great that you’re helping spread awareness from your own experience x
Thank you Della x
Molly @ Transatlantic Notes says
I think the fact you’re sharing your own experiences and knowledge about eating disorder recovery (and its successes and difficulties) is a much-needed part of a broader conversation we need to be having about this topic. Thank you for sharing this, I’ve learnt a lot from your post that gives me better insight into being more supportive towards my friends who are dealing with this.
Thank you Molly ❤
Seriah Sargenton says
I really appreciate you sharing your story and raising awareness on eating disorders. As someone who has never experienced, sometimes I forget just how much people suffer form this, and this opened my eyes.
Thank you x
This was such an eye opening read. I’d heard about people with disorders recovering but still referring to their disorders as a friend but not really understood it until now. Thank you for sharing your experience, and I wish you all the best with each day that passes x
Thank you Lisa x
Simply Alex Jean says
Thank you for sharing and being so open – this post was very informative and I learned a lot! I bet this post will help a lot of people, and help spread knowledge and awareness of supporting those with EDs. Thanks Caroline.
Thank you Alex x
Thank you for being open in this blog post. I have suffered from an eating disorder for the last 4 years and I STILL struggle with food. It is hard and it’s difficult to want to move past it because it gives you a reason almost. I’m glad you’re on the right path and I am always here if you want to talk, Em x
I relate, thank you. Always here if you want to chat too x
Jordanne | Ofaglasgowgirl says
Thank you for sharing your story and being so open and candid with us. I’m so sorry to hear that your friends didn’t really act like friends should, it’s awful when people treat you like that, no matter what. This was very insightful indeed, thank you again for sharing.
Thank you x
Thankyou sharing your experiences! Although I have never been officially diagnosed, I have battled with various EDs for the majority of my teen and adult life. It is a struggle but there is a light at the end of the tunnel! I wish you the best <3
Thank you x
Jenny in Neverland` says
Thank you for sharing and being so honest and open about this. I’m sure this will help a lot of people going through something similar x
Thank you Jenny ❤
Nons Mshengu says
This was beautifully written and ringed so true. One thing I was truly unprepared for is missing my disorder because it had become so intertwined with who I am. If I am not sick, unhealthy & consumed by my eating disorder – then who am I ?
Loved this piece and thank you for sharing.
I totally get you, thank you x
This was a very open and honest blog post. This will be extremely helpful for others. Thank you for reading and commenting.
Thank you x
Wow, this was a great read, Caroline! I love that you bring awareness and speak honestly about your experiences and ED. I have to admit, I really don’t know too much so it’s nice to have some insight into what you have gone through and what you still go through. You are so strong and I’m sending you good vibes to continue to be strong xx
Lynn | https://www.lynnmumbingmejia.com
Thank you Lynn ❤