For me, one of the hardest parts of recovering was letting go of old beliefs about myself that were formed from experiences of trauma and abuse – beliefs about not being good enough, about not being capable, about being unlovable, dirty, and disgusting. I steadily came to realize that I was the one who kept telling myself the same story and replicating that story through my behaviors. I realized that in order to recover, I’d need to believe something different and new.
People sometimes talk about recovery as if it’s this room one can simply enter into, but in reality, my recovery was, and is, a daily practice. Recovery was really hard for a really long time, and I kept having to make the hard choices – to nourish my body, to not punish myself, and to not base those decisions on temporary perceptions of my own deservedness. I knew people who had recovered, and so I fought through each day with a kind of blind hope and faith that one day it would be easier and that recovering would be worth it.
It did get easier. Recovering was the best decision I ever made, because it also required a full reconfiguration of the way I show up in the world and of the way I relate to myself and others. I had to embrace my own power and know that while I hadn’t chosen my eating disorder, I could choose recovery. I learned to let myself have needs and to rely on the support of loved ones, in spite of how scary that is. I’ve relearned to trust my intuition. I’ve learned to find safety in my body, rather than rebelling against it. I’ve learned how to know who I am on an intrinsic level, and to delineate who I am from my actions, so that I can tolerate and learn from my many mistakes and shortcomings. I’ve learned to not apologize for who I am or for taking up space.
My life looks very different than it did five years ago when I was a patient at Reasons. I’m pursuing a Master’s degree in counseling psychology, and I work in an eating disorder treatment facility with folks who struggle with many of the same things I struggled with. I’ve been behavior free for years, which is not something I would’ve thought was possible. I’ve learned that I’m capable of actually “doing life”. I had to learn to not make excuses for doing less that I was capable of, because in the end, I knew I wanted more.
I truly believe recovery is possible for anyone who’s willing and able to put in the work. To anyone early in recovery, I’d say let yourself make mistakes, because recovery is not perfect, and the important thing is learning from each time you fall. Think of each time you fall as an opportunity to practice learning how to get back up. Don’t sell yourself short, believing life doesn’t get better or that you’re not good enough – because you are good enough (you have always been good enough) and life absolutely gets better. Let yourself reach out and be vulnerable; there is no shame in struggling. When you find yourself hating your body, picking it apart, gently remind yourself of all the things your body does on a daily basis to keep you alive. Instead of being angry at yourself, be angry at a society that has built and perpetuated unrealistic standards of “beauty”. Talk kindly to yourself. Let the world see you. And remember to question the bounds of what you believe is possible.