Putting recovery in its place

I found this feature on a site for living well with chronic illness:

Make a Place for your Illness

When many people here of my anorexia diagnosis, they tell me I will be fighting my eating disorder for the rest of my life.*

I know all too well that being diagnosed with an eating disorder has many more implications than strep throat. Even if an eating disorder isn't permanent, it IS long term. And even if I'm not sick forever or struggling forever, I will have to manage my recovery long term.

I'm not always the world's biggest stickler for semantics. I can throw terms around loosely, and it has made writing about my thesis subject and other complex issues very difficult. However, I think it's important, before I get any further, than I make a difference between managing my illness and managing my recovery. Learning to manage my anorexia means that I will learn how to eat just enough to keep myself out of medical danger. That I will always be anorexic in thought and deed. To me, it's a very negative connotation. Learning to manage my recovery, I think of in a much more positive light. There ARE skills to master: knowing how to eat even when it might not be the preferred option on my list, trying to accept my body as it is, understanding the signs of relapse, understanding the signs BEFORE the signs of relapse.

So, as I read this article about making a place in your life for your chronic illness, I realized that it does apply to eating disorders. But rather than making a place in your life for your eating disorder, it's worth thinking about making a place in your life for your recovery. At first, recovery can and will be a full time task. It's exhausting. Yet even years down the road, recovery still requires mindfulness. Your triggers might not be the same as mine. But we still need to take stock of things that could set us up for a slip or relapse.

This paragraph here I thought particularly useful:

Befriend your illness as a part of your life
Chronic illness is your daily companion You already know how it affects your body. Now get to know what you feel and think about it, and especially how you treat it. If you consider your illness an enemy to be crushed, or an unwelcomed guest which you refuse to tolerate, or even an interloper you must annihilate, how will you allow your illness to be what it is, a part of your life which you can learn to befriend? Do you remember what Lincoln said about a house being divided against itself unable to stand? If you're divided against yourself by refusing to know your illness, or by waging war against it, how will you come to befriend it? Consider giving your illness a name and talking with it. Speak from your heart and your passion. Write down everything you think and feel about it. Don't keep your thoughts running around in your mind creating havoc. Then, listen to what your illness says to you in return. If you find this difficult to do, don't be discouraged. It is difficult, but there are rewards. An uneasy alliance is better than none at all.

*This kind of makes me think of the psychic with the doorbell: if they're truly psychic, shouldn't they be waiting? And yes, my classmate's brother lives above a psychic, who has a doorbell, so I'm not making this stuff up.

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Harriet said...

Well put, Carrie. I am a fierce believer in full recovery. All of us grown-up human types have to take care of ourselves, whether it's reminding ourselves to exercise enough or eat enough or whatever. But I don't think a mindset that says "You'll always have anorexia" is helpful in the least. And I resent the hell out of those who insist on it.

You go, girl.

mary said...

Carrie, you HAD (past tense) anorexia for a long time. This means that it will take a little longer for it to fully leave. You also have to allow it to go. You have to say "get out of here" when it dares to bother you. You can do this. Practice telling it to F off often and you'll see just how weak and pathetic it has become.
Place your focus on your dreams and stay creative! You may be so much closer to ending this than you realize. Just don't stand in your own way by entertaining the "jerk" any longer.
I look forward to when you can write about this from a whole new perspective, fully recovered. You can practice saying it now. ; )

carrie said...


It's like my friend who has an insulin pump to deal with her diabetes. It makes it easier for her to manage her illness, but it's still a part of her everyday life.

My recovery will be, too. And I will have to be much more cognizant of eating properly, etc, than most. But that doesn't mean that the anorexia will stay with me forever, just as my friend won't always be in blood sugar crisis.


The had/have dilemma is interesting. I don't know how to define myself at the moment. I am recovering from anorexia, yes, but I still struggle with whether I can say I've put it behind me.

mary said...

I don't mean any disrespect to your struggle Carrie! I know it's hard at times.
This kind of illness isn't one you want to make a place for. It only diminishes those who give it attention. Remember that "Let Go" post a while back? It's a good one for a fridge!
You've made some amazing steps forward. You also lived without an ED once and I know that you can again.

Greg Katz said...

I think it's so important that we differentiate between having an illness and being an illness. I've had an auto-immune disease for over thirty years, but I am not the illness.

I've learned to negotiate my health in a more clearl and definitive manner. It took lots of practice not to mention trial and error. My hope is that all who may be facing a life-altering illness are not held hostage by the diagnosis.

It's really one more word to describe us, but shouldn't consume our identity.

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I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

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Have any questions or comments about this blog? Feel free to email me at carrie@edbites.com

nour·ish: (v); to sustain with food or nutriment; supply with what is necessary for life, health, and growth; to cherish, foster, keep alive; to strengthen, build up, or promote


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