The crux of recovery

I generally don't like making broad, sweeping statements about recovery.  Recovery ends up being about different things to different people, and we each have our own road to travel on the way to wellness.

But (and there's always a but) some people just get it so damn right that I think maybe broad, sweeping statements really aren't all that bad.

A mom on Around the Dinner Table posted this in response to learning about another person's relapsing daughter:

Whatever medication and therapies are offered your d, you can play an active part yourself in

  • teaching her that she has an illness where she will always be vulnerable to going down this path under stress
  • helping her to understand this, but teaching her that she must never choose this path in response to stress
  • helping her to create a future with possibilities beyond the pain she is feeling just now
  • reminding her how much she is loved (which I know you do all the time)

Yes, this.  If you could strip recovery down to the bone (I'm pretty sure that pun was unintentional), clear away all the extras and figure out just the basics, this would be it.  Much of the hard work of recovery is in learning our own vulnerabilities and demons.  Not just learning what they are, but what makes them come out of the locked closets in which we place them, and how to shoo them back in.

It's been tremendously humbling to begin to accept that I will never be invulnerable to anorexia, not completely.  But now that I'm learning to accept this, I can focus my energies on clearing out the wreckage from my eating disorder.


elizabeth marley said...

I can't remember if I've commented about this before here or somewhere else, but one thing I've found comfort in during recovery and during trying times is to remember (and to have learned) that I'm not a "normal" person anymore.

I, and I'm sure many ED sufferers, tend to be an all or nothing person and that's magnified 1000% when it comes to my ED. If I slip up the tiniest bit I'll feel like all is lost and I might as well just give up recovery all together. I've lost months to that logic.

So basically I'm at this point now where I've learned that because I've gone through this thing, I'm not normal people anymore. I don't function the same way my friends or my mom or that girl in the office does. There are different rules for me, at least for the foreseeable future and I need to constantly be aware of my own well-being.

It's possible this is only tangentially related, but this post reminded me of that.

Anonymous said...

Fabulous post Thank you ... I am realising this - its humbling YES - it's living with "it" and beyond it! The anaeglgy of the mother /daughter reminds me of the possibiloty that at times we must mother ourselves. Thanks Carrie

Anonymous said...

such a sad post. i want to believe in full recovery. sort of the cancer vs pneumonia paradox. with cancer there is "remission" and the forever fear of a relapse. pneumonia is cured by antibiotics and there is no more worry. simplified, i know. the thought of full recovery gives hope. statistics say that ed's can be relapsing and remitting. i don't know what my life will be like, but despite knowing that i have relapsed in the past, i really hope that i just had a tough case of pneumonia.

Cathy (UK) said...

I agree; it's a good description, apart from the reference to 'choosing' the path in response to stress. For me it didn't quite work that way. I never actively chose to do the behaviours of my AN; I just sort of fell into them and whenever I tried to stop them the panic was so great that I was worried I'd do something even worse (and more final) to myself.

I would love to think that I am no longer vulnerable to relapse, but I know that under periods of severe stress I have to fight intrusive thoughts very hard. I always remain vigilant.

Katie said...

As much as I secretly love the ATDT parents (yeah, I absolutely hung around there trying to pick up their attitudes and tips when I was going through weight restoration), they always make me sad too. My parents did the exact opposite of all of that - told me I was selfish and attention seeking rather than ill, and shouted at me (tried to chuck me out of the house on more than one occasion) whenever I was really struggling. It wasn't as if I was a danger to the rest of the family, I wasn't loud or aggressive, I just hid in my room and kept to myself. I don't blame my parents for making me ill (they didn't, they were responding to my crazy, not the other way around!) but I wish they hadn't reinforced my beliefs that I was bad and weak, not ill, and that I was unloveable. Gah. I'm glad there are some kids out there who get prompt and loving support from their parents.

Anyway, on a more intellectual note, I agree with the other commenters in that I really wish I believed full recovery was possible, but I don't have any proof that this is true so far. I think I'll be vulnerable to relapse throughout my life, just as people who tend towards other destructive behaviours under stress are vulnerable under stress. It doesn't really bother me though, because I'm doing well at avoiding relapse so far, and I do know that the urges get easier to cope with over time. I'll just have to be careful whenever things in my life are a bit hectic.

Anonymous said...

I have also wished for a long time that 100% recovery was possible. But those thoughts continue despite making good choices, following the rules, building a new life. This has been the hardest part for me. I like Elizabeth's words that I am not normal people anymore. The rules for others will probably never apply. Acceptance of that will be my hardest struggle. Having those around me accept that too is probably the biggest obstacle to long term recovery. I have lived with this for more than 1/2 my life. Expecting me to be normal is probably unrealistic.

hm said...

I remember asking my therapist, will I ever be done with this? And when she responded, probably not- for most people, it is a lifelong struggle- I felt so angry, sad, and despondent. I didn't even want to try. But I realize now that life is worth trying for- not trying to make anorexia go away- but trying to learn to live WITH it- to be in charge of it- to understand it and be able to have a healthy life in spite of it. Unfortunately, I have to accept that it is my traveling companion throughout this journey of life. The question is, who is the leader and who is just along for the ride? I'd rather lead and let it tag along behind me than the other way around- I've been the tag-a-long for toooo many years.

EvilGenius said...

I also agree that I'd like to pretend the propensity for relapse could completely disappear - but I don't think that's actually a realistic expectation. living a normal life with a normal relationship with food/your body - absolutely. but absolute security - I doubt it.
the ATDT parents also make me a bit sad for the reasons Katie gave but I do comfort myself with the idea that if they tried Maudsley with me we probably wouldn't be speaking now and I'd still be sick :P

Ally said...

Unfortunately I have to agree with Katie - although in my case it was simply a complete lack of ANY communication on the subject - even when my weight plummeted to a level that I could no longer get myself up in the morning, not a single word about it was ever mentioned. I too feel sad that no-one ever fought for me. But now, 20 years since the intial onset of my ED, I am learning to fight for myself.
And I think those parents that do take such an active interest in the health and safety of their children should all be extremely proud of themselves - they are doing what they should be doing - protecting their children at all costs.

Wondering Soul said...

I'm just beginning to face up to the prospect of recovery and I am absolutely terrified of what lies ahead.
It's very frightening to think that I will never be free of this, not as free as I once was.
I'm so glad that others like you can write so honestly and with such experience.
Thank you.


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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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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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