Image: @asitansuaveThroughout recovery, I have found many analogies and inspiring images and phrases about seeing recovery as a journey. When I think of recovery from an eating disorder in these terms, suddenly it all seems less scary. Things such as relapse or unexpected twists and turns are not something to be afraid of. They’re just part of the journey.
Not only can these challenges be a fun part of the process (incorporating fear foods again, anybody?) but they can become character building, hope inspiring moments. Challenging moments are what help me remember why I decided to embark on this mission in the first place.
One of my favorite quotes may be cliché, but so fitting.
By Robert Frost:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Choosing the road less traveled
March of 2017 marked the 1 year anniversary of when I checked myself into inpatient treatment for my eating disorder. Up to that point, I had walked the road I’d always known: my ED. I was taking the interstate at rush hour daily, finding myself frustrated and hopeless but still not taking another route.
I thought that being admitted to inpatient was the end of the line. That when I left I’d have reached the goal: “recovery”.
The road to recovery isn’t always smooth
But then, discharge came and the real work began. When I was sent home, suddenly there were no nurses in the hall outside my room or dietitians watching as I ate my meals. I was back to work and back into real life. Getting accustomed to the idea that this was my recovery was not at all easy. I was breaking new ground and finding my own road.
While others could walk alongside me or even carry me for short distances, ultimately I was the one who had to find the destination and read the map to a healthier life. This led to anxiety, frustration and setbacks.
Here are the 4 most valuable lessons I’ve learned on my trip thus far:
1. Expect detours and delays
Along the way the first year after discharge, I got lost. Several times…some might call them relapses. However, I was able to rally and get back on my feet and start walking again. That’s really what matters.
2. When the goin’ gets tough, the tough get goin’!
There have been emotional hills to climb and tough terrain. The key is to remember to reach for the tools you have at your disposal: self-care (like reading a book or taking a hot bath), Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, etc. Ride out your struggles and find a better way of managing them then resorting to the old ways of the ED. Reach out to your care team.
3. Don’t be that person. Ask for directions.
When I finally found a therapist and a dietitian that understood and supported me, I began to accept the challenges of recovery with less fear and more excited anticipation. A good support system is not only helpful, it is vital in recovery from an eating disorder.
This isn’t limited to just professionals that are here to help, but also your friends and family. That is, if they’re supportive. If not, can you help them understand better or give them the tools they need to help you? There is no shame in consulting the GPS or asking someone for directions. Ask for help when you need it.
4. Don’t focus on the destination so much.
The most challenging thing for me in my recovery has been wondering when I will reach the destination or “recovery”. Throughout this year I have begun to realize one thing for certain. Dearest warrior, recovery is not a destination. Recovery is the journey.
You-and your health and happiness. That is the destination.