Perhaps you’ve been to therapy, read the books, even tried treatment. Maybe you’ve never gone to treatment because you’re “not sick enough.” Or you’ve been to treatment over and over again. You’ve gained weight. Lost weight. Obsessed over weight. Eaten. Not eaten. You hate your reflection. You hate yourself. Whatever your situation, your struggles with food, weight, and body feel like a prison you can never break free from. Recovery feels impossible. So what can you do?
When Recovery Feels Impossible- A Paradox
Living in the depths of an eating disorder can feel incredibly lonely. It’s common when struggling to believe recovery is possible for other warriors, but “not for me.” It’s a paradox really. On one hand it’s completely typical to feel you’re not “sick enough” to get better. On the other hand, so many of us believe we are “sicker” or “more messed up” or “hopeless” than others when it comes to recovery.
At the age of 39 I distinctly remember wondering if true recovery was actually possible. I’d seen others work hard and “reach” it. I’d listened to their inspirational stories. But I wondered if they were truly free? If real recovery was even possible. The times I let in the possibility of recovery being real, I added one stipulation. Yes, it was real… for others. But perhaps not for me.
Maybe I’d been struggling for too long. I was too messed up. My thoughts, behaviors, patterns, life was too f*ed up. It was an overwhelming, depressing, and lonely place to be. Perhaps you relate.
What I didn’t know at the time was: I was not alone. In fact, for many warriors, recovery feels impossible. The very thing I thought made me alone and different was in fact something I shared with many other warriors.
It’s such a common experience to believe you can’t recover, you aren’t “sick enough” or you’re “too messed up” to recover.
So What Can You DO When Recovery Feels Impossible?
Great…so we’re all struggling. We don’t know if we can get better, and we feel completely alone. But what can we DO about it? Don’t worry warriors- I got you!
1. Recognize the need for help when recovery feels impossible
I get it. Asking for help feels incredibly vulnerable. Scary. Threatening. Maybe it even feels useless. Perhaps you’ve asked others for help and it didn’t pan out so well. Jessica Flint has a quote I love. She says,
It’s so true. When we live in a place of shame, we isolate. This only allows shame to fester and grow. A key to recovery IS connecting with other people. Of course we’d all like our family and loved ones to be there for us. To understand and support us. But what about when they don’t get it? Consider sharing some resources such as this one with your family and loved ones. Sharing a resource like this can help increase understanding and open up a dialogue where you can express your needs.
No matter how hard you try, your family simply may not “get it.” This is painful and a loss that needs to be grieved. But it IS possible to find support outside of your family. Asking for help from a therapist, coach, nutritionist, or doctor is a great place to start. If you don’t know where to begin, check out Project Heal or NEDA. Consider finding a local support group such as ANAD.
2. Focus on the next right step
When I was at my lowest, I was terrified of the future. At the same time, I couldn’t imagine tolerating living in the hell of the eating disorder any longer. I felt overwhelmed with life. Thankfully, I had an amazing therapist who reminded me, over and over again, to just focus on taking the next right step.
The next right step will look different for everyone.
For some, it could mean sitting down and eating a meal. For others, it could mean picking up the phone to call a therapist. Maybe it means allowing yourself to skip a workout. The key is to determine what the next right step for recovery is. Not for the eating disorder. Doing this requires you dig really deep and get radically honest with yourself. Over and over again. One tiny little step at a time.
It makes sense recovery feels impossible when our eyes are fixed on the end result. On living a life free of an eating disorder. But when we stop focusing on the large end goal, and instead look at each tiny step we can take forward, it becomes less overwhelming. Set yourself up for “wins” by identifying small steps you can take towards recovery every single day. If you want accountability and structure, join us in the warrior challenge!
3. Connect online
While peer support is never a replacement for professional help when recovering from an eating disorder, it certainly can provide additional support. Consider who you follow on social media. These Instagram accounts can be really helpful for you on your journey. Following advocates and professionals who share important information can open your eyes and heart up to issues related to the eating disorder.
There are also multiple ways to learn online. Here at Recovery Warriors, we offer many programs to help support you on your path to recovery. Learning skills, connecting with other warriors, and gaining the full experience can be life changing. Check it out here.
Understanding that the fatphobia is a social justice issue has been monumental in my own recovery. Following, connecting with, and learning from activists online such as Your Fat Friend and Ragen Chastain opened my eyes to the injustices in our society. No matter where you fall on the spectrum of size, fatphobia and diet culture impact you.
I now see choosing recovery as an act of resistance against oppression and this gives me the power, energy, and conviction to choose recovery.
Even during the toughest times.
4. Remember that feelings are temporary
Feelings can be compared to waves. They rise up, reach a peak, and eventually come crashing down. Often an eating disorder is a coping mechanism we use to actually avoid our emotions. Though we don’t do this consciously, it can become an ingrained pattern.
The truth is- we’re strong enough to tolerate any and all feelings. And no feeling lasts forever. When you are in the deepest, darkest moments of the eating disorder, remind yourself of this.
Just because recovery feels impossible in this moment, on this day…does not mean it will always feel that way.
5. Ask yourself this question:
Remember that radical honesty I wrote about above? It’s time to channel that again and ask yourself this important question.
Is my life, as I am living it, working for me?
Meaning, when I choose to listen to the eating disorder voice, when I believe that recovery is impossible, and when I retreat into old familiar “safe” but dangerous behaviors… how is that working for me? There’s a reason you’re reading this article. And there’s a reason you’re still looking for direction and guidance. Even when recovery feels impossible… there is likely a tiny part of yourself still holding a fleck of hope. That maybe, just maybe, your life can be different. [Spoiler alert- it CAN be!]
If life with the eating disorder is not “working” for you, if you’re really honestly truly ready to make a change- you have to accept a truth.
Letting go of the eating disorder will mean doing things you are uncomfortable with.
It will mean making choices that are scary. Recovery requires you dig deep and fight the ed voice, while listening for your inner wisdom. And here at Recovery Warriors, we believe it is never too late.
So remember, warrior, you are not alone in this.
Recovery IS possible.