Is it Normal To Still Struggle When You Seem “All Better”?

The calmness, greenery, and freshness of the woods are my happy place. So, I decided to go spend some self-care time exploring nature. However, the trails near my home that I ventured to were also the source of my disordered running. Reminding me of a time of great struggle.

For this reason, I decided to change my old navigational path to honor my new neuropathways that I have been pouring into for the past year. The result… even though I had been in those woods hundreds of times, even though I had run those trails for thousands of miles, I was completely lost. It was like I was in a different state, not three miles from my home. I felt like I was seeing the trails for the first time, not merely walking the familiar paths backwards.

Do you ever feel lost in your world even though, from the outside looking in, seemingly nothing has changed?

Searching for familiarity

As I walked, I felt confused, scared, and nervous. I was confused because in my brain, I knew that I knew these trails, yet I felt as though I was lost. The feeling of “new and unknown” is always a fearful one for me due to the feeling of lack of control it brings. And both of those emotions can sometimes lead me to want to use eating disorder symptoms.

At one point on my walk I even broke out into a run just to force familiarity into the newness. I immediately tripped on a root, tumbled to the ground, and lay looking up at the trees dancing in the wind.

Tears rolled down my cheeks because I knew that God was sending me a clear message. Stop. Look around. Understand there is a difference in lost verses new.

Who is this new me?

New. This is a word is a tough one to swallow in recovery.

Even though you are the same person in the same life with the same family, friends, home, job, etc…. everything is new. I have been recovered for a year now, and sometimes I just stop in my tracks and have to shake my head. I feel as though I need to shake myself back into existence because my new reality is so unfamiliar. 

Did I really just eat an appetizer, meal, and dessert without even thinking one negative thought? Woah! Did I just pass up the running shoes section of Nordstrom Rack and go straight to the heels? Did I really just say yes to model a bikini for my sweet neighbor who crochets? Who am I?

Is this normal to still struggle?

I recently had a conversation with a fellow warrior in a similar stage of recovery as me. She asked me the same question that I had been feeling in silence for months- Even though I am in recovery and not actively participating in any behaviors, is it still normal to struggle? The answer I gave to her is the answer that I needed to give myself… It is normal to struggle.

Human beings (disordered or not) will experience struggle when faced with navigating any newness in this life. My belief is that since we are so use to struggle being mainly connected to disorder that we don’t understand how to accept that struggle isn’t always connected to an eating disorder. It can just be learning to navigate this new life of freedom.

Free does not mean struggle – free.

Freedom just means that we have the ability to feel pain, uncomfortable, sad, happy, joy, fear, and hope without plummeting into a downward spiral. I personally have never gone this long without slipping/relapsing, and it is scary. It is hard not to let my mind go to the unhealthy place of, “Is this going to be the struggle that breaks the streak? Is this thought going to be the one that sends me back down the path of destruction?” But I have to give myself grace.

I am still here fighting for freedom. Still here learning to navigate the newness of my ever-changing body. I am still here learning to use my voice, to stand up for what I believe/want, to sit in emotion and love the person that is emerging from the ashes of disorder. I am here.

Who I am today is more than enough.

Back to the woods story…

As I got up from the cool dirt of the earth on that familiar yet foreign path in the woods, I brushed off my legs, reshaped my messy bun, and took off my sunglasses so I could see the unfiltered green around me. I took a deep breath and thanked the woods for this valuable lesson. Then I began to walk the trail once again.

There is beauty in the newness that I have never known, and the hope of those experiences will keep my fears at bay and my curiosity at the forefront of my mind.

Being recovered is not void of struggle, but it is full of new. How we navigate that newness is what defines our path.

I choose to move forward into the unknown because I know where the old trails lead.

The new roads are what hold the promise of happiness.


Image: @vinaysomanna

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  1. says: Ben B

    Thank you for this beautiful story, Brooke. I’m happy to read that you’ve been in recovery for a full year! It seems like yesterday. You’ve been an inspiration to our family!

  2. says: Brooke Heberling

    You are the reason your daughter is thriving! Support is priceless, and I love that you are so actively trying to stay informed! Xoxo

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