THIS is What Recovered Looks Like: A Letter From The Other Side

Dear Friend,

There will come a day when you’ll wake up and realize you’ve arrived at this place called “recovered.” It will hit you, with astonishing strength, that life is good—in a deep, genuine, and enduring way. You will realize that the nature of “here” and “now” are such that you’d honestly choose this place, this moment, this body, over anything else.

Infinite possible paths stretch out before and behind you — descent into illness, return to old habits, or striving for the next goal or ideal. You will see these paths, but they will hold zero power or appeal. Because you choose to be here.

“Here” does not mean that everything is perfect or resolved.

Recovered doesn’t mean a perfect body, perfect career, or perfect relationships. It doesn’t mean that you’ll never look in the mirror and wish to see something else, or that every moment will be purely happy.

But it does mean that the overall balance has shifted. Instead of struggle and challenge and pain, words like abundance and peace and acceptance prevail.

I say this knowing full well that you won’t believe me.

You won’t believe me because, in the depths of anorexia, you can’t believe me. If there’s one thing I learned from recovery, it’s this. You can’t wait until you “feel ready” to recover before you take the first step.

If you do wait until you’re ready, you’ll simply never begin. It’s physiologically impossible to be ready for weight gain and body change until you’ve begun the process.

Others have written about why nutritional rehabilitation must come first – to give your body the energy and chemicals it needs to do the hard mind-and soul-work of healing.

It becomes a game of “fake it til you make it.”

You practice the actions of recovered life long before you feel willing or ready to do so. You trust that by going through the motions, you’ll slowly come to claim this recovered life as your own.

But I want to go a step further. I want to return to that feeling of “here.” Not just a life-is-okay stability, but a profound rootedness in a particular physical moment and a joy to be exactly where you are. There’s a reason why anorexia fundamentally prevents you from this kind of presence.

Think about the message you’re sending your body when you don’t eat. With each skipped meal and each hungry hour, you’re telling your body that it doesn’t deserve to partake in a basic exchange of energy and matter.

Think of energy in its broadest sense: the conversion of sunlight to sugars through photosynthesis, the diagrams of food webs in your ecology textbooks.

Think of matter: the constant cycling of minerals — calcium, phosphorous, nitrogen — from rock to sand to soil. Think of the way those same minerals live in your bones and blood, constantly rebuilding and restructuring the architecture of you.

Or take those physics equations that tell us that matter and energy cannot be created or destroyed, but cycle endlessly in countless creative incarnations and forms.

We too, are part of these webs.

We are variables in these equations. And the basic currency of this universal exchange is food.

So what are you telling your body when you don’t eat? You’re saying that you don’t belong in this grand relationship. You’re saying that you, unlike every other organism and piece of matter, exist outside of the web — isolated, different, wrong, self-contained.

No wonder eating disorders breed loneliness and isolation. It’s not just about the anxiety and preoccupation and hours of exercise, which make it hard to sustain any relationships.

You’re literally teaching your body, at the cellular level, that you don’t belong.

No wonder it’s impossible for you to experience the goodness of being “here” that comes with recovery. Being here requires a deep rooting, a presence, an awareness of your place within the world and your unique relation to everything. You simply can’t attain this if you don’t eat.

Eating, then, becomes an act of radical affirmation. With every meal, you re-teach your body its basic belonging.

With every bite, you defy aloneness. In every bite you assent to connection and relationship, to your place in the web of all things. You reclaim your basic right — a right you were born into simply because you are made from matter and energy.

You are saying, over and over, “I belong.”

It takes time to reteach the body these things. You’ll need to practice, day after day, by eating and resting, until the lesson goes deep into your cells. When it finally sinks in, it comes as a bodily knowledge that can’t be taken away.

When you arrive at “recovered”, it will feel too good to be true. You’ll think, “It’s impossible to be in this body, at this weight that the anorexia could never logically accept, and still be so happy.” You’ll feel a grating dissonance.

On the one hand, a strength and rootedness and pleasure. On the other, the eating disorder voices linger to convince you that this happiness is not real and not deserved.

All this makes perfect sense, because peace and ease are the ultimate threat to anorexia’s hold over you. Stability is the one thing that the eating disorder, with it’s every-changing goalposts and un-fulfillable ideals, can never promise.

So it will feed you lies: You cannot possibly stay here forever. That the peace you feel about your new body is a short-lived illusion. The goodness of here and now cannot possibly be the new norm.

I’m here to tell you: you do deserve this.

The good of here and now is the truth. Allow yourself to trust that this destination exists. If you can’t see it, be gentle and patient. Acknowledge why you can’t see it from where you are, and trust that someday you will.

There will come a day when you’ll wake up and realize: you’ve arrived.

The world is waiting. Waiting here to welcome you back to where you’ve always belonged.

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