When my friend Amanda said this, I knew it was true. But the more I think about it, the more I realize that TRUE recovery is never really discussed in “recovery” books. People tend to tell their stories, describe how they fell apart and then, in a chapter, tell us it was hard but worth it. But what really happens? How do you go from toeing the line of life or death to a beautiful healthy life?
They don’t tell you just how hard it is. They don’t tell you about waking up drenched in sweat in the middle of the night. They don’t tell you that you may inexplicably crave oreos at two o’clock in the morning. They don’t tell you how uncomfortable the weight gain is until it finally redistributes to where we wish the weight would go. They don’t tell you that the weight may never redistribute the way we wish it would. They don’t tell you that you wonder if you should give up every day. They don’t tell you about having to face the real issues that you’ve spent a year or five or twenty trying to avoid. They don’t tell you how scary it is to feel as if the biggest part of your identity is now a gaping hole, a void in your existence that seems near impossible to fill.
Why don’t they tell you these things? Maybe they’re afraid of scaring people away from recovery and back into their eating disorders. Maybe the entire thing is just a blur to most people. I wish I had known these things going into recovery, but not for the reasons most people think. I wish I had known so I hadn’t thought I was failing at recovery throughout the entire process. I wish I had known the details so I could see that it would end, that it wasn’t an eternal life of contemplation and a war with yourself. Had I known that the inner struggle would end one day, maybe I would have been more willing to sit through feeling “fat;” maybe I would have been willing to let myself cry about the traumas I never dealt with; maybe I would have fought those seemingly endless thoughts about giving up; maybe I would have spent more time trying to create a new person that I wanted to be rather than assume that my eating disorder was all I could be.
I’m here to tell you the reality of an eating disorder. I’m here to tell you that there are many uncomfortable moments, many moments you’ll want to give up and go back to the disorder, many moments that you feel like the only good part of you that you ever had was your disorder. Yes, there will be many of these moments, but they are not endless. Once you begin to fill in the void that the eating disorder once resided in, the uncomfortableness begins to subside and you begin to feel comfortable in your own skin. You realize that life is more than the disorder, but you can’t make that realization if you give up before you’re even half way through.
I’m here to tell you the things that no one tells you about recovery. They don’t tell you that, by the end of this journey, you’ll get to know yourself better than most people get to know themselves in a life time. They don’t tell you how wonderful it feels to find inner peace. They don’t tell you how incredible it is to force that formerly negative energy into something positive and productive. They don’t tell you how amazing it feels to be alive.
You have to take the bad with the good and realize that if you push through that struggle, it does end. It hurts like hell to break free but once you do, there’s life outside of the thin cage. There’s life outside of the head you’ve been stuck in for all this time. But you have to close the door on the life you’ve lived for so long before the door to a new life can finally open. It’s a leap of faith, but it is absolutely a leap worth taking.