Recovery is complicated. It is the right thing to do; your loved one’s might keep telling you that it’s the right thing to do; your therapist or doctors may say the same. And they are right, but in the mind of someone with an eating disorder (ED), recovery is complicated. It is more than a yes or no decision. It is life or death, but sometimes the thought of staying in your eating disorder, staying in your comfort zone, feels right. Recovery is a life or death decision, but sometimes, the ED can take control of that, can make you confused on what side is truly life and which is truly death.
For me, recovery came with fears that caused me to stay silent year after year. In the beginning, I feared that recovery meant that I would not be able to get to my goal, that I would never be happy, that I could never be loved. That initial fear also included that recovery would mean that I had to own up to my disorder.
But I wasn’t sick enough. I couldn’t be sick enough. I didn’t look like the stereotype. No one was worried about me. I hid it well. So I couldn’t recover, I couldn’t seek treatment, because I was not sick enough.
Or so I told myself, for years. I was afraid of seeking treatment because I felt that I did not deserve it. I was afraid of seeking treatment because I feared looking different; I feared not being able to get to where I wanted to be; I feared facing my pain and having to deal with it without my eating disorder as a crutch. I feared recovery because it meant stepping out of my comfort zone. I feared recovery because it meant working on myself. I feared recovery because it meant change and vulnerability and letting people into the story that I spent so many years trying to hide. Recovery also meant health and life and wellness, but that was so much different from what I had known.
Recovery is complicated.
I do not know the moment when my fears about recovery went away. Perhaps they still exist to some extent, but they no longer control the ride that I am on. They are somewhere in the backseat and hope is driving now.
If you are facing an eating disorder, I’ll tell you this: your fears don’t have to drive but they are allowed to exist. They are allowed to say “Hey, I’m here and this is hard. This is scary.” You are allowed to be hesitant and worried and want to recover while also being terrified of what that journey means.
Recovery is complicated. And those fears are complicated. But courage is not the absence of fear, it’s acknowledging that fear and moving forward anyway. You are not alone in your pain, in the battles in your head, in the thoughts that keep you up at night. You are not alone in this journey.
(P.S. Everything I feared ended up being just fine. You will be too. Take it day by day. Be kind to yourself. And tell your fears to hop in the backseat. ED doesn’t get to drive on this journey, you do.)