What Is Recovery?
By the LGF Team
What is recovery?
If you’ve ever suffered from an eating disorder, or supported someone who has, chances are you’ve asked yourself this question – many times.
The question was the focus of lively conversation among a diverse mix of attendees at the first of our three-event Summer Dialogue Series on June 24th. With such a range of experiences and perspectives around eating disorders, there was a lot of debate about what recovery is and looks like, and just how achievable it is.
We began with nailing whatever “absolutes” we could agree on – the things that could be said, unequivocally, about recovering from an eating disorder:
- It IS possible.
- It's unique to each individual – both in terms of process and outcomes
- The path it takes is never a straight line
- Nothing about it is black-and-white
- It is scary, and it's hard work.
- It’s worth it in the end – albiet not as immediately or in exactly the ways one might expect
Of course, the conversation generated lots of other questions and issues. Many who were early on in recovery wondered who they would be once they reached the other side. Others who were further along in their journey questioned whether one really ever gets to a point of being fully recovered. Still others expressed frustration with how long it takes and how much effort is involved. And those in the room who were years past their eating disorder were shocked to learn that although research and treatment methods have progressed, the fight against this disease still has a long way to go. Eating disorders are on the rise, more than ever before.
Together, we sifted through all that came up and settled on three questions to help us drill down a little deeper:
- What contributes to recovery?
- What is going to happen to me (and my body) after recovery?
- What is my voice (and my rights) during recovery?
It isn’t enough to want to be recovered. We have to be willing to put ourselves through the process of recovering.
In small groups, we explored these questions in depth, unfurling threads and themes that were sometimes personal, uncomfortable, dark even. The light of it was that we were able to challenge one another’s perspectives and assumptions in a cohesive, supportive way. We gave each other a safe space to be.
A few more reflections from the afternoon:
- Tolerance for Ambiguity: We might crave a more concrete, definitive understanding of eating disorder recovery, but most everyone who’s been there knows there is no clear start line, track, or finish line. The experience is more about shades of grey than black-and-white. However frustrating that ambiguity, it brings with it a roominess in which we can find our own unique path.
- Clarity of Intent: It isn’t enough to want to be recovered. We have to be willing to put ourselves through the process of recovering.
- Resolve & Commitment: Ultimately, choosing to recover means accepting that it will be difficult and there will be ups and downs. We have to commit ourselves to the reality (rather than just the notion) of recovery. Inevitably, in many ways, and on many occasions, that means pushing our selves past the uncomfortable. That’s the commitment.
- Support: While a few people can and do recover alone, it’s a LOT easier with support. There are treatment options and support services available. Reaching out to at least one caring, trustworthy person is the first step.
- Discover the Strength Within: If we rely on others to do the work for us, we will never recover. We ask everyone on our support team to step up and give us their all – but we have to do the same. We are not helpless or weak. We are strong and resourceful and resilient. We endured the pain of our suffering; we can endure the discomfort of our recovery.
- Abstinence: Surprisingly, abstaining from eating disorder behaviors didn’t come up in all our talk of recovery. Were we all just assuming it was a given? Or was it just a little too challenging and uncomfortable to talk about? Either way, finding new ways to be in the world – without engaging in the behaviors that contribute to our suffering – is integral to recovery.
- Relapses: The recovery path can be full of ruts and curves, so stumbling comes with the territory. Relapse can be a part of recovery, and it doesn’t negate all the learning and growth that came before. One simply gets up, dusts oneself off, and carries on from where they left off.
- Community: Whether it’s those of us who have experienced an eating disorder first hand, have witnessed the suffering of another, or are on the path to recovery now – there is a growing community that “gets” this disease. We are willing to speak out, engage in difficult conversations, and advance the battle on all the fronts it needs to be fought. After all, we have to recover from this illness as a society, too.
We endured the pain of our suffering; we can endure the discomfort of our recovery.
So, you tell us – what does recovery mean to you? Share your thoughts on our Facebook page.
Upcoming events in our Summer Dialogue Series are: What is a Healthy Body? on July 22nd and What is a Meaningful Life? on August 26th. For more information visit https://www.lookingglassbc.com/dialogue-series/