I asked a client of mine to share some wisdom from their recovery. Here is LL’s story.
I arrived in Cape Town on April 27th, 2017. My weak body was wrapped in layers of clothing that were almost too heavy for me. The airport was full of people. With my suitcase dragging behind me, I entered the arrival hall that was packed with happy faces. People that could not wait for their loved ones to come home, to fall into their arms and make their homes feel whole again. Children were nervously jumping around until their dad’s familiar face appeared. Young women crying with joy when they saw their lovers step through the doors. Big groups of people celebrating the return of their friend. Every time the sliding doors opened, peoples faces lit up with the hope to see who they had been waiting for.
Then I walked through the door. The bright smiles and glowing faces faded within a split second. I was not the beloved sister, friend or daughter that everyone had been waiting for. A disappointment. A familiar feeling.
Nervously, I looked around. What now? I wasn’t sure who or what I was looking for, or if anyone was looking for me? Eventually, a friendly man approached me and said he would take me to the treatment centre that I would spend the next three months at. And that was the beginning. Without going into much detail about the treatment itself, I have to say that it was the best decision I have ever made. It was hard, harder than I thought and at times I doubted that I would survive. In hindsight, I don’t know that I would have survived without.
Unfortunately, Eating Disorders are among the most difficult illnesses to manage and recover from, and I often wonder why I am one of the lucky ones. I don’t believe that I am special, or that I was a mild enough case or that some people are just destined to die of this illness. I was lucky. Lucky in that I got treatment, that my family was and continues to be incredibly supportive in every way and that I was able to put my life on hold for a long time and focus on nothing but recovery. But I also worked hard and I wanted it. I really really did and I still do.
In treatment, I was compliant. I did everything I was told to. I donated all of my clothes to charity, because they were not going to fit anymore. I participated in groups. I was honest about my motives. I shared all of my secrets. Hell, I even looked at my face in a mirror and said out loud “I love you” to myself (worst.exercise.ever.) I ate all of meals, often while crying. I ate two (!) snacks when everyone else only had to have one and I was polite (except for that one time when I was upset about a certain snack-choice and ended up throwing my food around… but that’s a story for a different day. And yes, I still had to have snack. And yes, I did have to apologize.) I learned to trust the counselors and knew that I was no different from any of the other patients here.
Recently, a good friend of mine returned to the same treatment centre that we had been at together because the illness had caught up with him. When I went to visit a few days ago, he asked me: What did you do differently from me? So, here it is. This is how I am recovering.
1. As I said, I listen(ed) to my team. Although it was hard at times and the resistance great, I know that they are professionals and that they know better than me. I still see a counselor and dietician regularly (but not as often as I used to).
2. Recovery is a process, not a destination (I know… please bear with me here). An illness that has taken over my life for a decade or more is not fixed in a week or a month. Working on changing old thoughts, behaviours and attitudes takes time.
3. Stick with the winners. Someone told me this in my first week. I surround myself with people who are uplifting, or who have been where I’m at and who want to get better. Of course I will be there for a struggling friend whenever I can, but there is a fine line. I help those that want to be helped, but I cannot afford to engage with those who want to stay sick.
4. People, Places, Things. I feel eternally grateful for the opportunities I have and that I was able to establish a whole new life. I started my life over and removed all things toxic from my life – created new relationships and focused on the healthy ones.
5. Keeping my side of the street clean. When I first came into recovery, a whole new world opened itself before me. A world of optimism, possibilities and genuine love. It is easy to feel like you want to pass on all this amazing knowledge to everyone else – but this is my journey and what works for me might not necessarily work for anyone else.
6. Routine. This is my number one self-care tip. I need to know what I am doing when I wake up in the morning. I need to have a plan and a purpose. I learned this lesson many times – when I don’t have a structure in my life, it is very easy for my ED to creep back into my headspace.
7. MAKE IT FUN! Someone once told me “You can’t just always have fun” but I beg to differ. Yes, I still have to do some things that aren’t my favourite past time, but put on some music and rock. I spent a lot of my time doing things that feel good to me, such as seeing friends, spending time in nature, going to a yoga class or getting creative in the kitchen. If recovery wasn’t more fun that my eating disorder, I wouldn’t be living it.
That’s it. That simple. One day at a time.
How do you best eat an elephant? One bite at a time (excuse the pun).
Are you struggling with anxiety around food, weight and your body?
Do you also want to experience the freedom that LL experiences?
Does some of her story seem all too familiar to you?
Contact me to make an appointment. Whether you’re starting treatment for the first time, or returning to treatment for the 100th time – You deserve to live a life of freedom!
Here are some lovely resources to kick-start your journey: