You’re almost there.
For the first time in a long while, you feel strong again. You can look at food without guilt, at the mirror without disgust, and at other people without shame.
Yet something’s still wrong. Something’s still trying to drag you back into the hell you already escaped. You’re constantly bothered by thoughts like “Why is this happening to me?” and “Am I not doing enough?”
To answer the last question: No, it’s not that. But a different perspective on eating disorder recovery might be what’s missing.
Sometimes all we need is a little inspiration to guide us through recovery, and often that’s hard to find within. Rather, it usually helps to look at the world around you and draw inspiration from the words of others who can offer a different perspective. And perspective is exactly what I’ll try to offer you, through the wisdom of four amazing women (and one man).
“New beginnings are often disguised as painful endings.” — Lao Tsu
While recovering, you’ll experience setbacks. Every now and then, you’ll feel weird about eating normally again, and be tempted to go back to your old habits.
Allow yourself to feel the pain of recovery. It’s not easy by any means, but it’s the only way you’ll be able to truly understand and accept where you are and where you can still go. Otherwise, you’ll keep going back to hell again and again.
If you’re having trouble, talk it out with someone you trust, or with people from online communities who are experiencing similar things. Remember: You’re not alone, and there’s at least one person somewhere who can help you. Don’t give up hope!
“I have insecurities, of course, but I don’t hang out with anyone who points them out to me.” — Adele
That said, you don’t have to share your concerns with just anyone who listens. If your condition was exacerbated because of the people you used to hang out with, it’s best to find another group. You don’t want to be alone while you’re recovering, but you don’t want to be surrounded by the worst kinds of people, either. If it’s close family or friends that are upsetting you, tell them about it. Chances are, they had no idea, and will be quick to change their behavior once you tell them how it’s affecting you.
And while you’re at it, be careful about the ones you do choose to hang out with. You want people who validate you, but not to the point that you become complacent about recovery. Pick people who are willing to dish out tough love when you need it. Balance is the key to recovery, after all.
“What other people think of you is none of your business.” — Amy Hatvany
The bestselling author of Best Kept Secret continues: “You can’t change [what other people think of you], you can’t control it. The only thing you can control is your reaction to it.”
Did your eating disorder develop along with a desire to be “normal”? If so, you’re not alone. The desire to feel normal and fit in is a common cause of addictions and eating disorders. But know this: Trying too hard to fit someone else’s perception of what you should be isn’t the answer. No matter what you do, there will always be people who’ll say something bad about you, so there’s no point trying to please them.
The only person you can truly please is yourself. You do that by knowing yourself inside out, celebrating your strengths, and working through and accepting your weaknesses. If you have a clear, unshakeable image of who you are, nothing anyone else says can bring you down.
“Perfection is shallow, unreal, and fatally uninteresting.” — Anne Lamott
Let’s face it: Women are held to impossible standards. We’re always too (blank) for someone: too pretty, too ugly, too fat, too thin, too smart, too dumb, too meek, too aggressive. So there’s no point trying to be perfect, since “perfect” is such an unachievable concept to begin with.
Then again, as Ms. Lamott points out, perfect is boring. Why bother trying to improve yourself, if you already have everything a woman can ask for? That’s not a fun way to live.
Living is having something to work for. Living is looking in the mirror every day and saying, “So I’m a little heavy / lightweight? So what? Never stopped me from being awesome!”
“Do the thing you think you cannot do.” — Eleanor Roosevelt
When you fall victim to an eating disorder, your perspective becomes warped. Everything becomes about “eating” or “not eating” and “eating too much” or “eating too little.” You lose sight of the things that matter, and eventually, you lose sight of your former self too.
If you feel this happening to you, try to pull yourself up anyway. Learn new skills if you’ve already forgotten the old ones, and meet new people if you’ve lost contacts over the years. You won’t be the same person you were before, but hopefully that change will be for the better.
“You can do this.” — Me
Stop blaming yourself for your eating disorder. Regardless of the cause of your condition, it’s important to maintain your drive for a healthy life. You exist for a reason, and you owe it to yourself to make the most of your existence. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Take the above-mentioned wisdom to heart and know you’re only a few steps away.
Sarah Landrum is a freelance writer and blogger sharing advice on living a healthy and happy life. She is also the founder of Punched Clocks, a career development site dedicated to inspiring happy and successful careers. You can find her on Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn.