I’ve spoken to many mental health professionals at all levels, and one thing they all agree on is that eating disorders are the hardest mental illness to treat. Compound the fact that when the body is deprived of nutrients, and the patient (in most cases) has a comorbid illness, increase of worsening of other symptoms and death are likely.
Learning this, and having difficulty finding a support structure, I believed was bound for failure.
Well brain, I proved you wrong.
This is the first thing you need to know when recovering, it is possible with limited resources. Here’s some things I wish I knew when I started my journey.
Figure out your ED’s obsessive tendencies. This helped me guide my obsessive compulsions into healthy directions. What was once a healthy behavior has become something I must do above anything else regardless of the consequence. Do your best to recognize when you can’t unhinge yourself from thoughts or behaviors, and try to directed it elsewhere. Honestly, I still suck at this today, but with time it has improved. Example: if you notice that you’ve lost several hours staring at Pintrest or Tumblr images about anything remotely related to eating disorders (for me, this includes fitspo), set a timer that makes a noise to snap yourself out of doing the behavior. Go do something else.
You’ll need support, but not a whole treatment team. The only time you’re going to need what the perception of the best help looks like is when you’re refusing to eat or drink, and your life is in danger. Support looks very different from person to person. For myself, it was a monthly visit to a private professional (that didn’t last long) to clarify issues I would write down during the week, and teach me some tricks to tick my brain. I would deem who’s opinions mattered and who’s didn’t. Your recovery will look different than anyone else’s, and it never means that you aren’t trying because you’re not in the hospital.
You have nothing to prove. I’ve found myself falling in this trap sometimes. It’s this urge to show people around me (particularly when eating out), and sometimes even myself that I have this orthorexia under 110% lock-down. All I end up doing is self-sabotaging. If people question why you’re not ordering dessert, or you’ve asked for a take-out container because you’ve only finished half your meal, and you clearly know your intentions, fuck ’em. If only eating half that portion will prevent me from finding ways to exercise excessively, then I’ve made the proper choice in recovery. You can only explain yourself so much: that alone can drive you to unhealthy behavior.
Expect to be the guru of weight loss. I find this one to be one of the hardest, particularly due to the fact that pretty much all persons suffering with some sort of eating disorder does it in secret. Orthorexia, in particular, is a really fine tight-rope of what’s considered healthy living, and what’s consuming your life. If you’re like me, you do want to help others who are struggling because you know you’re in the minority: 1 in 4 Canadian adults are considered obese . Admittedly, I’ve sometimes felt like I’m better than some as I believed it’s all I had identity speaking. Typing that out now makes me feel gross inside. All I can say is go case by case. I’ve offered suggestions when asked, and some cases I’ve stepped away. The hardest part is accepting myself after my actions, and not believing the voice telling me I’ve just started someone down the road of ED.
For now, that’s all I have. I still struggle to identify what is considered disordered thinking as living a healthy lifestyle, from a broader prospective, is disordered living if you were to compare it to today’s standard of living.
It’s not a race, and anything you do that’s not self-destructive, you’re on the right path.