Recovery from an eating disorder is such a personal thing. A metaphorical trip, really. Moving from the point of being quite sick to being fully recovered takes time and covers a whole lot of ground. Not everyone is leaving from the same point or arriving at the exact same place. Not everyone will take the same route, nor complete it in just one set amount of time. Everyone isn’t using the same vehicle.
There are common events and emotions people with anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder and EDNOS experience when becoming whole again. There are “Me, too!” moments when we hear someone else describe what they felt along the way in one moment or another.
But no one has the exact same recovery as someone else.
Because of that, people who are sharing the experience of recovery at the same time, or are now well and watching someone coming up behind them trying to achieve the same goal, or someone who is still sick and seeing someone else progress through their recovery journey ahead of them, have to allow for the individuality of each person’s trip.
Her journey may include an increased intake of food while yours doesn’t. He may require less frequent therapy appointments than you. She may go inpatient three times, while you went only once or not at all.
He may find it takes years to work through a really tough issue in therapy, and you don’t relate because it took you a lot less time. It might be the opposite, and you find yourself flirting with resentment over still having to work on a similar issue while it appears as if the other person has wrapped it up in a short amount of time. These comparisons get you nowhere.
Everyone has their own journey, just as you have yours.
This also applies to the loved ones watching a family member, friend, or romantic partner go through recovery. They may be quick to point out that there are things they see more clearly than the person who is sick, and there are definitely times when that is very true. A parent can watch a child losing or gaining an unhealthy amount of weight, when the child cannot see it themselves. A boyfriend or girlfriend can see their beloved slipping into isolation and becoming less of themselves, when this isn’t clear at all to the person they love.
Yet it is not true that those outside the eating disorder understand everything better than the ill person they care about. They have less of a vantage point when they cannot truly relate to the feelings and mindset that accompany being sick with an eating disorder. Loved ones often only have veiled reference points (or none at all) for what recovery for the person they care about is like.
The sufferer has insight into their own feelings, the origins of their illness, and what it is taking for them to recover, that are often things the loved one does not understand, often because it’s just not in their experience to understand it or they find it too painful to consider it.
Loved ones don’t know what the recovery journey of a family member, friend or romantic partner involves any more than the sufferer knows what the loved one’s journey of watching them go through an eating disorder is like.
When a person in recovery from an eating disorder makes a point of accepting that their journey is theirs, and everyone else’s is not theirs, it makes it easier to keep their eyes on the road ahead of them.
When a person who loves someone with an eating disorder accepts that they cannot truly dissect or fully direct that person’s recovery, it makes it easier to let go and let the person they love get where they’re going in a way that is best for them.
Too often, comparison is the passenger of an eating disorder. “Am I bigger than her?”, “Am I smaller than him?”, “Am I pretty enough for the societal norm?’, “Am I worthy compared to someone else?” Work on removing the comparison factor that often blocks the road for both the person in recovery and those who love them.
Look around, enjoy the scenery (it’s often beautiful), power through the storms, and don’t worry so much about what everyone else is doing and how you fear it may reflect on you. Recovery is indeed a journey, and your mileage may vary.
Visit Grace on the Moon, a website for eating
disorders information and recovery:
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