Recovery. What exactly is it? I have spoken about it on my blog before, about how sometimes now I think about the idea of recovery and that at some point, I may want to recover. But what does ‘recovery’ mean? And what do I actually want when I think that I may want to ‘recover’?
In the eating disorder world you hear about ‘recovery’ all the time. How difficult it is, how many sufferers do not recover, how some go on to make wonderful recoveries. If I asked everyone what ‘recovery’ actually meant, they would each probably come up with different answers. For some who claim to be recovered, they have returned to a healthy weight and anorexia is non-existent in their lives…they are completely free of it. Others who claim to be ‘recovered’ suggest that anorexia will always be there, will always be a part of them but they do not let it control them. So the idea of ‘recovery’ seems to be subjective. There doesn’t appear to be any definitive criteria that you can tick off to say “Yes, I have recovered.” Many may say that the fundamental principle of ‘recovery’ is returning to a healthy weight. And yes, possibly this is true? I don’t know. I know of people who still remain underweight but suggest the anorexic mindset is not there anymore-they have beaten anorexia despite remaining slightly underweight. But then can you be truly recovered and remain underweight? Another question I do not have the answer to.
But one question which I do need to consider is what ‘recovery’ means to me. However, when I think about ‘recovery’ and ‘being recovered’, I do not actually know how I imagine life to be. Whilst I feel terrified of letting anorexia go completely and feel I need it to remain a part of me (although a smaller and less dominating part), and therefore want ‘recovery’ to allow me to hold on to it slightly, another part of me feels incredibly disheartened when I hear of stories when sufferers claim to have ‘recovered’ but say anorexia will always be there, they just now know how to manage it and are able to over-ride it. So does that mean you are destined to have this devil on your shoulder forever…is it always going to be a struggle and a battle? That’s not the life I want…yet I still want to hold on to a bit of it…confusing madness! So at the same time as wanting to hold on to a part anorexia, if I were to ‘do recovery’ I do not want to have the torture of anorexia still there (albeit in the background). So I do not know exactly what it is I want. And this makes thinking about ‘recovery’ even harder.
|Me with Nikki Grahame talking about reovery|
There are some things I know that I do want to include in my idea of ‘recovery’. I want to not have to exercise religiously and regimentally as I do now. I don’t exercise extremely excessively, far less now than when I was in the depths of anorexia, but I have to do a set amount of walking every day no matter what. And I would like to be able to not have to do it. And for it to be ok to not do it. To not have to get up at 6.45am to go out for a walk before work, to some days think I don’t feel going for a walk, or other days think I would like to go for a walk with my mum and not have to strictly monitor the time and speed. A relatively care-free and flexible mind to exercise…that is my idea of ‘recovery’.
Another aspect I know I would want in my ‘recovery’ would be to not count calories to the exact number. To be able to think “I fancy that sandwich” and being able to eat it, without thinking “I can’t have it because it is too many calories.” To eat foods because I want to eat them, not because they are the right number…and to be able to do this without feeling wracked with guilt and anxiety. That is my idea of ‘recovery.’
I also hope my ‘recovery’ allows me to do things spontaneously, deciding I want to do something, go somewhere, meet somebody or eat something on the spur of the moment, without having to have everything planned out in advance. As it is at the moment, I don’t do ‘spontaneity’. It is too anxiety provoking and I need to know what I am doing and when so I can make sure I have allocated time for my walking and I need to plan my eating to ensure I have the correct amount of calories. And this is a very tiresome way of living. It does help me to manage at the moment and it does enable me to go out and do things, because I can put time aside for my walk and I can fit my eating in around what I am doing as I have planned it all out. But I hope my ‘recovery’ will enable this to change, not necessitating plans, not monitoring everything so strictly, making my life have more flexibility, more fun, more freedom.
With regards to my weight, it is still a very scary, contentious issue. The idea of being a ‘healthy weight’ is beyond my current thinking. I don’t want to gain weight but I do recognise that it is probably a necessary element to achieve the other aspects of ‘recovery’ that I know I definitely want which I mentioned above. So I know I have to consider weight gain. It cannot be avoided. Whether it has to be complete weight restoration is another matter, probably depending on what your idea of ‘recovery’ is and how you progress once you have started on your own journey of ‘recovery’. For me, is too early to say but even the fact that I am considering some weight gain…actually I am not just considering it anymore. Now I accept and acknowledge that at some point it is going to happen and I do feel like I am getting closer to this point. And this is a huge step forward.
I met Nikki Grahame the other week (and anyone who knows me knows she is my idol) and when I asked her about ‘recovery’ she replied “Recovery is worth it. There is a whole world out there and you can have it if you want.” And this really hit me. She is right. I want to start experiencing and living in this world and if this means trying to ‘recover’ then actually I think I may want to do it. Recovery was worth it for her and if my ‘recovery’ allows me to achieve those things I have just mentioned and possibly more, then taking that huge, terrifying risk to attempt ‘recovery’…it could be worth it for me too?