Sunday, 5 April 2009

Recovery Illusion?

Thank you for the support you gave me with yesterday's post. I'm not ready to think/talk more about it today, but might come back to it at some point.

I want to talk about recovery right now.

Lately, I've been feeling like recovery isn't really more than an illusion. Something people talk about, but nobody really defines- people I *thought* were recovered, I discovered really aren't at all. There struggles may be more under control, but are very much present in their day to day lives.

This raises two questions in my mind:

1) are people, on the whole, just messed up and all have issues?

or,

2) is complete freedom from anorexia really just not possible?

I've generally maintained the idea that a full recovery IS possible for everyone. That's not to say that everyone will recover, but that there is nobody out there who doesn't stand the same chance of being free from this. I built this belief for two reasons: firstly, I need to believe that a 100% recovery is possible. I don't want to contemplate the notion that I may NOT be fully recovered one day (because that leads me to the type of thinking present last week), but also because I thought I had seen it.

I have met a lot of people in treatment over the years- some I knew continued to struggle to a huge extent, some appeared to be doing well, some drifted away and I never heard anything else. I hoped, perhaps naively, that this was a positive sign- that they had moved beyond anorexia completely and didn't want it to be a part of their lives anymore. Some I kept in touch with- I guess it all comes down to a personal definition of what recovery actually is, but after talking more and more to people who consider themselves in recovery, I realise that they are still struggling. Not to the same extent, but they definitely aren't in the place I am striving for.

Which raises another question...

is what I am striving for completely unattainable/unrealistic?..

I have a LOT of respect and admiration for the friends I have who are doing well, and I do NOT want to be construed as knocking their recoveries. It takes a hell of a lot of hard work to get to a point where you are managing things well enough to move beyond this- to break free once and for all though is maybe not realistic. I like to THINK it's going to happen, but I don't feel it on an emotional level. For a myriad of reasons.

I am just trying to climb back into the head space I was in a few weeks ago and am starting to see the connection between my depression and the feeling that this recovery ideal I held in my head falling to pieces. I guess when you put people on pedestals, you are taking the risk that one day they might fall, and then what?..

9 comments:

Cacti Don't Cry said...

Wow. I feel EXACTLY the same way... it's part of the reason why I find it so hard to stay in touch with people I've met through treatment, because even if they're "doing well," it can all come crashing down at any given moment, and I'd hate to play any part in a ship that's going down (either cause or casualty).

I think maybe when you define "complete recovery," you're imagining it as life would be had your ED never existed in the first place. That's not going to happen, because you can't erase the past. Just because someone is "doing well" doesn't mean that they won't always be aware of what this used to mean to them. Speaking strictly for myself, I would be afraid to do that anyway, because I'd worry that letting down my guard, so to speak, would be the one thing that would send me right into a relapse.

I'm not saying that it's impossible to attain an ED-free life without being hypervigilant about it. When you're still struggling a lot, you probably ARE more likely to come into contact with people who are in the same situation... that doesn't mean that fully recovered people aren't out there. They are. That alone shows that it IS possible.

dancelikenooneiswatching said...

i think recovery is 100% possible..and that is what gives me hope..i am not willing to live forever with ED somewhere in my life..he has to be gone forever and that is the only way life will be what i truly want...you have to want it so badly and you have to work so hard and yes, we will always fall and keep falling..but i will get there in the end and i hope you believe enough in yourself too...we do not deserve to live lifes with ED we deserve to be free x

VeggieGirl said...

You CAN recover, girl - take it all slowly and have faith. Hang in there.

Katie said...

I think it's possible. I don't think anyone can ever say that it's definitely NOT possible. Have you ever read 'Gaining' by Aimee Liu? I found it really interesting reading about the different experiences of people who had suffered from eating disorders, years after they got over the worst. Some were still struggling but not all of them, and it was really...illuminating. I hang on to books like that (Life Without Ed is good too) like my life depends on it (and maybe it does, sometimes).
I would echo the first comment - there are people who have fully recovered out there, and they are proof that it is possible. Maybe you just haven't met any of them yet because it takes a really long time, and a lot of the people you meet in treatment or on ED forums are in their 20s/30s. It might take a long time, but I really believe that full recovery is possible in the long term.

Lexi said...

Like Miss VeggieGirl said, you CAN recover. It just takes a lot of focus and commitment. You know you can't just dip your big toe in the water. You have to cannonball. Think of it this way, if you are a house -- your eating disorder can be either on the coffee table, right in front of you, or, when you have it under control, it can a box in the basement, that you rarely ever look at or for. Unlike disordered eating, complete recovery is a Choice. Anyone can do it, but not everyone has the guts. But you, definitely have the power and strength to beat it. Don't give. Keep asking yourself questions and exploring yourself. You will find answers.
Love always,
Lexi

Sam said...

Ellie,
Sorry I didn't respond to yesterday's post, but I just want to thank you for your honesty, which is why I am going to be completely honest with you.
Sometimes, I am not sure if there is such thing as complete recovery. I think that the ED voices may just always be something that I may be fighting, but eventuallly, I will learn to ignore them. Yeah, they will still be there, but I will not listen to them, nor will I act on them. I will learn to face my real problems and not use food and weight as a distration from what is really bothrering me.
I think in this way, we will be free from ED--it's a long road ahead of us, but no one is expecting it to happen overnight.
I think that everyone struggles with something--but everyone handles stress differently.

Elle said...

Hi Ellie,
I feel like complete recovery IS possible, mostly because of what I've seen in my sister. She struggled with compulsive exercise and anorexia, and has done a complete 180. She thinks nothing of eating a bowl (or two) of ice cream after dinner, munching on cookies, or having seconds. She eats intuitively without any hesitation or regard for calories. She is bubbly, vibrant and happy - this gives me hope.
I firmly believe that anorexia is more of a symptom of other things than a "self-contained" disease in and of itself. If you can get to the bottom of the issues that are contributing to your anorexia, or find another outlet (be it writing, painting, a new hobby) to help you deal with those underlying feelings, I think we can truly be rid of our eating disorders. I also think it helps to let other people into our lives - as scary as it is. We all need to feel loved and accepted; to have a familiar, comforting relationship with a person (or even an animal, as I found with my kitty) as opposed to ED is tremendously helpful. We all deserve to live life free of this, we can, and we will.
Much love,
Elle

Syd said...

Ellie, I can only write about what I've learned in Al-Anon and with my wife. One can be sober and not drink but still have issues that were what was behind the drinking. Addressing those issues for me has meant that I've worked the 12 steps in the Al-Anon program. I will be a work in progress though. But the realization that I have character defects to address and my awareness of those has helped me to get so much better. My wife is sober but hasn't worked all the steps. She still has some "stinking thinking".

Sheena said...

I agree with Cacti that I think you are imagining recovery as if ED never existed. ED has taken a huge toll on your life, and I think we all need to come to terms with the fact that because of that he will always be part of our life in some way. He has taught us a different way of looking at our bodies and at food, and although we might move COMPLETELY beyond that perspective it is still a memory.

I guess in my view of recovery I am strivig for ED to just be a memory. I might look at peanut butter and think about how I used to binge,I might look at an old picture and remember how I used to restrict. But eventually it will be the thought of how could I do that. I will be disjointed and disconnected from ED.

I don't know if that is necessarily your view of complete recovery, and that's why I don't use the phrase "complete recovery". I think ED will always be with me and apart of me even if only as a memory.

I hope that might help and doesn't sound depressing, because I don't see it as depressing. I see it as hopeful.