Unlocking My Potential in Recovery
By Amanda Jones--I don’t know that I can tell you exactly when “recovery” finally happened. I can only see where different pieces of the puzzle came together, linking with other experiences, and building on areas I’d already made progress in.
Trigger warning: Descriptions of eating disordered behavior.
Like most people, when I first entered treatment for anorexia, I was in complete denial. While it was helpful, I eventually left treatment so I could continue going to school, and I transferred to an IOP program near my college. When I left treatment, I felt that I was strong in my recovery. I had made behavioral changes. I could admit that I had a problem, and my parents had finally admitted it too. I could decrease my exercise. I could follow my meal plan, and I could eat every damn Pop-Tart I wanted.
Eight months later, my world began to change, and I relapsed. It pained me to say it. I denied it. I was purging, but I hadn’t relapsed, right? I was just “trying to figure out how to nix this bad coping skill” or something like that. I was ashamed to step foot back into treatment, but I knew that my purging, laxative abuse, and depression had gotten out of control. I repeated the same program, and though I felt embarrassed, I met three of the most amazing friends who met me in my vulnerability. I found myself stumbling into an acupuncturist’s office to treat my depression, and was amazed by how life-changing it was. I left treatment feeling a little better, but my behaviors were hardly better than they were before.
My therapist recommended equine therapy to see if something more experiential might help me connect with some of the emotions I had buried long ago, and it turned out that she was right. For the first time in years, I was no longer numb, and the tears began to fall.
Shortly after ending equine therapy, my therapist abruptly terminated me, as she felt that we had done all we could do together, and I was devastated.
I found a new therapist who had also recovered from an eating disorder, and she somehow instilled hope in me—hope that despite my long history of failed treatments, I too could find healing. She sent me to a new nutritionist who helped me recognize how my childhood hunger influenced my present hunger, and she used behavioral techniques to help me stop purging. I found myself feeling increasingly anxious at the thought of actually having to let go of my eating disorder, and while scheduling my next session, I awkwardly blurted out “I’m just scared that if I stop purging it means I won’t have a reason to be in therapy.”
My therapist smiled and gave me the assurance I desperately longed for; she gave me permission to stop, and explained that when I stopped purging, the real healing could begin because I was no longer covering what was underneath it. I began to let myself heal. I let out the messy, chaotic, traumatizing things I had hidden beneath the surface, and I allowed her to walk with me on that painful journey. I began to find the things that made me me, and I began to find my voice. I made my way back to church, and I picked up my guitar. I cooked and I hiked. I began practicing yoga and began to love my body for what it did and not how it appeared.
I don’t know of any magic formula for recovery, and I can’t say that one particular thing in my recovery journey could have worked on its own. I think recovery is more like finding the key that matches the lock, and maybe there are multiple parts to each key. Ditto therapy, ditto nutritionists, ditto acupuncture, ditto biofeedback, ditto anything and everything you can try that might help you, but never give up. Healing IS possible.