Recovery is the worst. You should really reconsider it.
In recovery, you feel flooded with every single emotion possible. “Isn’t it great to feel your feels now?” your treatment team asks. Sure you find yourself laughing more than you ever have but all those other emotions are way overrated. And then there’s the bad emotions. No, sorry, the “difficult” emotions. They feel so oppressive, it’s hard to breathe and yet your treatment team tells you feeling them is “worth it” and somehow you will come out the other side more resilient. You feel confident that your treatment team is composed of sadists.
When your body is nourished, you suddenly have all this mental energy to exert into more productive areas of your life. But who actually wants to live their life in any meaningful way? It’s so much more convenient to sink your limited energy into researching tips and tricks of the eating disorder game. Sure, you feel perpetually guilty and sad that you are observing life instead of living it, but that feels safer. You can’t get burned if you don’t get close to the fire, right?
In recovery, you’ll be taken off that lonely, ice-cold pedestal and expected to rejoin humanity. All the social anxiety you deferred into obsessing about food and eating disorder behaviors will suddenly require you to face your real fears: human interaction.
Now that you can actually track a conversation, you apparently need to start having meaningful conversations. You need to start socializing and making real friends! You need to be “vulnerable” they tell you. That’s how friends are made.
You don’t know how to talk to people. Apparently that was something others learned how to do when you were learning how to count calories, carbs, and fats. But you can’t find any online course on basic social skills and your treatment team is unsympathetic to your self-advocacy to stay home alone each weekend. So, into the social fire you go!
The only thing you feel really competent in is your eating disorder behaviors. And now that you are in a recovered body, people stop asking you for dieting advice, even though you never told them how you really did it anyway. But the lack of inquiries seems to confirm your belief that your nourished, recovered body must be fat.
Despite feeling fat, you go out with friends. You find that game nights are actually quite fun now that you can focus and think about things other than food. You find that humans are really great to be around and they don’t seem to give a rat’s ass about your body size. It seems they are drawn to you for other, unexplained reasons. This confuses you and invalidates all the years of effort and pain you spent literally trying to fit the idealized version of yourself that you thought would win you social acceptance…but never did.
Being around people, you find your new friends want to share delicious treats with you. Suddenly you’re expected to participate in celebrations. Your new, real friends will take you out to dinner for your birthday. And dessert! It’ll all taste wonderful and you’ll hate how much you really love it.
You hear your family members talk about the new diets they are trying and you are filled with a fiery rage and self-righteous indignation. You want to tell them how dumb they are for hurting their bodies through dieting. And you want to scream at them to recognize your moral superiority for how sick you actually did make your own body through your eating disorder, even if your body no longer bears witness to that trial. You also want to yell at them for talking about diets in front of you, because, Hello?! Do they not realize who their audience is?! You feel jealous that your family has “the luxury” of actually going on diets while you have to check your compliance in Recovery Record™ that you, in fact, ate all the ice-cream your dietitian asked you to.
In recovery, you have to break up with the treadmill. It doesn’t matter that you hated it anyway. But you feel so mad to be made to experiment with a variety of ways to exercise. Sorry, new ways to “move your body.” You find that you really love Zumba, even though you feel so silly and awkward. You meet new friends in this class and together you all giggle through the twists and turns and hip shaking. Zumba makes you forget your belief that moving your body is supposed to be punishing, not joyful. As you leave the gym, you walk past the treadmill and hear its siren call to return so you can “know you moved enough” to justify the food you consumed today. You’ll resist and leave that treadmill tearful and lonely.
As you near the end of your recovery journey, your treatment team will want to explore all the ways you have changed in this process. You hate change and as you reflect on your progress, you feel blown away by yourself. You don’t even know who you are anymore. You are no longer a shell of a person. You are nourished in mind, body, and soul and see your recovery journey as evidence that you are strong. You find yourself wanting to take up space in your life and invest in your future. This is so antithetical to your old belief that you should shrink and live small. This new realization terrifies you. It also thrills and excites you. Damnit, there are all those emotions again. You begin to feel ready to say goodbye to your sadistic treatment team, who you have grown to love, but no longer need to rely on. You feel ready to move on to the next adventure and challenge in your life, believing in yourself.
This is the worst part. Believing in yourself. That is dangerous. You know you will fail in the future. You don’t know how or in what ways, but failure will be part of your journey from here on out. How dare you reassure yourself with platitudes that “failure leads to growth” or “the only real failure is not trying.” How dare you leave the comfort, isolated, lonely, secure eating disorder cocoon to live a full and rich life?
Recovery is the worst. You should really reconsider it.