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One of the most destructive myths surrounding eating disorders is that you can’t truly heal until you feel ready to do so. If you are waiting to enter recovery until you feel ready, you will be waiting for the rest of your life. Unfortunately, eating disorders are fatal in 20% of cases, so there is no time like the present (Mortality Rate in Anorexia Nervosa, 1995).
You do not have to feel ready. You do not have to want recovery; in fact, recovery is probably the last thing you want. Eating disorders are deadly addictions disguising themselves as lifelines.
I do not know one person who entered recovery with a smile and a complete willingness to relinquish the behaviors that have served as an escape from suffering and vulnerability.
It’s okay to enter recovery kicking and screaming, as long as you take the first step.
I often get questions from parents, so I want to make this very clear: if you are a parent of a minor, in my opinion, it is important to rescue your child by using your authority to drag them kicking and screaming into recovery to save their life.
Everyone defines recovery differently, and no one moves through the process at the same pace. For some people, giving up behaviors voluntarily is impossible; in that case, entering recovery may look like entering a treatment facility where you are forced to stop using restricting, purging, or bingeing. Unfortunately, although inpatient and residential treatment is a very effective way to interrupt eating disorder behaviors, many people do not have the insurance coverage to do so. In this case, outpatient treatment, a support group, or the Maudsley Method for parents can be equally effective (Le Grange, 2005).
My first shot at recovery was attending an intensive outpatient program at an eating disorders treatment center.
The first thing I was told to do was to write a list of my personal reasons for recovery. Today, I swear by this approach, and I reference my Reasons for Recovery motivational list daily.
However, when I first entered treatment I had no idea what was motivating me other than the desire to appease my family. In fact, I did not even believe I had an eating disorder, because I was still in the denial phase. This is normal, so do not beat yourself up if you feel so blended with your eating disorder that reasons for recovery aren’t on your radar. As you start to heal, motivation will build over time. Slowly, the ambivalence that surrounds healing from an eating disorder will transform into a drive to beat your eating disorder once and for all.
The main reason behavior change has to come first before a desire to recover is present is because your brain cannot heal until your body starts receiving the nourishment it needs to think clearly. I promise: if you give recovery a chance, you will start to reap the benefits–a clear head, improved emotion regulation, and stronger relationships.
You will see for yourself why you went to all of the trouble to give recovery a chance.
Another myth surrounding eating disorders is that you can’t heal until you hit rock bottom and have some type of transcendental wake-up call. If you’re waiting to enter recovery until you are on your death bed, it may be too late. If you believe that you need some kind of sign that it is the right time to enter recovery, consider this post your sign. A wise treatment provider once told me this, and I am going to pass it along to you:
“You don’t have to wait until something irreversibly horrible to happen to get better. You can make this your rock bottom. Start now.”
If you have any questions about my first steps into recovery, please do not hesitate to ask. You never have to go through this process alone.
Works Cited: Mortality in Anorexia Nervosa. American Journal of Psychiatry, 1995; 152 (7): 1073-4.
Jessica has a B.A. in Psychology and Women's Studies and is pursuing a graduate degree in Clinical Psychology. She is passionate about social justice and hopes to make a difference in the lives of others and advocate for social change. Having recovered from an eating disorder, Jessica is committed to spreading the word that freedom from eating disorders is possible. Through her writing at Libero, Jessica hopes to empower those struggling with eating disorders to fight for the health and happiness that they deserve.
SITE DISCLAIMER: The opinions and information shared in this article or any other Content on our site may not represent that of Libero Network Society. We hold no liability for any harm that may incur from reading content on our site. Please always consult your own medical professionals before making any changes to your medication, activities, or recovery process. Libero does not provide emergency support. If you are in crisis, please call 1-800-784-2433 or another helpline or 911.