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When I was in college I used to bemoan that recovering from my eating disorder was a full-time job. I wish I had known at the time how lucky I was. Recovery still feels like a full-time job sometimes, but nowadays I have a career on top of my recovery.
In college you have so many resources available to you: a counseling center, a health center, a campus dialogue about issues that college students struggle with, and a supportive network of friends by your side to support you and to brave the dining hall with you.
No matter where you work, and no matter how much you love your job or how supportive the environment is, recovery is going to look different than it did when you were in school, and you have to assume more personal responsibility for your recovery.
Something I had to reconcile when I started working full-time is that I had no one to answer to but myself regarding my food intake from 9am-5pm. No lunch sessions with my dietitian, no eating in the dining hall with my best friend. If my eating disorder urges acted up, I was on my own to combat them and nourish my body.
At first I struggled with this, but I started doing better when I sat down with my dietitian to do some concrete meal planning and committed to bringing my lunch to work every day. I sent food logs to her at the end of the day so I still had accountability, and I started noticing the pros and cons of following my meal plan while at work.
Pro: I have a clearer head and am more efficient. Con: I have a hunger headache and make silly mistakes I could have prevented if I’d been fueling my brain. Start adding to your Reasons for Recovery list!
I also learned since I couldn’t get support regarding my recovery during the day, I needed to prioritize it in the evening. As annoying as it is to make an hour trip to appointments after a long day of work, recovery has to come first before fun or relaxation, because I can’t enjoy my time off work if I’m not in a healthy place physically and emotionally.
I also make sure to have plenty of time to spend with friends and to go on adventures over the weekend, because social isolation is a recipe for relapse.
Recovery is all about living a balanced lifestyle, so if you’re working 40 hours a week, be sure to carve out some time to do what makes you happy.
Being a responsible adult doesn’t mean you don’t get to have fun.
The greatest challenge in my case regarding recovery in the workforce has been discovering it is no longer socially acceptable to be open about being in recovery. It is a professional environment; in general, people don’t discuss their personal lives. College on the other hand, especially at a small liberal arts school, is all about making the personal the political. I went to a school of activists, so I got used to using my story of recovery to raise awareness about eating disorders.
My greatest challenge, however, has turned out to be the best part of being in recovery in the workforce. I realized that being in an environment where I was known for being so open about my recovery actually kept me trapped in an identity that revolved around my eating disorder.
I am not ashamed of my recovery, but leaving college has shown me there is so much more to me than the woman who is in recovery from an eating disorder.
The longer I am in recovery, the less space my eating disordered past takes up in my every day life, and that is something I want to embrace. From this experience, I learned flexibility – not only with my eating but also with my thinking – is of the utmost importance as I bring my recovery into the workforce. Priorities shift when you grow up, and while you may fight the changes at first, it is beneficial to keep an open mind.
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.