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Lose weight, exercise more, drink more water, travel, etc. These are only a few of the standard New Year’s resolutions that you’ll hear as the day draws nearer.
But for me, it’s all about recovery, self-love, and continuing to improve.
It’s not about being perfect or making more money. It’s just about continuing down the road I’ve set myself.
Despite starting eating disorder recovery in January 2019, I’m still not weight restored for a variety of reasons. I lost not only my grandfather and grandmother, but I also left my job in hopes of reducing my stress levels (it totally worked!). I’ve compromised my recovery at certain points of the year, which has hindered my weight gain. Sometimes it’s been justified, and other times it hasn’t.
What I thought would be a quick fix of a few months has turned into almost a year of difficult self-discovery and perseverance.
Anorexia Nervosa has raged within me for over fourteen years now, so to think that it would only take a month or two to recover was a wild understatement. Yet, I still encounter those in my life that think just that, including myself.
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But don’t be discouraged; the road to eating disorder recovery might be long but there is freedom at the end of it.
We just need to work hard to get through the hard times in order to experience and fully appreciate the good.
The Do’s & Don’ts of Starting Recovery
Don’t start placing blame on others.
Our parents aren’t entirely to blame. The bullies aren’t entirely to blame. That kid down the street that made a rude comment isn’t to blame.
Don’t blame yourself.
In regards to families, it’s been historically believed that parents were the leading cause of eating disordered behaviour. Although that’s not entirely misleading, it’s also not entirely true. No one is perfect, least of all our families. Often we find that our parents may not be as supportive as we want, and as a teenager or a child, this can be difficult. But as an adult, you have the power to parent yourself.
Talk it out with your therapist, and discover what needs to change in your life in order to better accommodate recovery. If it’s re-parenting or additional therapy that you need, then get started!
Placing blame will only allow hatred and anger to grow. It’s hard to accept that we may need to forgive or adjust in order to move on, but it’s essential.
Do believe in yourself!
We all do it, especially those of us with mental illness. We tend to believe the lies telling us that we’re unworthy, we can’t do it and that it’s impossible! It’s so easy to give up and spend all day in bed without a drop to drink or a bite to eat. That’s what Anorexia Nervosa wants from you: complete submission.
Spoiler alert: Anorexia lies. You CAN recover!
Many have managed it before, so why would you be any different? What’s stopping you? Figure it out and take control of it!
Yes, Anorexia Nervosa can be fatal. Yes, you may have those disordered thoughts forevermore, but you don’t have to be governed by them.
Recovery is possible and you are 100% worthy of it!
Don’t be hard on yourself.
Being critical of ourselves is just another in the long list of symptoms associated with an eating disorder. Doing so only increases our feelings of shame and lowers our self-esteem.
It’s important to work on our confidence and sense of self-worth during recovery. It can be a long and delicate process, one which I am still undergoing and will do for a long time.
Daily affirmations and gratitude can help us immensely, especially in the early stages of recovery. That’s why I created my own gratitude journal and recovery prompt journal. I not only use them for myself but I’ve also left them open for others to use.
Don’t put your needs below everyone else’s.
Chances are you’re here because you’re used to putting the needs of others above your own. The word ‘NO’ is dirty and rarely leaves your lips. Helping others is a lovely gesture, but when it puts your health and needs at risk, then it’s a very one-sided thing.
You are your number one priority.
It’s not ‘selfish‘, ‘bratty‘, ‘self-centred ‘, or anything that others might tell you it is. Self-care is about ensuring we charge our own battery before trying to charge someone else’s.
Don’t be afraid to set boundaries.
If you find yourself triggered by conversations, politely ask for the subject to be changed or remove yourself from the situation. Especially in the early stages. It won’t be like this forever, and in fact, exposure to triggers is paramount in later months. But in the beginning, it can be very challenging to hear your co-workers talk about the latest slimming world diet.
Do talk about it!
No matter what the eating disorder or mental illness is telling you: Speak up! If your mum is telling you to stop talking about it: Speak up. If you’re in any way pressured or guilt-tripped into shutting up: SPEAK UP!
Talk to the friends and family you have on your side. Open up to your treatment team. Have a chat with HR or your manager. If you’re struggling in any way reach out before it becomes too much. Asking for help can be a daily process, so practice and take control into back into your own hands.
Don’t keep secrets.
Keeping secrets about the difficult things in our lives can be a double-edged sword. Although you think you’re maintaining dignity and ‘not bothering anyone’, it often leaves you with feelings of shame, which further prevents you from asking for help. Does that sound about right?
Do reach out for support.
Create a support network for yourself full of people, professional and otherwise, who you feel comfortable confiding in when you need to. Letting them in on your secret makes it easier for them to help.
Do be patient.
Here’s the T: full recovery can take years. It doesn’t happen over the course of a night, a day or even a month. Even after a decade of anorexia nervosa, and two previous relapses, I was still convinced I would be back to work by the end of the month. It’s been a full year and I’m only now regaining my BMI, and my mind is still miles behind.
- Expect relapses but don’t let them haunt you.
- Expect challenges, but don’t let them beat you.
- Expect people to be rude about it, and shake it off.
Have faith in the recovery process, your treatment team and your own ability.
Do your own reading on the side, dive deep into the world of recovery and you might just find a whole new lease on life.
Do listen to your treatment team.
No explanation needed for this one. Listen to your treatment team, ask questions and learn as much as you can about how to help yourself.
Do spend time with supportive people.
If they aren’t a positive influence on you, then you don’t have time for them. When you’re knee-deep in recovery you don’t need that noise.
This may mean some hard decisions need to be made in order to protect yourself. But that’s okay. You’re allowed to make those decisions because it’s self-care!
Do find things to keep yourself occupied.
At the beginning of 2019, I was climbing the walls. I had been signed off work and was finding it very hard to occupy myself. My family lived far away, my friends lived in the city and my partner worked. All I had known for years at this point was going to work only to come home and sleep. Without work, I was left walking the halls at two in the morning wondering what was the point.
That’s when I made the decision to start writing again. I had loved it for years prior to starting university, so why hadn’t I been actively writing? I was stuck in a cycle of what I thought was normal, but in reality, it was far from it.
I started this blog and slowly began documenting my recovery. Although none of that content is available anymore (it was much too triggering), it still helped me find the courage to actually talk about my mental health out loud.
This blog saved my life, and that’s not being dramatic. It’s not just writing and publishing this blog, but also the countless wonderful people I’ve met through it.
I never thought I’d have people reading and actually enjoying my content. Yet, that’s exactly what happened.
So, take a chance. Rediscover old hobbies, play the video games you’ve been meaning to play, spend time with loved ones, read a good book.
Last, but by no means least: don’t lose hope.
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