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The Gift of Recovery: A Keepin' It Real Version of My Own Recovery and That of Many Others

"Be the therapist you needed.”


I'm committed to this philosophy when it comes to helping folks heal from their eating disorders, and this is why it's important to share my real personal and professional experiences of eating disorder recovery.

Photo description: my personal eating disorder recovery shoulder tattoo of the symbol for the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA)


The Beginning of the End (A Piece of My Story)


I (reluctantly) began treatment for my eating disorder in 2013. There was a tiny fighter part inside of me who did not want to live how I was living forever. I felt stuck though, because I couldn’t fathom the alternative. 


Eating disorders take so much away from you. 


They also trick you into thinking they’re giving you much more. They’ll tell you they’re giving you control, all while they invade your mind and sneakily rip your life away from you.



The Choice


Eating disorders manifest differently for everyone. Some folks restrict their intake, over-exercise, compulsively count calories (or macros, or nutrients.) Some folks binge-eat until they feel nothing, binge then purge, or purge after every tiny meal. Some folks have an inexplicable aversion to certain foods and textures. No matter what the symptoms are, they consume us. 


When we’re in it we see the world through ED-coloured glasses.


We see the world through ED-coloured glasses but we get glimpses of our peripheral vision. 


In this peripheral vision the world seems a lot more alive, a lot more free. We start to doubt what our ED has been telling us. People out there don’t seem to make every decision based on food, weight, or body. People in the peripheral seem free


We wonder about this other possibility of life for days, weeks, months and sometimes years while adjusting our ED-coloured glasses and looking the other way, until one day we understand that we have to make a decision - keep the glasses on - or live. 


“Or live.” 


I really do mean this. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate among mental illnesses. So, “live” has a double meaning here: to start living a meaningful life again, and to quite literally be alive. 



After The Choice: The In-Between


As it turns out, you end up making the choice again, and again, and again. Each time with tons of emotions and a couple more tools in your backpack.


I’m told time and time again as therapist that frustration and anger arise here. This is the space after the choice. Where you can’t go back, but you don’t know how to go forward. This is the in-between.


As a person who lived it, let me tell you it is hard but it's a lot "less hard" than living the rest of your life with an eating disorder. 


It takes longer than you want to unlearn the lies you’ve been told by ED. But through the tears and the rage, you keep pushing anyway. In the words of Stephanie Bennet-Henry,


“Life is tough darling, but so are you”

Strengthened Neuropathways


Then somehow you’ve been at this whole “recovery thing” for a while now and you’re in a coffee shop ordering a latte with whole milk in the place of that black coffee you always hated. 

You’re kind of uneasy, but you’re okay. 


Or - you’re deciding to call it a day three kilometres into a ten kilometre run you’ve planned.

You’re kind of uneasy, but you’re okay.

Or - you’re making a full breakfast this morning EVEN though you binged last night, because you know it’s the right thing to do. 

You’re kind of uneasy, but you’re okay. 

Or - you’re uncomfortably full and instead of purging you call your friend and head out for a walk.


You’re kind of uneasy, but you’re okay.

Slowly but surely you’ve been strengthening the right neuropathways in your brain by practicing the healthy/non-ED actions and those old automatic thoughts are not so automatic anymore. They might still visit. Especially when stressed or when faced with a trigger... but you acknowledge them and tell them they aren’t needed here. You tell them you can handle this. 



Recovery Gifts


You no longer need eating disorder behaviours to numb your life. You can handle feeling big feelings. 


This is a gift you’re giving yourself.


You no longer need eating disorder behaviours for a sense of control. You choose what life you live every day now. 


This is a gift you’re giving yourself.


You no longer need eating disorder behaviours to feel good about yourself. You see that they never gave you that, you’re finding your worth elsewhere. You see that it’s always been there within you.


This is a gift you’re giving yourself.

Recovery is a gift you’re giving yourself, and it’a so so worth it.


I’ll leave you with one of my favourite quotes about eating disorder recovery:


“There is never a sudden revelation, a complete and tidy explanation for why it happened, or why it ends, or why or who you are. You want one and I want one, but there isn't one. It comes in bits and pieces, and you stitch them together wherever they fit, and when you are done you hold yourself up, and still there are holes and you are a rag doll, invented, imperfect. And yet you are all that you have, so you must be enough. There is no other way.”


- Marya Hornbacher, Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia.

———

A note on this article: 


I had a intuitive push to share a real look at recovery. At my recovery and that of so many of the AMAZING and strong people I work with. 


Recovery looks different for everyone and it is NOT linear. 


Recovery not being linear can be frustrating, but it’s not inherently bad. It builds so much resilience and I-can-tackle-anything-because-why-not energy you can carry into ALL AREAS OF LIFE!


Also,

- you CAN fully recover. 

- you can be free from ED.

- it's never too late

- any amount of sick is "sick enough" to reach out for help

- you are inherently worthy of compassion

- you're stronger than you think.



Looking for help for your eating disorder?


If you would like to placed on my waitlist for counselling services call or email me

- saramackiecounsellingservices@gmail.com

- 506-230-4105


If you would like to start receiving services right away call or email our occupational therapist who also offers eating disorder counselling and wellness services for children, adolescents, and adults!

- cindymackieot@gmail.com

- 506-230-4105



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