“I think that’s one of the downfalls about eating disorder media, eating disorder awareness media, is that there’s always a before and after. It’s always portrayed as ‘okay I have it all, I love my body, I’m there already, let me tell you how to get there’…we need to stop romanticizing and just giving this very binary view of recovery and non recovery because for me, my eating disorder is always going to be a part of me, period.”
Yes. Your eating disorder will always be a part of you. My eating disorder will always be a part of me. Period.
That’s totally okay.
After work and a final exam, I stopped by the National Mall for an evening run. I planned on shuffling through a short three to four miles, but cruised through a breezy six instead. The day had been long but running brought a little bit of life back to me, the stress melted away. As the sun was setting on the Capitol and the Washington Monument, I was overcome with gratitude.
Before my final, I was worried about the long to-do list I’d stuck on my computer earlier and the weight of my responsibilities. As I ran, I took in what a privilege it is to lace up and stride around this beautiful city on any given evening. I soaked up how incredible it is that I have the opportunity to be getting a master’s degree, working a full-time job, and working with two like-minded women on a non-profit of our creation. Stressing about the opportunities I have and all the passions I am working for started to feel pretty silly.
I stopped and took a photo of the Monument to share the flawless experience with Instagram.
I slogged through work. Around two o’clock I was reading with a student and struggled just to keep my eyes open. I was exhausted; running held none of the appeal it had just twenty-four hours prior. I got home, laid on my bed for forty-five minutes, and then finally, reluctantly, laced up and hit the pavement. I felt like I needed to run. I was tired so I hoped it would give me energy. It was a beautiful day and I felt guilty sitting inside.
I felt uncomfortable in my skin and thought a run would shake off the bloated feeling. I was making pasta for dinner and didn’t want the calories if I hadn’t worked out.
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I started my run but by a mile in, I was still just not feeling it. I turned around and decided I’d do four miles instead of five or six, I figured by mile two I’d feel OK.
My legs felt fine but my head was in a fog, both mentally and physically. I didn’t have the ‘running is wonderful’ epiphany I hoped I’d have by mile two. (The one I had less than twenty-four hours ago.) Around the same time, Gloria spoke the above message. When she called out the binary way we display eating disorder recovery it struck me because the photo I posted on Monday was the “recovered” message. The photo I posted a week ago, racing in a sports bra and being okay with my body is the “recovered” me. In that moment, I became obligated to share the crap run I felt I was having.
Despite my best intentions, I have been playing into the binary narrative of recovery and non-recovery.
At just under three miles, I called it.
I pressed pause on my Garmin and started walking. Running wasn’t making me feel better, so why continue? I considered starting again after a minute or two but asked myself, why? The real answer was to avoid guilt.
I was feeling bad about myself, guilty for not running enough, and worried about what I could allow myself to eat if I only ran three miles.
These thoughts are textbook eating disorder behaviors. I still have them.
Now, I have more good days than bad.
But I want this to be clear; I still have bad days. Plenty of them. I have days when my eating disorder mindset tries to sneak in and ruin a Saturday night pizza, an extra rest day, or a beer at a baseball game. There are times my eating disorder climbs on my shoulder and screams that even after all this fighting, I’m still not good enough. There are times when I feel like I will never completely part ways with my disorder. Truthfully, I probably won’t. That’s OK.
There are times when I feel like I will never completely part ways with my disorder.
Recovery is ongoing
Eating disorder recovery, or as Gloria prefers to call it, eating disorder healing, is an ongoing process. Healing is a choice that I make everyday. I choose healing when I close the closet door without pulling out the scale. I choose healing when I fill a plate of mac and cheese at the PTA luncheon. I choose healing when I pour myself glass of Malbec on most evenings.
I don’t want anyone to think I have a before and after story to tell because my story is not over. I want to be transparent with my journey and open about the ongoing process of healing. If you have an eating disorder, please know that not feeling recovered every day is completely normal. It won’t be butterflies and rainbows every single day, but the more often you confront your eating disorder behaviors when they creep in, the more often you’re going to have days that make you feel like you’re on the recovered side of healing.
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