By Jennifer Rollin, MSW, LCSW-C
Certain aspects of recovering from an eating disorder are often not talked about enough. Some publications share stories of intense struggles, followed by a triumphant rise to full recovery. These stories are truly great as they inspire hope for those who are still struggling, however often they do not highlight details of the recovery journey.
One of the aspects of eating disorder recovery that is often not discussed, is that often people may feel worse before they start to feel better.
I share about this aspect of recovery not in an effort to cause you to want to ‘give up,’ but rather to encourage you to keep fighting-even when your eating disorder is yelling at you to ‘throw in the towel.'
For many people, there is a stage of recovery where they have stopped using many of their behaviors (and if weight restoration was indicated, they have weight restored), however the thoughts are still very loud. This can be incredibly challenging as loved ones may think that you are ‘doing so much better,’ and you might struggle to understand why you feel ‘so bad’ despite taking recovery actions.
The thing is that your eating disorder was likely (in part) a way that you were attempting to cope with difficult thoughts and feelings. Once, you are not relying as much on eating disorder behaviors-it's natural those thoughts and feelings will come up to the surface.
Additionally, your eating disorder will say whatever it needs to, in order to keep itself alive. So, it makes sense that as you are not following with what your eating disorder is telling you to do, that the thoughts may start to build in intensity.
It’s important to remember though, that this stage of recovery where you aren’t using behaviors as much and feel the same or potentially even worse-is only temporary.
The longer that you continue to take pro-recovery actions and refuse to follow the actions that your eating disorder suggests, the more that the neural pathways in your brain will start to change.
Many people in recovery struggle with ‘black and white thinking,’ and it’s so easy to say, ‘well I feel worse (or the same) so I may as well give up on this whole recovery thing.’
However, I wouldn’t do this work, if this stage of recovery lasted forever. It won’t and you will get to the point where things feel so much better and you will be free from the constant thoughts about food and your body.
Please don’t give up before you get there. You can always go back to your eating disorder, but what you know exactly where that will lead. What if you tried something different this time? It will be so worth it.
To those of you who are in the midst of this intense emotional storm. To the ones who are fighting to take recovery actions, despite a voice yelling at you in your head. I am sending so much compassion your way. You are so incredibly brave and I’m proud of you.
The Eating Disorder Center is a premier outpatient eating disorder therapy center in Rockville, Maryland. We specialize in helping teens and adults struggling with anorexia, binge eating disorder, and bulimia, and body image issues. We also offer therapy for obsessive compulsive disorder. We provide eating disorder therapy in Rockville, MD, easily accessible to individuals in Potomac, North Potomac, Bethesda, Olney, Silver Spring, Germantown, and Washington D.C. We provide eating disorder recovery coaching via Zoom to people worldwide. Connect with us through our website at www.theeatingdisordercenter.com
The Eating Disorder Center
We are a premier outpatient eating disorder therapy center in Rockville, Maryland.