recovery, in recovery, recovered – eating disorder semantics

Today is the fifth day of National Eating Disorder Awareness Week (NEDA Week) 2013. The Theme for this year is “Everybody Knows Somebody”. Eating disorders are widespread illnesses and can affect anyone regardless of age, race or gender. This week I am going to focus my blog on eating disorder awareness, what it is like to have an eating disorder and share some bits of my own journey. To learn more about eating disorder please visit the NEDA’s website. Also, tomorrow is purple friday. If you have something puprple to wear (the color of eating disorder awareness) please wear purple in support of NEDA week.

It has occurred to me that I throw around recovery and  eating disorder language like everyone knows what I’m talking about. For instance I’m often talking about being in recovery vs being recovered. In the eating disordered world there is a difference and there are variyng philosophies surrounding these beliefs. So tonight I thought I would try and shed at least a little light on what is already a really confusing subject for those of you who have no idea of the semantics behind eating disorder recovery.

How recovery is defined is a huge deal in a person’s life who is taking the first steps to move away from their eating disorder. As a person looking from the outside one would assume that recovery would be one definition and one definition only however in the world of eating disorder there is a broad range of definitions and beliefs about just how recovered one can be. Here are my interpretations of the definitions of recovery that I have been given or have heard of in the eating disorder world.

  • recovery definition 1 – You shall never be fully recovered. You will have times where you will have little symtoms but you will never be free of  the thoughts. Your eating disorder will be with you the rest of your life.
  • in recovery – this is a transition time. A person can be in this time for years but a person continues to improve while not without lapses or slipes eventually the thoughts can and will become less leading to…
  • full recovery also called recovered(period) – this is why a person no longer is exhibiting symtoms. They no longer diagnosable as having an eating disorder. They don’t have the thoughts of an eating disorder individuals. In essence they are recovered. The disease is gone. They live their lives free of an eating disorder.

Different treatment programs, different treatment professionals, different patients etc all hold differing beliefs about recovery and just how far a person can come towards being recovered. The first definition of recovery I was introduced to was what I define as in recovery definition 1. At this point in time I had no idea what I wanted  – if I wanted any type of recovery or even to live. And so when I left my first residential treatment center it was with the belief that I could never fully recover. I would always live in the eating disorder world I would just reside in different degrees of hell. And so to me it was hopeless. Why even try recover when it was almost ensured that I would end up back in the depths of my disorder? And so I promptly relapsed.

When I was admitted to my second residential program I was introduced to the idea that full recovery (recovered) was possible. In this treatment center, it was believed that everyone could and would recover. To present myself as a hopeless case was not tolerated. There was no such thing as no hope, I had the chance and most importantly the choice to recover.

This concept of full recovery has allowed me to stay in recovery and every milestone that I pass, every lapse I come back from brings me closer to that day I can say I’m recovered. I know many people hold many different opinions about recovery but if you want my opinion it is that no one is hopeless and that if a choice is made and a person works towards it full recovery is possible maybe not now, maybe not in a year, maybe not in five years but someday a person (me) can be fully recovered.

And that is why I keep going, keep working and what keeps me moving forward. I will be that girl who can say I am recovered period. 



Filed under eating disorder, eating disorders, Hope, NEDA, NEDA week, Recovery

4 responses to “recovery, in recovery, recovered – eating disorder semantics

  1. You are so inspiring, love. I struggle with semantics, too, when talking about my recovery. It’s very easy for me to do all the wrong things and not be real about them because I say they’re just a part of being in recovery, when really I’m not “working” my recovery to the best of my ability. Emotionally and socially, I’ve come a long way, but behaviorally, I’m so immersed in the eating disorder, and yet I sweep it all under the rug and make it all okay by saying it’s just a “slip” or a “part of the process” or “look at all the other progress I’ve made.” Occasionally, though, I see through my own lies and realize that I’ve got to get real with myself– I can’t just show up at appointments yet continue to cling to my eating disorder and call that recovery. It requires a full severing of ties between us. So thank you for reminding me that, no matter what stage of the game we’re at, it’s never too late to shove the eating disorder out the door, and embrace being in real, true recovery, the kind of recovery that leads to “recovered.” The kind of recovered that thinks about things other than food and weight and calories and exercise and drama drama drama. The kind of recovered that hopes and dreams and laughs and dances (probably badly) and sings (definitely badly). Anyways, I’m so proud of you sweet girl. You are a whole different woman from the one I met almost four years ago, but I know that it is not from any change in your core “you-ness” but rather an unpeeling of what is really Kate from beneath layers of pain and maladaptive coping. And Kate, it has been found, is a beautiful, amazing young woman. So keep up the great work, love!!

  2. Allison

    I 100% agree, especially since I can honestly say now that I am recovered. It took 8 years for me to be able to say that, but I know that the ED is no longer my life. I feel like we will always be in some-sort of “life-recovery” because the principles I learned in treatment to combat the eating disorder are also principles that can (and should) be applied to all aspects of life. I will never stop learning or growing or (like it or not) making mistakes, and there will be plenty of times that I have to find a way to healthily handle a challenging situation, but eating disorder thoughts/behaviors/treatment will not be any part of the process.

    P.S. accepting that you are recovered can also be challenging and confusing, but being free of that “in recovery” umbrella is very relieving!
    ❤ Love ya girl

  3. I can’t wait for the day that you can say you are recovery. Period. I can’t wait for that day for me, too.

    I had the same experiences in treatment centers – Renfrew treated me I was a lost cause, no hope of ever really recovering. CFC made me believe that even *I* could be recovered. Period.

    Amazing how the definitions of recovery can affect our beliefs and behaviours so much – if I didn’t believe I could make a full recovery, I would have quit a long time ago.

  4. Pingback: giving up the eating disordered life – guest post | fightingmywayback

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