One of my favorite parts of advocating and telling my story of recovery is all of the questions, comments, and feedback that comes after. Each question I am asked makes me think a little harder. You’d think it would be easier because it’s my story, but sometimes I have to dig a bit deeper into my recovery mind to really a complete answer.
Recently I was asked “How do you protect your recovery?” And I will have to say that was a challenge. I do it every day, but as I continue to push further away from my eating disorder and plant my feet more firmly on recovery ground, it is important for me to not only to cherish recovery, but to also remember how I got to this point.
Recovery comes naturally to me now, but it isn’t something I can or will ever take for granted.
Do I think I will ever relapse? No, not at all. I am confident in my recovery and in myself to know that I will never let myself slide down that slope. I do know that recovery is not linear and even though full recovery is definitely possible, it’s still something that I will always have to nurture.
How do I do it?
Checking in- I check in with myself daily. Most days I journal. It’s important to let your feelings out. If I don’t feel like journaling, I call a friend. Processing my thoughts and emotions keep me accountable and on track.
Feeling my feelings: My eating disorder was my way of coping for so long. It helped me stay numb and kept my mind preoccupied with negative, untrue thoughts. Now, it’s important for me to keep checking the facts.
Balance - When I first started sharing my recovery story and advocating/educating others about eating disorders and how I recovered, I immediately thought I was going to be the one who could heal the world. If I could do it, anyone could. I absolutely do believe this, but I also had to learn that I can’t help everyone even though I want to. I had strangers, friends, acquaintances, coworkers etc. emailing, calling, texting and messaging me on social media asking for advice or resources. It got to a point where I was giving more than I had and we all know you can’t pour from an empty cup. I was putting everything into my mission of fixing everyone else that I wasn’t able to protect myself and that’s not okay. I had to step back. Finding a balance and knowing my limits is something that I have always struggled with.
Forgiveness- I am not perfect. I will never be perfect, in fact I strive to promote that we are all perfectly imperfect. I am a person and I am doing the best that I can. Remembering this can make all the difference. Between motherhood, working full time, volunteering, trying to be a good friend, daughter, employee, wife, etc. it is easy to feel down, overworked, and even sometimes just BLAH. There are days when I don’t even have the energy to get things done, sometimes I can power through, but other days I need to listen to my body and just take space. Take a break. Self-care :)
Role Modeling- When I first started advocating for eating disorders and recovery, and even more recently working professionally in the field, my daughters always asked me what I am doing or where I am going. The easiest way for me to explain it is “Mommy helps others to learn to love themselves.” Although, this isn’t really what I do (even though I wish I could make that happen for everyone) it brought up the topic of being comfortable in your own skin and loving yourself, which my girls do and I hope always will. I make a conscious effort to avoid negative talk about my body or anyone else's and I make a point to replace negativity with commenting on all of the incredible things my body does for me. I show my girls how movement should be joyful and it is not something we do as punishment. I also model an all foods fit mentality, and I don’t label things as safe, good, bad, junk, healthy or unhealthy. Lastly, I focus on their inner qualities instead of just making comments on their appearance on the outside. Sharing this body positive life style with my girls not only keeps my recovery safe, it keeps my daughters in a protected bubble as well.
Managing my recovery expectations- Fun Fact about fully recovering from an Eating Disorder: I have nothing to compare it to. My definition of full recovery could be different than your definition of full recovery. Maybe we should take the focus off of what the actual meaning of full recovery is and instead tune into the fact that as we start living, growing, and thriving, our recovery develops too. For me, my recovery just gets fuller the more I prosper. There is no when, there is no how. My recovery gets fuller as I flourish.
Brenna is an eating disorder recovery speaker, mentor, advocate, and writer. Brenna works as mental health counselor at an eating disorder treatment facility in Massachusetts. She is also the ambassador for the Boston Chapter of Project HEAL and a volunteer with MEDA. For more information about Brenna, learn more about her on our Blog Squad page.