(I italicized what I can especially relate to, and added my own comments in bold)
1. Get that overpriced top-end mascara. It’s much cheaper than the hospitals and treatment centers. So go ahead. Buy the $23 mascara and go home and feel like a goddess.
2. The ultimate paradox of getting better is this: You cannot have a life until you are well, but you cannot be well until you have a life. Almost all of your struggles in recovery will come from this.
—> Most definitely. First off, being in intensive treatment, such as PHP or IOP, takes time away from actual life. I am in IOP right now, and I keep telling my team that rather than being in group, my time would be much better spent being at work or being with friends. You know, having a life. But, they say I still need to be in IOP. Moreover, I am still at a place with following my meal plan where I have to be diligent and sometimes miss out on activities or opportunities to hang out with friends just so I can be home in time for dinner. It is very frustrating, and sometimes makes me feel like I am moving backwards. I mean, before going into treatment I worked a lot and hung out with friends at night. I also did so at the price of skipping meals/snacks. It is quite the paradox.
3. You must start creating a life, even if you don’t feel completely better yet. I know you love to-do lists, so fill them now with tasks to help you connect with the world again. Texting that friend you haven’t talked to in ages. Applying to that job. Writing letters. Reading books. These things are more of your recovery than the meal plans and doctors and perfectly-filtered pictures of your oatmeal will ever be.
—> This one is really big for me when it comes to depression. I often don’t want to do anything but lay in bed and watch Netflix, but I know that I need to push myself to do things. Usually once I do things, I do feel better. However, getting started is quite hard.
4. The problems your eating disorder helped you to run from are going to be back and all-too-alive when you hit a certain point. The idea that recovery is nothing but ice cream and sunshine is a lie. If it was raining when you left, it will be raining when you come back. Don’t quit therapy. You are going to need to learn to deal with the clouds in a new way, and it’s going to be pretty terrible sometimes.
5. You may find yourself thinking about the eating disorder now more than ever. While you’re walking to class, talking to friends. It will be a drumbeat in the back of your head, whispering, “you’re not sick anymore, but remember when…”
—> I bring this up with my therapist constantly. I say “I thought treatment was supposed to help quiet the ED voice.” But, it seems like now I have to think about food more than ever. I have to plan out what to eat and when. I have to deal with the uncomfortable physical side effects like nausea. I still think about food constantly, and it’s upsetting.
6. You will look at sick photos and have the odd sensation of both wanting to go back and feeling that even your lowest wasn’t enough. It will leave knots in your stomach, because you will feel your get-out-of-life free card fading. If not your sickest, how much will it take to finally get the comfort you’ve been searching for? It will occur to you that the sense of peace for which you were destroying your life was all just a mirage. You will quickly tuck this terrifying thought away.
—> I don’t necessarily look at old photos and get this, but I do see others that are underweight and I want to go back. I don’t know why, because I know that only leads to more treatment and more time away from building a life. Regardless, I think about being at a lower weight and I still want that.
7. Recovery is not life. Recovery is a protected, pre-portioned, planned path towards Better, and life is none of those things. Life is messy. Life is heartbreaking. Life is excessive and bright and bold.
8. You were wired in such away that the world has always felt a bit too loud. Studies show that criticism hits your brain harder than your friends’, that you empathize more deeply with those around you, that you are more sensitive to pain. You became a professional harm-avoider not because you were weak, but because you were trying to survive. Don’t compare yourself to others. Remember that your brain has the volume turned up much louder than theirs.
—> This is interesting to me, and something that I am slowly learning. It’s hard for me to remember that others don’t think of things the same way I do; that others don’t have these guilty thoughts 24/7, or feel bad when they can’t be there for everyone all the time. Learning to put myself and recovery first, and that doing so does not mean I’m selfish, is something that I am definitely still working on.
9. At some point, the unfairness of this all will hit you. This is good sign. It means you are coming to believe two important truths that you before never quite internalized: 1. You did not choose this. 2. You did not deserve this.
10. When the eating disorder leaves, there will be a gaping space where it once was. You will not know what to do with this. You will first try to fill it with Recovery. Then you may try other things: A relapse. An obsession with fitness. A boy. A girl. Constant reminiscing on your illness. You will wonder what on earth you filled this space with before getting sick.
11. I know you feel like you should have it figured out by now, and I know how much you hate uncertainty. But the truth is that learning how to fill this vacancy is going to be a lifelong pursuit. And you have only just begun.
—> I feel like because I intellectually know what to do, I should be further along in treatment.
12. Here’s the important part: Everyone around you is doing just the same. Those still in their eating disorders have plugged up their holes with illness and destruction, but you’re not one of them anymore. You are one of the vulnerable again, and unlike them, every day you are becoming.
13. The pain of becoming is constant and real.
14. In the end, you will have a whole life to show for it.