I dial the number hastily written on a post-it note that I’ve had shoved in my wallet for two weeks. Sweat starts to bead on my palms as I wait for the line to ring. “Hello,” a soft spoken woman answers. “I’d like to make an appointment,” I utter as my voice shakes. “Okay, let’s do that,” she says as she trails off into a line of questions to see what exactly I need an appointment for and whether she’s the one to help me or not.
I’m in my thirties, a mother of three, with ten years of recovery under my belt. I thought all of this was behind me. But it crept back into my life when I had arrogantly thought I was above it after so many years. In the depths of a relapse that no one in my life knew about I combed through search engines and reviews to find a therapist. I knew it needed to happen sooner rather than later.
My hesitation to seek treatment was in part due to the intimidating process of entering back into recovery. I didn’t know what to expect or remember much of my past experiences in therapy as a teenager. What will it be like? How long does it take? I had an abundance of questions and few resources to find answers.
If I could go back and give myself advice about beginning recovery here’s what I would tell myself:
1. You will need allies.
You cannot and should not do this alone. Encircle yourself with a team of professionals: therapist, dietitian, physician, etc. If you don’t have insurance, search out non-profit organizations that can point you in the direction of free support.
If you are able to, involve your family and ask for their encouragement. If you cannot find that support in your own family, then build it with your close friends.
You need support. You need accountability. You need a cheering section.
2. Prepare yourself for the long journey.
Your eating disorder did not appear overnight, and thus, recovery will not happen overnight, either. Years of accumulated issues led up to your eating disorder and all of it needs to be addressed for you to fully recover. Patience with the path and in yourself will be needed in abundance in order to go the distance.
3. Change is inevitable.
Change is born from recovery. There is no way to separate yourself from it. Fighting it will only make what is necessary that much more difficult to digest.
Your body is going to change. Your whole thought process will change. It will feel overwhelming on your good days and impossible on your bad days. It will feel like you are starting all over from scratch. You are, and it is overwhelming. Lean into the discomfort that comes from these huge changes. Know that it will all become more fluid and natural in time.
You are remodeling your house in every sense of the word. Recognize that the rebuild will come in phases just as anything else is built. Understand and breathe through the construction.
4. It’s scary.
Letting go is painful. It’s okay to feel that loss. You’re allowed to feel like a part of you is being taken. Mourn it if you need to but keep going.
Walking into the unknown is filled with uncertainty. Allow that fear to motivate you instead of hold you back by focusing on what is waiting for you on the other side of recovery: life. Having the courage to separate yourself from your eating disorder by choosing recovery will reward you with the ability to flourish again. It’s intimidating to think you’re capable of existing, let alone thriving, without the protection you feel from your eating disorder, but it’s possible, and you can do it.
5. It’s a lifetime commitment.
Recovery doesn’t stop with weight restoration or taking those first steps out of treatment. Entering into recovery is the acknowledgement that your life is now dedicated to remaining in this state. Allowing yourself to feel the worth of maintaining your health, both physical and mental, will always be at the forefront of your life.
Recovery will be the foundation that you build, or re-build, your life on. The belief that you deserve to live a life with the vulnerability and truth recovery requires will be the measuring stick by which you judge your choices moving forward. It is a lifestyle choice that excludes the disordered beliefs and faulty cognitions that gave a way for your eating disorder to grow.
I like to think that had I known any of this beforehand, making that first phone call may not have drawn such hesitation. I hope that by sharing this you’ll be prepared to make that first phone call with a little less pause. You don’t have to walk into recovery blindly.