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What does Recovery really mean?
Just because I say I have recovered from an eating disorder does not mean I am perfect, I never slip, and I never get triggered. Anyone who has had an eating disorder can tell you that those thoughts, those triggers, those urges..they never completely leave you alone.
Now and then I’ll have a day where I’ll look in the mirror and see problems, and I’ll have and urge to skip the next few meals, or purge what I had just eaten. Every once in a while, I’ll get emotional, or stressed, or depressed, and have a desire not to eat…or to binge. It’s easier to concentrate on my weight and what I’m putting into my mouth than to deal with the issues at hand sometimes, it’s a way of coping. And once in a blue moon, I’ll see a picture of a pretty, skinny girl and feel like I don’t measure up, and I’ll have an urge to restrict or to compulsively overexercise.
To me, recovery means that although I have these thoughts, they don’t affect my life like they did before, and I choose to ignore them and not to succumb to them.
What do I do when those thoughts enter my mind? A variety of things. Mostly, they are just passing thoughts for me now and I have come to the point where I can easily ignore them. But, as I said, I am not perfect. So when I’m particularly stressed out and it’s harder to ignore that little voice that beckons me to succumb to old ways, I think of a few things. I’ll remind myself of how I was and how I am.
I’ll remember how I felt, and how much it changed me. I’ll remember how low I felt about myself, how completely unhappy I was, how hopeless I felt, and how depressed I was. I’ll remember how awful I felt physically–I was tired and lightheaded all the time, I had headaches, my throat hurt often, I was very weak and bruised easily, I was losing hair, and had constant stomach pains. I’ll remember how much of life I missed out on because I was too focused on my eating disorder behaviors, and let it control my life. I’ll think of how much better physically and emotionally I feel now that I’m healthy. I have more energy, am stronger, and much, much happier.
And, if I do happen to slip and give in to the little voice, which does happen once in a blue moon, I remind myself that just because I had a slip it doesn’t mean I am a failure. Yes, I failed this once, but we all fail sometimes. I don’t have to go back into the “all or nothing” thinking. I remind myself that it’s okay to fall sometimes, and I just need to pick myself up and promise that I’ll try harder.
I thought I’d share my recovery tattoo as well. Once I was at a point where I felt I could really embrace recovery and I was no longer ashamed of what I went through, I was finally able to really feel proud of myself for coming through it and choosing life. So I finally got the tattoo I wanted.
To most people, it just looks like a butterfly. But if you look at the base of the butterfly, you can see this symbol
which is NEDA’s (National Eating Disorder Association) recovery symbol.
This is the most meaningful tattoo I’ve gotten, and it means quite a lot to me. I designed it to where the butterfly seems to be coming from the recovery symbol, and to me this signifies that through recovery comes transformation. And it’s not necessarily easy at first, but it is beautiful and freeing.
So when I have urges to go back on my old ways, I can look down and see that symbol and remember that it’s not worth it, and how much better life is free from “Ed.”
I chose not to get just the symbol, but to make it less obvious. Not that I’m ashamed to tell the world I had an eating disorder (anymore), but this means a lot more to me.
I know eating disorders are much more common nowadays, and I hate that. I wouldn’t want anyone to go through what I went through. I wouldn’t want anyone to feel that low, and have that much self-loathing. I am no longer ashamed of my past, and although I could have chosen a different path than the one I took, I learned so much and am stronger, and have a much deeper appreciation for life. And I wish that for anyone who has suffered through an eating disorder.