Feb. 17, 2021, noon
I want to start off by emphasizing that demonizing quasi recovery is not always helpful.
When talking about the entire journey of eating disorder recovery, this step is often inevitable
and probably crucial for many - it is undeniably a move in the right direction, a stepping
stone. In that context, there is a place for it.
But what happens when you’re stuck in that limbo for years - maybe not as sick as you once were, but not truly recovered either? The absence of behaviour isn’t the same as full recovery.
At twenty-three years old, after nearly eight years of struggling with an eating disorder, I
realized that I’d been caught in this uncomfortable middleground for ages. I was no longer in the very depths of it all but I was still a prisoner to my habits of thinking, to
the learned behaviours I had adopted so long ago. For so many years I felt like my eating
disorder was the most interesting thing about me. It was my identity; It was the story of myself that I knew best, a secret that was mine to hold for so long. But then all that broke away and the romanticized glory days of my eating disorder faded. Years of pure sickness followed, and eventually, the initial stages of recovery. Though I had seemingly moved past the very dangerous ideals and behaviours that once governed my days, my mind was still stuck in the fog created by years of disorder. I could hold onto so many remnants of my ED while somehow being able to justify them, since no matter how bad it was, “it was so much better than before.” My triggers, food choices, relationship with exercise, the way I’d choose to spend my time - all these things remained completely engulfed by habits and behaviours that I was desperately holding onto - maybe from fear of letting go of my familiar, maybe from a twisted nostalgia I had for the long-gone days of eating disorder hell. Or maybe simply out of habit. Regardless, I felt like I had let go of the worst parts of it, had it under control now, and by calling it “healthy living”, I could intentionally keep holding onto what I thought still served me. I was in quasi recovery and I thought I was winning.
But here’s the thing: you can’t get the best of both worlds. You cannot successfully preserve parts of your eating disorder and fully recover - it’s just not possible. A disordered mentality, in any context, is a death trap. You are either working on recovery or dying. There is no middle ground. You cannot safely cling onto components of illness. You cannot negotiate with your disorder. A disordered mentality will never cease to push you to be perfect whilst simultaneously feeding you messages that you’ll never be enough. The illusion of control is the exact condition under which an eating disorder is born and maintained. It’s funny that the illusion of stability is what is inherently unstable. The disorder manipulates your cognition in order to justify the unjustifiable even when crippled by compulsions under the illusion of control, you believe you own the motives behind your actions. The disordered mind games you engage in make you think you’re controlling your food; that restriction is an active choice on your behalf and that you’re not being restrictive at all but employing a healthy lifestyle. This is the mentality through which an eating disorder develops and is maintained. Recovery is not justified by how sick you appear to yourself or the outside world.
The fundamentals of your illness have nothing to do with the physiological mechanisms that are sometimes impacted as a side effect of the disease. This is why it seems like your body heals so much faster than your mind. Even if your physical body is no longer suffering, your belief systems are holding you captive in quasi healing and they will continue to do so beyond initial symptom-reduction recovery.
Hating your body is a learned behaviour. Every habit picked up in the depths of an eating
disorder can be unlearned. I’m discovering that the key is to act more from intention and less from habit. Working through quasi recovery, I’m finding that so many of my ED beliefs are no more than mere habits now. When I really break them down, I find that they are no longer backed by disordered justification, but rather years of habit. I was just repeating the motions of what I once learned. These habits no longer serve me and where I once had reasoning for them all, I can now recognize their emptiness. Having an eating disorder be your sense of identification is preemptive of an empty life.
If you have the ability to sustain a life-consuming eating disorder, you are more
than capable of recovering fully from one. The first step to achieving a full recovery is
believing you’re worthy of embarking on the non-linear healing process, and then actively
challenging the cognition you’re trapped in.
Practice body gratitude: try looking at what your body does for you and what it allows you to do. Honour it with mindful choices that are focused on healing, not punishment - choices
aimed at freedom, not perpetuation of illness. Quasi recovery is not an end means. It is a limbo state that can so often be passed as “good enough”, especially when compared to a
past condition. It is a stepping stone but there is so much freedom beyond it. Recovery goes further than just “not being disordered” - that’s simply not good enough. It must involve both symptom reduction and the mental work to move past the confines of disordered behaviour and habits, towards a place of food freedom, intuitive eating and body respect.
Connect with Eva:
Feb. 10, 2021, noon
Feb. 3, 2021, 5:29 p.m.
July 6, 2018, 4:11 p.m.