Real Recovery: a 12 year journey


Sarah Farrell

date published

Feb. 27, 2024, 6 a.m.



Recovery is possible — I firmly believe this. When my daughter was first diagnosed with anorexia nervosa 12 years ago, I was told that she can and will recover with treatment.  We were also told that the average time it takes to recover is 3 to 5 years. When we passed the 5 year mark of working towards recovery, I cried.  I had hoped that by doing everything we could and everything that was recommended to us, my daughter would have recovered by that point.  

Keeping up the battle with the ED was tough.  I began to lose hope that she would achieve recovery. Over time, with professional support and speaking with other families who were in similar situations, I realized I did not know what recovery could actually look like, and how what recovery means can be different from person to person.The standard assumption is that you will ‘get your loved one back’.  

The path to the point we — her recovery has always involved our whole family — are at now has been incredibly challenging at times and there has been a lot of trial and error to find what works for us.  We researched, reached out to experts, listened to our instincts and tried anything that we hoped could work.  Through each challenge that we came across, we all changed bit by bit.  We found strength that we didn’t know we had, found our weaknesses and learned to accept help when we needed it. Accepting help is very hard at times —  and we learned that it is okay to be vulnerable.  Each challenge presented an opportunity for growth, and with growth comes change.  So no, my daughter is not ‘back’.  She is now stronger and in a better place than she has ever been, with different perspectives, coping skills and struggles. She is able to vocalize the struggles that she still has however now they do not overwhelm as they did in the past.  She is able to recognize her eating disorder behaviours and work on challenging them, and she is more independent and seeks help/support without my urging or pushing. This is what recovery means to me.

Sarah Farrell is a former Chair of NEDIC's Advisory Committee, and has lived/living experience of parenting a child who has an eating disorder.

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