Blog

Feb8
2018

Four Lessons I Learned Recovering From Anorexia

By Lauren Penna

Some researchers say that it takes seven years to recover from an eating disorder, and that 25% of people may never recover. Well, I’m ten years in and while I’m not sure when I’ll be able to claim the title of “recovered,” I’m still here. Still in the process.

Ten years is a long time and in some ways, I’ve started this journey over and over—each beginning a new approach with renewed hope and promise, but somehow always learning something valuable. In my ten years and counting, I’ve gathered some harsh, but hopefully beyond that, wise lessons. Lessons I think will help you, no matter where you are in your recovery.

1. We need people.

Not too long ago, I had a moment where I looked in the mirror and suddenly couldn’t breathe. I was terrified. Who is that person? What is that image I’m seeing? It was distorted. It was a stranger; it wasn’t me. Or is that me? I sent a text to my best friend. She told me to get out of the house, go outside and clear my head.

Sometimes this fight feels like it’s all your own, but it isn’t. When you feel like you’re not going to make it through the night, when you don’t recognize the beautiful story you are, you need people to walk with you. Reach out to these people. They really do care.

2. The battle comes at unexpected times.

I was telling a friend just how well I was doing, “Me and Anorexia? Not a thing anymore.” Sure, there were moments that I felt self-conscious and thought about restriction, but I was able to keep those thoughts from spiraling. I had found my value; I knew myself. But then a few days later I found myself in front of that mirror, shaking. How could I possibly get stuck back in this place of shame and guilt and disgust for the body that allows me to be alive? Had I not been on the lookout for triggers or amounting stress? Had I forgotten to practice self-care?

The thing about recovery is that it almost never looks or happens how you expect it to. It isn’t a straight line. Your path will waver, unexpectedly. But you know what doesn’t waver? Your worth. They tell you it will be hard, and it will be. Keep going.

3. Secrets make us sick.

I’ve heard it said before and it rings true every time. When fighting gets difficult, when I find myself trembling and breathless in the midst of a storm, keeping my struggles a secret never helps me find calmer water. I have to remind myself, even have to say it aloud: The people who have chosen to walk with you, they want to help you up. They want to be your people, honestly and genuinely. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be around.

When part of you wants to keep those thoughts to yourself and remain silent, don’t. Speak up. You’ve done it before; you can do it again.

4. Your recovery will not look exactly like someone else’s. And that’s okay!

This is maybe the most important thing I’ve learned. I‘ve had to make decisions and take actions concerning my well-being that no one else seems to understand: Sticking to a particular diet on a certain time schedule appears picky and militant. Getting ready without a mirror seems odd. And that’s okay. Let it be weird. If you need to disconnect from certain people, if you need to stay away from certain TV shows, do it. If the decision supports your recovery in a healthy manner, do it. You do not have to conform to any sort of rhythm or pattern because someone else does it that way.

So here’s to the next two, five or ten years of our journeys. May they be full of light. And when they’re not, just keep trying, keep going, keep moving. Because so long as you’re moving, even an inch, you are doing it—you’re recovering.

If you or someone you know is struggling, we encourage you to visit our FIND HELP page.

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Comments (6)

  1. Liz Mullen

    Thank you sooo much for this, Lauren. It is SUCH San important topic that so many deal with but no one ever really talks about. Truly moved me and inspired me and opened my eyes. Your writing is absolutely beautiful. I’ve struggled with this a lot in my life in the dance world and your words just spoke to me so strongly. Thank you. <3

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  2. Cindy Cox

    Lauren, such truth expressed in such a a straight forward and heartfelt way. Proud of you, just for being you!

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  3. Eileen Sanborn

    I love youLauren for the strength, honesty and help you are providing to others. I’m with you all the way ~ Hugs. 💛

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  4. Maggie

    I didn’t even know how much I needed to read this.
    The second one hit me the hardest. I’ve been doing really well and then the passed 2 days I started struggling again. But after reading this I realized that struggle is just part of recovery and that I’ll always end up okay again.
    So thank you for this post (and every post.)

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  5. Lara

    This is so so good. Recovering from other things but these things you have said are true across the board. I loved 2. The battle comes at unexpected times. Such a hard lesson to remember but so true. Thank you for your honesty & sharing your experience.

    Reply  |  
  6. Brandi

    Thank you! I have been recovering for over 20 years. It is a daily struggle, and probably the most difficult mountain I have had to climb-and still am. Never ever give up.

    Reply  |  
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