In My Recovery: A Search for Body Exaltation

By Rachel Tilley

Recovery (Noun): The process of regaining possession or control of something stolen or lost; a return to a normal state of health, mind, or strength.

Recovery (Noun): Quiet and loud at the same time, sad and proud simultaneously, pain and freedom coexisting.

Recovery (Verb): Becoming (better).

Growing up in a society whose media is dedicated to sharing unrealistic examples of bodies and the people who live in them, it’s almost impossible not to feel the tiring and constant pressure to be better. The glorification of certain bodies isn’t a recent development; we learn tricks and rules of who and how to be from very early on, and we are reminded of these expectations our entire lives. But it’s these reminders that serve to encourage some people to set unfair limitations for themselves. Some of us have become so wrapped up in the pursuit of this perception of perfection that we give up on valuing ourselves as we are.

I once lost myself to someone else’s ideal. I left sight of what I knew to be true in order to follow a self-destructive path where I disrespected my own mind and body. In doing so, I moved away from the hearts of the people who cared for me.

It takes a lot to transition from actively hurting to actively pursuing health, and everyone has a different definition of recovery. In my experience, recovery has felt a lot like climbing into the ball pit at a children’s playground. It is loud and difficult to navigate. People you didn’t invite to the party tend to show up, especially when you really don’t want them around. The closer you look, the less ideal the circumstances seem, the messier things get. Sometimes it feels like the only peace to be found is in burying oneself at the bottom of the pit, but no growth ever happens there.

Recovery forces you to strip away even your most basic beliefs about yourself. You expend so much energy trying to decrease the toxicity existing in your life that it can be really difficult to find energy to rebuild upon strictly positive principles.

One of my biggest frustrations in all of this rebuilding has been the standard recovery mantra that speaks of self-love as an imperative. This intangible idea that we only reach recovery once we feel glowing and full of love for ourselves has been a serious personal obstacle. When I look at how I define recovery, I want to get to a place of health that isn’t dependent on falling in love with myself. Instead, I’m hoping it’s dependent on respecting the body I have, regardless of how I feel in any certain moment.

Too often I’ve held myself to a standard of excellence in recovery that, whether attainable or not, is rarely maintainable. Now I’m building a new relationship with myself on a daily basis, and everyone knows you don’t fall in love on the first date. But I do hold out hope for a moment when everything is light: when nothing hurts, and I am so full of love for myself that nobody can question it. But even on my worst days in recovery, I am worlds away from my best days in my illness.

My appearance has been used to determine everything from my worth to my wellbeing, but today I am saying goodbye to that standard of measurement. Although there is no magic cure for the Bad Days, I am discovering that I am not freed from the obligation of caring for myself just because I am still learning to be better. I’ve decided to embrace being alive rather than being perfect. I am choosing recovery. And I’m choosing to define it in my own way.

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Comments (7)

  1. Thirza

    Thanks for this❤

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  2. Stephen

    Interestingly fresh perspective. I like it. I especially like the following line from the last paragraph, that, “I’ve decided to embrace being alive rather than being perfect.”

    I agree wholeheartedly with that sentiment. I feel that people have it forced upon them to try and be, act, look like, and do those things that the media deems to be “Ideal”, or in other words, that the media and U.S. propaganda embeds into our subconscious [FALSE] ideas of what we need to do and look like in order to be ‘perfect’.

    So, deciding to embrace being alive rather than being perfect, is to me, a courageous stand AGAINST their [false] versions of ‘perfection’. Not only should we not subscribe to the media’s version of perfection, but we most definitely should not even pursue that version of perfection. T’would be a waste of time, a waste of a life, and a waste of human individuality, to conform to their extremely perverse idea of perfection while choosing to be submissive to their will.

    To summarize, I admire your commitment to embrace being alive-to embrace being you–and to embrace your own individuality, rather than vainly attempting to conform to a corrupted version of ‘perfection’.

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  3. Mariah

    “When I look at how I define recovery, I want to get to a place of health that isn’t dependent on falling in love with myself. Instead, I’m hoping it’s dependent on respecting the body I have, regardless of how I feel in any certain moment.”

    Thank you for this lightbulb moment as I walk this recovery journey myself.

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  4. Kailey

    I really needed this! Very well spoke.

    Reply  |  
  5. Kim

    Rachel – “Recovery forces you to strip away even your most basic beliefs about yourself.” Thank you for writing that strips away the curtains so those of us who have not been in your shoes can begin to understand. Writing like yours doesn’t create sympathy in the reader, it radiates a strength and light that we respect, that we honor, and that makes us believe there is hope for us to face our own personal devils. Thank you.

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  6. Katie

    I really needed this. B/c it’s exactly what I’m going through.

    Reply  |  
  7. Jeanna Wagle-Garcia

    It has been my experience that change for the better is gradual and gentle. It is not always positive change though that is what we hope for, it changes and we fail or grow and if we live long enough to face that challenge that baffled us previously, we might change positively this chance. It will be ok, for better or for worse we hold out hope that it will be ok. God knows us nothing but him is ever perfect. That’s why I fit so well in this world it is imperfect and I live here with everyone else who is imperfect and it’s not so lonely. I love myself.

    Reply  |  
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