Grief and Eating Disorder Recovery

Recovery is a good thing, right?

It’s something we put ourselves through torture to achieve and work at every day. So why, often when I am doing well, do I suddenly feel so sad?

After a good couple of weeks recently of eating all my snacks and reducing my exercise and no tears on weigh day, I found myself feeling very tearful. Why did I feel this way when I was objectively doing the best I have at recovery in years? It took me a while to realise what the problem was but I think I have figured it out. I am grieving. I am grieving for my old body and the control I had and the validation from people that I was, in fact, not okay. I feel lost without anorexia and try as I might, I have yet to find anything that quite matches the euphoria of a new lowest weight or the hunger high of not eating for days on end. As awful as it is having an eating disorder, they do serve a function, which is why we find ourselves turning back to them time and time again.

Eating disorders are sirens and they call you back every time you feel yourself falter. The thing that is important is to remember that whilst it is okay to grieve and to miss the benefits of being sick, it is not possible to relapse without all the downsides. And there are many, no matter how much it tries to convince you otherwise.

Grief is a normal response to losing something which is a big part of your life. The thing about anorexia that makes it so difficult to recover from is that it isn’t just a part of your life, it is your whole life. It is all you think about from the second you wake up to moment you fall asleep, and at every instance you wake up tossing and turning in the night. It is all you can talk about, you become a shell of who you are because you don’t care about anything else. The only thing that matters is counting. Calories, kilograms, centimetres, BMI, steps. Numbers numbers numbers. How then, can we be expected not to mourn for something that becomes our entire being?

It’s not just anorexia that I feel I am mourning, but the time and opportunities I have missed out on. All the years I haven’t been able to fully immerse myself in life because I’ve had a devil on my shoulder dictating and second guessing every decision I make, judging my every move and lambasting me for every time I couldn’t be exactly perfect. I have spent the last 18 months of my life sacrificing my health, career and relationships to be thin, only to torture myself by having to gain it all back again. I have regretted every relapse I have had, yet still keep doing it.

It’s confusing to feel sad about losing something you hate, but no matter how much I hate anorexia it is a huge part of my life and has no doubt shaped who I am as a person, for better or for worse. It’s okay, and I’d argue entirely normal, to feel a little lost without it. It is possible to grieve for something but also not want it back.

I just have to keep reminding myself of that.

4 comments

  1. I always thought there was something wrong with me every time my bipolar symptoms improved because I started to miss them. It took me a long time to realize that I was losing the comfort of certainty. Miserable certainty, but certainty all the same. When you are used to so much of your life feeling miserable, losing that can sometimes feel like you have nothing left. When the good days come and I’m relatively symptom free, I have no idea who I am or what I want. Like you said, I’m also missing everything that could have been. And that’s hard.

    Liked by 1 person

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