When thinking about eating disorder recovery, the aim is generally to live a life entirely free from it.
So why do so, so many of us get stuck? Why are so many of us living much better lives, but still carefully abiding by our routines and our rituals, and manipulating our weights to places that aren’t dangerous, but equally aren’t where our bodies want to be?
There’s many reasons people get stuck in quasi recovery. It’s often thought of as a bad thing, but is that always the case?
It’s true that being in quasi recovery does hold us back. We often still don’t have the ability to be spontaneous or to shy too far away from our routines. We are still very careful in how we behave in order to micro manage our weight.
Being in quasi recovery can feel frustrating and as though you are entirely stuck. You’re still somewhat controlled by your eating disorder, but not sick enough to really be feeling any of the benefits from it. It’s often silent, and people watching on see somebody who has recovered, while you’re still feeling under attack from your eating disordered thoughts, body dysmorphia and anxiety.
Being in this limbo maintains your eating disorder, and it has become clear to me over the years that chances of relapse are significantly higher while you rest in a zone of ‘semi recovery’. As my therapist says: if you remain 20% anorexic, you’re much more likely to end up 100% anorexic again.
But, with all the above in mind, can we still say it’s categorically a bad thing? I would like to be fully recovered, there’s no doubt about that. However, sitting in quasi is still a significant improvement on my quality of life when I’m actively in relapse or in the early stages of recovery. Also, I am not dying anymore. Maybe my body isn’t quite where it wants to be, but I am nourished enough that my organs and hormones are functioning normally, and I have energy during the day and can sleep during the night. I am significantly less anxious and my mood is much better.
Most importantly, being in partial recovery several times over this course of treatment has given me time to rest. Recovery is absolutely exhausting, and being able to take time to pause, stay static and go on autopilot for a while is honestly what has stopped me slipping backwards so many times.
Yes, full recovery is great. But partial recovery as part of the journey shouldn’t be knocked either.
If the most you can manage right now is treading water and not swimming, that’s okay. Treading water is better than drowning.