Feeling ‘stuck’ in eating disorder recovery is really common.
You might feel like you’ve made some (or even a lot) of progress, but then you hit a wall and stagnate. Recovery fatigue is very real, and it’s hard to maintain the same momentum every day. I certainly reached a point for a number of months were I felt completely hopeless that I’d ever move past the stage I was at, but luckily I had an amazing therapist who stuck by me through that time and saw it through to the other side, where I started making some progress again. It wasn’t just therapy that got me out of that place though, so I thought I’d share some tips that might help you if you feel you’re in a bit of a recovery rut.
Write down all the things you’ve been able to do since starting recovery
This can help you to recognise all the challenges you’ve been able to overcome so far, that at the time felt impossible. I bet there are a lot of things you thought you’d never be able to do but now you have. That same principle applies now.
Make your social media feeds positive
Unfollow anyone who makes you feel bad about yourself, whether that’s because of comparisons, reminders of being unwell or any other reason. Follow accounts that you find motivating and inspirational.
Identify what you are scared of
Make a list of everything you are scared of doing, then write down the pros and cons of doing each of these things. The chances are, the cons are your eating disorder talking and the pros are you talking. Remind yourself of that.
Write down reasons to continue recovering
It’s really easy to forget the reasons why you’re doing this, especially if you’re getting stuck but have still managed to get to a point where you are living a relatively ‘normal’ life with regards to day to day functioning. But my therapist used to say to me: “is functioning really all you want for yourself?” and he was right. I wanted more from my life than that.
Do opposite actions
Whatever your eating disorder is telling you to do, do the opposite of that. If it’s telling you to move: rest. If it’s saying you should restrict: eat. If you feel like you need to act on other compensatory or disordered behaviours: distract distract distract. Those feeling of discomfort are temporary and they absolutely will pass.
Hold yourself accountable
My therapist used to say to me: “it’s not your fault you’re ill, but it is your responsibility to recover”. Ultimately, you are the only person who can dictate the choices you make. Your eating disorder can tell you what to do, but you don’t have to act on those demands.
Make a list of everything you’ve achieved so far
Reflecting on everything you’ve achieved can be really motivating, and chances are there are still things you are going to want to do going forward. Remind yourself of all the great things that lie ahead with recovery, even if it’s as simple as feeling happier with yourself and your life rather than something tangible.
Think about what is holding you back
There is something stopping you from moving forward. Is it fear? Is it exhaustion? Is it grief? Think really hard about what those factors are, because once you’ve identified them, you can start to challenge them.
Allow yourself to rest
It is okay to take a break from moving full steam ahead. Recovery is exhausting and it’s virtually impossible to plough forward at the same speed from beginning to end. Pausing for a breather is absolutely fine, but it’s important to know what steps you need to take to start moving forward again.
Stick some recovery mantras around your house
I’m a sucker for a positive quote or mantra. I especially recommend putting some in places like the kitchen or where mirrors are, as I expect many of you are like me and need reminders in those places more so than in other areas of the house. Sometimes a little prompt is enough to give you the motivation to make the right decision.
Ask for more support
Reach out to people when you feel stuck. You don’t have to go through it alone. If you have a professional team, let them know. If you have family and friends, give them the chance to help you. Contact a charity or support group. There are lots of options you can use.
Write down all your eating disordered rules
Making a note of all the rules your eating disorder still imposes on you is the first step to working out how to challenge them. List them all, then consider why it’s scary to break them, and then how and why you can do just that.
Make a plan
Put an action plan together. One of the biggest tricks you can play on yourself when feeling stuck in recovery is to say “I’ll do it tomorrow”. Make a clear plan of exactly what you are going to do tomorrow, and when tomorrow becomes today, follow that plan through.
Remember: plateau’s are an absolutely normal part of the process. Even when it feels like it, pausing for a rest doesn’t have to be the end of your recovery journey. Keep going.