Monte Nido & Affiliates Education Training Manager Jacquie Rangel shares a personal post on some of her thoughts and hesitations when beginning her recovery journey. Jacquie shares what inspired her to pursue and continue to pursue a recovered life, and urges all of us to advocate not only for ourselves but for one another.
I heard Jenni Schaeffer speak recently while I was in the field supporting the Alliance for Eating Disorders walk on behalf of Oliver-Pyatt Centers in Tampa, FL. She made a comment that touched on a thought I’ve had a lot about eating disorder recovery in the past year. “I have recovered from an eating disorder. I have not recovered from life.”
This sentiment struck me as so beautiful because it’s what the reality of being a true eating disorder champion is all about to me: It’s a brave-hearted embracement of the imperfect journey of being a human. Hearing Jenni say this demonstrates to me that she has a desire to develop herself far beyond the bare minimum expectation of recovering from an eating disorder. Once again, and many years after first encountering her well-known book, Life Without Ed, Jenni’s words made me feel thoroughly understood.
I, like what I estimate to be 100% of people who first start to seek professional remedy from their eating disorder, was very on the fence about recovering. On one hand, I had moments of acute awareness of the risk of my condition and on the other hand, I was not sold on the transformation of lifestyle that had to occur in order for me to build a healthy life again. What I didn’t understand at that time is that the transformation in lifestyle would not always be monotonous and task-driven. Though initially the process of getting better required me to wake up and drill in the practices I had been shown day-in through day-out, the action of “recovery” started to become my natural way of being. The coping skills and self-care techniques I was learning became less drill like and more choice like. This was pivotal for me because when I started to feel like I had choice again, I started to gain momentum in my motivation to keep going. Every action became an opportunity to either feed (pun intended) my freedom or trap me in a self-enslaving and ultimately dangerous way of being.
The more I choose freedom, the more I started to realize that life would what I made of it and much to my surprise, life had a lot of fun things to offer outside of an eating disorder! Still, life goes on and having an eating disorder isn’t a free pass from grief and pain. I agree with the belief that you can fully recover from an eating disorder. I think those of us who are of this mindset know we have recovered when we are encountered with an intensely difficult life situation and find ourselves facing it rather than recoiling and choosing the eating disorder.
So how do we get there? My belief is that we help each other. We let someone else whose struggle we recognize know that we see their pain and we believe in their power to help themselves. As much as absolutely everyone in this field wants to- we simply cannot do someone else’s personal work. We can relate to it though. Relating is the practice of growing a relationship and whatever that relationship may be- professional, supporting or intimate- it is an important bridge we build to help someone cross when they feel they are ready to walk away from their eating disorder. This is what it feels like for me to have advocates and this is what is feels like to me when I advocate for a person who is learning about their potential in recovery and beyond.