For a while, I’ve been wanting to somehow convey how it is likely that there will be many opportunities where you feel obliged or tempted to stop before reaching full recovery.
For a stable recovery, where AN plays no role in your life anymore, you must commit to going the full distance, no matter how scary.
I posted a story on my story (what!) and lots of you asked me to save it to a blog post. So, here we are! I am to please!
The framework below shows the expected ‘stages of recovery’ from an addiction. Ok, AN is not exactly an addiction (like alcoholism for example) but it does have addictive and ritualistic tendencies which are closely linked. If you take a look, the diagram works and is pretty relatable to AN. If you decide to go on and read the story, you’ll notice the different stages are resembled by the different floors of the (spoiler alert) ‘Recovery Hotel’.
The diagram below describes how you begin the process of recovery in Orange. That’s when you’re actively engaging in ED behaviours.
- Then you move to Red. You ponder recovery.
- Then, you start to think about how to get going. This is green. Maybe this involves making a list of fear foods, hiding your running shoes, or stocking your cupboards.
- The action (blue) might involve telling somebody you need help or seeking treatment. It might involve increasing your breakfast, following your meal plan properly, or diving straight in. The most important actions, in my opinion, are eating a lot more and resting a lot more. This blue part must eventually involve reaching your unsuppressed body weight and unrestricted eating.
- The purple bubble is maintenance. By this, I don’t refer to weight maintenance necessarily. Your weight will vary throughout your life, at different phases, ages, hours and seasons. By this, I mean perhaps repeating the actions over and over until they become your new normal. This will be the neural rewiring stage, I guess.
- The recovery process can go on for years and years in a cycle (like the diagram suggests) if you never exit.
- This diagram doesn’t make a big enough deal of the bit on the left. Termination/ Graduation. You don’t get a degree after ED recovery (although sometimes I think it deserves one) but this basically means being ED free. A full and stable recovery. The end of the ED chapter of your life. A life filled with a high intake and good relationship with your body, exercise, as well as anything else you envisage to be in your future
The short story I have written can apply to everyone. You might not be at the entrance hall level. Maybe you’re hanging around at level 3 and waiting to step back into the elevator. This can apply to everyone. CONTINUE with your journey, even if you feel scared.
Let’s imagine that you’re you’re numb & miserable, walking along the street, in the freezing cold rain.
You glance up and see a cool flashing sign: ‘The Recovery Hotel’. On the glass door, there are 5* trip advisor ratings from people who have stayed before. Part of you doesn’t even want to go in, bc —what even is this weird place??
You contemplate it. Should you? Shouldn’t you? You’ve been in this dilemma before.
Finally, sick & tired of the cold rain, you do. You’re curious if inside holds comfort & safety, yet still hesitant. Regardless, you walk up the steps & somebody holds the door open for you, encouraging you to come in. You think: it must be worth at least giving a go. It can’t be worse than the rain.
In the entrance hall, all you see is an elevator. Without overthinking- you get in. Ah! Where did that sudden surge come from?Immediately you start to question whether it was the right move. Going up feels different to plodding along the street. In the elevator, you feel scared, claustrophobic & want to go back. You don’t know where this takes you and what it holds. At least the cold rain has no uncertainty.
On a sign in the elevator, it states: “For your safety: only get off at the 5th and final floor. The doors will open at other floors. Do not get get off”
You slowly start to go up. As you’re heading up, you are determined not to be tempted to get out sooner. You pledge to stay inside until floor 5 but really begin to worry that you won’t find safety and it won’t be as comfortable as you’d hoped. You also worry that it’ll be too hard and painful to endure the journey to go the full way. You want to get there, but have no idea how you’re going to actually bare with it.
The doors open—
Floor 1: increasing intake, decreasing movement.
This already feels mighty uncomfortable. This corridor looks rough. You start to think that going any higher up might be even worse. You’re not sure you can do it. You have 3 options:
- Press the down button and go back to the cold street.
- Get out here.
- Continue upwards
Hell! this is already awful. Will it just get harder and more unpleasant?
Despite ambivalence, you don’t disembark.
You travel up and the doors open:
Floor 2: initial weight gain.
You desperately want to get out. You don’t know how much more you can take. It’s been just about bearable so far, but you think any higher might be too hard to endure. You are uncomfortable, exhausted and wonder why you made this decision.
Against all of your urges to flee, you remain inside. You go on up:
The door opens to a empty, grey corridor:
Floor 3: bullshit BMI marker/low end of healthy.
Here, you are desperate to get out. This floor seems just about bearable. It isn’t as colourful as you imagined but remaining in the lift doesn’t feel possible.
You could live here and exist. You acknowledge you will not thrive, but anything more is excruciating to even think about.
There are signs of other people living here. You start to wonder: If they are able to live here, can you? Are they happy living here? Do they make it work?
It doesn’t look like a place of full freedom and you know deep down you want and deserve better. You don’t want a partial recovery.
You’ve committed to going to the full way. You remain inside the lift.
So you go on up.
The lift-bell dings and the doors slide open:
Floor 4: Full weight restoration.
Maybe you got here quicker than you thought. You feel uncomfortable & question whether you should have got out at a lower floor.
You still feel really cold and wet. Things haven’t got that much warmer or dryer and you’re wondering whether it was worth enduring.
Because you’ve managed to get this far, you feel slightly stronger. You know, deep down, that you’re not at your strongest, though. You wish it could get a lot better.
You see a sign which says: continue on for neural rewiring.
So you do. This is the part, you’ve heard, when it gets easier.
Finally, the doors to floor 5 open.
Full stable recovery
It’s warmer, dryer & you feel surprisingly comfortable. You’ve got through the hard part.
You didn’t really know what to imagine, but somehow feel safe.
It’s not a utopia with rainbows, but you feel strong enough to manage & work through the shit you don’t like.
You can learn to live here. You can eventually fall in love it. There are so many things up here to fill your life with, new emerging interests and old things which fall back into place.
And you are so proud you stuck with it.
THE END 🙂