In the last few days I read both Genevieve Angelson’s Refinery29 essay on confronting her eating disorder while in quarantine, and also The New York Times‘ reporting on the current crisis as a relapse trigger for those in addiction recovery (which, not surprisingly, Angelson refers to).
I’m going to issue a gentle warning for the Refinery29 article, as it contains detailed descriptions of behaviors: consider what’s appropriate for you at this moment in time before reading. My point really isn’t so much to draw attention to a single ED testimony right now as to acknowledge the struggle that so many people who identified as recovered, or in recovery, must be feeling.
I’ve been conscious of the ED and food struggles throughout quarantine because of my private practice as a dietitian, but I hadn’t stopped to think about how this must affect those who are experiencing different forms of recovery: recovery from addiction, trauma, or codependency, to name only a few.
In the early years of my own recovery, I used to feel incredibly frustrated, and even a little victimized, when something happened in my circumstances (think: conflicts, illnesses, professional setbacks, heartbreaks) that dredged up my stuff. It felt unfair: I’d worked so hard to get to where I was, and recovery was still new. I wanted life to cut me a break from triggers until I felt rock solid.
It never works that way, though. Life is full of difficulty (along with the wonderful stuff), and triggers are inevitable. Sometimes they’re big, sometimes they’re small, but they’re always with us. If you’ve had an eating disorder in the past, there’s a good chance that they’ll test your relationship with food, body image, and the desire for control.
Recovery doesn’t reside in avoiding triggers, or even in avoiding relapse. It resides in being triggered and greeting the experience with a little more strength and resilience than you did the last time. I think the same goes for relapse, which is common among those who’ve had EDs. We hope and actively work to avoid relapse, but if it happens, it’s not the end of recovery. Getting up after you’ve been knocked down—perhaps with a little more clarity, resolve, or quickness than you might have in the past—is what recovery is all about.
We all yearn for healing that is linear and lasting, and I think it’s beautiful to hang onto that hope for ourselves and others. But healing is complex, and it can be the work of a lifetime. This is why I feel so strongly about discussing recovery in a way that accommodates its realities: the challenges and setbacks, the stumbles and periods of getting lost. They’re not the pretty part of healing, but they are part of it, and they’re as worthy of celebration as the obvious triumphs.
For those in recovery, this is a momentous test of strength and self-compassion. If you’re out there and you’re struggling, I see you. I’m holding onto the self-compassion that you may find difficult to issue to yourself right now. You are not alone in what you’re feeling and experiencing, and you are no less worthy or lovable because you’re having a hard time. One day at a time. Always, but especially right now.
Happy Sunday friends. Here are some recipes and reads.
A cozy and comforting gnocchi and kale bake from Nourishing Amy.
A wholesome, colorful plant-based power bowl with miso lemon dressing, via Soulfully Tasty.
Can’t wait to try Steven’s mini deep dish pizzas!
A great looking bowl of Kung Pao cauliflower.
Finally, I love the looks of Lindsay’s French toast pull apart bread for Mother’s Day (or any day!).
1. While we’re on the topic of healing, no single tool has been more supportive of my recovery and ongoing well-being than therapy. In that spirit, sharing a helpful NPR article/interview on finding the support of therapy in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis.
2. Something uplifting: Pakistan is helping its laborers who’ve lost their jobs due to the crisis by hiring them to plant saplings as part of a nationwide initiative to increase forestation and counter the damage of climate change.
3. If you’ve been a little confused about antibody testing and how it works (I’ve had lots of questions!), this is good reading material.
4. Another article that acknowledges how complex the coronavirus crisis is. I like that Ed Yong advocates for scientists to be honest about uncertainties, so as to make updates less confusing for the public.
5. No intention of putting a positive spin on this tragedy, but I do welcome perspectives on how people are responding to the COVID-19 crisis with strength and compassion. So, I was uplifted by New York Magazine‘s tribute to how New Yorkers have shown up for each other during epidemics past and present.
Sending much love to all of you. New recipes coming up this week!
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