Finding Myself Outside of Recovery

When I was in the depths of my eating disorder, it defined me. The food I ate (or more often didn’t eat), the number of calories I consumed in a day, my weight, my stomach, my thighs. That was what made me Sarah. I was no longer a dancer, a Christian, a sister, a daughter: I was numbers and behaviors. I was, in my mind, my disorder. I made no distinction because, after all, if I lost my eating disorder, I was nothing.

Right?

Not exactly. Through treatment I began to make progress and while I was inpatient and on PHP, I felt true happiness and excitement. I was starting to find that I could be something outside of my eating disorder. What, I didn’t quite know. I did know that for the first time in a long time I began to get excited about doing things. I saw movies on passes and my first thought was no longer I wonder how many calories are in this popcorn and I wonder how much butter they put on it but instead I focused on the movie, the people, and enjoyed the popcorn. Because although there was still anxiety, it was not the ONLY thing I could think about.

Then I got home. This is not to sound like a horror story because it is not. I did not relapse when I got home and at this point I still have not “relapsed.” Yes, I’ve had slips, my weight is not completely stable but this has less to do with the eating disorder than it does with our crazy schedule. What really struck me when I got home was that I, Sarah, was defined as “being in recovery.” I had no other exciting things about me and besides that, recovery takes a lot more self directed work when you’re not in a treatment center.

It’s ironic because when I was inpatient and on PHP, I thought less about my eating disorder than I do now that I’m out patient. Yes, of course during groups and in the very beginning but there was always someone nearby to talk to; a therapist, dietician, psychiatrist, or even an assistant. Out patient is different in the sense that there’s not always going to be a therapist, dietician, psychiatrist, or an understanding friend nearby during those freak out moments. Simply put, independence can be hard.

So how can I deal with making recovery a top priority but also have other things that make me, well, me? Recovery, especially the physical aspect of it, have been the main focus in my life for almost a year. I’ve been in “urgent” mode for so long that I’m not sure how to get back into “just living” mode. Plus I’m not currently involved in anything (youth group, dance class, etc) for two reasons. The obvious one being that I was away at treatment and even before that I was so starved I had no interest in doing anything, especially interacting with people. The other, less obvious reason, is that there isn’t much money to spare for classes or even the *extra* gas to drive to youth group.

I’m trying to find the balance between recovery and being involved in the recovery community and not having it be my complete identity. Yes, it is a part of me and my history and no matter how much I wish this thing, this monster had never entered my life, it did and I have to deal with it. I want to use my experience to inspire others who might just be embarking on this journey or just help those who’ve been struggling for a long time. I also want to add new things to my life, things that were forgotten in my disorder. Books, dancing, animals, faith, family, friends, nature.

I have some questions for anyone who is willing to answer (I love it any time someone comments on any of my social outlets, so don’t be shy!):

-Have you come up against the problem of including things back into your life that you once loved or finding new things? How do make friends after being so distant for a long period of time? Tips??
-How involved are you in the online recovery community (blogs, instagram, etc)? Is it helpful for you?
-Should I post pictures of some of my meals/snacks on instagram? Do you find it helpful or triggering when people do this?

Have a great morning/day/night,

Sarah
Instagram: @sarahlearnslife

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