By Amy M. Klimek, MA, LPC
Eating Disorder Program Coordinator, Timberline Knolls
Recovery is very meaningful to two groups of people: those striving to achieve recovery and those close to them, mostly made up of both family and friends. Each person is living and breathing their own recovery journey. From the person who is struggling firsthand with the disorder to the loved one who so desperately wants to help them. Each person has a story of their own.
Many of those I work with have had an eating disorder for as long as their memory will serve them. They can recall the days of their first judgmental thoughts about their bodies, restricting at their first meal, and purging after their last. Their history with the disorder becomes their life story, sharing their recurring struggles and relapses over and over again. They deeply desire recovery while living with the fear of who they will be without the pull of the eating disorder. They question how much they can honestly share with others. They question if their loved ones will understand their feelings and thoughts or if they will be judged by them.
On the other side of the table are the family and friends who desperately want to believe that recovery is something that just happens, almost like flipping a switch. They want to believe that, due to the time spent in treatment, the person is “fixed.” Regrettably, this is just not the case. It takes time for a person to become entrenched in an eating onhealthy naprosyn disorder; it takes time to recover. This is no different for family and friends.
In order to move forward, all parties will need to work on accepting the changes of the present and find acceptance of the past. What needs to matter to all of those involved in recovery is today, right now. The past is over, gone; the future is waiting to happen. The present moment is here, now.
In my work, I interact primarily with the parents. Often they are people who are bewildered, sad, exhausted or angry; they are emotionally tapped out. They will pose questions such as, “What if this happens again?” or “What about when you said you were going to do this and you didn’t?” These are legitimate questions engrained in their own history and experience with the disorder. We do not have answers to these questions. We may not be able to “fix” the problem. What’s more, like every other human being in the world, parents will make mistakes; they need to know that mistakes will happen and they are okay.
Each opportunity is a chance to do life differently, feel emotions differently and share thoughts differently. Recovery is a journey, starting with vulnerability of asking for support and continues with strength to truly live life one day at a time. With each breath, each experience, the story of the struggle is being revised. It is authoring new chapters of shared experiences and of strength and resilience for both the person and their loved ones.