I have had a long history of eating disorders, starting with anorexia, then binge eating then EDNOS. About the last 10 years I fit the criteria for EDNOS. Over the years I never sought professional help, partly because the times I went to my GP, either directly about weight loss or indirectly about other concerns, they told me nothing was wrong with me. As I later went into the health profession I could diagnose myself and knew I had a problem. Over the years I made myself eat more regularly which lessened the binge eating, and stopped myself from fasting, etc. I felt I had done everything I could for myself but couldn’t totally conquer it, so I decided after 20 years of having an ED that I would go to an ED center. The main thing I ended up seeing from it were more problems, as they thought I was still restricting and was limiting the variety I was eating. This was hard to accept but since being back home several months, I feel I rarely restrict, (for some weird reason I seem to restrict more when I’m outside my house and at other people’s houses) and am eating a bigger variety. The biggest thing I managed to find was a way to stop weighing myself, and thankfully, the number on the scales doesn’t bother me anymore. As I went through a good patch I felt (and so did my dietitian who I speak to on an ad hoc basis) I no longer fit the EDNOS criteria. I have a query though. Can I say I no longer have EDNOS, or is it possible that people can do well simply because they are avoiding certain areas? For example, I’m not sure if I was doing well as I’m avoiding buying my trigger foods in the house. I recently brought a fresh loaf of bread and ending up eating the whole loaf and feeling fed up with myself again. I don’t know whether I was just tired, whether I’m suppressing something still by avoiding that food, or whether I just need to accept that I won’t be able to buy certain things when I’m alone in the house. The other query is this. At the ED center I went to, they placed a lot of emphasis on relationships with others and how ED affects this. I just wondered though, if it is always the case. I just feel irrespective of how I’m eating the majority of the time, I don’t relax when I go out and would rather be at home. I wish I wasn’t like this but have resigned myself to thinking it’s just my character and upbringing that has done this, and I can’t change myself. I’m not sure whether I am recovered now and need to just put up with the “difficulties” or whether people would say I’m avoiding certain areas I don’t want to change.
Thank you for your e-mail. I respect the work you have done over the years and your questions are a reflection of that hard work.
I do believe people can recover from their eating disorder, though I think it looks different for everyone. While diagnoses such as EDNOS are helpful guides for clients and treatment professionals, it is important to not let them be a part of your identity or the sole basis to determine whether you are recovered or not.
There are many layers that need to be addressed when recovering from an eating disorder. Reducing the power of the behaviors and thoughts related to your food and body issues is one of many chapters in your recovery process. Your e-mail clearly indicates you have done a lot of work in this area. Once the reliance on the thoughts and behaviors regarding food and body issues are minimized, other negative emotions usually surface. Often, these are the core issues that invited the eating disorder into your life in the first place. Some of the main root issues behind eating disorders involve managing negative emotions, relationships and boundaries, healing from trauma and discovering your identity: who you are without your eating disorder.
It is important for your recovery motivations to be for you and not for anyone else. I would examine the “difficulties” you still struggle with and what your motivations are to let them go. Be honest with yourself and try your best not to focus too much on what other people say you should and should not do with your life.
Some questions I often ask clients to help them assess where they are at in their recovery journey are: “What is your level of peace and joy? “Are you doing activities that energize you and are part of your passions? “Are you comfortable in your skin?” “Do you devalue yourself or do you genuinely appreciate your mind and body?” “Do you live in fear of what others think or are you able to handle the negative emotion that comes with taking risks?” “Are there activities you avoid because of irrational fears and negative beliefs?”
The answers to the above questions may help you decide what kind of support you may still need or want. When we find ourselves avoiding certain growth areas in our life, it is important to acknowledge those areas while not shaming or “shoulding” (ie: I should be recovered by now…) on them either. You set the pace of your recovery and healing journey. Denying or minimizing problems is different than you directing the pace and focus of your treatment. This in itself is part of the healing process – trusting yourself to know what is best for you.
Blessings to you and on your healing journey,