How long does it take to heal from an eating disorder?

by Collette Deschenes, EDNS Mentor 

I played soccer for quite a long time; all throughout my pre-teen/teen years. I’m a klutz—but I loved it.

Not-so-graceful me would sometimes take a ball straight in the chest. The force would push me over and knock the wind out of me. I would lay there seeing stars for a few moments until finally, my team cheered me on to get back up.

And up I went. Then, not long after, the same thing would happen again. Even with the wind knocked out of me—I would get up every single time with more fervor.

Freedom

Ironically enough, a wind-knocked-of-me incident was one of the events that finally helped me seek treatment for my eating disorder after years of struggling with anorexia and bulimia. I got into a car accident. An airbag to the face and chest served as a reminder: you’re still alive—but why aren’t you living? Immediately after the accident, I entered treatment at the University of Alberta Hospital.

“Two days . . .” I explained to my boss as I left work for full-time treatment. “Two days and I’ll be back.” But it took more than two days. For months, every single day felt like a soccer ball to the chest with the wind knocked of out me.

Truthfully, I struggled with recovery more times than I can even count. There were days-on-days of the “can’t breathe, don’t want to move forward” moments.

Throughout my recovery, I sought out and built a small group of people alongside my treatment team. They cheered me on during the messiest parts of healing.

A week into recovery (and what felt like the millionth fall down) my best friend turned to me on the couch as I sobbed.

“You know you have the strength to get up again,” she said supportively.

“But why am I not better YET. I want to be better now . . .” I cried, beyond exasperated with myself. “Getting knocked down every time . . . it’s exhausting.”

Over time, and with a ton of patience, there were less “I can’t do this” moments and more “I will do this” moments.

When I was tired, the people in my life reminded me of my resiliency. They believed in me when I couldn’t.

Until I could. I would try to get back up after each blow. Each relapse. Each time with more intensity.

Over time, and with a ton of patience, there were less “I can’t do this” moments and more “I will do this” moments. We want to set specifics on healing. How it should look “this way” or take “this amount of time.”

Because recovery, while always worth it, can be exhausting. Some days may feel like a force to your chest. Heavy and exhausting. We want it to be over. Now.

We want to flash forward to the clean, bright and better days. But real healing may not happen in two day or two months. It’s a series of messy moments. Recovery requires seeking real help and support from the people around you. You face all the things you don’t want to face. And feel all the things we want to anesthetize ourselves to.

It can leave you wondering how you can move forward after the thousandth fall. Until you can – and you do. That’s when you realize it takes more than two days, and it takes immense amounts of patience.

Flash forward to today: Over three years later, I still face tons of messy healing moments. There is pain and a lot of couch crying in these moments. But I see how beautiful life is without my eating disorder.

I see growth. I see resilience. And I see love—for myself and from the people around me.

Finally, I see myself.

About Collette: Collette is a creative communications professional who loves podcasts, poetry, singing car karaoke and exploring the outdoors. After years struggling with eating disorders, she began to write about her recovery journey and have shared and contributed to websites dedicated to inspiring hope such as RecoveryWarriors.com. She became a peer mentor with Eating Disorders NS as she hopes to use her experiences to help others share their stories and find their voice through recovery. She believes that connection and hope are vital parts of recovery. Her goal someday is to create a published collection of poetry and stories that highlight healing, resiliency, and strength through recovery. Originally published for Recoverywarriors.com

EDAW
Eating disorders are serious, complex mental illnesses that can impact anyone. With support and treatment, full recovery is possible.

Eating Disorders Awareness Week is a nationally recognized week designed to raise awareness of eating disorders. In Canada, it is held February 1-7, 2019