Key To My Eating Disorder Recovery
It's hard to believe that this time last year, I was packing my bags and preparing for my third stay at an inpatient and residential treatment center for anorexia nervosa. I had been discharged from my second stay barely eight months before. Today, I'm coming up on nine months out of treatment (a record for me) and am solidly in recovery. So what made the difference?
When I returned home from eating disorder treatment in fall of 2012, I hit the ground running - graduate record examinations (GREs), graduate school visits, and graduate school applications. But as the rejection letters came back, I began wondering if I was ever going to do anything with my life other than work behind a desk. (I'm not the desk type, y'all. I'm not even sitting at a desk as I write this.) I'd had my "dream job" once before, and had to leave it because of my eating disorder. There was nothing in my life, nor in my foreseeable future, to be excited about. So it didn't really matter to me if I just sort of wasted away.
I'd tried plenty of things to keep me motivated for eating disorder recovery. I wanted to go to Africa on a missions trip. I kept pictures of my friends' children nearby, reminding me that I wanted to be around for them. I had an awesome job where I lived in the woods. I had an airline ticket to see a dear friend across the country. But over and over again, I found myself in dining rooms with meals placed in front of me and group rooms with therapists and handfuls of brilliant young women.
I Can't Do School and an Eating Disorder at the Same Time
I was actually in treatment last summer when I found out I had been accepted into a Master's program. I knew as soon as I got the letter that this was a once in a lifetime shot and I did not want to blow it. Which is not to say that the dream job, the chance to see my "nieces" and "nephews" grow up, or visit another continent were not great motivators. They were - but graduate school has one particular characteristic that has made it great for keeping me in recovery.
Graduate school takes time. A lot of it. Every day. All the time that I used to spend in the gym, counting calories, sneaking around, in the bathroom, wherever, doing whatever - is now spent reading, writing, and studying. And reading, writing, studying, and everything else involved in school are generally incompatible with eating disorder behaviors.
[caption id="attachment_2614" align="aligncenter" width="405" caption="In my eating disorder, 5 am meant "go to the gym!" Now it means "start reading!""][/caption]
By "incompatible" I mean "cannot be done simultaneously." Reading a paperback novel while pounding out a few miles on a machine in the gym is possible - reading, highlighting, and outlining a 500-page textbook is not. Being sick all night from a horrid combination of pills was fine if all I had to do was get up the next day and sit at a desk answering the phone. Constructing a coherent five page paper requires me to really be on my game.
Replace Your Eating Disorder With a Life
Am I suggesting that everyone reading this go back to school and put yourselves into tens of thousands of dollars of debt? Certainly not. School happens to be what works for me. Hundreds of pages of reading followed by hours of discussion is my little corner of heaven on earth.
But maybe that won't work for you. Maybe a better choice for you is joining a crafting circle or a weekly book club. Maybe you set up an Etsy shop and sell your wares or volunteer your talents for a local non-profit. But find something to fill the time that your eating disorder used to fill.
There's an old adage that says, "The idle brain is the devil's playground." Idle time is the eating disorder's - if you can avoid long spans of unplanned time, you've got a lot better shot at keeping old behaviors out if they try to sneak back in.
What have been some things that have worked in your recovery to fill the time your eating disorder used to?
Hudgens, J. (2014, April 3). Key To My Eating Disorder Recovery, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, June 10 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/survivinged/2014/04/why-grad-school-was-the-best-thing-to-happen-to-my-eating-disorder-recovery
Author: Jessica Hudgens
An excellent and inspirational post. Well written
I'm so proud of you Jess, this is a great post.
It's amazing that sometimes getting rid of our eating disorder gives us a second chance to truly becoming the person we were meant to be all along. I'm grateful we 'met'.
Patricia - So true about second chances. I'm glad to have another chance at school and definitely don't want to throw it away over something so silly as the idea of "thin." I'm glad we met too. :)
Brittany - I heart you too. Thanks for putting up with me when I was a less-than-pleasant human in treatment. ;)
LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE. Also I heart you too.