Recovery is a process. It’s challenging and unbelievable amounts of work. Recovery can leave you feeling isolated, alone, and hopeless.
Recovery also leads to a road filled with happiness. All the hard work pays off when you’re finally free from your disorder.
The journey is frustrating, and there is more to it than sunshine and rainbows.
There are even some parts that nobody really ever talks about. Bear with me.
One of the first things I experienced early on in recovery was extreme bloating.
When you begin to nourish your body properly, after you haven’t been for some time, it results in GI tract abnormalities. This includes a very messed up stomach.
The second I put anything in my mouth, my stomach expanded. It was incredibly uncomfortable and painful.
I would describe it as a “bubbly stomach”. I felt as though there were gas bubbles being blown up inside me, and for whatever reason, they would not pop.
During this time I wore lots of sweatshirts and loose tops to make me feel somewhat more comfortable if that was even possible. My stomach was protruding and rock hard. I could not seem to find relief.
Tums and Gas-X following all major meals were remarkably helpful early on.
However, after some time, my body began to correct itself. Slowly the bloating became less severe and I can say that my stomach is much more comfortable after meals today.
Often times eating disorder patients have trouble with fluids and decent hydration, especially if purging behaviors are involved. When sufficient hydration is eventually obtained your body tends to hold onto it.
This leads to excess fluid in your body, sometimes in the form of severe edema (look up a picture if you don’t know what I’m talking about).
Luckily, I escaped the awful swelling, but my body clenched onto any fluid I gave it. This resulted in lots of water weight.
Whatever way your body retains this fluid, it is really confusing to understand what you truly look like, a difficult enough task with an eating disorder.
Myself, along with many peers from treatment, were frustrated at the excess fluid retention. It really messes with your head.
When your body is swollen and retaining liquid in abnormally high amounts, it skews the way you look, so you don’t always know if what you’re seeing in the mirror is permanent or not.
EXTREME HUNER & FULLNESS SENSATIONS
One of the most complicated things that I experienced during the early recovery stages was absurd bodily sensations. Especially hunger and fullness regulations.
At first, I was hungry, all the fricking time. Even after eating a full meal I felt as though I could do it all over again. No matter what or how much I ate I was immediately hungry afterward.
After some time, the extreme hunger subsided and was replaced by intense feelings of fullness. I could eat the smallest portion and be stuffed, left feeling uncomfortable and guilty.
Even today, I get full easily. But the extremes have most definitely gotten less intense.
Regardless, it makes it difficult to comply with your meal plan fully when you’re stuffed after eating just the protein on your plate.
When talking to my dietician about my frustrations she assured me that this is normal and extremely common.
As sh*tty as it is, our bodies take time to re-regulate themselves and one way to help them along is by sticking to the meal plan, as difficult as it may seem.
MESSED UP BOWELS
*Insert blushing emoji here*.
I’ve always said to my mom, “when you don’t eat, you don’t poop!”
So, when you start nourishing your body again, your digestion takes some time to catch up.
It took me twenty days from when I began eating again to finally poop.
It was awful and left me in excruciating pain.
I felt so stuck. I kept eating anyway. But I was, rightfully so, upset.
I would take food in but nothing would come out the other end.
I cannot even begin to describe how uncomfortable it felt.
After lots of medication and time spent on the toilet, it finally happened.
It took a few days to get my digestive system moving on schedule again but with patience, and some Miralax, my body began going.
LACK OF ENERGY
Early on in recovery, I was tired. Constantly.
When I was deep in my disorder, I became depressed as well and barely slept.
Part of the lack of energy was a result of the lack of sleep. However, once I had a few good nights rest the tiredness did not correct itself.
I turned to my peers only to discover that they too felt the same way.
Treatment is tiring.
Recovery is hard work. You give it all you can, the entirety of the day repeatedly. You don’t get any breaks.
That, on top of my lack of nutrition, led to me falling asleep at 8:30 every night.
This too took some time to correct itself. I took naps here and there and practiced good sleep hygiene.
After nearly a month of exhaustion, I got used to putting in 110% day in and day out and my body did too.
NOT SEEING CHANGES AS FAST AS YOU’D LIKE
Whether it be weight gain, meal compliance, or mental stabilization it can be extremely frustrating when you’re trying so hard but are unable to see results.
I know people who were 100% meal complaint since the day they entered treatment but were not discharged for some time because their bodies just couldn’t catch up fast enough. They were eating all their food but it didn’t show on the scale.
For me, I get easily frustrated when I continually have to battle my mind.
I eat all my food and put in all the work, but why am I still having the negative thoughts?
I wish that I could snap my fingers and they could go away, but unfortunately, that is far from reality.
I know firsthand how difficult it can be to push yourself so hard when the response doesn’t occur as quickly as we had hoped.
Patience is key in recovery. You have to fight every day, regardless of if the results are immediate or not.
Despite the countless negative side effects, there are endless good things too. (Read my article about it here.)
It is work. Every. Single. Day.
We have to fight through the tough times in order to get to a place of happiness.
When things get difficult, or you lose hope, remember that this takes time. We’ve messed with our bodies and they need a moment to recoup.
Keep pushing, keep fighting. It gets better.