Recovery from an eating disorder offers many gifts.
Health. Restored relationships with family and friends. New life. Freedom.
And it’s true. Eating disorder recovery does mean all of these things, and more.
But that’s not the gift I’m talking about.
This gift is much more subtle and may seem to be a curse at first.
Becoming Sick in the Process of Eating Disorder Recovery
I have been sick three times in less than two months. First, I had a middle ear infection. I thought it was a cold at first, but then my ear started hurting so bad I went to the emergency room
I thought I was better after a course of antibiotics and ear drops.
About a week or two later, I developed an upper respiratory infection.
Back on the antibiotics and bed rest. It wasn’t all bad. I got a lot of reading done.
I was well for less than a week when I developed the flu. Or something.
It started with a raging migraine, nausea, and the inability to eat. This last symptom frightened me as a recovering anorexic because it is still easy to slip back into restrictive eating.
I got up on Sunday morning for church, but I knew there was no way I was going to make it when I had to practically crawl downstairs to the bathroom, kneeling on the floor as I begged God to please not let me throw up.
Back on the couch I went. This time, I couldn’t even read because of the week-long headache. I drank apple juice and Ensure and ate bland foods and prayed I would get better.
Being sick really irritates me. I have a lot to do; job searching, cleaning my house, and visiting family are just a few things that comes to mind.
I can’t afford to be sick! I need to find a job…a house…a life, and this isn’t helping at all!
I cursed my crappy immune system. Then, a Facebook friend posted something after my rant about being sick for three times in less than two months.
We call this a “gift of recovery”! Your body is healthy enough to allow illness to move through it! After years of ED life, there are a billion illnesses stored up in our body. It sucks, but it is temporary!
Then I remembered what happened several years ago. My weight had stabilized, but I kept getting sick with one thing after another. My eating disorders psychiatrist said that the body is unable to harbor viruses while in the throes of an eating disorder. Only when we begin to heal are we able to get sick.
It sounded counter-intuitive to me, so I dismissed his comments as so much psychiatric babble.
I wanted to believe that eating disorder recovery is all roses and rainbows and unicorns; that I would emerge from anorexia triumphant and full of health and life. It is discouraging to think that recovery can also mean sickness and drudgery.
The joke’s on me. Yes, recovery is all the wonderful things that we have heard about. But I’m now thinking that both my friend and ED psychiatrist are onto something.
I just hope that she was exaggerating when she wrote billions.