National Eating Disorders Association
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Recovery

Most of us have heard this before: recovery is not a linear process.

As I graduated from treatment in November 2017, I kept that message in mind. My outpatient team and my family continue to remind me that I don’t have to seek perfection in my recovery; ups and downs are to be expected. In my early months of recovery, as I adjusted back to the “real world” with less structure and less clinical support, I typically took two steps forward and one step—sometimes three steps—back.

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In honor of April’s Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month (SAAM), as a result of the dedicated efforts of the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN), I wanted to share my personal experience of the connection between sexual assault, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Anorexia Nervosa (AN), and recovery. 

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Her eyes flickered as they made contact with mine. Finally, she exclaimed, “I’ve never seen anything like it; your dexa-scan is like that of an 80-year-old, or even older! As her words sunk in, I looked down at my hands, ashamed at the state of my 29-year-old body. “So, then what happens as I grow older?” I nervously questioned, unsure if I really wanted an answer. 

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If struggling with an eating disorder has ever left you feeling isolated or “different” than the people around you, or if you’ve ever looked around and realized that you’re recovering into a culture that can be unsupportive and even hostile to the healthy attitudes and habits you’re working to adopt, then give yourself the gift of attending a NEDA conference.

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“Let’s go out to eat.” The words immediately used to trigger a thousand thoughts. Which excuse do I use this time? Do I have homework? Am I busy? Maybe I don’t feel well? Or maybe this time I should just go so no one gets suspicious? 

Those were only a very few of the thoughts that went through my head when someone would ask me to go out to eat when I was in the darkest place of my eating disorder.

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Here at NEDA, we find it vital to recognize the unique experiences of individuals from different communities who are affected by eating disorders and sexual assault. In honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, we've compiled a list of helpful resources, support posts, and self-care tips catered to those who have been affected and/or have loved ones who are survivors. 

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My eating disorder has had a significant impact on my life, as most eating disorders do, and it has caused me to miss out on a lot. One of the aspects of my life that has suffered due to my eating disorder is my education. Although I have struggled with food and body image since I was a kid, my eating disorder didn’t begin to fully form until my freshman year of high school.

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There are too many stereotypes today about eating disorders; specifically, the widespread myth that they can only affect younger women. But in reality, 13 percent of women over the age of 50 have eating disorders. And until very recently, I was one of them.

It’s not surprising, because in our culture fat translates to negative feelings about ourselves. In our culture, “being perfect” is seen as attainable. 

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Since I can remember, I have always been critical about the way my body looked. As a little girl and growing adolescent, I began to compare myself to the "ideal" shapes and sizes of women in my culture, seen in magazines or T.V., and even my friends and classmates around me. When I was a junior in high school, I lost someone very close to me to leukemia, and this became the tipping point of developing my eating disorder. 

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My eating disorder (”ED”), anorexia nervosa (AN), emerged when I was 12. Over time, like others, I learned to personify and separate the voice of “ED” from my own. “ED” constantly yelled at me, told me that I wasn’t enough, that I needed to count/restrict my calories, over-exercise, weigh myself, and sacrifice everything else in my life for the goal of being thin. EDs run in my family, and along with other disorders, genetically predisposed me to develop one. 

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