I was 22 when I was a diagnosed with an eating disorder, although my eating disorder tendencies began long before then. Like many other courageous individuals, I sought treatment, even though I was in complete denial. Unlike many others, I did not have an abundant circle filled with support; people with whom I could speak openly and candidly about the difficulties, fears, and sorrows of the recovery process.
And, as I recover, I am learning that my story is different. And that is SO okay.
You often hear stories of recovery discussing how family support is an integral part of the healing process. Family therapy, among other modalities of treatment, is usually discussed and acted upon.
In my case, these types of treatment approaches were not successful and actually harmful to my recovery. At first, this hardened my feelings towards not only myself, but also my journey. I had been in group settings and outpatient programs where others struggling discussed, what I like to refer to as, the “white picket” recovery path.
These individuals had a myriad of support: friends, families, aunts, and uncles who worked hard to ensure the recipient felt loved, cared for and not alone in their journey. Often, I found myself jealous of these humans, of the support I didn’t have. Other times, I would cry in the bathroom, mourn this difference behind closed doors.
You see, I believe that support, love, and connection while recovering from an eating disorder is absolutely vital and necessary; and I soon learned that I actually had this support, just in a different way.
Fast-forward five years later and I am proud and humbled to stay that I am still in the recovery process. At this stage in my journey, my treatment team, specifically my therapist, along with about three friends are my greatest means of support.
And you know what? That is so okay.
I truly believe the right treatment team is essential to one’s success. I consider myself lucky and am so grateful, everyday, to have mine.
You see, family isn’t always blood. Sometimes, families are the humans who find you when you need them most.
With that said, in January of 2019 I founded and created The Brave Box—an eating disorder gift box for those going through the recovery process. It is our goal and mission for every brave warrior to know and feel they are not alone. Since I am actively still in my recovery, creating these gifts not only helps me to heal, but also allows me to remind others that no matter what their story looks like, they are never fighting a solitary fight.
Had I been gifted with a big support network, or had family therapy been successful for me, this company would have never come into fruition and its importance to me would be obsolete.
So if you take away one thing from this article, one piece from my story, take away this:
Everyone’s recovery journey is different. If you don’t have the family support you so wish you had, you can STILL thrive and begin the recovery process. I am living proof of that.
When you hear of others’ inspiring stories, take what resonates with you and leave what doesn’t. Your journey doesn’t need to look like the person’s next to you.
Use NEDA’s resources to find an eating disorder therapist and treatment team who will help fill a spot in your soul. Connect with other humans in the groups and treatment programs you attended who will encourage you, love you, and support you along the way.
I have come to a point where I wouldn’t change my support system—my unique journey—for anyone else’s. I no longer feel that hot steam of envy when I hear of others’ “white picket” recovery journeys.
Because my journey is mine.
I know my heart has grown bigger. My love overflows for those who found and still encourage me. In truth, if I had been given the family dynamic I once desperately wanted, I don’t think the love I have for my support network, would be this vast, this deep.
My heart is fuller; my heart is greater and more grateful because of my journey.
You see, recovery is painfully hard and exhausting. And it is also absolutely, stunningly beautiful.
Just as our bodies are richly diverse and unique, our recovery stories, our hearts, and our support systems are too.
Your recovery, your journey, is not less valid or important because it looks different than others’.
In actuality, it is just right, richly diverse, and stunningly beautiful.
Reba Tobia, a Massachusetts native, is the creator and founder of The Brave Box. She has also been in recovery from an eating disorder for the past 5 years. She is passionate about sharing her story, and reminding others they are not alone. Follow or check her company out here: @thebravebox.