I will post at the rate of a chapter a day or so. If you would rather purchase the book, please click on one of the links below:
EATING DISORDER RECOVERY HANDBOOK
Tips and advice about how to recover and heal from anorexia, bulimia, EDNOS, OSFED and binge eating
Find your own path to recovery
By Lize Brittin
Edited by Kevin Beck
Eating Disorder Recovery Handbook
Edited by Kevin Beck
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Copyright 2017 Lize Brittin
All rights are reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior permission of the author.
Thank you for respecting the author's work.
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
What It’s All About
Family and Friends
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"There is no magic cure, no making it all go away forever. There are only small steps upward; an easier day, an unexpected laugh, a mirror that doesn't matter anymore." -- Laurie Halse Anderson When I first started writing my memoir Training on Empty, it was partly to tell my personal story but mainly to offer hope and inspiration. I wanted to show others that recovery from anorexia and other eating disorders is possible. Not long after I wrote the book, I started a companion blog. As I have continued to build this over the years, I discovered anew that recovery is a process. Every year, I grow and learn new lessons. Recovery, a bona fide full recovery, is possible, but it takes staying one step ahead of the illness. It requires recognizing patterns and triggers, and finding new coping strategies in order to stay healthy. Most of all, it takes radical trust in yourself and total self-respect to truly get over an eating disorder. For over 20 years, I struggled with an eating disorder, primarily anorexia. It was a severe case, one that nearly killed me, and I spent time in hospitals, went to therapists, read books and even tried countless alternative therapies, all in an effort to overcome my illness and mostly in vain, though I can’t discount all I was able to take in along the way. I felt like I was on a quest for a magic pill. I was looking for answers outside myself, sure that something or someone could make me feel better. The more the illness consumed me, the more frantic and concerned my friends and family became. Their emotions ranged from frustration and anger to sadness. On some level, I understood that, in a way, I was choosing this agony, much like an alcoholic chooses to drink, but I felt completely stuck, unable to help myself. I knew there was a way out of the hell I was creating, but I couldn’t see how to free myself. I felt like I was in prison, but people kept saying I had put myself there. How could this be? On an intellectual level, I knew what I needed to do to get well, but I couldn’t seem to make a move, any move, in the right direction. My mom, who had overcome terrible hardship in her life, kept telling me that in order to recover, I had to want to get well, really want it. The results of the changes I envisioned were appealing, but putting them in place seemed impossible. It meant letting go of certain behaviors, my unhealthy coping mechanisms. Food to me was never really related to hunger. Early in my life, I ate for comfort. Later, I restricted to gain a sense of control in what felt like a stressful environment. My eating disorder was like a security blanket, a deadly one. In her book, “Eating in the Light of the Moon”, Dr. Anita Johnston offers a wonderful analogy. She describes a scene in which a girl is struggling after falling into a river and gets swept downstream. She is overwhelmed and can't swim to shore. In a frantic effort to survive, the girl grabs onto a log. This log keeps her afloat, but it’s also pulling her further down the river. Meanwhile, people on the banks of the river see a simple solution: let go and swim to shore. The people shout at her to let go and swim, but she's too afraid to let go. She has convinced herself that she needs the log. It did initially save her, after all. The problem is that the floating lumber is now carrying her away and may eventually take her into dangerous waters that will ultimately drown her. Obviously the log in the story represents the addiction or disorder we choose in order to cope. It can be addiction, eating issues, bad relationships or any coping method that isn't healthy. It serves us in the short term in the sense that it offers us a way to feel like we are surviving in a chaotic situation, but it's not a comfortable way to live. In fact, it may kill us in the end. For anyone struggling with these issues, it's important to ask what purpose the illness or addiction has served. What does having the disorder keep you from experiencing? Why are you drawn to the disorder, and what security does the illness provide and at what expense? It's impossible to swim to shore without strength. Coping not only takes courage but also a different way of looking at a situation. Often in recovery, relapses occur because the core issues are being ignored. Every time those of us who are prone to eating disorders feel overwhelmed, it becomes too tempting to grab the log again. In order to get past the urge to revert, we must discover who we are. In doing so, we begin to recognize our own strength. Whether I was eating too much, not eating enough or eating and purging through exercise or otherwise, food was a way for me to cope and avoid negative feelings. My disorder was a distraction, something I used to avoid dark feelings and thoughts. Whatever I did with food took my attention away from the situations in my life that were beyond my control and placed it on something more tangible, at least it felt this way initially, but the rules I created for myself were too strict. I was becoming too rigid, and eventually, I got lost in my illness. I became completely numb to the world around me, experiencing only the turmoil and pain of the illness. Such a magic recovery pill has yet to be invented, literally or metaphorically. Instead, after many years of struggling, I found enough courage to take a first step toward something different, and that was what eventually propelled me onto a path of health. That’s all it took, a simple decision to do something different, to try a different path and listen to the small part of myself that had been begging for change. A friend told me to try something, anything different, and at first I thought it would be impossible. I could always go back, she assured me, but I found once I did try something else, something less self-destructive, I didn’t want to go back. Why was it so difficult during those hard years to listen to that voice, the healthy, sensible, rational one that wanted peace? I wish it had been simple, but that’s not to say it can’t be for some. It took many years of struggling in a whole new way before I could really embrace recovery, however, the decision to try happened in an instant, not unlike my decision to innocently go on a diet in order to gain some control of my life, or so I initially thought. What I hope to offer here is not so much a step-by-step guide to recovery but more a book of suggestions that anyone can consider at any given time during recovery. We are all unique, so what works for one person might not work for another. There are, however, key issues to address that can potentially help anyone reclaim health. Recovery is not linear or sudden. It doesn’t happen overnight. There are ups and downs, but there can be an overall positive trend despite any lows you might face. There’s a saying that I and many others have found to be true: Our worst days in recovery are far better than our best days in the throes of the illness. Any hardships in recovery are worth it when you get to experience more freedom in recovery. Eating disorders are not a choice. There are genetic factors, physiological components as well as environmental, emotional and mental aspects to consider. These illnesses are extremely complex, and recovery is not as simple as making one decision. Heading into recovery, however, has to begin with intention, a step, no matter how small, in the right direction, a willingness to try something different when you know what you’re doing isn’t working. A person reaches wellness by making multiple choices on a daily basis, but beginning the journey can be as simple as making a declaration about or a commitment to recovery. Your initial decision must be followed by renewed dedication and actual effort to support the end goal every day. It does get easier, though, and recovery is possible. It just takes patience and a lot of hard work.