This time of year I don't write a post for several weeks, but my thoughts continued to churn about the concept of full recovery from an eating disorder.
The cultural understanding of eating disorders is a chronic, incurable illness. The struggle to manage the illness may be beneficial, but the concept of full recovery doesn't translate into a world that lacks the general knowledge about these illnesses.
The medical approach to treatment in the 80's and 90's is the main culprit in the communal hopelessness about recovery. Forced feeding combined with punitive therapy only entrenched people in their eating disorder and made the idea of recovery absurd. The failure of those initial treatments led the larger community to this erroneous belief about eating disorders. Even now the continued use of the medical approach to recovery spreads the notion that no one gets better from an eating disorder.
The clinical approach from the last two decades presents recovery in a very different light. Refeeding and improved nutrition and health are crucial initial steps into treatment; however, these steps are necessary only for one's mind and body to begin to work again after an extended period of being malnourished.
The focus of recovery is the transformation of the internal psychological experience of an eating disorder. Understanding the nature of the illness and the daily personal experience immediately helps a sufferer feel understood. Presenting alternate ways to identify and then question these eating disorder thoughts begins the process of freedom from the psychological component of the eating disorder, the part which keeps people so trapped.
In addition, this mode of treatment centers on compassion for oneself and the struggle in recovery. The eating disorder thoughts are constantly punitive and make the person feel awful about themselves. The end result is isolation which only increases the power of the eating disorder. As I have written many times in this blog, compassion and love are the strongest antidotes to the eating disorder thoughts.
No matter how many times I write about full recovery, it never seems to be enough. Full recovery is always possible for people with eating disorders and always needs to be the ultimate goal.