The Ebbs and Flows of My Eating Disorder Recovery

Author: Val Berenshtein

Every day…

I wake up and tell myself that today is going to be a wonderful day.

Every night, I go to sleep with anxiety and doubt and sadness.

How is it that the nature of mental illness is to attack a human being during his or her most vulnerable and weakest moments, adding to the pain and confusion that already cripple and seemingly kill? 

I am a little over a month and a half into my self-recovery from anorexia and restrictive eating, and suddenly, I am feeling like all of the mental progress I made at home, over my winter break from college, is slipping through my fingers. The spring semester has only just begun, and already I am feeling the chains of lonesomeness, doubt and lack of understanding – which is truly nobody’s fault – holding me back from the path I have been on – the path to happiness, to life and to a cultivation of the most power force an individual can have: self-worth.

During the past couple of days…

I have been feeling extremely anxious after eating foods that people typically associate as “unhealthy” – though there is no such thing as “healthy” or “unhealthy” for my recovery right now. This anxiety has been rising more so during dinner than during any other meal or snack of the day.

There are times when I am able to sit with this anxiety and let it pass, reaching out to one of my best friends on campus for support; however, there are other times when I feel so overwhelmed, so upset and so crippled that I feel the hope of recovery and inner-peace completely dissipating from underneath my feet.

Perhaps, the scariest part of my debilitating feelings is that I have to sit with them alone.

I look outside, and it is dark – nighttime. I look around at the people in my residence hall, and all of them are talking, laughing, walking around with friends, sharing jokes and laughs and memories that will probably be held onto for life.

Yet, I feel alone.

I feel so helpless…

My eyes water as I watch people walk by me and I wish that I could just pull them over and cry – let every hardship and anxious thought dissipate through the power of conversation. I wish that I could just be held and told that everything will be OK. I wish that somebody else, besides myself, can sit me down and say that my mental illness, sensing that I am destroying it, is the reason distress and anxiety overwhelm my life.  

But, that is not what my reality is right now. Perhaps, I do not have enough courage to reach out for support when I need it and to let people truly know what I am going through. It is my fear that people will not understand – or even try to understand – what recovery from anorexia and restrictive eating entails and feels like. It is awful. It is hard. It requires one to be his or her own hero, especially in moments when everything seems to be going downhill.

I am trying to be my own hero…

but I am scared, and I feel alone.

How do I explain my feelings of lonesomeness and isolation when, deep down, I know that I have people who love me for me and who are there for me if I need them? Why is it that my mind is always at war with itself when, right in front of me, I have a family of peers who are ready to give me support and love?

Being my own hero is tough, but making proactive realizations of the love, care and support I have from my community nine states away from home is an ability I am lucky to have.

Even though these realizations do not come often – perhaps even rarely –, I believe they drive me to get up every morning and to try again, try again because I deserve happiness, freedom, life and love from the beautiful world that I am lucky to be a part of.  

-Val Berenshtein

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6 thoughts on “The Ebbs and Flows of My Eating Disorder Recovery

  1. Although you already know it, you are not alone. Mental illness tries to tell us that we are alone. It gets us to isolate. And it takes so much strength to reach out and not be alone with it. Yet you are already taking some of those first steps by posting here – and now, we, your readers, have been brought into your universe. Incidentally, my son, who is also a university student, and struggling with mental health issues, shared the same thoughts with me just the other night. Wishing you all the best.

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    1. Thank you so much for your kind words and support. I do agree that the more we can share the message of togetherness in the fight against mental illness, the better we will be in diminishing its prevalence and stigma in society. Warm wishes to you and your family.

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  2. As somebody who also went through the awful process of weight restoration and anorexia recovery on her own – I understand. And this really struck a chord for me. But let me say that once I did eventually seek help (just 4 years later, no biggie), I wish I had done it sooner and hope that there comes a point when you can reach out too x stay strong

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    1. Thank you for your feedback. For me, however, there is no need for me to reach out for professional help because I very strongly believe in the way I am recovering. I have gone through hospitalizations and treatments before but none of them allowed me to discover what I had discovered on my own as I have been going through self-recovery. Self-recovery is not for everyone; however, it is doing amazing things for me, and I am proud that it is something I have decided to undertake. It is all a process, but one that I wholeheartedly believe has an end. Complete recovery is possible, and I cannot wait to see how my life turns out as I go through this process. Sending you lots of love and warm wishes.

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