How do I start recovery when I’m not ready?

There’ll never be a “right time” to recover. So often, we meet clients who aren’t yet ready to let go of their eating disorder, but who know that it is the right thing to do. Here, we talk about how to start recovery when you’re not ready…

It is a brave and courageous thing to reach out for help with an eating disorder. There can be such conflict between the part of you that wants to get their life back, and the other part of you that is terrified of letting go of something that has previously helped you to feel so safe and in control.

The truth is that there’ll never feel like a “right time” to recover – there’ll always be a number of excuses for why you could stay in the same situation, and the “voice” of the eating disorder might rail against any suggestion of help and support.

But choosing recovery is the right thing to do. In fact, many people start treatment feeling not ready to let go of their eating disorder, but hold onto that part of themselves (however small) that knows that they want their life back.

If you’re considering recovery but don’t know where to start, here are some things to consider:

Take it one step at a time

Recovery might feel like you’re diving in head first, but you can still take things slowly and start small. Start with an email to a treatment facility or by booking an appointment with your GP. In this way, you get the ball rolling without throwing yourself into the deep end where it may feel overwhelming or too much too soon.

There can be so much fear associated with the prospect of being forced to challenge your eating disorder – particularly behaviours with food – but know that people are on your side and simply want to help you.

Ask as many questions as you need in order to circumvent overwhelm, and remember – there’s no such thing as a silly question.

Remember why you want help in the first place

It’s fair to say that you cannot live in harmony with an eating disorder. When things start to feel scary it might be tempting to back-pedal, so take a few moments to remember why you want to try and overcome this illness.

What are your motivations? What are your goals for recovery? Where are you noticing the eating disorder holding you back?

All of these are extremely valid and important questions to ask yourself at the point of reaching out to help. You might want to note these things down (perhaps on your phone) and return to them as soon as you start to feel uneasy.

Lean into the support of others

Letting go may seem terrifying, but it’s also a relief to be held by others.

Eating disorders are often characterised by loneliness and isolation – even if you’re surrounded by lots of people, holding onto such a big secret can keep you feeling at a distance from loved ones. It is a horrible place to be in, and no one should be struggling alone.

As we said above, people truly want to help and support you. Recovery is not a race and there will be ups and downs, so allow your loved ones to walk alongside you as you navigate this journey. You may also want to check out some of Beat’s online support groups for additional peer support.

Keep communicating 

Keep communicating with your family, friends and treatment team. People want to know how you are doing – warts and all – as it helps them to know how they can help you.

It’s important to know that recovery won’t be all unicorns and rainbows (at least, all of the time) and motivation will wane every now and then as you battle your illness. But by communicating the highs and lows, people will be able to walk alongside you through the process and remind you of why you chose recovery in the first place.

Take a deep breath, you can do this.

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