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Mental Health

Taking a Detour: Reflecting on the road to Eating Disorder Recovery during NEDA Week.

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

TRIGGER WARNING: This post contains discussions of eating disorders and eating disorder relapse that may be upsetting to some readers.

National Eating Disorder Awareness (NEDA) week is coming to a close, and I want to reflect on some important things that came up in my life over the past couple of days. NEDA week is a time for many to educate about eating disorders, give compassion to those struggling, and celebrate the many wins of a recovered life. But, for some people, NEDA week can also bring up uncomfortable feelings.

For me, I fell somewhere between both sides. Over the course of the week, it was amazing to see my peers from eating disorder treatment share their stories and embrace the lives they gained back from recovering. But at the same time, I was struck with a feeling of insufficiency.

I have struggled with an eating disorder since eighth grade and in 2020, I was admitted to an inpatient eating disorder treatment facility. I spent several weeks there before I was discharged. I continued treatment for six months following. After that, I lived happily and healthily in recovery from my eating disorder for about a year. 

Original Illustration by Gina Escandon for Her Campus Media

Since then, I have admittedly taken a couple of steps back. Moving to college and some severe heartbreak were major life stressors, and through the process, I got pretty out of touch with recovery. Or in scarier terms, I relapsed.

Admitting a relapse is never easy. I feel guilty, shameful, and weak. On the day to day, it’s really hard to not feel like a failure. Most of the time, it feels like I can’t even consider myself to still be ‘in recovery’. But, one thing helps to keep me grounded, and I want to share it with you. 

Thought Bubble
Rebecca Hoskins / Her Campus Media

This is Portia Nelson’s “Autobiography in 5 Chapters.”

I.

I walk down the street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. 

I fall in. 

I am lost…I am hopeless. 

It isn’t my fault.

It takes forever to find a way out.

II.

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I pretend I don’t see it. 

I fall in again.

I can’t believe I’m in the same place.

But it isn’t my fault.

It still takes a long time to get out.

III.

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I see it is there. 

I still fall in… it’s habit.

My eyes are open. 

I know where I am.

It is my fault.

I get out immediately. 

IV. 

I walk down the same street. 

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I walk around it.

V. 

I walk down another street.

This story always reminds me that recovery is a process, and within the process, I get the gift of growing, learning, and getting myself out time and again until I trust myself enough to choose another street.

No matter where you are with your eating disorder, you are not lost. 

Whether you feel like your eating disorder is in the past, or that you still miss it sometimes, or if you are like me and struggling with a relapse, I hope this helps remind you that you are still on your journey. It’s easy to gag at the cliche, “Recovery is not linear” but it’s harder to actually listen to the message.

Recovery is NOT LINEAR, more-so, it’s a road with many holes. You may fall in a couple holes – and you may assume that the hole is all there is, because it’s all you see- but you will eventually get out. And when you do, you will be standing on the road to recovery, exactly where you left off.  

Madigan Mourning is a freshman at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She is majoring in Psychology and has a passion for behavioral research. Originally from Savannah, Georgia, Madigan is learning to maneuver her new life in the big city. She is constantly exploring ways to connect, communicate, and spread love to those around her. It's not always easy, but it is always an adventure.
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