Recovery Conversations: A Q&A with Ashley H.

Two women chatting on a couch

**Content warning: This is one person’s story; everyone will have unique experiences in recovery and beyond. Some stories may mention eating disorder thoughts, behaviors, and symptoms. Please use your discretion when reading and speak with your support system as needed.

Recovery Conversations is a question-and-answer series that shares voices and stories of eating disorder recovery. Here former Emily Program client Ashley H. describes how she defines recovery, corrects a common misconception about eating disorders, and offers advice to those struggling.

How do you define recovery?

Freedom!! Recovery is freedom in every sense – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. It’s not just freedom to eat whatever I want without using behaviors (though that is AWESOME; I can’t believe I missed out on so many good foods when I was sick), but it’s also freedom to live without self-criticism and self-hate. My eating disorder took up so much time and mental energy, and it is so liberating to live free from that prison. Food no longer keeps me from living the life I want to live and doing the things I want to do. I never thought that was possible for me.

Which parts of treatment were most helpful to your recovery?

Probably group therapy…I don’t think anything can replace having a group of people that know exactly what it’s like to be going through what you are. Hearing their stories made me feel less alone, and knowing that we were all fighting ED together made me feel stronger in my own recovery efforts. It’s useful to have that connection with people who “get it” because your friends and family might never undersand quite the same way. I still stay in touch with some of the people I met in treatment because that bond we created is so deep.

What is your favorite recovery quote and why?

I love the Rumi quote, “As you start to walk on the way, the way appears.” It’s hard to even imagine what recovery is or what it looks like, but I’ve learned to be more comfortable with discovering it as I go.

What do you wish people knew about eating disorders?

You can have an eating disorder at any weight. I spent a lot of time thinking that I didn’t really have a real problem because I never lost a significant amount of weight or looked like the stereotypical person with an eating disorder. It’s so important to realize that eating disorders are first and foremost mental illnesses that aren’t always visible.

What would you say to people currently suffering?

Stay strong and know that there is hope. No matter how isolated you feel right now, you are not alone. There are literally millions of people who feel the way you do, and there are people willing to help you. It’s hard to reach out, but you deserve to recover too.

Help is available for those struggling with an eating disorder. Find personalized care for you or a loved one by calling The Emily Program at 1-888-364-5977 or by completing our online form.

We want to hear your voice of recovery! If you are interested in participating in our Recovery Conversation series, please email blog@emilyprogram.com to learn more. 

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