Recovery Conversations: A Q&A with Leah Harris

A person standing beside a tree in late Autumn

**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 Leah Harris opens up about the long process of her recovery and how her life has improved because of it.

What do you wish you knew at the beginning of recovery?

I wish I knew that I could let people in, even though it felt like I couldn’t. Not many people knew about my eating disorder until I started recovery, so I still tried to hide it from everyone at first. I think I was worried about making others feel uncomfortable or worried when talking about my disorder. However, it was me who was probably the most stressed about it. Everyone around me wanted to help. It felt like they were judging or blaming me but really it was me judging myself. The more I talked about it, the more I realized that I could open up. It’s hard but it does get easier with practice.

What surprised you most about the recovery process?

It takes so long… I think a lot of people enter treatment or therapy thinking that once you’re in, it gets easier from there, but that was definitely not the case for me. Making that first step is hard, but it is also hard (sometimes maybe even harder) to continue taking steps along the way. I couldn’t believe that I was still dealing with eating disorder thoughts more than a year after treatment but it helped to remember that my eating disorder didn’t just appear and recovery isn’t so simple either.

How did you keep going even when it felt uncomfortable?

Some of the days were so painful, I sometimes ask myself the same question. Residential treatment was really important because I actually don’t know if I could have refrained from using my behaviors at home. Somedays after eating meals or snacks (especially if the session before was hard), I would just cry. There was nowhere to go. I couldn’t escape the feeling. But because nurses and therapists were there to make sure I didn’t use behaviors, literally there was nothing to do but sit with it. The urge eventually did pass.

How is your life better without your eating disorder?

I feel way more alive. That means I still do cry sometimes if something’s going on in my life, but I also laugh and smile a lot more. I show up in my life with whatever I’m feeling that day, not by pretending to be fine as I did in my eating disorder. Recovery hasn’t given me a perfect life, but it has allowed me to be present in the good and bad moments. That makes me feel more alive.

What words of hope can you offer to those who are still struggling?

You’re stronger than you think.

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.

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

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