Emily Weinig is the founder and president of Recovery Is Now, which publishes the Recovery Planner. This planner has been shown to help those in any level of care for eating disorder recovery. Recovery Planner is available on recoveryisnow.com . In her free time Emily enjoys painting, hiking, listening to music, and spending time with her friends. She painted the picture below, titled “Change”, during her path to recovery.
“I have my dream job, I love my apartment, and I am loved by my friends and family. I love everything about my life… yet each day feels like a nightmare. I am so undeniably miserable in every sense of the word and it’s only getting worse.”
These are the words I wrote in my journal mid-December of 2013.
I had finally achieved the life I had been dreaming of. Never before had I been able to reflect upon my life and be completely satisfied with every element. I had absolutely everything I wanted and despite being so grateful for all of it, every day was unbelievably torturous. All along, I had been under the impression that I would be happy and fulfilled when I achieved these goals of an independent, successful, and social life. This idea, of course, is a common misconception of what happiness truly is.
What I realized throughout the few days in December when I was contemplating my life and happiness is that being fulfilled has nothing to do with reaching external goals. Much to my dismay at the time, I realized that it involves significantly more introspection, dedication, and perseverance. It is comprised of exerting significant effort into altering one’s thinking patterns and improving one’s emotional awareness. These two things then subsequently lead to great personal growth. In a nutshell, I came to the unavoidable conclusion that the external factors in my life were not causing my unhappiness… I was.
Once arriving at this difficult truth, I acted quickly with the encouragement of those I trusted most. I was completely unaware of my crippling anxiety and eating disorder until a close friend mentioned that my relationship with food seemed abnormal and worrisome. The chronic depression had always been blaringly apparent to me, so I instinctively knew that I needed an immense amount of help. Despite my fear, I searched tirelessly for a residential treatment facility by calling treatment professionals and scouring the Internet.
After I finally found what I hoped to be the perfect fit, I felt obligated to relinquish my secrets to my loved ones. I divulged to them the unhappiness I had desperately attempted to conceal and the countless lies that I had told them in order to prevent worrying them. I admitted to the irrational and self-destructive thoughts that plagued my mind every minute of every day and the dangerous behaviors in which I routinely engaged. Most importantly, I confessed that I was pursuing treatment as soon as possible at an inpatient facility in Philadelphia for an unknown period of time. Not only did I sacrifice my secrets, I also sacrificed my job and nearly all of my savings in order to attend the inpatient program. Within a month of my epiphany, I sat terrified and alone on a train with a single suitcase that held the only belongings that I would have for my residential stay that ultimately lasted two and half months during the worst winter that Philadelphia had seen in years.
I am unable to gather the words that would adequately and accurately describe my inpatient experience or the exorbitant amount of effort, motivation, and perseverance it demanded of me. However, what I can tell you is how much motivation I drew from the journal entry I wrote and the sacrifices I made. Maintaining motivation is one of the most difficult and most important aspects of eating disorder recovery. Because recovery from an eating disorder can be so immensely trying, motivation is essential to the resilience and perseverance necessary to recover. While in the depths of treatment in Philadelphia, during moments in which I felt my soul was irreparably broken, I held with all my might onto the truth that I had expressed in my journal. I vehemently reminded myself that I had given up everything for the chance to truly live, given up everything for the potential to be anything but miserable. To this day, the epiphany I had and the monumental sacrifices I made remain two very powerful motivators that are now among countless others.
I cannot say for a minute that I was consistently able to pursue recovery with all my might. There were undoubtedly occasions when I couldn’t be convinced by anyone (including myself) that recovery was the superior choice. There were so many times when my eating disorder overpowered me…times when those who best knew me approached me to say that I wasn’t acting like myself and that they could no longer recognize me. As I recall those instances, I recognize their true significance. The moments in which one has the intense inclination to give up but does not are the moments that define one’s character.
So how does one move forward when the eating disorder is relentless, consuming, and powerful beyond belief? I only speak for myself when I say that grasping onto any reason possible is remarkably helpful. Another technique that worked for me involved mechanically going through the motions of recovery, which then led to a clearer mind that was increasingly motivated. Of course, there were numerous instances during which I lacked any shred of desire to move forward. When those situations arose, I used the opportunity to surrender myself completely to my treatment team and attempt recovery simply because I was expected to pursue my treatment goals. All of these techniques were significant in my path to recovery, however one tool stood out more than others. This tool is something that I named Recovery Planner.
After becoming discouraged repeatedly throughout treatment, I gradually created a tool for myself- an agenda handbook replete with everything I knew would help me succeed in my recovery. It included goal setting, meal logging, space for appointment notes, reasons to recover, affirmations, and more. After months of use and significant progress, I adapted it into a planner that is now available to the public. I was compelled to share this tool that helped me so much with the recovery community in hopes of helping others achieve a life in recovery, too.
I am proud to say that I now live each day without the misery I experienced prior to seeking help. While my dream once consisted of a fulfilling job, a nice apartment, and a support network of loved ones, it has now grown into something much bigger. My dream, and now reality, is to show others the light of recovery via the Recovery Planner that I’ve now published. I am passionate about and dedicated to sharing the incredible experience of recovery with everyone. Remember when you’re struggling that there is a light out there, even if it may be hard to see. Hold on with all your might. It’s worth it.