Resources for Recovery & Mental Health
Recovery can take its respective shape, both in its form & trajectory. Whether it entails recovery from a drug usage, eating disorder, alcohol abuse, or related addictions, those recovering experience a wave of physical & emotional shi(f)ts. So do their loved ones. Here are resources and thoughts to keep in mind that stems from & is directed towards eating disorders but could apply to recovery from other disorders or addictions as well. Read it for yourself or a loved one & pass it on to increase awareness.
Are you in crisis? Please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK, a 24-hour free & confidential hotline.
Addictions and disorders unfortunately often led to suicide. Anorexia nervosa has the highest rate of mortality of any psychiatric illness. Even if you are not in crisis but are feeling desperate, alone or hopeless, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), a free, 24-hour hotline available to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress. Your call will be routed to the nearest crisis center to you, with network of more than 140 centers nationwide. For those struggling with an eating disorder, you can call (800) 931-2237 for the National Eating Disorder Association's (NEDA) helpline or, for crisis situations, text "NEDA" to 741741 to be connected with a trained volunteer at Crisis Text Line.
Call for yourself or someone you care about.
Seek help as soon as possible by contacting a mental health professional or by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK if you or someone you know exhibits any of the following signs:
Threatening to hurt or kill oneself or talking about wanting to hurt or kill oneself
Looking for ways to kill oneself by seeking access to firearms, available pills, or other means
Talking or writing about death, dying, or suicide when these actions are out of the ordinary for the person
Feeling rage or uncontrolled anger or seeking revenge
Acting reckless or engaging in risky activities – seemingly without thinking
Feeling trapped – like there’s no way out
Increasing alcohol or drug use
Withdrawing from friends, family, and society
Feeling anxious, agitated, or unable to sleep or sleeping all the time
Experiencing dramatic mood changes
Seeing no reason for living or having no sense of purpose in life
First seek medical & professional help
You've decided to seek help for yourself or your loved one but don't know where to go? First, talk to their primary care physician (PCP). Accordingly, contact your insurance company if you do have one regarding coverage of treatment if necessary. This can include anything from extensive labwork to determine physiological effects to obtaining in- or out-patient treatment. For me, this firs entailed no treatment at 10-years-old, then outpatient treatment, a relapse, and finally getting a diagnosis of Osteopenia (precursor for Osteoporosis) with threatening labwork that pushed me ruthlessly to seek final recovery. For eating disorders, see resources here that includes free & low-cost support. For substance abuse of any kind, seek this site for individuals and their families for support.
Communicate your discomforts & triggers beforehand
As having suffered from Anorexia on and off for over a decade, what assisted me & my family in recovery to my current health was honest communication. This entails being transparent about your behaviours, secrets, and vulnerable about sharing your thought patterns with your loved ones or caretakers. If possible, do so with the assistance of a family therapists. You may or may not have developed your disorder or addiction due to trauma. More often than not, loved ones are either not aware of this trauma or do not acknowledge it. This is not anyone's fault but necessitates a safe space—again, created by a licensed professional if possible—to share these thoughts and experiences. By doing so, you can create or magnify sympathy if already present for understanding the multi-faceted cause & condition of your current state.
Keep in mind the perspective of your loved ones & professionals—sometimes ahead of yours
Disorders and addictions alter our brain chemistry. This is evident through numerous studies specifically with Anorexia nervosa, such as the Minnesota Starvation Experiment & this study from Cambridge that even found enlarged brain ventricular size, a possible marker for Alzheimer's Disease.
This consequently and unfortunately leads those with a disorder to have a truly mental inability to recognise reality as it is. For anorexia, this entails body dysmorphia due to biochemical imbalances. Drug and substance abuse certainly also distorts comprehension. These are reasons why professional help is critical early on, but these incapabilities of understanding can arise even much later in recovery. To prevent a relapse or to support yourself during a moment of triggers, seek the support of a trusted loved one. They can bridge the gap in perspectives on the trigger. Often, if it's a verbal trigger, sharing why it was triggering to you can alleviate the fear as well as provide a sense of clarity. It allows for you to hear your loved one's voice rather than the destructive inner voice of a disorder or addiction that is trying to tempt you back into relapse. It does this through replaying a sense of trauma and victimhood.
Even when I was in the early stages of my recovery, I made it a mission to connect with and support others in their respective stages as well as in memory of those who were not as fortunate to survive. If and when you do have the possibility, either volunteer your time or donate towards a non-profit organisation that fights against these disorders and their associated stigma. Only when we support such entities can we gradually strip away the stigma associated with seeking care & reach those who need it.
NEDA has regular annual walks to raise awareness, so does National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) organises an annual Prevention Week walk.
Change is within & without: create a critical lens on the sociocultural standards
Contributor and CCN-in training Rebecca Fulp-Eickstaedt said only through her recovery did she fully grasp the toxic effects of the pervasive, life-stealing “diet culture” that we are all forced to navigate. She says; "Through its praise of a very specific body type—read: thin, able, cisgendered, white—its fat-phobic messages promoting the pursuit of “health” at all costs, and its ability to sneakily manifest itself under the guise of “clean” or even “balanced” eating, this culture has negatively impacted us all. It has stolen our time, our money, and our brain space. It has also left many of us with feelings of guilt, shame, and failure when we don’t live up to unrealistic—and truly unhealthy—standards.
She has come to re-evaluate & uncover the myths surrounding the concepts of “health” and “wellness” for the truths below:
1. Healthy bodies take many forms. Size diversity is a thing. It is a wonderful thing.
2. Certain recommendations regarding “health” (even those coming from healthcare professionals) are actually just indicators of our culture’s fucked-up fat-phobia.
3. True health is so much more than the food we put into our mouths or the number of steps we take in a day. To be truly well, we need to be treating our bodies with kindness. That means adequately nourishing our bodies with foods we actually enjoy (and, barring allergies, labeling no foods as “off limits”), resting and relaxing when we need (or want) to, and engaging in a movement that is joyous rather than punitive or obligatory. True health is also completely dependent on a person’s mental wellbeing, and boy does diet culture love to fuck with that.
For more learning of cultural norms & un-learning of unhealthy behavioural patterns, find the resources below:
Recognise that You are More Than Your Addiction or Disorder
This rings true and is difficult to acknowledge for those who have struggled for a long period, those who developed their disorder or addiction at an early age, and/or those who developed it due to trauma. Any additional trauma in which it's used as a coping mechanism further imbues it to one's identity & reiterates it as a habitual solution.
Through my multiple atempts at recovery, what finally worked for me was discovering who I am outside of my disorder. Eating disorder recovery necessitates facig your fear—food—more than three times-a-day. Occupying yourself in between that time with your job and your passions, such as painting or reading or whatever engages your mind. Has there been an acitivty you've been wanting to try? Consider taking a class on the weekends at a local space or online.
About the Author
Almila Kakinc-Dodd is the Founder, Editor-in-Chief of The Thirlby. She is also the author of the book The Thirlby: A Field Guide to a Vibrant Mind, Body, & Soul. She is currently pursuing her Master’s in Nursing as a Dean’s Scholar at Johns Hopkins University. Her background is in Anthropology & Literature, which she has further enriched through her Integrative Health Practitioner training at Duke University. She lives in the Washington, D.C. Metro Area, where she regularly contributes to various publications. She is a member of Democratic Socialists of America and urges others to join the movement.