Depression, Eating Disorders, and Recovery

August 2, 2012 Angela E. Gambrel

Depression and anorexia go hand in hand.

And it doesn't end during recovery.

It started out slowly.

Not following my meal plan. Eliminating foods here and there.

It's okay. I'm still eating.

Then the apathy started. I couldn't seem to do anything. Dishes went unwashed. Laundry piled up. My study exploded with paper and books, piles everywhere. A thin layer of soap scum accumulated on the tub's surface. Bills didn't get paid.

I couldn't read. I couldn't breathe. I couldn't write. I couldn't even think.

Then on Sunday night, I took a bunch of laxatives.


Recovery is an amazing thing. It feels you with joy and wonder. As I started eating again, I rediscovered delight.

Delight in many everyday things. The sun. My cat purring, snuggling and gently placing her little head under my hand to be petted. Church on Sunday morning, the early morning sunlight streaming through the large picture windows. Conversations with family and friends, reconnecting after years of indifference.

The depression lifted during the first months of recovery. I laughed easily and loved everyone, forgiving their faults. I began to forgive myself, and started to believe in a future free of worries about food and weight and calories. Free of the unrelenting self-hatred and crushing depression that were the hallmarks of anorexia.

Recovery is an amazing thing. Except when it isn't.

Recovery is all those things that I wrote about above. But it also is a lot of hard and often painful work. I have to eat five times a day. Now, many people would think nothing about that. I mean, don't most people eat at least three times a day? But for someone who often didn't even think about food until bedtime, it can be sheer drudgery. I have to get up, figure out what I am going to eat for breakfast (often trying to choose something that won't make me feel guilty and/or fat...I'm still working on this.) Then, two hours later, I have to do it all over again! Then, two more hours later, it's lunchtime! Then two hours later. . .No wonder I've ditched my meal plan many times!

On a more serious note, I am now experiencing emotions long buried by starving. Sometimes I feel depressed and sad and lonely, and wonder if I'm going to be like this forever. I feel vulnerable. I am often afraid to go to sleep, and stay up until 2 or 3 a.m. I worry that this will be my whole life — forever.

Everybody's eating disorder and recovery process is different, of course. I had a phenomenal indifference to food when I was actively anorexic. I just didn't care about it.

Except when I dreamed about it. Or immersed myself in food blogs.

But I digress.

Trying to care about food is like trying to care about sports. I just don't understand the appeal.

I've started to keep a food and mood journal. I write in the foods I eat each day, and how I feel. I've noticed that when I eat well, I feel better. When I either don't eat or eat crap like ten Oreos for dinner, I feel depressed and anxious.

However, I've continued to challenge myself. I covered an all-day event on Saturday and ate a banana nut muffin, only shuddering at the 360-calories for few seconds. I had a hot dog on a white bun for lunch. I drank sugary fake lemonade and a large Coke. On Sunday, I ate two bowls of ice cream at my church's ice cream social.

Feeling good about the fact that I had treats and didn't stress about it too much, I went to Alcoholics Anonymous and spoke honestly and openly about why I starved myself, drank, and popped pills this past fall.

Then I panicked. And took the laxatives.


I looked down and saw a huge stomach. And thighs. And breasts.

Digging deeper, I saw a huge vulnerability that I revealed at AA and felt the need to hide and take back control.

The laxatives made me violently ill. As I clutched my stomach and struggled not to vomit, I prayed to God to help me. I promised, "Never again!" (And how many times have I made that promise?)

I slept on the couch — if you could call it sleeping after multiple bathroom runs — and had really weird dreams.

Now I was really depressed as I laid on the couch the next morning, still feeling half dead (or wishing I was) and thinking about what a waste my whole eating disorder has been. The whole litany started again: Years of being a slave to the scale/calories/numbers/weights/false illusions. Years of virtually no relationships with my family or friends. Eight hospitalizations. Countless boxes of laxatives thrown in the trash. Multiple relapses. A failed marriage...

I'm fortunate that my eating disorders psychiatrist is a much more optimistic person than I am. I spoke to him later, and he said that these things happen, but that I can achieve full recovery.

And so I move on.

APA Reference
Gambrel, A. (2012, August 2). Depression, Eating Disorders, and Recovery, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 21 from

Author: Angela E. Gambrel

August, 6 2012 at 8:11 am

You are strong....
Well written.

August, 6 2012 at 1:01 pm

I relate to SO much of this. You described my last relapse almost to a T. Recovery is often exhausting and tiring and A LOT of work but it also gets easier the more you stick with it. Lots of love to you!

October, 25 2014 at 3:02 pm

I feel this way alot. I know that I need help but I don't know where to turn to. But I am thinking about getting a counselor soon.

Dr Musli Ferati
April, 12 2017 at 12:19 am

On behalf of World health day dedicated to depression, as the most dangerous mental disorder, it is of great value to elaborate depression in relation to your eating disorder. depression as emotional depletion implicates many another mental and somatic difficulties with devastate effects on global life functioning. Indeed, it is unavoidable escort of eating disorder, which one worsening the course and definitive prognosis of eating disorder. By me as clinical psychiatrist it ought to treat simultaneously depression along your eating disorder, in order to improve the longterm process of recovering. Otherwise the psychiatric treatment of your primary eating disorder would be incomplete and of temporary character. Furthermore, depression as complication of eating disorder should impose the mindful recovering of your eating obsession ideas and activities, as well. In this clew circle the best way to get rid of is to take psychiatric treatment for both entities: eating disorder and depression.

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