GOOD NEWS or BAD NEWS for 2009?
January 1, 1970Happy New Year!
How often do we say these words without really meaning or even thinking about them? Worse, how often do we wish others happiness while silently despairing of our own? For most of us, the answer is, too often.
We do have a choice, you know. It’s that old glass half full or half empty thing. I’ve been thinking about this in response to a comment posted on my blog yesterday: “I would like to know where you got the information that the vast majority of girls with eating disorders eventually get better? I was in treatment two years ago and they told us exactly the opposite.”
Now, I’m not in a position to second guess the accuracy of this report, let alone speculate why any therapist ever would discourage hope in treatment. But I will say that the emphasis in statistics about eating disorders is almost always on the downside – highlighting the high prevalence, mortality rates, and relapse rates. These scary statistics are publicized in order to persuade the public that these illnesses are serious and widespread enough to warrant preventive education, treatment, insurance coverage, and research. Even one person who dies of an eating disorder is one too many.
On the other hand, those who are already ill don’t need to be told how dangerous these disorders are. They need to focus on the flip side of these statistics: the recovery rates. Those rates are difficult to come by, mostly because the vast majority of people with eating disorders never receive treatment and so never are counted. Patients, who are counted, at least until recently have tended to be those most severely ill. And those who are sickest have lower rates of full recovery. All this means that the true recovery rates are most likely higher than the published rates. But even if we consider only the official recovery rates, the outlook is generally positive.
Anorexia nervosa is widely considered to be the most difficult eating disorder to treat and the most persistent. Yet here is the report from Laureate Clinic in Tulsa, OK, published in 2003: “for the overall spectrum of patients with anorexia nervosa, approximately 75%–85% will completely recover. If patients who experience significant improvement are included, the rate of positive outcome rises to over 90%. Thus, a 75%–90% rate of recovery is a more accurate estimate.” http://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/cgi/content/full/160/4/798
Does recovery happen “spontaneously” or “perfectly”? Does recovery look the same in every case? Does recovery guarantee a “perfect” life?
The answer is no. There are no statistics on instant, easy, or perfect recoveries – because such recoveries do not exist.
Recovery takes time and is messy. It involves effort and hope and courage to change. Most of all, it requires acceptance of all the imperfections, all the unknowable truths and uncertain possibilities that life contains. Recovery means ignoring the numbers, whether on the scale or in statistics.
I remember years ago when my teenage son was angling for permission to go to a club in a dangerous part of town by saying that all his friends went there all the time. I replied that I really didn’t care how many of his friends went and came back safe; my sole concern was that he be safe.
When it comes to your recovery, the same rule applies. It doesn’t matter what the statistics say; it only matters that you grant yourself the permission, support, encouragement, and time that you personally need to reclaim your future and your health.
So fill your glass and raise it high, and this time really mean it when you promise yourself a happy and healthy new year!