My experience of an ED recovery retreat
Written by Anna Seelbach
A little bit about myself first.
My name is Anna Seelbach and I live in Leipzig, Germany. I am currently doing my PhD in neuroscience, while also trying to figure out what I want to do with my life, both personally and professionally. I have struggled with anorexia in my early/mid-twenties and have been in recovery for about 2 years, coinciding with the founding time of The Recovery Collective.
For the past year, I have been a mentor in the collective and I really enjoy helping fellow warriors and passing on the support I have been receiving myself. During my own recovery process, I have developed a strong passion for eating disorder recovery support and mental health advocacy, which leads me to consider it as a career option for me. I love how my journey, despite the difficulties and hard work, also opened a whole new world and possibilities for me.
From joining The Recovery Collective… to joining my first retreat!
I still remember the time around two years ago when I signed up for The Recovery Collective during its founding period. I was excited, but also anxious, not knowing what to expect, how it would be to talk to complete strangers and share the most intimate, vulnerable thoughts, emotions, or experiences with each other. And I had no idea that around one and a half years later I would meet some of the most wonderful humans, who have become my friends, in a magical place in the middle of Portugal that we could call our home for the next couple of days.
We joined the first retreat of The Recovery Collective and it could not have been a better, more enriching, more inspiring and more wholesome trip. Some of us were finally able to meet in real life and it immediately felt like being with close friends and family.
Surrounded by the beautiful, pure nature of a Portuguese valley, I was lucky enough to spend days with other humans who understand, who care, who share, and are vulnerable, emotional, and compassionate in a safe environment.
Every day we would start with a mindfulness practice, being in silence, and journaling, followed by a gentle yoga session led by the wonderful Anne-Claire. After a nourishing breakfast, we had our first of two group coaching workshops with Meg and Anne-Claire covering goal setting, reaching out, asking for help, dialoguing…and although we had maybe talked about some of the topics already in previous workshops, I still felt increasingly connected to others and allowed myself to express my emotions. The repetition of some of the topics was actually helpful as the in-person setting made it easier for me to really reflect and think about the questions or prompts asked. A bit like an appointment to work on a set theme, but in a good, chill way.
In between sessions we had plenty of time to relax, explore the area, chat, read or just be. I liked to use that time to enjoy the outdoor showers, sit in the hammock chairs, listen to music or chat with the other humans. We were lucky to have really nice warm weather, so lying down by the plunge pool was a great activity as well. There is also a river a bit further down in the valley to stroll around and take a swim in.
I loved the balance of having daily routines, like yoga, workshops, and mealtime, but also plenty of time around and within those routines to make it my own. The mindfulness & yoga practice, for example, was an invitation to meet ourselves where we are at, to be aware of what our body, mind and soul needed at that time and to let go of our emotions. There was no need or pressure to explain, we could just be. The same holds true for the coaching sessions. We were asked questions or given prompts, but the interaction and communication with each other always made it an open, flexible, individual class. We sometimes worked in groups, which I really enjoyed, because it was another great opportunity to talk in smaller settings with 2-3 other members. We could ask direct questions and just generally get to know each other better.
I must not forget to mention the lovely humans of Vale de Moses, who invited us to their special place. Not only did they nourish us with an amazing selection of food for each meal, but they were so kind and welcoming and enabled us to have the best experience. I highly recommend the option of getting an extra massage or acupuncture treatment, just another extra portion of restoration, relaxation, self-care.
The location of the valley is just beautiful! Surrounded by mountains, trees, rivers, it felt like we were detached from the outside world and could just be by ourselves. The yoga shala, the room where we did yoga and our coaching sessions, is this great bright room with huge glass walls giving us a view over the whole valley. What a scenery to start your day! There were several options for accommodation, and I picked one of the SoulPad bell tents. For someone like me, who loves nature but also appreciates some comfort (hehe), it was the perfect combination.
A beautiful experience… that I can’t wait to repeat again!
Before the retreat, I had no specific expectations, nor had I any doubt that it wouldn’t be great. But I was, and still am, amazed how beautiful this experience turned out to be. I felt extremely safe, connected to the others and myself, and cared for. It was also a good opportunity to reflect on my own recovery journey, where I am at or which steps I still have to take.
I still feel extremely lucky to have joined this retreat and cannot wait for the next one to begin! I am so thankful for Meg and Anne-Claire for organizing it and the other amazing members who always made me feel understood, welcome and loved. I left Vale de Moses grounded, energized, thankful, yet still a bit anxious about being back in the “real” world. But I also knew that I have people around me to reach out to when I need support and I will not be alone. I can only recommend everyone who has the possibility to join us for our next retreat!
If you have any questions, comments or want to reach out, please feel free to get in touch!
Anna Seelbach (she/her) is a neuroscience PhD candidate and peer mentor in The Recovery Collective. She has lived experience of anorexia and is on her final steps of her recovery journey. She loves going to concerts, listening to podcasts, travelling and dancing. Find her on Instagram (@annaslbch) or send her an email (email@example.com).