This was a strange week for me. My mood and anxiety were kind of all over the place, which I think, from what I’ve pieced together, largely owes to a combination of poor sleep and school stress. After jumping back and forth between panic, dissociation, and fighting unfriendly urges, I reviewed my week with my counsellor this afternoon and have come to the conclusion that I’m strangely grateful.
The simple fact that I can review my week and reflect on my thoughts and emotions is reflective of the fact that I am more “present” than I’ve ever been. I am more willing to work on myself, for myself than I have ever been. In fact, I would say that I am actively in recovery. Not in denial, not in pseudo-recovery just going through the motions, not completely checked out, but actually present – actually aware, actually making an effort.
Of course, that’s not to say it’s all great, but it’s not all awful either. I’ve been coming out of an incredibly dark place and I can slowly feel myself coming back to life. A life that feels a little foreign to me – having lived for so differently for so long. I feel a bit like a young child encountering something new and foreign with trepidation yet curiosity. I’m afraid, insecure and I have no real idea where I’m going but I know I’m going somewhere.
After a long time of stumbling around in the dark, unable and unwilling to acknowledge a problem or take a close look at my life and my health, I am now beginning to notice my feelings coming back – those pesky little things! It almost feels like I’m increasingly hormonal, but in a sort of positive way and for all I know my hormones might actually be returning to healthier levels with more regular eating, regardless, I notice myself more. Something I’ve been trying to do, with varying degrees of conviction, for almost a year now.
I’m aware of the pain, but I am also aware of the pleasure. Pleasure I honestly didn’t think would ever return. Pleasure from looking at a sunset, or feeling good music. It hurts, it’s scary as hell, but I’m here and I’m showing up for myself.
I always had vague ideas of what it meant to be “in recovery” from an eating disorder and would never have used the phrase to describe myself… until now. I used to picture people who had anthropomorphized their illness and woke up everyday steadfast in their determination to cut it from their life. I thought that if I was truly “sick enough” I would reach an arbitrary “breaking point” where my mindset would change and I would accept that I had finally had enough. Boy was I wrong. If this happens for some people, I can tell you that it definitely didn’t happen to me. I realize that if I were to wait for this break through or “eureka!” moment, I would be waiting my whole, miserable life. My eating disorder will say anything to keep itself safely tucked away in the dark recesses of my mind, only to resurface again with twisted, empty promises. In choosing not to try anything different I was just solidifying the chances that I my existence would never be any different and I would be living in an out of relapse for the rest of my life. So instead, I’m choosing in favour of possibility, I’m choosing hope. I’m recovering because I don’t want to waste space in my mind thinking about calories in a piece of cake on my wedding day, let alone to waste time in my life engaging in behaviours that I know won’t make me happy. I’m honouring my past self who held on this long and I’m building her a future she is deserving of – even if I can’t see it yet.
So being “in recovery” I think involves recognizing that there’s a problem, no matter what your illness (or anyone else) wants you to believe. It asks you to be present and to be honest with yourself. It’s taking a long, hard look in the metaphorical mirror (ironic pun intended…) and it has to come from you. A support system is crucial and leaning on others is definitely necessary, but the decision to try has to be your own. In the past, I let others dictate the conditions of my recovery, which I now realize stemmed from my own my lack of investment. Now it’s my turn to take the wheel, and much like when I first started learning to drive – I’m absolutely terrified (but at the same time, slightly empowered as well).
I’ll be honest though, the moments of empowerment are few and far between (but they are there). Many days I feel utterly deflated, and I forget why I thought this was a good idea in the first place (this week in particular) but I’m still in the driver’s seat. I don’t know that I would say I “want” to recover, but I want to be recovered, and I think that’s a start. I don’t think anyone with this disease would ever say they want to do recovery, it seems to go against the nature of the illness itself, but I know I don’t entirely want to be sick either. I don’t want to let myself off the hook now that I’ve said I’m actively pursuing recovery and made it “facebook official” but I don’t think I will – it’s not my natural tendency to bail on things. I know that recovery is a choice you make each and every day and I know that trying your best looks different from moment to moment. I know I will inevitably come to red lights and hit some speed bumps along the way but I will do my best to keep moving forward. Recovery isn’t black and white, and like happiness and life itself, I don’t think it’s necessarily an end destination but rather a continual process of growth – So I guess I’m going to be “in recovery” for a while.
I’m taking my power back, one day at a time. I’m waking up from a long nightmare and trying to think about why I had the bad dream in the first place. I’m feeling the pain and the fear and the sadness but I’m also feeling some excitement and some happiness too. I’m (for the most part) present and I am trying. I’ve been struggling with doubting myself and my motivation to change, but my illness plants enough shame and doubt in my head I’m choosing to try not to add to them and to just try. I’m journalling, hurting, crying, laughing, reading, learning, breaking, and healing.