So I recently finished a body image support group and had to go in for a general post-program check-in.
I’m doing everything I’m supposed to. Honestly! I’m eating well and regularly, using skills, and establishing a somewhat balanced routine. I’m ticking all the right boxes and getting pats on the back … but part of me still just doesn’t feel good about it.
Maybe its depression, maybe it’s natural resistance to change, or maybe I’m getting in my own way. All I know is that some part of me keeps knocking me back every time I seem to take a step forward. No matter how many times I confront it, my mind keeps throwing invalidation in my face.
All the praise and the smiles I received at the clinic during my check-up felt physically uncomfortable to accept. My mouth smiled but my heart ached and my stomach dropped. I felt tears burning behind my eyes.
But I’m doing everything I need to be doing, so I should be fine.
*Sound of a car screeching to a halt*
Hold on, hold on. I know that “should” as a dangerous word. “Should-ing” all over myself usually alerts me that something is wrong. I’m trying not to shame myself for where I am but I’m scared. I don’t want to lose support. I feel like I’ve only just started this whole process and now it seems like things are coming to an end. The constancy and stability I sought in my eating disorder were only temporarily replaced with the regularity of program and once again I’m left to confront the unpredictability of life that being sick allowed me to avoid.
I don’t know if I believe in my ability to do it on my own – but if I’m being realistic, I know recovery is, and will continue to be, something everyone has to do for themselves, including what I’ve done to make it this far.
I’m afraid if I’m not sick I won’t be worthy of support. I don’t think I’m ready to handle what life throws at me. I don’t believe I deserve to.
I think I threw myself into therapy and recovery much like I throw myself into everything else. Believing that if I work hard enough and try my damnedest, things will magically be okay. That I’ll find an Answer. That I can blindly forge onward because as long as I’m trying my best I’ll be excused. Because that’s the only kind of hard work I’ve ever known. The numbing kind you hope will finally absolve you of blame and make your troubles go away. But maybe it’s just as hard to do the slow, intentional, and reflective work. The vulnerable stuff. To sit down and really look at your pain – to make space for it. To finally stop pushing. Maybe it’s just as hard to accept that things are going to hurt. Not always, and not forever, but they will, and no amount of effort can change that. Running from the pain only makes it worse but fighting every instinct telling you to flee is damn hard as well. It takes time to begin to release hope from your death grip and trust that deliberately pursuing the unknown is better than the alternative.
Trying to approach healing like I should have already found the answer blinds me to the lessons there are to learn along the way. Pushing away pain before it arrives leaves no time to acknowledge what it’s trying to teach me.
It is difficult to realize that I don’t have the level of control over life I once thought, but that maybe I don’t need to. It’s painful to acknowledge that there are no right answers, no timelines or mathematical formulas, and that sometimes you have to fight a battle more than once to win it.
I’m beating myself up for not having figured it all out yet, but maybe the fact that I’m here and I’m willing is all that matters. Maybe the whole point is that there isn’t one and life is just a matter of learning to be okay with it.
I’m used to catching on quickly, so I rarely have patience with myself when I don’t. But maybe this is the kind of thing it takes a lifetime to catch on to. And even then I’ll be lucky if I do. Maybe I need to constantly remind myself that “getting it” isn’t the point, and if I continually try I never will.
I’m reaching a transition stage again, and it feels almost as confusing, terrifying, and completely fricken overwhelming as the last time. Almost.
At least now I can reflect on the last time. I have proof that I can take a chance and survive. I have evidence that choosing in favour of possibility is a choice worth making. I still have my loved ones by my side. Even though I didn’t know what to expect, I made it here, and I learned a lot along the way.
Stepping out of the known and surrendering myself to recovery was absolutely terrifying (even though I didn’t recognize it at the time). I was looking for panic attacks, racing heart beats, or screams of terror (of which there were a few) but I couldn’t truly appreciate that what I’ve done to get here has been brave because I couldn’t accept the fact that it was frightening. Just like this hard-work didn’t look like the kind I’m familiar with – this scary process also came in a slightly different package, and I’ve grown enough to know not to dismiss something just because it’s different. Hard-work doesn’t always look the same. Fear doesn’t always come from predictable places. But maybe neither does strength.
Maybe uncertainty is frightening. Maybe fear hides in the dark recesses of your mind with tucked away trauma and it comes to life to protect you from re-opening old wounds. Maybe it’s the feeling of complete confusion that comes when you’re left standing among the remains of the only life you’ve ever known, trying to make sense of the broken pieces. A sense of disorder and misdirection. The crushing weight that hits you when you not only accept the task of re-building, but also acknowledge all the destruction in the first place. Maybe it’s the painful feeling of loss you’re left with as you stand bare and vulnerable with your identity stripped away. Maybe fear feels like you’re uncontrollably spinning and desperately reaching out to find something to grab onto.
Maybe, much like a rollercoaster, you just have to hold on for dear life and trust that the rushing twists and turns will eventually subside long enough to allow you to catch your breath. Maybe fear is just the guest who greets you when you finally decide to take the ride.