The Road to Recovery

The Road to Recovery! What do you think of when you think of a “road to recovery”??….

When you walk to into the eating disorder treatment center at Hershey it’s this wonderful looking road along the wall with amazing green grass, and a sun shining at the end, and it looks amazing! It’s this beautiful yellow-brick road that has these slight bends in the road (you know, your metaphoric trails off the normal path) and there are slight inclines in the road (your little tiny hills to show the “bumps” along the path).

At Skinny Camp, when you leave, they give us this lovely picture (above) and it’s so inviting and you see the beautiful sun and you want recovery. Everyone signs your the paper with this great picture above it and it makes you feel great about what you’re doing…. but recovery is everything but this! I’m not saying this to deter anyone from recovery, or say they are lying to us, because we want that “sun” at the end…. But recovery road looks a little like this…. Around one bend, you have those little monkeys from The Wizard of Oz grabbing at you – all of them named Ed.

that monkey stole Toto!

Then, as you walk over that “little hill” … it’s actually steeper than Mt.Everest… it’s snowing and you realize you don’t have a jacket!

Following that…. You have to walk through the scary woods of storms and pouring down rain with no flashlight, umbrella or compass to only lead you to the road that you then have to walk for miles and miles!!! I’m sure you get where I’m going!

The road to recovery seemed easy to me when I started it. I wasn’t thinking about feelings and I thought, “I’ll just learn how to eat and move on about my day.” I thought this was a piece of cake when I started treatment (pun intended… haha). The fact is, it’s filled with stress, tears, frustration, hard feelings and difficult realizations. When you are trying to recover from an eating disorder you are essentially trying to retrain several aspects of your life — how you look at yourself, how you deal with emotions, how you handle stress and problems, how you relate to other people, your self esteem/self worth and how to assert your needs (only to name a few). So, at any given time, you could be working on 5 different things at once! It’s quite exhausting! When you think you just mastered something, you realize that another huge feat has just fallen in front of you! Just as you are climbing the mountain, and you feel like you’re reaching the top, you realize it was a false peak and that you still have more to go. Not only was it a false peak, but you also realize that you are losing your step and you have to pause and get your grounding because you feel like you’re about to start slipping down the mountain (that sounds okay to slide down, until you realize you left your damn backpack at the top! haha Jennie Ann!). It’s kind of like going snow tubing – that is soooooo much fun to go down until you have to lug that stupid tube back UP that ridiculous hill!!!! 🙂

I knew that recovery wasn’t easy, but I didn’t think it was torturous or hard. I knew that it would be uncomfortable and hard work but this is not what I had in mind. I didn’t think it was an everyday battle that I was going to have and that I had to decide everyday who was going to win. I now feel like I have the strength to say I’ll win, but when I win, it happens with a lot of tears! I didn’t know that I was going to decide each day if Ed will win, or if Rachel will win… I know it sounds a bit crazy, but it’s the truth. It does get easier, but it is something we have to do. There are days when I don’t win every moment, and there are other days when I do win every moment.

Going into the partial hospitalization treatment program last summer (great way for a teacher to spend her summer by the way, right?), I didn’t have the ability to decide who would win. It was always decided for me. Ed won EVERY DAY – EVERY MEAL. Before, I used to say things like “I can’t eat, I just can’t, I’m not able to, you don’t understand.” And I knew I was sick then. I felt I didn’t have the power to beat the thoughts. But now, I can hear the thoughts, and even if I believe them, I can still force myself to do what I know is healthy even though it doesn’t feel right. I can hear Ed yelling terrible things and I can still eat, while still holding on to the hope that these professionals are telling me the truth and if I keep following their plan, I will beat this. I would be telling you lies if I said I win every meal, every day…. I don’t … but I do the majority of the time. There are small amounts of times when I struggle still… and I have to work hard to get back on track, but I can work at it.

Even though I know this road to recovery is hard as hell, I know it’s worth it. I can now see the truth when they all say, “this is the hardest thing you’ll ever do.” Shit, they are right! This is the hardest thing I have ever done, and some days, I really think I would take childbirth over this because at least that pain has a definite end in a short span of time!

As we walk the path of recovery we are bound to experience fear, anxiety, impatience, frustration (this is what I experience daily), but on the other hand, with the work of recovery, we are able to experience the amazing feelings of empowerment, determination and confidence. The important thing is that we are walking this road. With this road comes health. The hard part about this process is the rewards come far down the road. We won’t see the health rewards for a while, and that can sometimes be tough, but the awful feelings of the eating disorder are NOT better than the healthy lifestyle of normal eating.

So, this road is tough — I won’t lie…. It sucks. It’s full of tears and frustration. It might be the crappiest walk I’ve ever been on, and I can’t wait for it to be over. I truly ask my therapist weekly how close I am to the end and when I can be done (do you see how impatient I am?). Although it’s tough, I’m finding that everything that has value, does not come easy. If it’s worth something, it will be tough to get. My therapist reminds me (regularly) that the harder this is to get through, the less likely I am to go back to it. She’s right. As I walk this path and figure this out, I am pulling myself farther and farther from the disorder and I want more and more to stay away from it. Even though this is one awful journey, I have to say that I am learning a lot about who I am, what I can take and how much I can handle as I walk this road.

What kind of road are you walking? Are you learning as you walk?

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