This is one tough road we walk. I’m not sure about anyone else, so I’ll only speak from my own experience, but this journey for recovery SUCKS! I hear it’s worth it, and every bit of my heart believes it, but every step of this journey is so hard! Each step feels so unnatural and awful that I want to give up at every moment.
I realize now that I spent so much of my life not feeling. When I would get upset, I
used to sometimes, take a deep breath, hold it in and say “It’s okay, Rach, everything is going to be okay, calm down, down get upset, pull it together.” I thought that was me “staying calm” and “collected” but I’m realizing it was Ed helping me push down anything that I didn’t want to feel. That was my secret way to stop myself from crying and from getting very frustrated. Through the help of my treatment team I realize that pushing those feelings away will not help me at all.
When I was at my sickest and in the Partial Hospitialization program I am now seeing that I didn’t feel anything. All of these doctors continued to tell me this and I thought they were all crazy! Who cares if they are renown in the field, and who cares how awesome they are, and that everybody and their brother wants to quote them in books…. they are wrong because I feel things and I feel they were pissing me off! What I didn’t realize is that I had pushed away all of my feelings so I didn’t have to feel them… happiness, sadness, frustration… you name it, I didn’t feel it. I couldn’t see it at the time because my brain was so starved. Once they got nutrition in my body, and I was released back to my outpatient team, and I finally started to understand this eating disorder and why anorexia took over my life. I understood why I used food to project my stress and feelings …. so after you take the food portion out, on came the feelings. (My epiphany about projecting feelings into food from a previous post can be read here if you are up for some further reading)
FEELINGS suck (but are necessary)! This journey is HARD! They hit you like a ton of bricks. Again, I’ll speak for myself, but they come so strong that you don’t know how to hold them so they just blurt out. Frustration is the worst because you could stifle it before, and now that you can’t do it through food, it has nowhere to go but out…. and God help the person in front of you when that happens! It makes for an awful mix of emotions! Then, they all come flying at you, and you can’t even label them. Our trusting treatment team says, “just sit with them” …. it feels like you’re sitting with a cat who has just been dipped in a bucket of ice water! Try that one, people… see how long you last!
So often we look just fine. We are amazing at hiding things. They get us to goal weight and so much of the world thinks that we should be functioning perfectly at the exact level of everyone else… but what is forgotten is that Ed hasn’t left us. Ed is saying the same things he said before to get us so sick. We are learning how to try to make decisions to go against him, but he is there… temping us… drawing us in…. looking for any reason to remind us of how great we felt losing weight and how much we need him, and how our mistakes have to be punished with food. Every day we have to make the choice to get up, follow our meal plan, use the coping skills we have learned and try to live this “new life” that everyone is teaching us. It’s almost like trying to adapt to life after losing your dominant arm. We are functioning, but it’s a struggle.
This journey really gives you a chance to look at who you are. They say it’s the hardest thing we’ll ever have to do, and they’re right. I’ve never felt so weak and so empowered. I’ve never struggled so much in my life. I’m finally at the point where I can cry (that’s a huge step). This is a journey that teaches you how much you can handle and then shows you that you can handle more. Just when you want to give up, you realize that the choice is yours and that you can be in control if you want to. It gives you the moment when you have to close your eyes, let your stomach drop, and take a leap of faith.
I would be a liar if I were writing this from the most amazing place in recovery. I’m writing it after telling my therapist that I want to quit. I’m writing this from a place where I wake up every day saying, “I wish I would wake up tomorrow without this disorder” because I’m that sick of the journey. I’m writing it from a place where I haven’t made the best choices, and I would give anything to skip my appointment with my dietitian tomorrow. But what I do know is that I have the choice. Mistakes happen, and they are okay. What I have to do is look back at them and decide what I can take from them. Recovery isn’t perfect; it never will be. I know there are some who never walk the full journey, and some who do…. I don’t know where my road will end… I don’t even know when to stop walking.
This road is hard. It’s full of mistakes and progress. It’s full of familiarity and the unknown. It’s full of tears and the fear of what’s coming next. It’s full of anxiety and the want to get better. It’s full of dread for the next step, and the want to just leap. It’s full of the need to hold on and the wish to let go. It’s full of the hold over you and the will to fight it off. It’s full of giving up and finding the strength to hold on. It’s full of sessions of tears and moments of joy. It’s full of fear and the sense of pride. This road is hard, but it’s worth it.