I’ve been hesitant to admit that I’m struggling with the eating disorder. Mainly because I want everyone to think I’m okay and be proud of me, and because it’s hard for people to understand how a struggle can happen when you don’t look sick.
At this point in recovery it’s hard to understand the struggle. The treatment team has finally helped me reach goal weight and they are helping me maintain and I don’t look “anorexic” anymore. In fact, my insurance company deemed it unnecessary for me to need as many outpatient appointments because I’m at a healthy weight and I finally started menstruating again. That was a wonderful argument explaining that I’m still anorexic even though I’m not “under weight.” What I’ve come to realize is that people accept that you are anorexic and struggling when you are under weight and too thin, but once you look healthy, it’s almost like you feel like you’re too fat to be anorexic.
Looking back, the hard part wasn’t putting on the 25+ pounds they put on me (I’m totally lying, that sucked so much), it’s the work and trying to accept your body after that weight is on. It’s very easy to say, “I have to eat this to make my heart stronger.” There is a strong purpose to becoming healthy to save your life when you are very sick.
Once you are healthy and you no longer “look” anorexic, it’s hard for people to understand that you are still struggling. Val helped verbalize it to me so well in a recent post and now I understand what’s going on. I have been trying to play a part and fake like I’m doing well when I’m really not. Many people think that I’m well because I’m at a healthy weight that I should be okay, and truthfully, sometimes I’m not. When I’m pretending and playing this role of “being okay,” I’m lying to myself and about where I am in recovery and only delaying the process. When I’m not honest about where I am, I’m slowing my process down.
I was in group last week and we were talking about body image and this is a hot topic (for so many women in general). I couldn’t even talk about it. The therapist talking made a correct point that made me incredibly angry. I said, “I hate body image. I hate when I’m sitting and doing something without an eating disorder thought and I move and feel this new fat on my stomach. I get so angry. I hate that I feel the fat and I hate the fat and that I notice it and then I feel all the fat all over my body. And after that, I get so mad because I can’t stop thinking about all the fat all over me. I hate thinking about the fat all over me and knowing that I hate my body so much.” She then said to me, “Wow. There really is a lot of hate there, and about how you feel. It’s okay to acknowledge that you’re unhappy with your body, admit it, and move forward; you don’t have to hate yourself for it. You can have the feeling and move past it.” And then I started to cry. She’s right. I’m projecting my hate on my body, but it’s not my body that I am so angry at; I’m mad that I have these feelings. I’m upset that I’m capable of negative feelings and that I’m struggling when I went so long doing so well. I’m upset that everyone thinks I’m this superhero doing so well, and who is so strong when really, I’m trying to run away, and I’m wishfully hoping that my weight will be down each time I have a medical appointment. [There’s the truth, people!!!]
There is such a common misconception with this disorder – when they f
atten us up get us healthy, the process has only started. In fact, I might have cried at many meals, but that was the easy lesser work in part compared to where I am now. This feels like the hard part. This feels like part where we trudge through the mud and we can’t rest. This is where we feel so uncomfortable with everything and there is no relief.
Looking at myself now is the hardest thing to do. Seeing the way my body has changed has been the toughest. When I was sick looking at the way my bones stuck out, my clothes barely fit, and people said I was too thin, I knew I was doing something
right wrong. Now, I have to try to fit into this new fat healthy me. I have to be okay with the less toned and soft Rachel (thanks to my therapist for that term, it sounds nicer). This part feels impossible. It feels like I can’t stop walking past mirrors and the glass in stores and looking to see how big I am to check to see if I’m bigger, and make sure “it hasn’t gotten worse” (because it’s already bad). I’m hoping it will change and that some day I will stop looking at myself as I walk past glass, and I’m hoping that I can accept the fat health that I have given my body. I’m hoping that I will come to accept that the size that I have moved into is okay and I can be happy here.
The rational side of my mind knows that losing weight will not help me, or make me feel better, but the emotional side of my mind is convincing me that I will be happier. It reminds me of people who want to go on a diet to lose weight because they think it will make them happier, and the several pounds just don’t work. Rationally, I’ve learned, it’s about accepting myself and finding a way to love who I am. We are all dealt a different genetic hand of cards, and we have to accept that and play them.
Even though I have really screwed up my meal plan lately, I have done a few things that are great. I’m all about finding some positives! I have challenged myself enough to wear shorts (OMG!!!). I drank a frappe for the first time in about 3 years (WOW – and I am not even going to think about how many calories could be in it!). I forgot to bring my safe food home to the in-law’s for the holiday weekend and I’m trying to NOT freak out and I’m going to try to make it work (holy cow!…. pun intended).
I have to be honest with myself – recovery is hard. If I’m not honest with myself, I’m not going to get anywhere. I have to be okay with myself if I’m struggling and okay with myself if I’m doing well.
I won’t lie – Just because they have managed to
fatten me up get me healthy, and I’m managing to try to maintain this weight – I’m doing it with a fight. I’m doing it reluctantly and I hate doing it. Each day I want to turn around and skip meals and lose weight. I hate the weight they put me at, and I want to change it, but what I also know is that I am in no place to make that decision. I know that I’m allowed to be unhappy with them and I will continue to send them my “hate mail” and they will continue to reply and tell me to keep trying to stick to the plan and that what I’m doing is right. I have learned that I can’t feel bad for hating where I’m at, and it’s okay to dislike some things. I’m accepting that I can dislike it, but I can’t change it (that’s a tough one!).
Recovery isn’t perfect – it never will be. It’s a journey and that means there are no set rules. Recovery is about learning and about accepting what you learn about yourself. Sometimes we are afraid of what we are going to learn, and that’s okay too; fear is a strong emotion that can teach us a lot about who we are and what we can handle. Instead of making choices because of fear, we can learn to find the fear, learn from it and make the choices that give us happiness.
Recovery isn’t perfect – I will never be perfect – but once I am recovered, I will be me.