It’s been a long time since I’ve posted on here, so buckle down: it’s gonna be a long one. It’s funny how the things you need SO MUCH at certain times in your life suddenly aren’t as central anymore. At one time, this blog was an important recovery tool for me. It gave me a safe place to learn to use my voice, to admit to people the things I thought were to shameful to share, and a chance to figure out and define my beliefs about the world, apart from the influence of the eating disorder.
I don’t need it anymore.
For more than a year and a half, I have been “in recovery”. I’ve had a few lapses (or more than a few, but who’s counting?), and have sometimes been dragged kicking and screaming away from my eating disorder, but the general trajectory has been towards recovery. And, after a year and a half “in recovery”, I can now tell you honestly that I am RECOVERED.
I often wondered how I would know that I was recovered, or if it would really happen. Most of the time, I believed I would live in a half-recovered world, holding onto a few restrictions and a few rules, but be mostly okay. You know what? That’s BULLSHIT. ANY eating disorder is too much eating disorder. Full recovery is possible, and you have to fight your ass off until you get there.
This January, I realized it was the 17 year anniversary of my eating disorder. I decided I wasn’t going to let it get to 18. 18 year olds are considered adults. I was NOT going to have an adult eating disorder.
I started challenging. I ate foods I never thought I’d eat again if I couldn’t throw them up or exercise compulsively til every last calorie was used up. I cried and choked and gagged at first, but I kept doing it until the scary foods no longer triggered an emotional response. I thought I’d end up overdoing it on the forbidden foods, once I let myself have them, but once they’re not forbidden anymore, I can have a normal relationship with them. Sometimes I want one thing for snack, sometimes I want another. For those of you wondering, eating those foods did NOTHING to change my body, either. All of my pants still fit comfortably, and my bicep is looking more ripped than ever ;)
I started challenging the emotional stuff, too. I had given away some of my stories, but I was still holding back on a few. They were all variations on a theme . . . if I told one, I’d told them all, right? Wrong. Once they stopped festering inside me, and I learned that people wouldn’t think any differently of me if they knew them, they stopped invading my thoughts. Now, they sort of float in and float out again. Sometimes they make me upset for a moment, but it isn’t all-consuming anymore. I’ve learned to sit with whatever comes up, and still be okay. It didn’t happen right away, but the more I let go, the more the thoughts and memories and flashbacks let go of me.
And, because we know recovery isn’t all about food, or the body, or even our backstories, I’ve started challenging life. Now that I’ve separated enough from the ED voice, I know when something challenging is good scary, or bad scary. If it good scares me, I do it. If I don’t want to do it, I do it. If it makes me uncomfortable, I do it. If it makes me look foolish, I do it. I spent far too many years not living life, so now I’m going to travel, and play, and do headstands (safely – still getting the bones back), and jump in puddles, and eat things I’ve never eaten before, and postpone studying to hang out with a friend, and wear a bathing suit, and do yoga on a mountain top and . . . well, I’m going to do it all.
So how do I know I’m recovered? It’s not like all of my past suddenly went away. It’s still a part of who I am. I can just live with it now, and not have to fight it all the time. Good things happen, bad things happen, days get rough, but I’m still okay. I can walk down the street and think to myself, “I’m happy” – without any backlash, or thoughts of undeservedness, and without needing a reason why I’m happy. There are still things I don’t like about my body, but I can live with it, and I’m not going to make it do something it doesn’t want to do. It has earned a rest. I think this quote sums it up the best:
Being “in recovery” doesn’t always feel good. It really kind of sucks. “In recovery” is all about hard work, and learning new ways of life, and challenging everything. “Recovered” is still hard work, but it feels SO much better, because you’re stronger now. Nobody recovers because they’re strong. The act of recovering makes a person strong. Someday, you’ll be strong enough to know you’re okay, and that the fight was worth it. It is. It’s so much better on the other side, my friends. I can’t wait to see you all there.