Today it was painful to be alive. Every fiber of my being was uncomfortable; I couldn’t stand the weight of my body today. It hung on me. I felt it in my jeans and felt every bite in my stomach. If you think I’m being dramatic, I’m not; this is how I experience things sometimes, as someone in recovery from an eating disorder. Ask someone else you know who’s in recovery from one.
I have days like this. Bad days. Days when I envision myself swinging into a binge cycle again. Days when I envision swinging into a restrictive cycle as a result of the aforementioned binge cycle. And I went into recovery ten (!!) years ago. Sad and destructive? Hardly. Realistic, I think. Given the other comorbid diagnoses I’ve dealt with.
I’ve talked about the “once you’ve recovered, you’ve recovered!” camp for a long time. The people who claimed they had a “lightbulb” moment and never turned back, never put their body down again, never consulted with ED once more. OK, being a bit (a bit) more humble now, I’ll bite (no pun intended): I bet there are a select few who’ve had this experience. Perhaps the same amount who’ve married someone they’ve never fought with, or who had a mind-numbing spiritual experience and never craved a drink again. But for most of us bozos on the bus, I just don’t think it’s that simple.
(Speaking of that, I really wanted to drink today. But I didn’t. Whoop de frickin da.)
For most of us, we wake up and don’t have time to meditate for twenty perfect minutes, and no, we weren’t going to wake up twenty minutes earlier, because we were up tossing and turning/up with our kids and needed that extra 20. For most of us, we’re shot out of a cannon when our kid peels our eyelids open with their fingers/when our cat meows in our face. We then head downstairs to find cat puke right in front of the bathroom doorway, and in between reaching for the bathroom cleaner, silently bemoan the fact that we still owe 25,000 in student loans and will never be able to afford a house – now, now we are judging ourselves for not being mindful and worrying senselessly, and our daughter is yelling for the TV to be turned on, that ever-destructive-causer-of-doom TV, and we’re reminding her to use her manners. And that’s only the first 5 minutes.
That is how most of us go through our day. Well, you’ll have to excuse me. That’s how I go through it; I can’t speak for all of you.
That’s why, when I hear people speak of “never turning back” on recovery and being “free of ED”, I am skeptical. Did never turning back account for those six weeks post-birth when you couldn’t exercise because your body was healing and your mind when nuts because of it? No, it didn’t. And did being “free of ED” chide you relentlessly when you decided to restrict your eating when your father died because it was the only way you could cope? Yes, it did, because wasn’t I supposed to do this recovery thing perfectly? And here I was, nine years in, having a small relapse?
Being perfect at recovery doesn’t work for me because being perfect was the essence of my life-killing eating disorder.
It’s important that I can screw up at this thing, and know that it’s still ok. That it doesn’t mean this time I lose my job because I’m too weak; that it just means I go to more meetings and therapy. I think, unfortunately, this is a chronic disease, and that’s not marketable in the field of recovery. It’s not marketable to say, “You’re going to deal with a little of this for the rest of your life.” But that’s how addiction is. You have to keep an eye on it. It’s always in wait.
And keeping an eye on myself everyday? Is that a tedious thing? No, it’s actually a beautiful, heartbreaking and staggering undertaking that has only served to better me as a person. I’ve heard people in self-help meetings claim they are grateful for their addiction, and I jive with that. The things I’ve discovered about myself due to this journey. And, I think it’s really healthy and humble when one can name all the parts of themselves. The addict, the fighter, the daughter, the singer, the crier, the writer. To dismiss one part of yourself, even a dark part, would be doing a disservice to yourself.
Don’t get me wrong; I hope to God I wake up tomorrow and magically have the hypomanic get-up-and-go that I usually have; I hope I go for a run and get those wonderful ol’ endorphins rushing. I wish I could have someone else’s brain. But I don’t. I have an eating disorder and I can’t drink and I have depression. The grace in all of this, the marker that tells me that I’m growing, is that I now know this too shall pass. I didn’t always know that. And that’s a gift that didn’t magically appear to me one day. It came to me after years of hard work on myself that really wasn’t all that simple.