I Can’t Do This
I remember sitting in a group at my treatment center last winter, tears drying on my face after completing a tough meal and thinking there’s no way I can do this for the rest of my life. Eating was such an arduous task; it required so much focus and effort. I felt food turn to sand in my mouth and I struggled to swallow, not to mention the emotional torrent of guilt that followed every meal. How did people do this six times a day, every day?
Yep, I’m out, I thought. I don’t have the strength for this. Not to even MENTION what it feels to be in a rapidly-weight-restored body. Recovery is just too hard for me.
I have been out of treatment now for seven months. I completed all the recommended levels of treatment—inpatient, residential, PHP, IOP—and I still attend outpatient therapy weekly and see my doctor regularly. I’ve maintained a restored weight for almost a year. I’ve read the books, listened to the podcasts, and am working on my understanding of weight bias and thin privilege. I’ve done all the journaling and made ALL the collages. I am, in all accounts, doing the work. I am laughing more and obsessing about my body less. I have glimpses of the joyful life that’s possible for me.
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Am I There Yet?
Still, I sometimes find myself thinking, is this “recovery” thing almost over yet”?
Somewhere in the back of my mind, I think I’ve seen recovery as the temporary condition and the eating disorder as the normal state of being.
I have lived life through the lens of an eating disorder and equating weight loss with success since I was very small. Learning to settle into this new mentality is challenging. It requires constant, deliberate thought.
Missing My ED
But the feeling of sadness, of missing my small body, the intensity of that loss is still acute, even these months later. This is when recovery feels too permanent. This is when recovery feels like this thing I’m doing now, for a while, to be healthy, to please my friends and family, to meet my providers’ requirements, and then I’ll be done. My eating disorder tries to convince me that the energy that recovery takes, to eat so many times a day, to reappraise the thoughts, to question my self-talk, to do opposite action over and over and over… that it’s too much and too hard to sustain for the rest of my life. Just the sound of it is exhausting.
“So do this recovery thing for now,” the eating disorder says to me, “then you can loosen the reigns and lose a little weight.” My eating disorder tries to convince me that it wouldn’t be a “relapse,” but a “return to normal.” Sneaky, right?
A New Normal
I find I need to remind myself over and over again that no, recovery is my new normal. My body was never supposed to be at that weight. I am living in this body now. Through trial and error, I’ve learned to quiet the anxiety, to find some stillness in my panic. I have decided that yes, the idea of “doing recovery for the rest of my life,” really DOES feel overwhelming. It’s not a helpful thought for me right now.
Focus On Today
Instead, I’ve started asking myself, “how do I want to feel today? What about tomorrow?” I like feeling healthy and having energy. I like laughing and feeling productive at work. I remind myself of the inevitable consequences of slipping back into old behaviors. Do I really want to lose the weight just to go through the trauma of gaining it again later? I have been in treatment the last two years for Christmas, which is my absolute favorite time of year. I’ve been asking myself constantly, “do you want to spend a third Christmas on a locked unit away from your family?” The answer to all of those is a resounding “no.” No, I ultimately do not want the consequences that restricting will bring me.
So today, because I want to laugh with my coworkers and love my family, I had breakfast. Because I want to spend the holidays Christmas shopping and baking cookies and wrapping presents, I ate the lunch I packed. Because I want to enjoy my shift at work tomorrow and not feel dizzy, I drank some water.
If I keep deciding how I want to feel for today and caring for myself accordingly, my recovery will eventually turn into my forever.