Image: @gwennseemelFor many years, while I sought “true” recovery from my eating disorder, I was actually standing in my own way of reaching it.
You see, while I honestly wanted to recover, I was trying my hardest to do it without gaining any weight.
Seems pretty ridiculous when I write it out, but it is true. I wanted to have healthy thoughts, behaviors, and freedom from the hell of an eating disorder. But I wanted to do all if this WITHOUT gaining weight. Years of treatment at various levels and meeting countless other warriors along this path tells me that I am not alone in my experience.
I tried embracing recovery many times while still holding on to my small body. The small body that I mistakenly believed was my identity. A body that I sadly mistook as making me special.
I was in this strange existence somewhere between healthy and sick. To friends and family I looked as if I was well. “Recovered.” I no longer appeared frail. They made the incorrect assumption that my insides matched my outside.
Little did they know the amount of control, restraint, and obsessive thoughts that circled around in my head. These thoughts constantly spun in an attempt to keep me in an imaginary box I constructed for myself.
Staying on target
In treatment I was given a target weight. That number was my “goal”. That number was labeled as “healthy.” Perhaps a person without the tendency towards an eating disorder is able to make handle this without obsessing about that number.
I now realize this: as long as there is a number attached to me, any number at all, the sick ed-voice within me will grasp hold of that number for dear life.
Initially I saw this number as a goal. But it was also a maximum in my mind. One I could carefully and slowly approach. I was applauded by my treatment team as I inched toward it.
But in the back of my mind, I had that warning voice that I must not go over this number. It felt like there was a tiny narrow zone I must stay within to be healthy. Sort of like health was a tight rope I was walking across.
One misstep to the right and I believed I would fall into the abyss of losing control. I was inches away from gaining “too much” weight, and becoming morbidly obese. Yet one step too far to the left and I would sink into the quicksand of the eating disorder.
Life on a tightrope
I hovered for years in this zone. I silently balanced on the tightrope, sometimes allowing stressors and circumstances to be my excuse for jumping off the tightrope and swimming in the disorder. Other times, when life was going smoothly, I beamed with pride as I was identified as the “healthy” one.
But I never truly felt I was on solid ground. I could have spent the rest of my life in this “middle” part of recovery. I believed the myth I was sold years ago that the eating disorder was something I would have for the rest of my life. That I would be had to actively fight agains it. Forever.
I was told the best I could hope for was to be recovering, and that being recovered did not exist. But maintaining balance on a tiny rope is nearly impossible and exhausting at its best.
What changed it all
Thankfully, I finally I discovered that there is another version of the story I’d been sold. I was once again sinking in the disorder. This time I was finding it harder and harder to pull myself out. In my attempt to grasp hold onto something to help me – I turned to my computer and did a search.
As I stumbled upon Recovery Warriors I discovered a new reality. I listened to episode after episode of warriors sharing their stories. And slowly but surely I realized there is another option.
Rather than spending the rest of my life cautiously attempting to walk the right rope, I could willfully and purposely step off of it, onto solid ground. Recovery is a real thing. And it is a much better alternative to the circus I was living in. But it can only be gained by totally, completely, 100% letting go of any attachment to a certain number or size. Period.
Now I stand on solid ground. I am gaining strength and walking towards recovery. I hold an enormous amount of gratitude in my heart for the warriors ahead of me. For those who shared their stories of hope and through doing so allowed me to also believe in recovery.
And to Jessica Raymond, I extend my utmost gratitude with love and respect in my heart. Because life in “real” recovery is so much richer and fuller than any box or tightrope can ever be.