finding balance

In my opinion, one of the hardest things about “re-learning” how to live life and take care of yourself through recovery is finding balance. For much of the time one is in treatment, the day is simply JUST treatment. But leaving the world of formalized and center-based treatment back into the world of outpatient appointments and mostly free weeks results in a lot to be determined and time to be filled.

Balance.

It is something I talked about so much with my therapist and my treatment team. It is a vocabulary word that has been a staple in my language for the past 5 months.

Balance.

Balance.

Balance.

What the hell is balance.

I can’t say I have done a perfect job moving from IOP to outpatient and balancing recovery and life from the get-go. But I also didn’t expect that I would.

If I learned ONLY one thing in treatment (which is far from the truth…I learned more than I can communicate), then it would be that I cannot expect perfection because it is realistic, possible, human. I would disappoint myself literally every time if I expected to be perfect. Never in my life have I or will I be perfect. This transition is no different. In fact, the lack of perfection is what makes it so successful.

I have had to sit down and talk to myself. I have had to tell myself that “yes, I can eat that. I will be okay.” I have had to make a conscious decision to order the hard thing that would have been so easy to avoid. I have tried new things. I have internally fought and won. I have internally fought and lost. But I have kept going and corrected and worked my ass off for the recovery that I so want and love.

That is what balance is to me. It is realizing that I am going to have a few bad days…maybe more than a few. But that I can persist anyway. It is relearning what life in the “real world” is like… with the constant daily challenges that I was somewhat sheltered from in treatment. It is picking the hard things because I know I can… and more than that… that I have to. It is realizing the mental difficulties are all worth it because they get smaller and smaller with exposure.

And it is giving myself grace for the days when I have more trouble. For the days when I need some help. And for the moments when I question it all and keep going anyway.

It’s a process.

That is balance.

Coming to “Enough”

I searched Pinterest for a while looking for topics on which to write. But I didn’t find any. I couldn’t seem to get my mind around any of them. I wanted to write some post about something deep and whatever, but you know what… I don’t need to and I am not going to.

Life is kind of a whirlwind. Recovery is more of a tornado. I often feel like I’m being whipped around in circles from one thing to another and then back again. But, interestingly enough, I’ve come to like it a bit. It’s a lot more interesting and satisfying than the perpetual depression of my eating disorder. I don’t mean to say it’s all good things in the tornado. Occasionally, I whirl by the Wicked Witch of the West and have a moment of fear and anxiety. But then I somehow land in Oz among the flowers and there’s a period of calm again–or as calm as it really can be in recovery.

It’s interesting though, because there is a lot of freedom in fear. It sucks, of course. But if you do whatever you fear, and then you do it again, and again, and again, and you keep going, the fear leaves and you just have freedom. It’s a process and it takes a LONG time. But each time you do the thing you fear and you make it to the other side, you get a little bit more space from the fright. You get a little bit more free.

Yesterday night, as I was preparing for bed, I pulled of my shirt and I stood in front of the mirror in my sports bra and I brushed my teeth. I looked at myself straight-on in the mirror and let my eyes wash over my body. I let them run over the shape of my stomach body imageand my arms and my chest and let the feelings come. I noticed the thoughts that usually come with looking at my exposed body–the judgements and criticisms and slight sense of discomfort.

But I smiled instead of covering up again and just kept looking. I did it because I needed to and because I physically couldn’t put a shirt back on with a toothbrush in my mouth… but mostly because I needed to do it. Because it kind of doesn’t matter what thoughts come to me. They are only thoughts. They do not mean that I am any less of a person. And I may not believe that entirely just yet, but I stood through the discomfort anyway and embraced it.

It sucked a little bit. It sucked to not like everything I saw. But I only dislike it because of a standard I have in my head that is absolutely ridiculous. I will never fit the standard that society holds for me and that, therefore, I have in my mind is correct.

But it isn’t correct. It is warped and unachievable and unhealthy (at least for me). And that’s the way it is–like it or not.

I keep thinking about a poem I read the other day. It’s entitled “Enough” and it reads:

Enough. These few words are enough.

If not these words, this breath.

If not this breath, this sitting here.

This opening to the life

we have refused

again and again

until now.

Until now.

-David Whyte

I think it spoke to me because I am so ready for it all to be “enough.” But what I like so much about this poem is that it finds enough in the simple. Breathing is enough. Sitting is enough. Being is enough.

Stop refusing life. Stop refusing to open yourself up to the world. Let just being be enough. Let being YOU be enough.

So standing in front of that mirror yesterday night, or putting on clothes this morning that didn’t hide my curves, or eating a before breakfast snack because my body was hungry, or looking down and seeing my stomach and my thighs and my body, I remember that I am enough. I might not completely believe it yet, but I tell myself it anyway. I’m not lying. I may feel like I am sometimes; I may not agree with the statement; I may try to refute and disprove it, but it is true none-the-less.

I am enough. You are enough. And I’ve had enough of “refusing life.”

 

 

praise for Cheryl Strayed

tiny beautiful things by Cheryl Strayed.

What a tiny, beautiful thing Strayed’s book is.

Sometimes I feel like all I  can (*should*) read in recovery is (are? struggling with grammar right now..)  recovery related books on eating disorders, mental health, depression, etc. But to tell you the truth, I don’t want to. Those are well and good and have there place, but I don’t believe they should be everything.

I came upon tiny beautiful things when I was scouring the shelves of Barnes and Noble for just that… recovery books. I had never heard of Dear Sugar or Cheryl Strayed before… ever. I kinda just took a gamble and bought the book on a whim because the title said “advice on love and life” under it. And good gosh could I use some of that.

Strayed collected her answers to anonymous letters sent to her “Dear Sugar” column into one book. She comments on writings of love, loss, abuse, occupational desires, gender identity… you name it. But her advice is so applicable and thought-provoking.

Excerpt: Let’s start at the introduction written by Steve Almond. He states: “Inexplicable sorrows await all of us. That was her essential point. Life isn’t some narcissistic game you play online. It all matters-every sin, every regret, every affliction” (Strayed 5).

My thoughts: God, really… you’re just going to drop that on me? 5 pages in and I just got hit with that doosy. But, it’s so true. I can’t even start to comment on the reality of it… so… MOVING ON.

Excerpt: “Love is the feeling we have for those we care deeply about and hold in high regard. It can be light as the hug we give a friend or heavy as the sacrifices we make for our children. It can be romantic, platonic, familial, fleeting, everlasting, conditional, unconditional, imbued with sorrow, stoked by sex, sullied by abuse, amplified by kindness, twisted by betrayal, deepened by time, darkened by difficulty, leavened by generosity, nourished by humor, and “loaded with promises and commitments” that we may or may not want to keep. The best thing you can possibly do with your life is to tackle the motherfucking shit out of love” (15).

My thoughts: First off… that phrase “motherfucking shit.” Thanks for speaking to my sailor mouth soul. But, in seriousness, I have experienced quite a few love’s facades. Love hurts a lot sometimes. I have cried so much out of love. I have cried because I am afraid of losing love. I have cried because I love too much. I have cried because I haven’t felt loved. I have cried because I DID feel loved. I have cried because I thought I could/would NEVER be loved. It’s been emotional. But maybe that is because love really is that important. It is a drive. It is a blessing. It is a curse, sometimes. It is pure. There is such a power in being pure. I would love (ironic use here) to tackle the shit out of love… but I am afraid too. I am genuinely scared of the repercussions of being so forward and so authentic. It’s a work in progress.

Excerpt: Nobody can protect you from your suffering. You can’t cry it away or eat it away or starve it away or walk it away or punch it away or even therapy it away. It’s just there, and you have to survive it. You have to endure it. You have to live through it and love it and move on and be better for it and run as far as you can in the direction of your best and happiest dreams across the bridge that was built by your own desire to heal” (29). 

My thoughts: Damn it, really… that seems so hard. But wow is she right. There is never going to be a cure-all for suffering, for anything. When I read these sentences, I immediately think about my eating disorder. I really did try to starve away the suffering… and then I tried to eat and therapy away the suffering that the starving caused. This is a passage I truly need. It reminds me that I need to survive but I also need to love and be better for my past and my struggles and my suffering. It reminds me to dream and to picture a better time. It reminds me to strive. And it goes back to kintsukuroi… because you will be BETTER for it.

Excerpt: “Trusting yourself means living out what you already know to be true” (52).

My thoughts: I always question if I know what is true. I think that is something that happens when you lived with two voices in your head for years. “Trust your gut.” People say that all the time. But I don’t even know what my mind is saying… let alone my gut. What does that even mean? I really don’t like that expression. It feels out of control. It feels un-thought-out. It feels rash. But it is also raw. Truth is raw. When I think of truth, I think of a line from The Big Short (the movie on the housing bubble): “Truth is like poetry. And most people fucking hate poetry.” But why do people hate poetry? It is so beautiful, so expressive, so authentic, so unique, so personal. And that begs the question… why can I not trust the authenticity of my gut? Why can I not trust the feeling through my bones that tells me what IS true? Why… can I not trust myself?

I’m not yet done with Strayed’s book, and I anticipate I will comment some more on her writing. If you decide to check her stuff out, please let me know what you think!