A Slip Is A Lapse, But Not A Relapse.

*article originally published on The Odyssey Online*

With any recovery, the path is never straight. It might be pretty even for a while, suddenly dip down, turn to the left, or hit a steady incline. Some periods are going to be trying. Some are going to feel simple. There are so many factors in life.

Many events, experiences, surprises, etc. will influence a recovery path. Sometimes, they can all get to be too much to handle. Sometimes, they can make you struggle a lot with maintaining recovery. Sometimes, they can make you slip.

But, a slip doesn’t have to become a relapse.

Often, when times are tough, it is hard to distinguish the difference between a slip and a relapse. But they are very different. I always describe a slip as a lapse. It is a pause in the usual recovery schedule. A relapse, on the other hand, is reverting back to pre-recovery behavior indefinitely.

To use my own recovery from anorexia as an example, in a slip, I would realize that I counted calories but I would not continue to do so. I would work to become more intuitive and ignore nutritional facts.

A relapse, on the other hand, would look more like preoccupation and obsession with the nutritional information when choosing and eating food amounts. It would disregard hunger and focus on numbers. A relapse would be more “severe,” so to speak.

Slips a hard. They are discouraging and often something for which one feels shame. I struggle a lot with my slips. I beat myself up and I get frustrated and often feel like I am failing.

But, the truth is, I am not failing.

My struggle is valid. My frustration, too, is valid. Slips are annoying! Anything that isn’t smooth sailing is bothersome. But it is normal, expected, and definitely not shameful, even if it feels like it.

This true, not just for me. Your feelings are valid. Your experiences and struggles and frustration are valid.

To be in recovery does not mean to be perfect. It does not mean you never encounter times when it feels hard to continue. Perfection is not real. Perfection is not attainable. Imperfect is beautiful and natural and expected. To hold yourself to a standard of perfection is to set yourself up for a feeling of failure.

In approaching slips, I find it helpful to remind myself that it will pass. But, I also have to remember that my struggles will not pass without work. I cannot be passive in my recovery, in general, but especially when rebounding from a slip.

Getting back on the course is work. It is something I must be mindful of and commit to doing. I cannot just wait for it to get better. In fact, if I do just sit back, it will likely get worse.

I do not say this to be discouraging but in the spirit of full disclosure. Brutal though it may sound, recovery is never easy. Slips are no different. But they do not have to become relapses. It is our attitude and approach that can make the difference.

This article was originally written for and posted on The Odyssey Online in Aspiring Journalism Professionals. 

xoxo

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Mephistophelian weariness of chronic

This week, in therapy, I talked a lot about being tired.

Not sleepy, didn’t-go-to-bed-early-enough tired.

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me thinking about that recovery life

Tired of the energy it takes to do recovery. Tired of the time I have to spend thinking about what I ought to do to fight the eating disorder, what I need to do to keep myself fueled…

…when what I want to do is hit the “fuck it” button and just stop.

There is a dichotomy between chronic and chosen. With chosen–like a goal or a desire–you can stop if you opt to. You can, for example, decide you want non-decaf coffee today even if your goal was to limit caffeine.

But with chronic, you cannot decide. Your choice is void because it was never your decision to begin with. 

When you decide to recover, you waive any possible “fuck it” option. You contend with the idea of never-ending mental energy.

Most of the time, the benefits of recovery vastly supersede the annoyance of your waiver.

But occasionally, the Mephistophelian truth of your decision comes out: you don’t have a choice. 

I sound negative. I recognize this. But I also acknowledge that recovery is not universally positive.

A multitude of recovery, the little undiscussed bits and pieces, can fluctuate between the poles of experience: positive, negative, neutral.

Just like the comprehensive trajectory of recovery, the energy consumption annoyance goes up and down. Remember: “recovery isn’t linear.” Turns out, the stamina it takes to consistently pick recovery isn’t linear, either.

However, there is a silver lining (er, gold lacquer… just a little kintsukuroi reference there 😉 ).

In my experience, opting for the endurance it takes to be in recovery is much more preferable to the pertinacity  it takes to be symptomatic in an eating disorder. Eating disorders are WORK, mental energy wise. You think about calories and food and exercise and guilt and your body and etc. and etc.

If you are already putting in the energy, why not have it be directed in the direction of the path giving you back vitality… towards recovery.

 

xoxo

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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.”

 

 

sacrificing the wants for the want mores

because choices have sacrifices and, inevitably, that means giving up something that you want for something that you want more.

I found those words in a White Collar episode of all places. But I wrote them down, because the message is one of utter truth.

When I heard this, I immediately thought of my eating disorder.

But wait, I thought I had broken up with that bitch? I did. I have. But the thing about break ups is you can still want. You can still want that which you KNOW you cannot have. But if you really look at it…do you really want that relationship back or are you just missing the feeling that came along with it?

For me, it is the feeling.

I miss the feeling of “safety” which was going back to my anorexia. I miss feeling like I had all the willpower in the world and like I could control my life. I miss feeling like I was special because I had this “friend” who was steering me to “success.”

All of these feelings were lies. They were elaborate concoctions of my disordered mind that told me I had it all. But, in all actuality, I had nothing. I didn’t have control, willpower, success, safety. I was slowly dying. I was starving my soul.

Maybe I am grieving my loss. I am grieving the loss of the image I have of what I want to look like, because I know it will never happen unless I begin to slowly die all over again (which is NOT an option). I am grieving the loss of my coping tool for all the fucking shit life throws at you. I am grieving the loss of an identity I held for so so many years. I am grieving the loss of the control I thought I had. I am grieving the loss of the feelings I had in my disorder.

The thing is, I remember all of these feelings that I liked… but I also look back and see all the misery. I remember (and still experience) the depression. I see the shit I put myself through and the tired, sick form of myself. I see the way I pretended to have it all together and then cried to myself in the shower so no one could tell. I remember the fear I had walking into a college cafeteria, party, club, etc. I remember the constant worry and thoughts about food and weight and exercise. I remember the darkness and how I couldn’t have cared less about life. I remember feeling the intense secrecy of it all. I remember feeling the pain. I see the scars that illustrate the points I thought there were no other options and it was all my fault. I remember how I really did feel like I was falling into a hole I would never leave.

“Choices have sacrifices and, inevitably, that means giving up something you want for something you want more.”

I want those feelings of control, identity, success, safety. But I want recovery more.

I’m giving up my wants for the ones I want more. Because life is a gift, and I want to really live it.

how do you learn to love yourself?

*Let me preface this by saying that this post is going to be a brutally honest, zero bullshit, hands-up-in-surrender type of post.*

My body and I don’t are not getting along too well right now. I might go so far as to say that I hate my body, or at least the way it looks.

I struggle with having curves. I struggle with having a butt and thighs that touch and a stomach that isn’t flat. I struggle with not being toned and defined. I struggle with not having stamina and endurance. I struggle seeing the way my body squishes. I struggle with the changes that have happened since I started recovery.

I don’t always want to be seen. Actually, I almost NEVER want to be seen. I don’t like undressing. I don’t like having to see myself in the shower and be reminded of my changes. I don’t like wearing fitting clothing. I don’t even really like my boyfriend seeing my “new” body.

I compare myself to other girls and wish I looked like they do. I see someone and a voice says to me that if I just looked like she did then I would have the right curves and I would be pretty. THEN, I would be satisfied with myself.

That’s a fucking lie.

The truth is, I will never be satisfied with myself by changing. Satisfaction and self-confidence have nothing to do with what shape I am, if I have a thigh gap, whether my abs are visible, or if I weigh a certain number.

It is so easy to turn to “fixing” the problem when really you are only altering the manifestations of a deeper, underlying issue.

The problem is not how I look; it is how I perceive myself and where I store my worth.

Of course, if my self-worth is stored in my thighs, my stomach, or how thin I am compared to another UNIQUE human being, I will never measure up; I will never feel worth anything.

I wish I could figure out when what my body looks like became more important than who I am as a person. Because I am not my body. Beauty is not skin deep. Beauty is found in the soul, the personality, the heart of someone. The body is only the vessel.

I wish I could pinpoint exactly what happened to make my body my enemy… but I know I never will and, ultimately, it doesn’t matter. What matters is how I change this perception, this unfounded belief that I am only as good as the way I look. I need to try to own who I am until I really can own it.

I have skin over my ribs. I have skin with a scar that shows my battle to recovery. I see it and I remember how far I have come. I am ashamed of that scar, but I carry on because I have to. Because I want to.

I have a belly that squishes and folds when I sit. It hides my abs and sticks out a bit. But it is healthy. It isn’t gnawing away at me and begging me for food even when it knows I won’t listen.

I have hips that have shape. I have hips that sway as I walk. I have hips that make me self-conscious of wearing tight clothes for fear of being called fat. I have hips that no longer show bones when I walk. But I also have hips that may eventually help me have children. I have hips because I am supposed it.

I have thighs that touch. I have thighs of which I am self conscious and afraid of the same teasing I had when I was younger. I have thighs that remind me of the nights I would cry and wish I could cut them away from my body because then all of it would stop. I have thighs that hold scars of the pain I have felt–self imposed scars to try to get out all the hurt. But they are still there. And they still work. Why should the space in between them dictate my worth?

I have an ass for which I had been teased endlessly as a kid. I was so excited when I lost it during my eating disorder. I dreaded getting it back during recovery. But I need to forgive the teasing and make peace with myself. I have a butt. I have curves and shape. I also have a soul and a mind. I don’t hate those, why hate the other?

The battle to love my body is so far from over. It probably won’t be over anytime soon. But I am trying… and that’s the best I can do.

I have hope that I can learn to love me for who I am as a person and not what I look like. I have hope that I can strip my perception of worth away from the size and shape of my person. I have hope that I can come to accept what I look like, maybe even like it, one day.

that’s it. i’ve had enough.

Going into recovery, if it is your choice, you probably WANT to recover. I did. I do.  But in the past week or so, I came to the realization that I will never really recover until i’ve decided i have had quite enough of Ed and its shenanigans (read him f-ing me over and destroying my life).

But over the past few days, I have.

I think up until now I wanted recovery… I really did. But I still had a small part of me that was okay with my eating disorder; the part of me that was content to stay in the kinda-recovered stage.

But I can place exactly when I destroyed that last little grip: Sunday night.

I’ve spent a lot of time doing recovery. It takes a lot of time, don’t get me wrong. But I’ve missed a year of school, life events, and so much more because of my eating disorder and the time it is taking to recover from it. I knew that it had and was taking away opportunities, but on Sunday it took just one more thing and I had enough of it.

I got invited on spring break trip that would be about two weeks from now. But I can’t go. I can’t go because I am in treatment. I can’t go because my EATING DISORDER put me in treatment. I literally lost it that night. I stared at my rice bowl while I ate and was very quiet. I couldn’t talk because I thought that I would start sobbing if I did. Eventually, I had to quickly leave the apartment (after finishing dinner of course, because meeting the needs) because I couldn’t hold the tears in anymore. I sat outside and rocked back and forth with my head in between my knees and sobbed. I sobbed my heart out.

My therapist in residential once told me that if I needed to cry, then I should “do it with all my fucking energy and then be done.” That is what I did on Sunday.

I was miserable because this was just another thing to add to my “miss list,” the list of things that I missed because of my eating disorder/treatment. But it was more than that; it was something that my boyfriend, my best friends, and the people I wanted to spend time with the most were going on together. Without me. I was jealous (and still am) that they could spend time together and I couldn’t. I was jealous that they got to be with my boyfriend for a week and I couldn’t. I was jealous that they could adventure and I had to sit in a room and talk about my feelings. I felt miserable. I pitied myself.

And then I didn’t. I was still sad. But more than that, I was FURIOUS. Because this was my eating disorder ruining my life. This was it getting in the way of experiences. This was ED stealing the time I had with friends and the adventures I could take. This was ED being selfish and trying to make me be only with it. This was ED trying to control me, again.

That piece of me that still wanted ED died with the lost opportunity. It was that that pushed it away. And now, I’ve had enough.

The only thing I am gripping to is recovery.