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.
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.
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.
You look up and spin around in circles and get dizzy and fall down and get your composure and do it all over again.
But you do it because it is fun. You do it because it is beautiful. You do it because it is captivating and unique and changing.
Sometimes you fall down and it takes a bit longer to get up. Maybe you spun around a bit too much and the dizziness overwhelms you. You might scrape your knee or bump into something. So you take a bit longer to pick yourself up and start spinning again–head held high, looking up.
There is nothing wrong with falling. It’s part of the experience.
That is kind of the most wonderful part of it. You never know what is going to happen. You laugh and smile and openly accept that you cannot control where you fall or when. But you know that you do get to pick when you stand back up and how you hold yourself and move on.
You know what’s neat about star tripping? It’s a lot like life.
Recovery is a journey. One in which one changes and discovers oneself. One does a lot of introspection. But it is not a journey walked completely in solitude.
Often, I feel like I don’t acknowledge all the ways in which others have helped me along my path this far. I feel conceited in saying so, but it’s true. I focus a lot on me. Me me me. And that’s okay–I’m here to recovery ME–but I find it meaningful to take a bit to reflect on how much I care about those around me. I may feel lonely sometimes, but I am never alone.
To my parents:
I cut you out of my treatment for a while. I thought I would be better off doing it all on my own. I was wrong.
You love me unconditionally and only want the best for me. And though we do not always agree, (as is the case with most family relationships) you will always be there for me.
I am so thankful.
To my wonderful treatment friends:
I wouldn’t have made it this far without you. I owe much of my recovery to you.
The amount of strength that fills the room when we are together is immeasurable. Its effects enumerable. And my gratitude incommunicable. You saw me when I tried to be invisible. You helped me when I was crying in a corner and losing all my shit over something I don’t even remember anymore. You listened to my curse heavy rants and nodded along. You validated me and got me and held me up and pushed me down when I needed to sit my ass on the floor and get a hold of myself. You laughed by my side through the good bits and held my hand and hugged me through the unbearable. You understand in ways only those on this journey can.
I am so immensely thankful for you all. I love you all dearly and you have touched my life in a way I will never, ever forget.
To my child hood and high school, long distance best friends:
You mean so much to me. You check in on me when I’ve gone MIA because I suck at texting and communicating on a regular basis and often mentally reply and never send a physical text.
You support me in my recovery even if I don’t actually see you. You send me reassuring messages and talk to me about my character and how I am capable of more.
You offer to come see me and don’t get angry when I say I can’t do that because I am too depressed or self-conscious or I have been crying for 48 hours straight.
You love me anyway. You love me with my flaws. You see me for me. You show me I have worth. I can’t say thank you enough.
You’ve seen me through it all and not judged me. You accepted me when I *finally* told you about my eating disorder and then pushed me in my recovery.
You told me I was fucking insane when I needed to hear it and reassured me that some of my fears were unfounded.
You did it all from afar.
You are individuals I admire so greatly and respect immensely. I love you.
To the men’s cross-country/track team that has accepted me unconditionally:
I was trying to figure out how to anonymously address you all. Because you all mean so much to me. And “the men’s cross-country/track team” doesn’t seem fitting–albeit true. Because you are so much more than just people who run in circles and to address you in that manner seems a bit…dissatisfying.
I know we met because I am dating one of your own, but you’ve all become some of my best friends and most trusted confidants. You saw me before I started this journey. You saw me when I was about to give up all over again. You saw me in my hope and joy and in my depression when even smiling was too much work.
You’ve pushed me in ways you can’t know. I’ve been challenged a lot simply because I’ve been exposed to so much. I’ve had to learn how to go with the crazy flow and deal with teasing and embarrassment and being the subject of attention and getting yelled at across a room or cafeteria or outdoor space or whatever.
And though I still feel like I don’t really fit in (because I feel so different in my abilities… read I can’t run for shit anymore and I am not allowed to anyway…) I’m beginning to see how that is false. And the more time I spend with you, the more I begin to believe it as well. I love y’all so much.
To my boyfriend, who has stuck by me through it all:
I don’t know if I would be here without you. I really don’t. I don’t know if I would have gone back to the treatment center far away. I don’t know if I would have pushed myself as I have. I don’t know if I would be at this point in my recovery.
Because you told me you believed in me through it all. I could keep going when I didn’t believe in myself because someone still did–you did. And you still do. You tell me you are proud of me for all I have done, you notice how I have grown, you encourage me when I need it, and you hold me and tell me it is going to be okay when I don’t think it ever will.
You’ve loved me through all my changes and assured me that my physical ones were okay (even though I still don’t believe you because it will only ever sink it when I believe it from myself). You remind me that I am not loved or worthy based on how I appear, but who I am and all that I have to offer and can do. You’ve been there for me, long distance or not, and stuck by my side through this wild ride…and seem to want to take on what is still to come of it. And when I curl into a ball and cry and start to believe I am a horrible human being and deserve nothing in the world, you hold me for a bit, ask if there is anything you can do, accept it when I say no, and then offer to watch a show or do something fun or go someplace with me to make me feel better.
You’re my recovery hero and you have helped me realize that I DO deserve recovery and love and happiness and respect. I love you for that, but, most of all, I love you for you: the wonderful, caring, inspirational, thoughtful you.
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.
It’s been a long haul. We’ve been through a lot together. But it’s over now. I’d say “it’s not you, it’s me,” but that isn’t true. It’s all you. You served a purpose for a while, you gave me a sense of control and safety-albeit incorrectly- but I don’t need you anymore. I don’t want you anymore.
I want life and love and laughter. I want adventures. I want smiles and spontaneity. I want health and happiness.
I want cake and chocolate. I want fast food on busy days and comfort meals on rainy, cold nights. I want to eat candy and popcorn at movies. I want to listen to cravings and eat to my desires. I want foreign foods and the chance to try new foods. I want to go out to a restaurant and have the full course meal.
I want to look in the mirror and accept what I see. I want to see myself for who I am as a person and not how my clothes fit or what I weigh. I want to meet new people and not think about how I look to them. I want to go on trips and learn new things and be able to feel the wind on my face on the top of a mountain. I want to run for fun and enjoy movement because it makes me feel good inside.
I want to be me, authentically. I want to discover who I am and fill the spot in my soul you take up with gold. I want to breathe in freedom and exhale rigidity. I want flexibility and variety.
Ed, I want life. And you do not bring me life. You do not bring me any of the things I want above. You hinder me. You hold me down. You tell me I am less than I am. You abuse me and manipulate me and take me away from my dreams.
We don’t work. We never will again. It’s over. We’re done.
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.
After 4 years of not weighing myself and being SOOO careful not to see it, I almost did on a discharge sheet from my visit to an urgent care last week.
I bet some of you are like what…why is that a problem? But it’s actually horrible. It’s terrifying and mind-controlling, and preoccupying, and just miserable.
Because numbers still have power.
I bet you are also wondering how I almost saw my weight. You know how you can do the thing where you blur your eyes a bit? I did that. And then my brain started to wonder what I saw. It started to try to compare numbers in their most basic of shapes. Like when you look at something from far away and it is blurry and a 3 could be a 5 and the 1 could be a 7. That’s what my brain did.
Because ONE of those digit options was okay. The other one DEFINITELY wasn’t.
Why was the other one so taboo? Why did x number of pounds in the up direction make a difference? Here’s what my ED brain thinks:
having that x amount of pounds makes me heavier than other people in my friend group and I already don’t fit in because I can’t run and they can and I can’t just enjoy food whenever and they can
if I am x then I definitely look the f-word (fat)
if it really is x does that mean I am now unhealthy in the opposite direction???
that’s too high. period.
obvi you are out of control. Don’t follow that meal plan.
yup, you’re the f-word
Why do numbers have that amount of power? Enough power that I actually question my BODY DYSMORPHIA and wonder if it is telling me I am thinner than I actually am…. wow, what a turn to the opposite.
Why does a number have enough power to make me think I will automatically not fit in with my friends? How could it do that?
Why does a number make me think that all these professionals have it out for me and don’t care if I get the f-word?
It shouldn’t. But it does.
I partly blame society for putting so much emphasis on weight and numbers in general. But I also know that I can eventually be strong enough not to care… I am just not quite there yet.
So why do numbers NOT matter….. let’s see:
Numbers (your weight) cannot tell you who you are on the inside
Numbers do not show your personality and your love for life
Numbers do not define your self-worth or your worthiness.
Numbers cannot make or break a friendship or relationship.
Numbers cannot show love and comfort you.
Numbers are simply a mental construct that we made in order to explain natural phenomena and life.
I am not a number.
You cannot know what my weight is by looking at me.
Weight does not determine my worth.
I will never be happy with the number I see, and I don’t need to know it because it is just a fact, and not one that will help me.
Numbers are simply digits on a page. I am a soul.
I might have almost seen my weight…. but there is so much more to life than whatever number was on that page. And it’s going to take a bit to stop worrying about it, but I will give myself the grace and time I need to process and become stronger from my almost viewing of an unhelpful, meaningless number.