Out of the struggle, into the light
So I haven’t really been blogging much lately. Some of that is for very good reasons (I got married last September! I am super busy with work stuff that pays me money so that I can buy yarn and my little corner of the Intarwebz!), and some of that, well, not (I broke two bones in my lower leg in a cycling accident in October).
It would be easy to try to say that things were just fine recovery-wise. After all, if any of that happened not too long ago, I would have been a complete wreck. I am not a complete wreck. However, to say that I haven’t had some pretty huge bumps and struggles along the way would be lying.
When I read recovery narratives, people talk about their turning point. I’ve written before about how I never had one. I still haven’t. It’s not like I wanted to recover all of a sudden, it’s just that I stopped fighting it so damn much. Nothing in my recovery has been clear-cut. I didn’t go from actively pursuing anorexia to actively pursuing recovery overnight, or even in one week, one month, or one year. Nor have I stood up and said I’m fully recovered, the end.
For one, I think recovery is a part of life, and life doesn’t really stop until The End, the BIG end, and I’m not there yet. I also have not experienced a cessation of eating disordered thoughts. At every meal or snack, it occurs to me that I don’t have to eat this, that I can easily skip it, that maybe I would feel better if I didn’t eat. It’s not always an urge to skip the meal or snack, and the chatter doesn’t usually occupy much of my brain or take much effort to push away or ignore.
Until it does.
Until you find yourself returning to behaviors because you’re sick of the pushback in your head every time you reach for your fork. Or that you’re so busy and so overwhelmed that you skip one meal and find you can’t talk yourself back into a pattern of normal eating.
The difference between now and then is that I’m better at getting a handle on this. I’m better at not letting it keep going, and I’m better at keeping it from starting in the first place. But to say that it never happens wouldn’t be the truth.
My therapist has told me that I might be one of those people who has a hair-trigger for relapse and that I might have to fight harder than many to stay in recovery. I might struggle to keep symptoms from re-emerging at every bump in the road and I will probably wobble. And that this is okay.
A month or so ago, I hit a really significant rough patch. Calling it a relapse would be way too dramatic, but the struggles were very much there and very, very real. I am feeling more solid now, which is good.
So why am I talking about it?
Because no one should feel ashamed for struggling, no matter what stage of recovery they are (or aren’t) at.
Because the shame of feeling you shouldn’t struggle only adds to the difficulties in addressing them.
Because I’ve found that once you bring these feelings into the light, it doesn’t feel quite as bad.
I know some people might find these admissions discouraging. As in, “I’m fighting my eating disorder so that I can continue to admit I’m struggling?” I hear you. At the same time, the fight to stay well is rarely full-on battle. Most of the time, it’s like the annoying buzz of a mosquito or the drone of the television in another room. I’m aware it’s there and that something is on TV, but it’s not the center of my attention. Every now and again, I’ll catch a few words of the program and my attention will shift. And then I’ll shift it back. Life goes on. My world is no longer dominated by the TV.
Some people can turn off the TV entirely and they say they have no more ED thoughts and behaviors. Some people can never adjust the volume or turn away. I’m somewhere in between those two extremes.
To me, the more important question right now isn’t about the TV, but all about the other stuff I’m doing besides the TV stuff. That’s what helps me shift my attention. That’s what is interesting and compelling.
As a result, I’m going to shift my focus a bit here and talk about the realities of life in recovery. There really isn’t any advice for this stage: how do you navigate life while in recovery? I am, in a sense, living the question and living my way into the answers. And I hope you’ll join me for the ride.