Recently, I have been talking with my friend EH about my ambivalent feelings towards recovering. I am not actively using ED behaviors and I also am not working hard against them. I am in this weird sort of limbo place. Ultimately, I am aware that not working hard on recovery might as well be going back to behaviors, because it can still kill me in the end. I know that only committing everyday will bring success to me and my meaningful life. The other day, EH asked me if I had ever written “Why I Choose Recovery” and I realized that I never have. I have written about what I imagined life would be like without my ED but never why I was choosing to say goodbye to my eating disorder. That was so hard to do. I have struggled since around 13 years old so I did not, honestly, know what that life could be…!
To be honest and straightforward…I never completely chose recovery on my own. I was forced into recovery when I went inpatient and they discovered that I was anorexic. I HATED the treatment team. I ate enough to lie myself out of the hospital in 2.5 weeks. I went to PHP and then ended up right back in the hospital. I stayed there for around 3.5 weeks and I got a NG feeding tube for the first time. Then, I went to an outpatient therapist. I lied to her and was sneaking behind her back using behaviors. I eventually stopped seeing her. My depression got worse and worse. The depression landed me back inpatient. I thought they would not treat me for my ED but that was never the case. I got thrown back into the world of daily weigh ins and meal plans. Once again, I got a NG tube. I spent 30 days there.
During my 3rd stay inpatient, one of my favorite nurses K asked me if I had ever thought about long term care. Truthfully, I had but I had never worked up the courage to tell anyone about my thoughts. I realized how badly I did want to go to residential. I wanted to finally feel better and the smallest sliver of me wanted the ED gone. Post meeting with my Dr. and parents, a battery of assessments, crying, leaving the safety of inpatient, packing, driving hours, etc. I was off to TK for the first time. I left TK feeling decent about recovery. Until…I learned that I had no option but to do PHP/IOP and that PHP was a minimum of 7 weeks. I was furious.
I hated PHP at first and I did not want to fully give up my ED. I did not talk to anyone because I was so pissed and I am such a chatter-box in reality. Boy was everyone surprised when they learned how much I talk! I was hesitant to trust the staff or to open up. Thankfully, I quickly grew to be comfortable with my therapist AAC and I began to open up to her. I even began to talk in groups. I became friends with the other girls (who I am still close with now) and I did not feel so lonely anymore. But, I wanted the comfort of being at IDC without fully saying goodbye to my ED. I wanted to feel safe there but still have my anorexia. Slowly, but surely, I completely relapsed and went back to TK. When I discharged from TK, I was able to finally finish with IDC’s program and graduate in October! I have gone further than I thought…but today I am feeling stuck in ambivalence.
So *deep breath* why do I choose recovery? Why did I finally decide to actively fight this last summer and in the fall?
At first, I chose to recover, or at least go to TK because I wanted to stop being in so much pain. I wanted the self hate to dissipate. My life felt empty, meaningless, and I wondered if living was even worth it. I had those same feelings in PHP my first time, as well. However, at some point I had to decide and see how much further recovery could take me. I remember the first time I decided to have a challenge meal all on my own. I remember how laughing with the other residents during meal times was infinitely better than spending the whole meal shaking and crying. Those first moments of freedom felt like a different kind of high and I discovered that I actually liked it. I saw friends after I left TK and I could actually hold a conversation. Those moments were my first tastes of recovery.
But…what now? Why should I want to forge ahead and fully say goodbye to a nine year relationship with an ED? An ED that has worked so hard to convince me that it loves me?
- I want to recover because I want to feel like my authentic self. The people who are most beautiful to me are those who own who they truly are. I do not want to hide behind the ED’s mask. My favorite Lil is the girl who is fearlessly herself. That girl is creative, silly, intelligent, brave, funny, compassionate, empathetic, and very unique. I want to learn that I have the right to be that girl. I deserve to show the world my best self. My relationship with my ED has been like an abusive relationship. I am choosing to recover so that I can learn how to respect myself. I do not fully know how to completely do that yet. I know recovery is my only chance at gaining that respect that I have lost for such a long time.
- I want to feel alive and I have felt dead within my ED. I felt like a walking zombie when I was sick. I was just an empty body that had a one track mind. I am too smart for that. I was made for a rich life full of adventures and moments of awe. My bravery was not gifted to me so that I could spend countless days in a hospital bed. There is a great big world out there and I want to be apart of it without ED being invited. I want to dance on beaches in the moonlight, laugh while drinking wine on a terrace in Europe, I want to see the Northern Lights and feel how big the universe is, I want to see real mountains and see the world from above, I want to ride horses out West and feel the expanse of the earth, and so many more adventures.
- I want to recover because inside my heart I know that I was meant to serve others. My biggest dream is to help others escape from the cage of their disorder. I am known for being wise and giving out great advice. I have been told by therapists that I am going to be a great social worker one day. One day, I want to work at a residential or inpatient ED treatment center. However, I also know that is an impossible goal without recovering myself. I need to be able to practice what I preach. My soul aches to help others through their pain and challenges. I want to help them heal and I need to heal myself first.
- I want to maintain my relationship with The Lord – I had always had a relationship with Him. I loved Him and I felt his love back. My ED destroyed all of that. I lost my faith and my life felt so lonely. Through recovery, I met others who also were journeying back to finding God. In our unity of loving Christ we all began to heal and lean on Our Savior more and more. I have learned that, for my life, I feel incomplete without serving the Lord. I am made beautiful in His image and likeness. I am comforted that I never have to feel lonely because Jesus is my constant companion.
Writing this made me cry. I have this tight feeling in my chest. The feeling is mainly anxiety. ED is SCREAMING at me to shut up and only think of reasons to starve myself once again. I feel emotionally overwhelmed. Wow – recovery is something else!