(Yes, there is a little bit of an ice cream pun there)
Lately I’ve been having a lot of issues with staying motivated to keep progressing forwards with my recovery. After not having used any behaviors for so long, I finally cracked and restricted. That opened the door to several more instances of restricting and a million more where I wanted to but managed to not.
Anyone who thinks that recovery from an eating disorder is an easy straight shot is sadly misinformed. Recovery is easily the hardest thing I’ve ever attempted in my life. Sometimes I fall short. Sometimes I outright fail.
This picture always makes me smile a little, but it’s so poignantly true: recovery really is more like a big mess of a squiggly line than something simple.
One minute you’re fine, and the next you’re a sinking ship in the middle of the ocean during a torrential thunderstorm.
One minute you’re calm, cool, and collected, and the next, you’re making this face:
(I can’t stop laughing; I had to put this in)
Today I was talking with my dietitian, trying to explain why the concept of weight maintenance is so hard to grasp. It’s not exactly a fear of complacency. It’s more the idea that “maintaining” a weight seems impossible. My weight has yo-yo-ed all over the place the past few years, mostly in very unhealthy ways. Achieving my “weight set point” sounds ridiculous. What on earth is a “weight set point” anyways?
Well, as I explained in another post, “weight set point” refers to the natural weight that the body wants to maintain. This is different for everyone; it’s partially determined by genetics, but can vary greatly from person to person. Another reason for the discrepancy is due to muscle mass weighing more per pound than the same amount of mass composed of fat.
Such a double-edged sword. On the one hand, we need it to survive. It insulates our bodies to help keep us warm. It protects our vital organs from harm. It allows us to process and absorb various vitamins and minerals.
But the word has such a negative connotation.
Striking fear into the bravest of hearts. Causing low self-esteem left, right, and center.
Fat is a word I’ve always struggled with. It’s a word that I’ve been known to use to describe myself on quite a few occasions.
But I would never use it to describe someone else. It’s like I reserve the worst of all for myself. It has a poison to it that other words just don’t have; a more potent venom that causes it to hurt like hell.
Isn’t that just life?
Well, no, not really. True, life isn’t always meant to be a walk in the park. Some people are destined for more difficult and dark paths than others. My path happens to have turned into that crazy convoluted thing in the earlier picture. Did I see my life taking this direction? No, I did not. I don’t think anyone does anything so ridiculous as to plan having an eating disorder; to plan being incredibly ill.
But wouldn’t it be nice if recovery were pain free? If it were all sunshine and roses and singing little birds and whatever?
Unfortunately, it’s not. In fact, it’s probably a lot closer to being the exact opposite.
But there’s a reason behind this. And it’s due to the fact that your body is having to repair all the damage you’ve done to it. Make no mistake, an eating disorder is absolutely destructive to the human body. It wrecks your metabolism, it breaks down your organs, and it’s also terribly mentally taxing. It finds every way possible to make you feel insignificant and useless, and convinces you that no matter what you do, you will never be good enough. The only way to try and fill the void is to use behaviors, which provide a temporary feeling of fulfillment that never lasts. This becomes the vicious cycle that is so easy to fall into.
How do you get out?
That’s something I’ve been trying to figure out myself lately. Giving into behaviors is to perpetuate that circle. Once you do something once, your eating disorder works out a little space to fit in and starts to begin attempting to persuade you to give it more and more room. Then it grows and grows until you’re totally consumed by it.
I’ve been there. I’m not there anymore. But I’m also not completely better.
How do you get better?
Interesting question. And it has sort of an unfortunate answer.
The answer is, quite simply, doing the same, painful, stressful, awful thing, over and over and over again.
For me, that’s eating and refusing to exercise. That’s trying to look in the mirror and not think negative thoughts instantaneously. That’s attempting to replace self-destructive behaviors and mindsets with more positive ones; to mold my brain into a different sort of shape, essentially, through the fabulous concept that is neuroplasticity.
Basically, the idea is that if you think positive things enough, and do positive things that don’t harm your body, they will eventually become habits. Literal rewiring of the paths in your brain, so to speak.
This is no easy task. So it should really come as no surprise that recovery is so challenging. Unfortunately, it’s oftentimes so challenging that people give up when they’re only part of the way through.
Hold on. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. I always end up reading the stories of those who have successfully recovered to inspire myself. Seeing them lead their lives without cowering in fear of food is truly amazing. They’re not afraid to eat whatever it is they feel like eating, yet they’re not out of control, either. They’re satisfied with who they are, through and through.
I hope to eventually be able to attain, and then maintain, this mindset, just like I hope to be able to successfully maintain a weight. As I move out of treatment this coming week (my last day is Friday, eek!) I have to prepare myself for the impetus of recovery coming to rest squarely on my shoulders. This isn’t to say that I don’t have supporters; I have, without a shadow of a doubt, the best network of supports in the world. But when it comes right down to it, I’m the one who has to do the difficult work. Anyone who is recovering from an eating disorder must come to terms with this reality: it’s on you.
Do you want to live? Live the life you were truly meant to live?
Then start kicking your eating disorder’s ass. I believe in you.
Hopefully soon I’ll start believing in myself, too.