Staying Strong

Everyone’s heard this song. “When all you’ve got to keep is strong, move along, move along, like I know you do.”

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What exactly does it mean to be strong?

Well, physically strong is obvious enough.

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But what about mentally strong?

Sometimes, this isn’t as apparent.

Being physically strong is very visually apparent, as SpongeBob is demonstrating so nicely up above. Muscles, ability to pick things up and put them down, abs that you could wash clothes on… the criteria is pretty universal.

Mental strength, though, isn’t always as visible. This is partially because our brains can’t literally grow muscles and become all buff and tough, and also because mental strength often isn’t something that shows up until the going gets really difficult.

Which brings me to another famous quote.

“When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”

Hmmm.

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Dealing with my mental illnesses is easily the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. There are days where my depression is so strong that all I want to do is stare at the ceiling and refuse to move. There are times where my anxiety gets so out of control that I end up constructing these elaborate scenarios and scaring the living daylights out of myself with them. People underestimate how challenging this is, because the majority of the time, the people who are struggling the most are the ones who are the best at putting on a brave face and smiling through the pain.

My depression and anxiety are awful, that’s true. I have endless respect for those who manage to deal with their mental demons

But the biggest monster is easily my eating disorder. This is something that requires you to fight, all day, every day. It’s a neverending battle.

Sometimes I wonder if I really have an eating disorder. If it’s all just some elaborate lie. If I’ve just made it all up in my head. I watch myself sit down to eat meals and stay sedentary and think that maybe, just maybe, they were wrong for diagnosing me with anorexia.

And then the thoughts come back.

You’re so fat. You’re so ugly. You’re so disgusting. You’re so worthless. It’s like that awful song that you can’t get out of your head; it’s stuck on reply, just echoing and echoing around in your brain.

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And with the thoughts come desires. I don’t want to eat. I want to run. I don’t want to prepare this meal. I want to go for a bike ride.

And pretty soon, I’m finding myself coming up with excuses for why I decided to take a nap instead of eating like I was supposed to or putting on my workout clothes and lacing up my sneakers in preparation to exercise.

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I was just really tired. I was gonna get to it eventually. I was just hot and wanted to change my clothes.

Yeah, there’s really no good answer.

It’s moments like these that require the ultimate strength. These are when I dig really deep and repeat my favorite inspirational quote in my head like it’s some sort of magic spell, concentrating on the words and nothing but the words.

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“In order for a star to be born, there is one thing that must happen: a gaseous nebula must collapse. So collapse. Crumble. This is not your destruction. This is your birth.”

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I’m just an ordinary twenty year old girl. There’s nothing really special about me. The only extraordinary thing is that I’m going through recovery from an eating disorder. And this requires a mental strength that I didn’t think I had.

Unfortunately, I don’t have some sort of magic key that unlocks the ability to engage in recovery. I don’t have a list of steps to take. This is because recovery from anorexia is different for everyone. True, there’s going to be some things that are a guarantee. You will gain weight. You will see it redistribute. You will experience desires to go back to old behaviors. You will sometimes give into these urges. You will have to work at recovery for months and months until things begin to normalize and your body begins to trust you again. You will have to dedicate yourself wholeheartedly to the process, even though the majority of the time it’s going to feel like the most backwards thing possible.

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Recovery is going to be a difficult road. There’s going to be pain. There’s going to be struggles. There’s going to be tears. There’s going to be moments where you feel like giving up and surrendering to your eating disorder.

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These are the times where you really need to look deep inside yourself and ask, do I want to recover? If you’re not ready to take the leap, the answer will be no.

I can’t tell you anything special about the day I decided that I was tired of being sick. There was no beautiful sunrise that I sat and watched and felt inspired. There was no moment where the world seemed to stop spinning and everything suddenly made sense. There wasn’t even any certainty that I was going to be able to commit. But something inside of me finally snapped. I decided I wanted to take my life back. I was tired of my eating disorder running the show.

Yeah, I’ve made mistakes. Yeah, I’ve contemplated giving up virtually every day. But the most important thing is to take two steps forward for every step back. At the end of the day, though, recovery is truly worth it. I don’t wake up in the morning in a bed that’s not my own and sit down to meals with a counselor watching my every move. I greet the morning by lazily rolling out of my own bed and stumbling downstairs to prepare my breakfast. I don’t spend my hours learning about various CBT and DBT skills to try and ready me for when I head out into the real world. I have the ability to do whatever it is I want. I don’t have to get my weight and vitals checked every morning. I just have weekly appointments to make sure I’m staying on track.

I’m going to be able to go back to school. I’m going to finish college. I’m going to see my friends again. I’m going to make tons of new friends. I’m going to learn all sorts of new things. I’m going to go on exciting adventures. All of these things wouldn’t be possible if I was stuck in treatment.

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Freedom really is a beautiful thing. And I believe in you. I know you have the strength to get there.

You just have to start believing in yourself ❤

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