Hi there… Emma coming at you live from a Thursday evening that feels like a Monday evening. Thank goodness tomorrow is Friday. And thank goodness it’s finally cool enough for hot pumpkin spice coffees and stereotypical sweater weather outfits. I’ve finally broken out my scarf collection, which is disturbingly large.
But I digress.
I typed the title of this post and cracked my knuckles and prepared to write a post full of happiness and strength and inspiration. And with any luck, that’s the lasting impression that this will leave.
But instead of typing so fast that my fingers could have set my keyboard on fire, I sat there and stared at the cursor blinking like a polar bear in a snowstorm. Nothing. No words in my head. No sentences magically explaining how it is that I’m doing this whole insufferable and seemingly never-ending recovery thing.
The truth is that there is no instruction manual on how to recover from a restrictive eating disorder. There is no secret that you learn one day and boom, a light shines down on you and angels sing and wow, you’re magically cured.
I mean, take yesterday. I had a complete and utter panic attack the likes of which I haven’t had since I first called home and begged for help. All because I couldn’t fit into a stupid pair of jeans. I couldn’t stop shaking and my vision literally started to go black around the edges.
Fortunately, the apocalypse didn’t happen and I’m still here. I survived to live another day even though in that moment I wished I were deader than a doornail. Whatever that’s even supposed to mean.
How did I do that? How do I keep encountering these obstacles and, like the ant with the rubber tree plant, overcoming them?
I’m here to give you my best insight. My best guess. I’m not saying this is ironclad or something you should take to the bank. But my hope is that maybe, just maybe, it’ll help you a little.
There was a really dark time in my life where I hit a low that I’d never experienced before. I told the hospital staff that I wanted to jump out the window. I was so tired of trying to fight for this life I didn’t even want anymore. I felt worthless, stupid, ugly, and so, so very depressed.
So they assigned me a babysitter, for lack of a better word, alarmed my bed so that in the event (which never happened) that I was left alone in my room, I couldn’t do anything, and told me that I had to keep fighting.
And something just snapped.
I didn’t want to keep trying. I was done fighting. All my energy, all my strength, all my will to survive was just gone. I didn’t see any chance that I was going to ever be able to recover. I felt like I was doomed to forever have orthostatic vitals and heart palpitations and meals covered in plastic wrap and vaguely different johnnies as my wardrobe for the rest of forever, provided that I was even going to be kept alive.
I sit here today, weight restored, in the process of weight redistribution, and eating three square meals a day accompanied by three snacks. I get up in the morning and sometimes feel a flicker of hope and optimism stir in my chest. The doctors are always pleased to report that my heart seems like it’s back to normal. I am slowly but surely destroying the idea of fear foods.
To a lot of people, I’m sure I look like I’m kicking anorexia’s ass solidly and perpetually. That I don’t have any lapses or fears or tears because I manage to be meal plan compliant and don’t have to be literally held down to prevent overexercising. I’m at what my doctors call a healthy weight.
The truth is, sometimes I feel like I’m hanging on to recovery my the skin of my teeth. And teeth don’t even have skin (imagine how freaky that would be), so oftentimes there’s just an illusion that there’s something there to catch me should I fall.
Recovery is fragile. It’s like a baby bird. One day someone is going to demand that you spread your wings and fly, even though you’ve never done anything like that in your life.
And you have a choice.
You can either believe that you can’t do it, and never experience what it is to soar, and instead just crash to the ground.
Or you can think that maybe, just maybe, you might be able to do it.
I can’t pinpoint exactly when it happened, and I wish I could. But at some point I decided that I was just so fucking done with living like I was dead. It struck me that I could be meant for so much more than what I was relegating myself to by never taking the leap and trying recovery out.
It has definitely not been smooth and plain sailing since then. Not at all. But at the end of the day, my will to live is stronger than my desire to die.
How did I do that complete one-eighty? I just told you that I became so depressed and desperate to escape the hell that was every day that I was suicidal.
There’s a saying. “The purpose of life is a life of purpose.”
I am a firm believer that everyone has a purpose in this world. Whether it’s to be a mother, or to engineer something that saves lives, or to sweep floors out of the goodness of your heart, or to rescue animals, or to write books, or to teach, or to inspire others, or whatever else you can imagine, everyone has a purpose. You don’t exist to be an amoeba who sort of just glorps around and never really grows or changes (look, I invented a new word!) You exist because your life was given to you so that you can do something with it.
Think about the miracle that is your existence. Out of all the people in the world, you live in your body and your mind. You are a unique being that will never again exist. That can never be duplicated.
Why would you ever let that just disintegrate and blow away like leaves in the wind?
Imagine you have a little flame inside of you. It’s small and it flickers easily. And there’s a storm brewing inside of you; every so often, a gust howls by and threatens to extinguish the tiny baby flame.
But here’s another thing to think about (if your brain isn’t already spinning by now): what do you do when you’ve built a fire and you want it to grow?
You give it oxygen. You literally breathe into it.
Take a deep breath.
Breathe life into your body. Let that flame grow until it becomes a roaring fire. Let your desire to live and fight suffuse your whole being.
Whenever I am really struggling, I think about what’s waiting for me if I relapse. I know that there’s a one way ticket back to the hell I was in, and that’s resorting to behaviors again.
Something in me really, really wants me to go back.
And something much more powerful never, ever wants to.
I am not recovered. I am in the process. I make mistakes and I slip up and sometimes I outright fall flat on my face.
But I’m not recovered.
And why not give it a try? To hell with it. I’ve given being sick a real, solid try. I’ve practically shaken hands with death. It sucked.
What if there’s something better out there? What if there’s happiness, and love, and life?
I believe there is. For me, for you, for everyone.
And that’s what keeps me going. That’s how I’m recovering.
Hopefully this helps you a little bit. Or maybe a lot. I also believe that one person can change the world. One person at a time.