Being sick let’s you check out of life. Getting well means you have to check back in.” – Portia De Rossi
The quote I have written above is from Unbearable Lightness, a memoir, by Portia De Rossi and her struggle with Anorexia. I don’t normally read autobiographical accounts of eating disorder suffers but I had heard good enough reviews about the book that I was willing to read it. Thankful it was not another Wasted, which is known as the relapse book of the eating disorder world. Portia had surprisingly deep insights into her illness and the way it affects all of it’s suffers. For me I was primarily hit by the quote above.
When I got sick life stopped. It moved on for everyone else but I stood in a time warp where all I did was starve, exercise, count calories repeat. It’s strange but when I tell someone I am twenty-two, almost twenty-three, it feels very wrong. I spent two years very ill and in treatment and to me it still sometimes seems like I should be nineteen. I was checked out of life during those two years. In many ways time did stop for me.
Now as I am home again and filling my life with meaningful activities (not disordered ones) life has come back. I have “checked back in”. I have talked a lot about how exciting this is, how it means I’m growing up and moving forward and how it is a symbol of the recovery I have worked towards but I have left out how hard this has been.
I have been so used to not being fully present in life with a brain numbed by anxiety, depression or starvation that at times being checked into life seems so painful that I wander if it’s worth it. I always answer yes but I struggle with this question a lot. I love my new job. I love the fact I will have an apartment soon. I love that my life is changing. However, I’m still getting used to the other parts of being checked back into life. The parts that aren’t so fun such as emotions.
Being checked into life means I have to feel. I have to feel pain again. I have to feel worry again. Anger. Sadness. Irriation. Insecurity. Doubt and the list goes on. These feelings were by and large gone when I was sick and by living I have to confront them again. I know I get to experience happiness. Joy. Peace. Hope. Love etc. but I also have to feel the hard feelings again. No longer can I just “check out” from them. And that is very new and a very foreign feeling to me. I know it’s right. I know it is huge progress but I cannot deny the struggle I have on a day to day basis to remember that this life is so much better than my old “checked out” one. But I do remind myself and I do go on.
And so, life goes forward. I go forward. I get to have a real birthday. And I’ll be happy as I blow out the candles. But I’ll also feel some sadness as I remember previous birthdays in which I felt nothing at all. The point is is that I’ll be feeling. And that signifies that I’m living. I’m checked in again.