At the end of this month is National Eating Awareness Week (NEDA week). This month I am going to focus my blog on eating disorder awareness, what it is like to have an eating disorder and share some bits of my own journey.
I wrote a Letter of Hope last year as I was leaving CFC. Everyone does and then shares it with the community during their goodbye ceremony. They are powerful letters that range from funny to profundly serious. These letters are written to the community in which that person is leaving. Tomorrow it will have been one year since returning home. Today it has been exactly one year since I read the community my letter the night before I walked out of the doors.
I don’t know who the letter I am writting below is for. It’s partly for me but it’s also for others. The slogan for this years NEDA Week is “everybody knows somebody”. Well, maybe this letter is for the person you know who could have an eating disorder. Or maybe this letter is also for you. Either way I hope you gain something from my words.
I have been home one year now. Tomorrow it will have been 365 days since I stepped out of The Center for Change. That means countless, hours, mintues and seconds where I had to make decisions that could positively or negativly affect my recovery. Because you see recovery is made up of those deicisons. Those little seconds where your brain suddenly goes into overdrive and you face one question. Choose recovery or don’t.
I had times where I chose recovery. Where I listened to my intuitive eating cues and followed them allowing myself to eat what I wanted. I had times where I wanted to so badly self-harm but I didn’t. I called someone or called Shona to snuggle with. I chose to go to therapy and be honest even when honesty had ramifications.
And then there were the times that I didn’t choose recovery. When I didn’t listen to a hunger pain or my ‘wise mind’ about a behavior that was self-destructive. When I deliberately weighed the consequences and chose the route that was not recovery orientated. When I could ask for help and chose to ignore the supports in my life.
But I think that both the times of choosing recovery and not choosing recovery is what recovery is all about. Recovery is a daily behavioral, cognitive and emotional choice that exists even when mistakes are made. Recovery is a choice (even if it doesn’t feel like it – I’ve learned it is) and sometimes you make mistakes and the wrong choice. But recovery isn’t perfect no matter how much anyone wants it to be. It just stays recovery until the slips and lapses become the norm and relapse has occurred.
In the last year I have realized that what I am choosing to call recovery is actually called life. Life is a series of ups and downs (or so says what I have been told) but I never allowed myself to actually experience life so how can I know what life is like? I’ve learned my data on life that I learned for the first twenty years of my life really needs to be updated. That work began in treatment at Laureate, continued at CFC and now is really beginning. I’m learning about life as I’m living it. I’m not observing it from behind the walls of a treatment center or through hazy, malnourished eyes. I’m in the word facing things as they come. And what comes is joy followed by a period of pain. Or it’s ambilivance and boredom. Dissapointment and tears. Laughter and singing.
Somedays, I don’t want to be in the field of life. I think that I much prefrered the ditches of my eating disorder where I watched my life pass by. But I’m lieing to myself. I like the new life I’ve forged. I like having my dogs around me. Eating meals at a kitchen table with family every Thursday. Driving my car listening to playlists. Calling friends and laughing or crying. And I find that I even like the responsibility that life brings.
The times were I have slipped have shown me that. In fact, for a time I was convinced that recovery (i.e. life) was not worth the pain I was feeling. But then something happened. I picked myself up. I moved on. And things were ok again. Not perfect but ok. So maybe I’ve had to adjust to the fact that life and recovery isn’t all flowers and sunshine but is much better explained as thorns, thorns and then a flower (sometimes just a dandellion) but the point is that I’ve adjusted and I’m going to continue trying to adjust.
I don’t know where you are. Maybe you’re sitting on one of those excuses for couches that they seem to put in all hospitals and treatment centers or maybe you’re at home reading this. Maybe you suffer with an eating disorder or maybe you don’t. I don’t even know if this ended up sounding like a letter of hope or maybe more like ‘this is life and it’s survivable and sometimes even wonderful” type of letter. But it’s what I have a year later. It’s what I have to offer you but more importantly offer to myself because I am the one who will need to read this in those dark days of life.
So wherever you are, whoever you are I wish you LIFE.
February 23 2012