anorexia nervosaGoing through recovery was and is the most difficult thing I have ever had to do in my life. The amount of physical and mental changes I was about to overcome and face I could never have properly been prepared for. However, while it is the hardest thing I have had to overcome it is the most rewarding thing I have ever done. Here I am a year later, living a life I never thought could be possible, and I know that there is still more room for growth and transformation.
Before I entered into treatment, the only thing I thought I needed to “fix” was my bulima. I didn’t realize I was going to have to eat let alone acknowledge what lead to my eating disorder in the first place. I had no idea my body would start to do these weird things I had always believed I was immune to like sweat. I was going to have to feel my emotions, no more masking them, or trying to “throw them away” as I always felt like that was what I was doing when I threw up. The world around me was going to start to have color, smells and feelings. To be completely honest, sometimes the bright, beautiful world would scare the shit out of me. I had felt so dead and numb inside for so long, I didn’t really believe a life like this was plausible. I wanted it, I wanted to truly be happy but I also didn’t want something good to then be ripped away from me.
I had met someone and they saw me. The real me. I knew I couldn’t hide my insecurities and they saw right through my masks. There was something about her I was so drawn to her. When we would touch or hug I would feel a soaring feel of warmth move up and down my body. She made me want to feel alive, to finally chose love over my eating disorder. With her, I knew I finally needed to get help if I really wanted to be in love and chose someone over my eating disorder. At first this scared the shit out of me. I NEVER chose anyone over my eating disorder, I would just find more ways to hide it and keep it a secret or act like it was a thing of the past. I did believe my only problem was with throwing up. If I restricted or never ate I didn’t have an eating disorder I had self-control over my food and therefore since I had eaten for so long I was less likely to throw-up. I really believed If I wasn’t throwing up I didn’t have an eating disorder.
Deciding I was going to give this all I got, the week before I went into treatment, like an addict about to give up their drug, I would find myself in the bathroom more often than not. With my head in the toilet like this is going to be the last time I ever do this. Just this one last time, I swear, I promised to myself, and then I couldn’t stop it. I wasn’t sure if I could let this go. I know once I went into treatment I was saying goodbye to this, my rituals of the shower running down my back as I try to get rid of everything in my body. To feel cleansed and rid of all the fat and negative unwanted feelings. Crying, I knew I want to get rid of this, that I wasn’t really living, yet I had done it for so long, it was my reality. I rode my bike to the first day of treatment, riding my bike is the one thing that calms my anxiety, clears my head, helps me process through emotions. Anticipating that today might be a little difficult I rode my bike.
I walked through the doors of Renfrew for my orientation, signing my life away as I agreed to listen and be compliant with what they asked of me. Knowing that they were the professionals. Scared out of mind, because not only of the unknown but what if I am too far gone and fucked to ever come back and be recovered. What if a happy, healthy, normal life isn’t something I’m meant to have. Trying so hard not to shake. To keep it together, prove that I really don’t need to be there. Or I’ll be such a good “student” I’ll be out of there in 30 days. My girlfriend at the time would say to me “Just run to first base.” There I was up to bat and I hoped the ball would just hit me in the face and I could just go unconscious and not have to deal with this.
The biggest thing that I realized throughout this year was the only way I could have been successful and as successful as I have been is because I was willing to let go of my eating disorder. Throughout this year there were definitely moments where I ran back into its arms and decided I wanted the comfort of the familiarity more than I could handle this unknown. This year was a rollercoaster of many ups and downs, left turns, no lights at the end of the tunnel, heartbreak, feeling completely lost and alone, and actually having moments where I was the only one who could pick myself up and keep going.
The road to recovery is a very different path for everyone. My recovery journey included many moments where I felt like I was on eggshells constantly. There was nothing anyone could say that wouldn’t trigger me. There was times, I was so infatuated with my eating disorder, no one could talk to me. I had moments where I was so far lost that recovery didn’t even seem possible at moments, I was tip toeing back to full relapsing. One of my biggest struggles, is once I felt like I made up my mind that I was finally going to tackle my eating disorder there was no room for relapse or slipping up. So if I started struggling with my eating disorder I couldn’t admit it to anyone, asking for help was and is always the hardest thing for me.
I had struggled with bulimia for 12 years and could relatively admit that however, I wasn’t ready to admit that restricting was a problem for me. What do you mean I can’t eat just a bar for all my meals that day? I would try and tell some people that I didn’t get food. I didn’t understand how to eat, and what that meant. Due to how bad my eating disorder was, I saw eating as being weak and a failure. Being hungry was wrong and being full meant I overdid it and was a failure. I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that your body needed it. Now, I can tell if I miss a meal and restrict my anxiety skyrockets, my concentration starts lacking, my sleep is affected. My overall well being is affected. Whereas before I was willing to really address my eating disorder did I acknowledge my energy and mood could be affected by an eating disorder.
Through recovery I felt like an onion. It was as if, I would tackle one issue to realize something else I was using as a maladaptive coping skill. At times, I had come so far and changed my believe so much that I would really feel as if I was “100%” recovered. Or was that much further away from my eating disorder. However, as each layer came off, I felt more vulnerable to other things or emotions I hadn’t yet mastered how to deal with. It would typically feel like there was a dark shadow a kind of “bully” larky over my shoulder as with each layer or step further it would laugh at me and say “Oh really? You thought you could get away from me that easy.” The glimpses into a life I was moving towards would be ripped away from me again and I gotten fathom why it kept getting harder and harder the more we got to the core of the onion. On the flip side though, with each layer that was removed the chains of the dark shadow loosed up, the sunlight became brighter, those moments were the ones to hold on to. Those were the moments when I realized a life free from me eating disorder is possible and these are the moments worth fighting for – to keep striving, growing and living.
Through this year through my recovery, I walked away from a life I thought I wanted to live. I decided to look what I feared most right in the eye and tell it- “I don’t need you. and you don’t scare me anymore.” I had to be stripped off all my beliefs and challenge what I considered the absolute truth, about food, how to eat and who I was.
I learned throughout my time in treatment and then in the first few months of being out, the only way to fully recover and live a life I wanted to live. I had to let go of my eating disorder 100% all of the way. I had to spend every day challenging thoughts that came into my head about body image issues, food related things, the need to over exercise, under eat, stare in the mirror, engage in triggering conversations all for the sake of being “normal.” Because for me, if I allowed my eating disorder in, even if just a glimpse, one little thought, or behavior the next thing I knew I was more wrapped in its tight grip over my life.
There was one time I was out to eat with my girlfriend at that time and there we were. I had to run to the bathroom so she ordered the quesadilla for me. When it came out, she had ordered it wrong and put vegetables in it. There it was filled with grease and oil starring at me, what actually felt like it was yelling it at me, telling me my life was never going to be normal and I should just die right now. I froze, the thoughts came flooding to my mind. “How could she have ordered it wrong?” “Does she not even know me?” “Fuck, well what do I do?” If I eat it, that’s like saying ‘Fuck You’ to my eating disorder, but look at all that grease and extra crap on it.” I wanted to burst into tears and run. This moment right here felt like death. Why have I worked so hard on recovery, yet a quesadilla still makes me want to cry. It’s the root of all that is wrong with my life right now. The oil and grease starring up at me. Telling me I have become the biggest failure on this planet. I will never get better, be normal, be able to enjoy food, be able to just go out to eat with someone I love without it feeling like the end of the fucking world. “Someone just shoot me now.” Finally deciding I have to eat it. That is only the right thing to do. It’s not her fault I have a horrible eating disorder. She was trying to order me something and I did ask for the quesadilla but not with all the vegetables. “Maybe I can just get some of this grease off?” “Maybe I can just peel away some of all this evil threatening my life.” She speaks, “What are you doing? Don’t hold your quesadilla up like that!” “Oh no, she caught me. How did I let this happen? Here I am actively engaging in my eating disorder!” “God, when will this shit stop?” “How long was I acting like this?” “Where am I?” I want to cry, I want to get up and run into the lake and hope to god, it’s either too cold, or too deep and I can just die. Here I am, sitting at a restaurant by the lake, it is a gorgeous view, sitting across from someone I love. Two beautiful things right in front of me, and I want to die because of an “overly” greasy quesadilla.
This was a distinct moment through my recovery, because it made me realize I was never as far away from eating disorder as I had hoped I was. That it was and is, an everyday challenge to make sure I do not engage in maladaptive thoughts. That it is so easy for me to slip into a world where I am stuck in a debate with the jury in my head. There are days when it is easier than others. Sometimes, it feel like a beautiful stroll through a fall day in Central Park and others feel like World War ED and the battle front is so loud I can’t see or hear the voice of reason. Giving up feels like the only option. Some days, I will have a glimpse of a life I’ve worked so hard to have, I’m filled with a hopeful bliss that makes me see how beautiful life really can be, and other days I just want to close my eyes and let the dark cloud consume me. I can’t even be bothered to fight for the light.
Recovery is hell. It really is an everyday battle. In this year, I ended my longest, most reliable yet soul-sucking relationship and ended up in a relationship with myself. A relationship filled with Love, compassion, forgiveness and understanding. Even though my eating disorder comes back and there are the struggles everyday to resist it, to not allow it back into my life. There are days though, where I can smell the things around me, see the light and how beautiful of a day it is in Southern California and those moments I try to capture in my memory as a reminder with every new challenge that arises that life is really beautiful and it is all about perspective. Every day I try and remind myself of where I’m going and what kind of life I want to life. The person I want to be. One time when I was really struggling with my eating disorder through college, my best friend and I were talking about it, and she said something that stroke me. “You don’t want to be remembered for this. You don’t want this to be your legacy.” Now, here I am years after that comment, and she’s right, within my legacy I want to be known for winning this battle against my eating disorder, striving every day to be the best version of me possible.