I am pacing back and forth in my living room. My family members sit quietly before me and sadly look on as I rant. I rant on and on and get louder as each second ticks by, becoming more vitriolic and more combative each moment. “What don’t you get?” I scream to no one in particular. “Why are you doing this to me? You are all over reacting. Stop projecting your own shit on to me!” I glance, wild-eyed from from my sister, to my brother, and then to my parents, all of whom are still silent. I pause, then continue on in my nonsensical solilique. “Why are you doing this to me!? Who do you think you are anyway?! There’s no way I’m going. I’m just stressed that’s all. I’m just overworked. I’ve just been so busy ok? Just stop over reacting and I will take care of it ON MY OWN!”
They were not, of course, over reacting. (As evidenced by the fact that I was the one shrieking like a damn hyeina, whilst they all sat sadly but calmly around me repeating what the counselors had instructed them to repeat. “We love you. We are scared. We don’t want to lose you. We want you to get help.”) It was 2008, and my eating disorder had hit an all-time peak in terms of intensity. They had a right to be scared. Not only was I in terrible physical condition, but my entire personality had changed. I had lost friendships, my grades had slipped, my emotions were muted. I was a shell of their former daughter and sister. They were, as they very well should have been, terrified. All logic would suggest that I would have been terrified too right? I mean I was, in essence struggling with an illness that was literally eating me alive. I wasn’t though. I was furious. You see, my eating disorder was my very best friend at this point. It was my coping tool, it was my reassurance, and though I knew deep down that it was driving me insane, I felt much more strongly on another level that it was keeping me sane.
And herein lies the conundrum that eating disorder sufferors face. A push-pull tug of war, mental volleyball game in your own head that spans throughout each day. You know in your soul that you are sick. So sick. Something deep inside you might even be scared. But you are also more scared of letting it go. Letting go of the eating disorder, of the smooth and silent easy calm that counting calories and pouring all of your energy into the number on the scale gives you- letting go of this would mean-what? Chaos? Complete lack of control? Unstoppable weight gain? Outrageous personality changes? Nu uh. Too scary. (Scarier than death? Yes scarier than death).
So you decide (Read: I was forced) to listen to your family and friends, and get yourself some much needed help. You are submerged into therapy. Psychologists are encouraging you to kick ED out. Dieticians are telling you that food is fuel. Suddenly you begin to feel guilty when you eat and when you don’t eat! What the hell? When it was just you and the ED at least the guilt only happened when you ate! Now it feels like a lose-lose. And here, is where the giant leap of faith comes in my friends. When you are uncomfortable, sad, angry, terrified, physically in pain, guilty if you eat, guilty if you don’t, and yet you still make an active choice to continue on. A choice to listen to the professionals, and those who have recovered before you, who are telling you that this will all be worth it. A choice to keep going even though every fiber in your being says go back. A choice to believe that there is life on the other side, a choice to believe that you can make it to that life, and finally, a choice to believe that you are worth that life.
There is nothing in my life that I am more proud of than the fact that I made that choice. I wasn’t ready. I didn’t even know if I wanted recovery. But I had hit rock bottom so many times, both physically and mentally, and something clicked in me that my next rock bottom could be death. So I stopped clinging to the eating disorder, and became somewhat ambivilant. “I could try it?” I thought to myself. “I know the eating disorder is here if I don’t like it.” Turns out this shift was all that was required for this leap (well that and a hell of a lot of hard work and courage down the line). I took the ambivilance and trudged forward. I started out crawling. Then slowing I began walking. Cautiously, then all at once I found myself running, running towards freedom, running towards happiness, finally running with recovery, not from it.
So now I can finally say, I understand what the others were trying to explain when they said that recovery will be beautiful. The joy on the other side is indescribable. I know it’s hard to believe. I know you’re thinking that it can happen for others but not for you. I thought the same and I took the leap anyway. Now it’s your turn.