By: Vanessa Poulson
Let me start by saying, I don’t like being caught in between things.
I see the world as a very black and white place, and I think that’s one of the various things that have gotten me in trouble over the past few years of my life. To me, it’s in the idea that there is “grey space” in between the two sides of the spectrum that has caused so much conflict and nuance in the world, so I’ve tried to avoid it as much as possible.
Clear cut things make more sense to me, but things aren’t always going to work out that way. At least, not for me. Not when there’s an eating disorder involved.
I’ll spare you the story of my diagnosis and treatment, the time I spent in therapy, and the ups and downs of the original recovery process, because that’s not what this piece is about.
This piece is about the idea of being recovered… But also, not being recovered. Being stuck in between being completely yourself again, but still having those moments and slipups where you feel like you’ve fallen back into old bad behaviors and feelings of self-loathing, but knowing you’re not as bad off as you once were.
That annoying grey space.
It’s a hard place to be caught up in, not only because you don’t have a definite label for yourself, but also because it puts you at a place where you’ve become comfortable again, but not fully so. You feel like you could stand on your own, but you also feel as if you could stumble over something small, and that’s a scary place to be and a scary feeling to have.
When people in the eating disorder and mental illness industry ask me, “are you recovered?” it’s easy to stumble on my words, forget what I mean and how far I’ve come, just because I’m stuck on the idea that because I’m not 100% better, I’m not really better at all.
I have days where I wake up and absolutely hate myself. Everything I see in the mirror is a sign of my own defeat, and even if I’ve accomplished something successful during the day, all of it gets defeated if I feel the slightest bit crummy about my appearance.
But, at the same time, I have days where I wake up and feel like I could take on the world. The days I allow myself to relax if I’m tired instead of forcing myself to go out and work out or get work down feel like the biggest victories, as they are part of a world that I never thought I’d be able to handle or access again.
In all of this, I still try my best every day to get on the ProjectHEAL Snapchat and bring a positive message to everyone, not only because I know that there are people who are in a worse place, but also because doing something that makes you happy and letting that kind of positivity radiate out of you will only help to make you truly happy yourself.
Yet, it’s hard to always be preaching recovery when you don’t feel like you’re fully recovered. Even if you know you’re doing better, helping those who are working just as hard as you are to feel good about themselves while not knowing if you yourself are as stable as you’d like to be, can make you feel like you’re fighting an uphill battle.
But I think, instead of looking at all the grey space you have left, we have to start thinking about how far we’ve come from your starting point to begin with.
Recovery is a process. Your behaviors change over time. The way that you act and behave in one moment is nothing like what you may be feeling in the next one. Your emotions, just like your feelings about recovery, are fluid and always moving in different directions. Just like you, as a human being, are also always changing. Recovery is not linear, and just because it doesn’t always make sense doesn’t mean that you aren’t healing.
Learning to love yourself and taking steps towards a successful path of self-love, acceptance, and happiness is what it means to be recoverING. I soon realized that it’s not always the destination that’s important, but the journey itself. We don’t learn nearly all the things that we should from the recovery process if the sole destination of being “okay” again is the only point we allow our minds to ponder while we’re getting there.
Seeing things from both sides of the spectrum is important, but grey space, fluidity, the little victories that grow into bigger and bigger success stories, that’s what being recovered from an eating disorder is all about, no matter how many steps it takes you to get there.
About The Author: Vanessa Frances Poulson has been the manager for the PHEAL National Instagram since she was fifteen years old and is now in charge of the National Snapchat (@projectheal). She is a published author, brand ambassador, environmental activist, and an active writer for various online publications, independent plays, and news organizations. Vanessa is a warrior for positivity and social connection, believing that a optimistic and kind online community is key in fostering a true recovery. You can connect with her on Instagram, Facebook, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.