Yesterday, a close friend from treatment asked me the question, “How do you do it?” It being recovery, that is. In preparing to call her and respond, a myriad of questions came to mind, some self-critical, others merely contemplative. Maybe it’s because I’ve been immersed in philosophical questions lately, maybe it’s because I’m a little weird and existential, maybe it’s because I’m hormonal, but, for whatever reason, I thought to myself, “What even is it?”
In treatment, if you’re lucky, you hear about recovery all the time. The word is put out there for all to admire, question, and strive to come to know. Again, if fortunate enough, you’ll hear what recovery looks like for those who reach it. You’ll be told, “it’s not butterflies and rainbows,” but you’ll know it’s far better than any second in the depths of your disorder; that it’s kind of like life: a beautiful experience of ups and downs.
However, the action, itself, of recovering one’s self is hard to explain and just as different for everyone. So, when asked how I do it, I was struck with the difficulty of how to paint the picture of what it is composed of, first. It is eating your food and telling the truth. It is taking all the chaos you might feel, and keeping a calm throughout it all. It is learning to love and to live, and having faith before you’ve known it, first hand. Recovery is the biggest leap of faith and the most challenging stoic stance, yet, at the same time, it is the simplest surrender to nature and the largest acceptance to stop trying. It is incredibly complicated until it’s not: you just let be, and stand back, taking the driver’s seat in your willingness to sit as a passenger.
The thing is, in my experience, when addressing anything eating disorder-related, including recovery, everything is the exact opposite of what would be assumed. When you’re sick, the very thing that holds you together is actually destroying you. When you’re getting better, everything that makes you stronger, the food, the advice, the absence of behaviors, seems to be killing you. And, once you’re on the road to freedom, the most difficult endeavors, are resisting making things more challenging. I can feel recovery happening, when the fight quells.
See, how I do it, is I don’t do my eating disorder. In treatment, I often thought it had to be more complicated, and, sometimes, I still do. As a natural over-analyzer, I question my actions and my intentions daily. I wonder if certain circumstances will put me farther behind or propel me forward to a time when recovery isn’t a thing I do, but a thing I did to get to the place where it just is. However, in some ways, it’s already like that. I’m not worried anymore that I’ll use a behavior, but rather how much I’ll suffer in resisting temptations I know don’t serve me. This wasn’t always the case.
In a round-about way, I guess, how I did it was, at first, I was sensitive. Every time I felt my eating disorder holding on, I held on tighter to something else: a person, a quote, a second of bliss. After time, that became more natural, and the strength in the part of myself that saw me as a target lessened. I chose to no longer be a victim of myself. And I continue to choose that. And it’s not as difficult anymore.
When I first chose recovery, I didn’t choose it. I chose to not have my eating disorder, but I couldn’t choose something I couldn’t see. That was a very difficult realization for me. However, over time, not choosing my eating disorder gave way to memories without my eating disorder. Those were recovery moments. And then I chose those.
Today, it’s harder for me to choose my destruction over my life, because I know what I’m giving up. I’ve given myself the space to realize my potential and what it means to live life, without the actions of death. I still have the remnants of the mental illness that led me here, but fighting against that doesn’t feel like fighting anymore. For example, recently I’ve noticed my body dysmorphia begin to act up. For several months now, I’ve been pretty free of thoughts and feelings regarding dissatisfaction with my appearance. Somewhere in the transition, though, that’s begun to change. I’ve found myself ruminating more on the size of myself and the reality of that. I’ve noticed my image change throughout a day, and it’s slightly alarming and disappointing. Yet, I haven’t changed my food. In fact, I’ve used many of my experiences with food to overcome these thoughts.
Eating freshly baked popovers with my family, chocolate chip cookies with my friends, and pumpkin spice lattés after Calculus exams remind me that, even if my body is changing, it’s a change I’m choosing for the life I’m earning. I silence my mind with my actions, and they support myself. In residential, something I constantly had to ask myself was, “Who am I feeding?” My self or my disorder? My ego or my soul? Today, I don’t consciously ask myself this anymore, but instead I question my mind when it holds me back, “Why are you waiting?” What do you get from holding on? Why do you throw rocks at a window that won’t break? You’re wasting your time.
This is how I do it.