I was loading the pictures from my phone onto my computer the other day and came across a few from Denver. One morning while I was on pass at ERC, a few friends and I got up extra early to see the sunrise at Red Rock. It was absolutely gorgeous! (And freezing!!) When I got to this picture (the one at the top of the page) I got to thinking. On our way to see it, it was so dark we couldn’t see anything. We actually missed the turn because it was so hard to see. Then the darkness starts to go away as the sun begins to come up. Slowly but surely we were able to see glimpses of the beauty around you – the trees, the mountains, the clouds, the people around us. With time the sun is shining so brightly, and the day has begun.
The same thing could be said about recovery. Before I started recovering I was in a very dark place. When I got to ERC the sun was able to slowly begin to come up. As I was challenging myself with fear foods, pushing myself to open up about things, and allowing myself to feel, I grew stronger and brighter as a person. I could see glimpses of what recovery felt like and what it felt like to be really, truly happy – the kind of happiness you don’t have to fake. I would have moments where I felt comfortable in my skin and time where I was so excited about what was coming in my life I couldn’t wait to get out! At the same time I’d have moments where I questioned what I was doing. Did I want recovery? Was it worth it? With time the positive, happy moments happened more and more and the questions and doubts happened less and less. The sun was shining brighter.
That makes it sound like recovery is a perfect journey. You wake up one day, decide you want to get better, and never look back. That’s not reality. Recovery is messy. Sometimes you’re walking along and maybe on a good day running along. Then out of nowhere you’ll trip, stumble or fall flat on your face. Sometimes it’s all you can do to crawl forward. But regardless, you keep moving. I thought I was going to be the special case. I did really well while I was at ERC. I didn’t use any behaviors and didn’t have to Boost the whole time I was there and progressed really quickly. I was so done with Ed (the name we give to our eating disorder to separate it from us). There was no way I would ever relapse or even slip up. I was going to have a perfect recovery. Oh the irony that I still can’t give up that perfectionism. I found out that I’m no different from anyone else. Shock of all shocks – I’m not perfect. Recovery is messy and sometimes downright ugly. A few weeks after I got back I had a huge slip up – close to on the verge of a full relapse. However, looking back, I’m so glad it happened. I began questioning again if I wanted to recovery. “I wasn’t that bad off, was I?” I was surprised how quickly you can become consumed with the thoughts and behavior when you’re off your game. Within a couple of days all I could think about was my next meal and how I could avoid it and how many calories I was eating. I had worked for weeks to get past that, but there I was again. Once I was able to pull myself out of it I realized how much better off I am without those worries. Obsessing about what size I wear isn’t going to get me that A in chemistry. Freaking out about how many calories are in my lunch isn’t going to help me get to K-State again next year. Worrying about how many calories I’m burning isn’t going to help me become a successful wedding planner.
While I was in Denver I started making an “I’ll know I’m recovered when….” list.
I’ll know I’m recovered when….
– I eat meat without hesitation.
– I go shopping and don’t stress about what size pants I’m buying.
– I can love myself – flaws and all.
– I eat steak!
– I’m able to separate food and body image.
– My body and mind are no longer separate things.
– I don’t think about food or my body all the time.
– I eat anything without a second thought.
– I exercise because I like to – not to burn calories.
– I’m able to look in the mirror and say I like and am proud of what I see.
– I can talk about my feelings instead of keeping them bottled up.
– I take control of my life and my actions.
– I am able to do what I want to do and not what I think other people want me to do.
Looking at that list of things I’d say I’m well on my way. I’m not saying my sun is shining as brightly as it will, but it’s definitely not dark anymore. I’ve reached the point that food doesn’t scare me. I’m able to pretty much eat whatever I want when I want it without freaking out. I’m so much better at talking about things. I’m able to talk through something if it bothers me, and while confrontation still scares me, I can do it less painfully. Body image is a work in progress. I don’t hate my body anymore. It does great things for me. Because of it I’m able to feel the sun on my face, hang out with friends, walk my dog and feel snow in my hands. I’ve accepted my body. I don’t love it yet, but I know it is what it is, and I’m grateful for it. As the worries become smaller, I get stronger. And slowly my sun is getting brighter.