Saturday, June 28, 2014

An Open Letter to Those Struggling

To Everyone Struggling to Recover-

You have heard that this journey is not going to be smooth. You have heard that there will be bumps on the way. You have heard that you will make mistakes, and that true recovery means being able to pick yourself up again. You know all these things, and yet you may not KNOW them.

Those of you who know me see me as- or at least I hope see me as- a relatively strong person. Someone capable of making the journey out of this hell hole into life. Someone who has faced a lot of tribulations in her short lifespan, and has taken them on. But I think that sometimes I put on a brave face, a face that says, "I am so over this disorder! I'd never consider going back in a million years!" And well, that's not true. I don't know if I speak for everyone, so I'm not going to say that I do, but I know crossroads come up many, many times, and it is our decisions at those times that really make or break us.

Today I chose not to be broken.

If what I am about to say next will trigger you in any way, then don't feel obligated to read it. But it has a happy end, I promise.

The story: I thought I'd been doing well. I'd been eating, enjoying food, cooking, starting to run again, and even getting over my fear of the gym to start lifting weights and regaining strength. I was excited for college, excited for summer, excited to move on. Then I went to the doctor, and got a shock. I'd lost 3 pounds. Not an earth shattering amount, mind you, not something that I even knew had happened (I took a baseball bat to my scale. Highly recommend this). I was shocked and even a little angry.

My doctor was not pleased, to say the least. I need a medical release form to go to college in the fall, and it is due in 2 weeks. She hasn't signed it yet. She told me that if I didn't gain back the weight by my next appointment (this coming Monday) she wouldn't sign it. And I wouldn't be going to college.

I left the office with a resolve to increase my meal plan, because there was no way I was not going to college in the fall. Nothing could stop me. But as the days started to pass, I hadn't done any increasing. Something always put me off- I wasn't hungry, an extra tablespoon of this or that wouldn't even matter... And then tonight it hit me. I had 4 days to get my butt into shape. And I was terrified.

I started to just eat, in absolute terror that I wouldn't get enough. "Do it for college, do it for college," my brain was saying. Part of it was healthy motivation, but I think some of it was ED driven as well, because by the time I stopped, it had been a binge.

I was mortified. There was my slip. I thought I had lost control of recovery again. I felt guilty, sad, ashamed- and no one was home with me. The self-hatred started, as did the walk on auto pilot to the bathroom.

I crouched down, flipped up the toilet seat...and stopped. I put my hand down and just sat there, the urges screaming at me so loudly, the stress and shame and anxiety building. But I forced myself to just sit and think about it.

What was this going to accomplish? Did I want to wake up tomorrow dizzy, with a sore throat and a headache? Sure I'd tell myself that this was a "one time thing" but what would happen the next time I felt guilty? The justification would only be too easy. Yes, I felt horrible in the moment. Yes, I had binged and that wasn't healthy, but two unhealthys don't add up to a healthy. This wasn't the right way to do things.

I sat in the bathroom for ten minutes, hand wavering in the air, wanting so badly to do what I had always done.

And I walked away.

In those five steps out of the bathroom, I felt like I had just run a marathon. But I did it. And it was important. My crossroads came, and I may have started to veer left, but ultimately I righted myself again. Yes, I made a mistake, but people do that. I'm not perfect. I am guilty sometimes of pretending to be, but I'm not.

I don't know how many of you have read all the way to the end of this. In fact, I don't know how many people will even read this to begin with. But you have the capability within you at this moment to say, "No." To do what is right. No matter how fucking hard that may be- you are stronger than it.

Today I walked away from a toilet. What's your small victory?


Time for a Rant

One of the hardest and saddest things about recovery is seeing people who THINK they are in recovery/recovered...and knowing they're not (*cough cough* stupid people on Instagram). Here's my mini-rant- it's your life, do what you want. But if you're going to tag something as recovery-focused, please make sure it is. I've seen far too many things with the hashtag "recovery" or "anorexia recovery" or "edrecovery" etc etc there are SOOO not, and it bugs the hell out of me. Like, wow, thanks for posting your ABC diet plan on this page, because eating 300 calories a day is REALLY something people in recovery do. Thanks for the overly precise breakdown of EXACTLY what you're eating, because I needed to know that you only had 2 T. of greek yogurt and it made you feel like a whale...
At the risk of sounding cynical, especially since I have been there, more or less, people are far too explicit on social media, and it's sad that things supposedly geared towards recovery are becoming the exact opposite. I know, I'm probably perpetuating the problem by scrolling through my feed and making my own #recovery posts, but I think there's a difference... given that I am actually sharing recovery successes, not eating disorder things. I mean, I guess there is some room for disagreement on this point, because I can see how posting pictures of food would trigger comparisons for people, but let's be honest. I'm proud that I ate a whole pint of Ben and Jerry's, and joined in the #wholepintchallenge. That's something that has to do with freedom, with being REAL. But if you're going to join, a pint of Arctic Zero (for those who don't know, a 150-cal/pint fake ice cream) really doesn't count. Sorry, I'm not going to congratulate you on "how incredibly strong you are for pushing through!" You have only done the LEAST you could absolutely do while putting up a front of being recovery-oriented. And don't get me started on the people posting their fat free/sugar free versions of "healthy" things as recovery. NOOO. You are just developing a different eating disorder. And look at me, all "healthy not skinny" or "strong not skinny". You ate 1/2 a banana. I'm not going to congratulate you for it. Now you see why I felt at risk of being cynical. I've been there, where everything seemed like a huge obstacle, where 10 calories more WAS a big deal. And don't get me wrong, it's a step in the right direction. But it's hardly true recovery. You have to KEEP GOING. You can't just call it good there. It makes me want to punch someone in the face every time I see someone using some low-calorie, low-carb version of something and tagging it with 'recovery'. Like, "here's my new healthy muffin that I made (and it only has 60 calories!) Look how recovery focused I am!" No. You're not. Let me explain: real recovery is not giving a fuck how many calories your muffin has. Real recovery is not buying some cardboard low-calorie version of something as a substitute for the real thing. Real recovery is not measuring out your food. Real recovery is not restricting. Real recovery is not binging. Real recovery is not going out to exercise because you feel like you 'should'. Real recovery is not weighing yourself. Real recovery is throwing out the labels "good", "clean", and "healthy" (at least with respect to food). And yes, normal DOES have some wiggle room, because everyone's body IS different, but I do know for a fact that NO ONE (at least no grown person) should be eating some of the amounts that are listed, especially with the insane amounts of exercise being done.
Bottom line? Yea, I'm still going to be posting things on instagram. I'm still going to be progressing in my recovery, and I may still search some of the hashtags I mentioned. I'll almost certainly still get as furious as I am now. But I'm going to advise others: don't look to other people on social media to be your guides. They can inspire you, but they can also bring you down HARD. And I mean HARD. I mean, sometimes I feel like shit after I see all these "recovery focused" people who just go for their 10 mile runs and eat a packet of oatmeal as their entire breakfast. "Why can't I be like that?" I start thinking. "They can do it!" But I have to remind myself that they aren't really in recovery., They THINK they are, but you need to look with a discerning eye. Do what is right for you, not what is (quote unquote) right for someone else (because chances are it's WRONG for them too!)
I'm proud to say that I eat a lot, much of which I don't post on instagram. And I am no where near running a 6 minute mile, or even a 7 minute mile again. There's no way I can deadlift 100 pounds or run 5 miles. I can't. But being in recovery is a lot more important to me than that. You need to decide which is more important. One day, you may be able to have both, but that day will take some time to come. And you can't have it FIRST and recovery SECOND. I've tried that many many times, and unfortunately it doesn't work like that.
I don't even know what I was trying to accomplish with this rant. I don't. I guess, stop tagging things as what they AREN'T, stop taking the easy way out and convincing yourself that you've done what you should have, and stop idolizing those who do. Rant done.
Stay strong!