It’s been quite a trial attempting to navigate through life, recovery, and christianity. I throw in christianity, because that is a huge part of my sobriety, and life. Without my faith, I’m nothing. Being sober is a gift, but it does not mean that there are not situations I’m forced to deal with staying sober.
Trauma is one of the most difficult things to mentally grasp. It’s like this shadow that hides and pounces when you least expect it. As a journalist, I’ve been in many different intense situations, sometimes scary, other times boring. But last week, I endured probably the most ground-shaking experience to date. I was covering a town meeting — typical night, introduction of the budget, swearing in of a new chief — when suddenly, I am being evacuated into a safe hall due to a “gun situation.” First I am shaking, then I’m hyperventilating. Before I know it, I pass out and I’m taken to the emergency room. While I don’t remember feeling anything; not even fear, my life has been shaken and I’m completely scared all the time.
People have stepped up to support me, and that’s wonderful. But I’m not myself. I don’t understand how, but it’s brought out all these feelings I already try to manage on a daily basis about my sexual assault. Regardless, I’m preparing for Take Back the Night, Stand-Speak-Empower in two weeks. I’ll be speaking about consent and taking back your body.
I’m falling behind in classes, constantly late; still managing to get my assignments in and doing well on my exams, but I’m barely hanging on. I keep trying to cling to what I know about God, and that the answer is there. All I have to do is bow my head, pray, open my Bible, read. But I just don’t do it. I know I’m so much stronger when I feel like a warrior, taking on the world with Jesus by my side, but something is getting in the way. Maybe it is exhaustion. I don’t know, honestly.
And my eyes are constantly turned to God because He is the only person who makes no mistakes, no disappointments. People who are near and dear to my heart, who I have continuously back up, loved unconditionally, are slapping me in the face. That’s painful, to only feel needed when someone else is in a crisis or dealing with their own shit. But what about me? Who is going to be there for me, to help me cry through pain, and to deal with all the trauma in my life? I know God is there, but where are all my people? I’m trying not to feel disposable and used, but if I’m 100 percent honest, that’s how my heart feels.
“One of the biggest problems about recovery is the inconsistency of it. Some days, you are a superhero. You eat all of your meals, and still find beauty in the fullness of your stomach. However, the not-so-wonderful days are the deterrent. You wake up, and cannot find a thing appealing about yourself. When beauty is no longer the goal—you just want to not hate yourself.
Then, you find yourself wishing you knew you were skinny when you were skinny. You hate that wish. It is the creepy uncle that no one likes who sits in the corner and stares at everyone at Thanksgiving. But you cannot help but think it. You were not skinny, you were dying. You were trying to be invisible; you were trying to shrink away from life. It got so severe that you just stopped functioning, didn’t you?
You may not have known you were skinny, but you knew you were dying.”
– Michelle K., Bad Days in Recovery
While browsing the internet, I came across this quote, or section from a writing: Bad Days in recovery. I never heard of this piece before, and I am very keen on books and articles regarding eating disorders. From self-help to fiction to biographies. This is an interesting though, and poignant because it’s so, so accurate. Michelle describes a piece of any eating disorder so profoundly and accurate, that for me, especially, I forget that piece to recovery.
Lately, I find myself at a new point of recovery. Technically, I’m not in recovery yet, but I am working IN recovery. Five years ago, my life spiraled out of control and I found myself praying to a God I didn’t want anything to do with to simply “don’t let me die.” Other times, I found myself checking my pulse, only to reassure myself that my heart was still beating and my night-long purging and starving did not kill me without my permission.
But in a sense; that’s what we do. Our eating disorders, all very different, say, like a fingerprint, take on an identity and drive of their own. I mean, on the surface, isn’t that what we are so obsessed with in the midst of our behavior? Getting thin or skinny? Obviously, all of us anorexics, bulimics, binge-eaters, or combination of all three, know that while we are primarily focused on being “fat” or fearful of getting “fat” that we merely do what we do because we are not ourselves. We do what we do because we are sick. We do what we do because we cannot cope with emotions, past traumas, current issues, adulthood, relationships — and the list goes on and on.
Many of you can relate with me, when it comes to being in different points of recovery. Whether you’re newly diagnosed, or in treatment, out of treatment, or in sobriety from your eating disorder behavior, one of the hardest things; if not the hardest, is the acceptance of allowing our bodies to physically heal. We have to let our body’s restore to the shape and size God created, instead of doing everything in our power to shrink it, get rid of it, or change it. I have been struggling with this more that I think I ever have.
Two years ago, I thought the hardest part was stopping my purging, eating more than once a day, while accepting that I had to put on more than 10 pounds, at the very least, to even be considered stable. What I’ve found is that ever since being discharged and rebuilding my life, I still struggle with my anorexia. More so than restricting, I really find it discouraging when I know my body still isn’t at it’s set point. It pisses me off that I cry over the “bulges” and “fat” I can see and grab. And when I’m told, “you still have an eating disorder” I cling to the fact that, well, no, it’s not that bad because I am not as small as I was when I was dying.
Truth. Sometimes I find that I get more upset and depressed over the fact that I feel so much worse lately in a body that is 25 percent more than it was a year ago. I fight myself to keep it at that weight, to not go over, but to not drop too low. And I find myself thinking, “well, I wish I had the body I had before if I am this miserable” or “how the hell can I have an eating disorder if I weigh more than I did before?” It’s as if I find myself feeling like a failure in recovery, but also as an anorexic. It’s sick and twisted. How can I come to terms with my body now, let alone another 25 percent more? How? I haven’t been inside that body for five years. In fact, I’ve never been an adult in my adult body.
Even if I can’t accept it right now — maybe I need to accept this: I don’t know that I am skinny, or thin, small, or not where I need to be, but I know I’m dying when I purge like I have the past several days because I cannot tolerate my body. I am terrified of what it will and is becoming. On those bad, bad, bad days, like Michelle says, it’s turmoil. Trapped in this limbo of a purgatory. Between fully restored, only halfway there, halfway sick, halfway recovered. Let’s start with a simple step of accepting that when we are not living, when we are not eating, when we purge, even if it’s just once every once in a while, or if it’s in a minor relapse that needs to get under control. I know logically, that I’m dying when I do that. And that is an eating disorder.
Let’s try to accept this thought — by not purging, we aren’t dying. I may not accept that my body is bigger than it is (even if it’s a minimal change because of where I am at), or that I’m not as thin as I was; isn’t it time to try and radically accept that? I’m not as small as I was, but I’m also more alive than I was. I may not like or accept my body now; but I can say that I accept that I need to learn to accept this, before I can let my body 100 percent back to where I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 134:19).