Eating The Monster
Recovery was not my first choice. Not in the beginning. I didn't choose the disease either but I was going to be damned if every choice in my life was going to be determined by some outside agency. How wrong I was- but we all have a process- we all have a resistance and here was mine. I had backed myself into a corner with my decisions and I wanted to do it, the other part of me didn't want to relinquish control, addiction is powerful and make no mistake rock bottom does not guarantee a willing party.
Anorexia sucks, any addiction sucks. I was dying physically from it- my emotions were shut down let's face it they have to be if you are committing slow suicide- I was 83 pounds and sitting in a wheelchair because I didn't have the energy to walk around. It took years to deteriorate to that condition and still I was not sure I wanted to let go of the disease.
I knew I had an Eating Disorder, I told people for years. The monster took over when I was 13 years old. It started a lot earlier than that, but 13 was the first time I remember giving up to it up until then I felt like I would never escape the comments and endless criticisms about my body. I happened from the time I was six years old. Nobody told me my body was ok or would go through awkward changes, especially in middle school, I wasn't allowed to have certain clothes or even certain foods, I was compared to all the other girls around me and I always came up short, oh and I was short, that didn't make it any easier. It didn't stop at kids, teachers had contests where boys got to pick the prettiest girls in class, you wouldn't think that kind of thing might happen but it did, and it was so horrible to get dressed up and be picked as one of the last girls because I was chubby. It was just a nicer way to say fat. My grandmother used to say my sister had ballerina legs, I asked about me, there was a pregnant pause and then nothing, that said everything. They used to sing a song for my sister about being skinny, it was obviously important, and I couldn't do it. I focused on being smart and perfect because maybe it would cover up my obvious deficits. It didn't matter, kids in school would say "move you fat bitch", I hadn't said anything to them, and sometimes nobody would notice me. I wanted to disappear and when I saw pictures of myself I would color over myself with a black marker. Obviously something must be wrong if not even those closest to me could accept me, could love me. I just felt fat. I would say it Until it became a mantra it replaced feeling words- feeling overwhelmed- I felt fat, feeling fateful, I felt fat, feeling too much anxiety I felt fat. I simply felt fat. I would live with it, be teased with, taunt myself, family members would use until I would do anything to stop that feeling. So at thirteen when I got very sick with tonsillitis couldn't eat and lost fifteen pounds in two weeks something clicked- restriction worked. Restricting food and weight loss people stopped tormenting me, that lure was a little too great to simply ignore. It helped me stop being hurt so this Eating Disorder became a friend, a great friend, and it took away the pain. It replaced insults with compliments, it replaced bullying with peace, it actually worked to keep me safe. It stopped pain. That was a lie. Instead of outsiders causing me hurt I had a disease doing it 24/7, my bully now raged inside my head telling me I had to be and do this if I had any hope of being accepted and loved, it gave insidious compliments and insulted me picking at any imperfection worse than anyone else ever did because it combined all those voices and shouted in agreement with them and kept replaying every offense and hurt to make sure I felt it all and wouldn't go back. This was no friend this was the ultimate enemy. It is the way I learned to shut down my voice and it started to consume me. Where I had been stuffing feelings and calling them fat I now thought I was safe by restricting them all my feelings, and it worked for a while until like all frenemies, it stabbed me in the back. There came a point though where all I felt was bad and part of me just didn't want this anymore, I think there was always part of me that didn't want it but didn't feel safe without it.
I hoped someone would notice because I played an excellent victim, I felt trapped in my personal hell and in all fairness I was, and I was going to need something bigger than me to get me out. I wanted someone to rescue me, make my decisions and God knows I would test and push. Addictions are brutal and I will expose every secret they keep because they prey on darkness and secrecy. Feeding the false belief that if anyone really knows than the shame will destroy you. I went years wanting people to notice my pain reaching out then shying away but I wouldn't want to deal with it because what was I going to replace it with? What was going to make everything ok when the life I built around me was clearly the last place I wanted to live? If it was I wouldn't be trying to escape it all the time.
Recovery. This is where that messy process entered my life, and I went in with a good deal of stubbornness but it was my son that tipped the scales, pardon the pun. I was so far in the disease I could care less if I lived or died. However, I did have a three-year old and I cared about him. There was still a connection. So I showed up to a session with a specialist in Eating Disorders. The last place the disease wanted me I made the ridiculous excuse that I didn't like her voice so I was sure it wouldn't work. Yes, the disease will do and say anything when it senses a threat. But I showed up. As I went over my history in a session with what I thought was just another therapist she stopped taking notes and looked up at me and said "you have been to a lot of therapists and through a lot of treatments, so I have a question: when the going gets tough do you want to show your son it is ok to kill yourself?" I had no words and for the first time neither did the disease. Up until that moment I thought I was choosing Anorexia, I was not , it was eating me alive, it was in that moment I chose Recovery. I wouldn't know it until much later.
I took it a day at a time. I kept coming back, I showed up and I cried. I went to the nutritionist and the doctor. I felt my feelings- all of them- and I relapsed- a couple times but my life started to get better, truly better. I didn't say ideal, I said better. I stopped feeing like I lived in hell. Life had always felt like something I had to dread and endure, I would have to guard against the next blow. Recovery meant okay I start feeling and dealing with things again and it isn't the end of the world. Yes, I didn't like how my life looked in the beginning because the disease shaped it and now I had the choice to rewrite it. I had to face the fact that my marriage was not healthy and I needed to be a present parent, I had not been present as a sister or as a friend. Even in work situations. I had a lot of amends to make including to myself. I remember the day I felt joy and love for the first time- it was about nine months into the journey and knowing I could really love was amazing. I will never forget that day it was the first day I knew it was going to be worth it. It kept me going. Restriction meant all feelings were blocked and limited. And this behavior is common to all addictions- it's called numbing out. Recovery brings them back because living life on life's terms means feeling all of it and knowing it is part of the experience.
Everyday, I have a choice, a very conscious choice where do I want to live? Do I want to live in a place of suffering and pain? Or do I want to live in a place where I can have joy as well as pain, where I can feel love, and I do not have to hurt all the time, a place where I can fully be me and trust that no matter what happens I am ok and will continue to be ok because I don't have to be in charge of everything. I found connection. Recovery brought me meaningful connection to myself, to my personal spirituality, to other people, to my body, to a purposeful career and I can take responsibility and accountability for me and forgive myself because perfection isn't a prerequisite for being loved or for living life. I can stand in a place where I don't have to accept abuse or allow others to hurt me in their pain. I can make the choice to be in a place that allows me to feel good.
Recovery means I am presented with the choice the disease never gave me love fully and grow, life is full and you are good enough because you exist, so now it is my first choice even when it seems the most difficult.