By Mary Fressel
“Life is unpredictable, it changes with the seasons. Even your coldest winter happens for the best of reasons. And though it feels eternal, like all you’ll ever do is freeze, I promise spring is coming. And with it, brand new leaves.” –E.H
You can remember when you loved yourself – though it’s hard to tell whether or not that’s a projection. Your heart, whether through delusion or real memory, can recall what it was to understand self-love. If you can remember coming from it, or project coming to it, you are capable of it.
There was a turning point, you realize. A point at which you began to slip. You fed your disorders strength and control and dominance, while not feeding yourself much of anything at all.
What is supposed to keep you alive is slowly killing you.
The empty pit deep in your body is endless and vacant, and you don’t know how to fill it. The only thing that ever makes you feel something is eating. It’s a deadly cycle, the way in which food terrorizes you, then quickly comes back to mask its sins. The food feeds itself. Over and over again.
You feel empty in a way that’s elusive in understanding even to you, and you can only think to make metaphors. You’re the construction site that’s been demolished and half-rebuilt one too many times, the ashes and debris and bits standing in the way of something new. You’re a wilting flower in an inevitable winter, you’re masked by the drug of “self-control,” and at the same time, you are a slave to it.
Sometimes you reach for recovery. You grasp onto a little piece of your old self – something that once made you feel joyful or free. You try to scoop up any little ounce of compassion, sympathy, or hope. You even crave sadness, just so you can feel something for once. When was the last time you felt a genuine, heartfelt emotion? You crave emotions deep down to your heart, deep down to your core. But the illness is so powerful, and you are so weak. You don’t know how to feel anymore. And now you are left tired, beaten, and stranded.
The number on the scale drops lower and lower, and you realize that the goal you once thought would make you okay… doesn’t feel like much of anything at all. Lower, you think. I don’t feel better because it’s not good enough yet, you assume. You keep going.
The next day you run an extra mile..or maybe two..or three. You crave perfection. But you aren’t strong enough to run much further. Your body is starved. You wake up feeling disgusting. Revolting. And fatigued. This pattern is getting to be more than you can take.
You don’t really want to be alive anymore. Life is becoming meaningless and sad as the cycle continues. But this is why you must fight. You must fight with everything you have. Because the truth is, you CAN get better, and you will get better. But first you must want to get better. You must choose recovery. And you must choose it with every bit of strength you can muster up. Your eating disorder has been such a comfort to you… it is familiar. It is your best friend, it is your family. And that’s what makes even wanting to recover so daunting. Leaving the familiar and choosing the unknown and the uncomfortable is terrifying. But it is worth it. You are worth recovery.
Because even feeling terrified means you’re finally facing what’s been haunting you. And even if you relapse, you’re farther than you’ve ever been before. With every moment that seems impossible to get through, you learn a new way to re-direct your thoughts and recenter yourself.
It is not easy, and you may underestimate just how “not easy” it will be. But you have not reverted back, even in the pits of your worst relapse. You are still farther along than you’ve ever been, and you must keep choosing.
You are saying goodbye to your worst enemy, but you are also saying goodbye to your best friend. You are trying to fight to get rid of the thing you perceive to give you happiness and beauty and love and acceptance. It’s learning that no matter how much you believe something is good for you, it can still be killing you from the inside out.
So be gentle on yourself.
Meet yourself where you are. But as you say goodbye to this old life, say hello to a new life… a better life… a life worth living. A life you deserve. And remember: you deserve sunsets and friendships. You deserve miracles. You deserve a toasty fireplace on a cold winters day.
Choose recovery. Choose recovery every time. For once you are in recovery, you will see all the beauty around you that you missed when you were preoccupied with food… when food was your life. You will have space in your mind for new and better things – you will hold a new love for the world, and you will have more love to share with others. You can cultivate new friendships and relationships. You can love your family and love yourself. You will find peace and clarity in this new life.
Nobody is going to choose recovery for you, they can only help you once you’ve chosen it yourself. If nothing else, commit to that the way you’ve committed to the pain and beauty of your disorder. This next step may be equal parts wonderful and terrifying – but at least you know it leads to something better.