Surfacing After Silence

Life. After.

Missing the Illness, Part Two

who are you?

Who do you see when you look in the mirror?  I think this question is another of the reasons why we may find ourselves missing being sick.  Not the body image problems of looking in the mirror, but the deeper meaning of the question, “Who are you?”  Just imagine the caterpillar from Alice In Wonderland and the drawn out “Whooooooooooo”.

Seriously.  How many of us lost everything to the eating disorder, so that all that remained was the eating disorder?  So that we became our eating disorder and how we identified ourselves?  One of the things that makes that initial step into recovery so difficult and so terrifying is the fact that you are stepping into the Unknown.  You’re letting go of the eating disorder and reaching out for . . . . what?  What is going to be there to take the eating disorder’s place?   That initial step into recovery is a huge leap of faith.

I was “lucky.”  When I made the decision to recover I was in the middle of my Master’s program and “all” I had to do was throw myself into the classes and workload.  I was also lucky in that while I was there, the group of students in the program and the professors were a very tight-knit group and were extremely supportive and encouraging.

So now, when the identity of student is no longer mine, and I’m caught in between that student identity and the next phase of my life, it’s only natural that I find myself longing for a familiar identity to cling to.  I think this is something a lot of individuals face when they leave an intensive residential treatment facility. After a couple to a few months of living and breathing the illness and recovery and spending your days talking about it with other people who “get it,” you are thrown back into the real world.  The same world you inhabited before treatment except this time you’re missing the eating disorder.  And how you relate to everything and everyone has to change.  It’s terrifying and oh so easy to slip back into your old identity.  The familiar is always more comfortable than the unknown, even when you know the familiar is killing you.

With the uncertainties all around me, it’s been tempting me–my old “friend” the eating disorder.  I haven’t given in, but the thoughts are there.  And I finally understand why.  And last night, in my journal, I took these black alphabet stickers I have for scrapbooking, and wrote the word “lose” in the middle of my entry.  And then reminded myself of all I stood to lose if I relapsed.  I look around my apartment and see everything that I have gained, the life I now call my own.  It would all disappear and I would be left back at the beginning, having to start over from scratch.  Again.  I am not willing to give up all I have become, no matter how terrifying this unknown that I am facing is.

So I challenge you again–what do you stand to lose if you relapse?  And to look at it from a positive angle–What have you gained in your recovery?  And–What do you stand to gain by continuing down the path of recovery?

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May 1, 2011 Posted by | Eating Disorders, identity, recovery | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Missing the Illness, Part One

One of the topic suggestions was how to deal with missing being sick or deathly thin.  At first I didn’t think that I could write on this topic, because I had no idea what the person was talking about.  But the more I thought about it, the more I realized I did know what the person was talking about and just didn’t want to admit it.

I don’t miss being sick, and I honestly don’t miss being deathly thin.  But I do miss the results of me being sick and deathly thin.  I don’t miss the tiredness, the constant cold, the feeling like crap, the inability to attend all my classes or do all my work, and I certainly don’t miss the fact that when I was sick the papers I wrote made absolutely no sense (even though I thought they were brilliant at the time).  I like being a competent adult.

Here’s what I miss that I was ashamed to admit: I miss being sick because when I was sick, other people took care of me and checked in on me more often.  People called me to see how I was doing.  People offered their support on a regular basis.  Friends offered to eat with me or cook for me or sit with me or talk to me.  When I was in treatment, I had a whole treatment team taking care of things and I could finally let go, give up some of the control, and let someone else call the shots.  I “just” had to sit back and accept the help offered.

I was ashamed to admit this because I’m thirty-some years old and an adult and shouldn’t need other people to take care of me, right?  But life has been rather stressful lately, and I’ve found myself wanting to throw up my hands and let someone else step in and be the adult.  I don’t want this responsibility, and I find myself wanting to retreat.

But here’s the thing–There’s no magic age we reach when we stop needing other people.  No magic number when we stop needing someone else’s care.  No turning point where we’re supposed to be able to do everything on our own.  This has been an exceptionally difficult lesson for me to learn: that it is okay to need someone else.  I may not need them in the same way I did before, but you know that quote “No man is an island”?–it’s true.  I am not this self-sufficient island, capable to taking care of every small little thing, one-hundred percent of the time.  I need other people in my life.  I still need other people to call me and say, “how are you doing?”  I still need a shoulder to cry on.

There’s a significant difference between when I was deathly thin and now, however: Now, I use my voice to meet those needs rather than my body.  And that, as most of us know, can be terrifying.  A lot of us developed our eating disorders in part because we didn’t know how to use our voices.  But I do know one thing: my friends appreciate me using my voice and find me easier to relate to now than when I used my body to speak for me.  And I’ve found that they are more able to meet my needs now that I use my voice and not my body.  But yes, this way is, initially, harder and scarier.  As you keep using your voice, however, it gets easier.  It may take a long time for it to feel natural, but it will get easier.  And you will find the people around you more open and honest.  And they will be more willing and able to be close to you.

So I challenge you–if you are missing being sick, what, exactly, are you missing?  And what have you gained that you would lose if you become sick again?  Do you really miss all the physical complications of an eating disorder?  Are you willing to give up the freedom you have gained?  And once you identify what you are really missing, can you write down ways to meet those needs?

Remember that you deserve to have those needs met in healthy ways.  You do not deserve what the eating disorder does to your body and your life.

Use your voice, not your body.  Your body will thank you.

April 30, 2011 Posted by | Communication, Eating Disorders, identity, recovery, relationships | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments