12 weeks into treatment and this fact becomes more clear to me every day: There are 3 components involved with change- Accepting that it's necessary, being willing to make a change, and committing to do and following through on it. It's tough as hell. Acceptance:
Everyday I become more accepting of the fact that I will likely struggle with an eating disorder for the rest of my life. However, I don't have to let it rule me and can be in control of my actions. I accept that my eating disorder is an evil thing that will sneak in at any moment and attempt to sabotage my efforts at recovery. As hard as it is to admit this, it's what is going to make recovery possible for me. 5 years ago I entered treatment for the first time at the age of 20 with the belief that "I'm going to walk out of the door of this facility completely recovered and never think about me eating disorder again." Well, that certainly wasn't the case was it? It would be inaccurate for me to think this is something that will go away, however, I know that I can lead a life that will provide the tools and strength to get through this and live a life based on values, hope, and free of darkness.
I can also accept that I do deserve a life that is free of guilt, shame, and loneliness. I accept that some days it will be very hard, but I also know that some days it will be easier. We all deserve a life like that and it's in our human rights to be happy. But we don't have to be happy all the time; life includes feelings of sadness, happiness, love, and heartbreak. And we need to accept that.
Lately, the willingness piece has been more difficult. Yes, I want to get better and beat this (and I am), but often the thoughts do come in that want a return to my old, comfortable, predictable life. I've been contemplating this blog post for a few days without knowing where to start. I noticed that if anyone else asked me to do something for them, that I would do it as fast and as best that I could without thinking about it. However, when it comes time to do something for myself, it's an entire different ball game and there's a realization that I don't think I am as important. It took committing to my therapist and my peers here that I would post and update this week.
In preparing to update though, I saw pictures of my old self at swim practice and sooo terribly wanted that body back. My eating disorder told me immediately that I could do all the things I have been working on here- flexibility, social interaction, love, friendship, spontaneity- and still get that body back. My dietician helped me see, however, that, no, I couldn't. Undernourished, fatigued, and unhappy, my body would not be able to feed my mind enough to let me do those things. Hence why, as hard as I tried to beat this eating disorder by myself, I wasn't able to do.
I'll be straight up, I've reached my "maintenance weight", which is significantly more than I weighed when I entered treatment 12 weeks ago. Does this petrify me? Absolutely. Everyone I know has only known me as I used to look. No one has seen me at a normal weight then lose weight and then return from treatment back at a normal weight. I am incredibly scared of coming back and being judged for how I look--that I will no longer have an identity; no longer be "the athlete" or "the kid with the eating disorder." I am also scared of how to reintroduce exercise without being sucked back into it as I was before. I am willing to try though. And I will succeed. Breaking the connections of food and exercise is tough for me; that I have to earn and deserve food in order to be able to enjoy it. However, being here has greatly helped me with that. I am now able to lift weights a few times a week and will begin to reintroduce cardio next week. On the days I don't workout though, there's still no choice that I need to eat all my meals and snacks.
I also realize that I was giving food an immense amount of power. Literally, the only source of "happiness" on many days came from my dinner and being able to eat it. But in order to feel like I deserved it, it took sacrifice throughout the day and obsessive amounts of exercise. That's why it was so hard for me to do activities that would threaten a meal that I had earned, because if something else got in the way of it, what then would I be able to find happiness in? It also prevented me from being truly present with friends- fully engaged and I'm sure made me less fun to be around. I hadn't seen this need to avoid loneliness by restricting and exercise, as those would make me not feel "left out" because it gave me an excuse of something that I had to anyway. A necessary obligation to "train and eat right"
I am committed beating this. 100%, no doubt, absolutely. I am incredibly unhappy with my body- Coming in, I had this fear that I was just a shallow and vain person for thinking that this was all just a stifling fear of becoming fat. Just having that fear that I am shallow has shown me that there is more to this than just surface appearance. I have been digging deeper and don't have a definitive answer yet, but I know large maintaining factors are feeling accepted as an athlete and a way to not feel lonely.
Part of the committed actions I make are to view and thank my body what it can do; to view my body as instrument, not adornment. I now have the ability to build muscle and get stronger, be more present, function more healthily, and think more clearly. I can take up hockey again and enjoy or go mountain biking and have the energy to make it through a day. I also can now let myself take the adventures or go on the trips which the eating disorder prevented me from doing. I'm not just going to walk out cured, but I have the skills to make change happen.
The most anxiety still comes from seeing people I haven't seen in 3 months and returning looking completely different. Yes, it's going to be noticeable and how do I deal with that? Especially with people who never knew I had an eating disorder. I also need to draw lines between those who I'm accountable to, and those can support me. I had given too much responsibility to friends and strained relationships because of that.
Committing to be willing is the hardest part in all but it the most significant part of change. To make change you can't just go through the motions, but, as I've said before, you've got to be willing to be comfortable being uncomfortable.
Thanks for reading