This week I saw dietician number seven in my 16 month journey of recovery from my eating disorder. Not because I’ve been “kicked out” or “dropped” by others (although I’m willing to bet that’s been considered at moments!), but because of moving, leaves of absence, and the different levels of care I’ve been through. I honestly think dieticians are some of the smartest people in the entire world. They are freaking food therapists. So…why wouldn’t I listen to their recommendations? If I were a patient in the healthcare world, instead of the poorly misunderstood mental illness field, I would likely be labeled as “non-compliant”. My meal plan is my medicine, and I don’t follow it. Sometimes I come close, but more times than not I am far off, having been caught in the vicious cycle of restriction and the consequences that go along with it. I have been balancing on the edge of the cliff that is anorexia with hardly a second thought. I wish it were as simple as “just eat” but unfortunately this illness is not solely about the food.
“I’m not going to tell you anything you haven’t already heard before,” This new woman told me (Truth. See the opening statement). “But I am going to tell you that you don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of recovering if you don’t eat.”
Snowballs in hell. Think about it. Yeah.
I almost got mad. Almost. This lady doesn’t know me! She doesn’t know anything about me except for what’s on the paperwork I just handed her! Seriously.
But something in me bigger than my eating disorder heard her. For some reason, maybe an act of God, who is at this point likely banging His head against the wall as I continue to do things “my way”, I HEARD her. This woman indeed, does not know me. She knows virtually nothing about me, and just met me 25 minutes ago. But this dietician knows eating disorders. She knows they are illnesses with devastating effects. She has worked with young women claimed by this illness. She knows recovery, both personally and from her clients.
Hearing the truth and seeing what this woman told me has helped me begin to see the truth as well. Yes, I am still in denial. Yes, I should be taking far better care of myself. Yes, I am afraid; BUT I am hoping that these truths are going to help move me along and renew my spirit to fight. I am tired. But after this week, I am not hopeless.
I need to eat. I know this from the very bottom of my heart. I must eat. I cannot do the work I need to in therapy if I don’t fuel my brain and my body. I have to eat.
Recovery is not a series of check boxes. It is a process that often takes years and years.
If I don’t eat, yes, my body may be a little smaller, and I may even be a little happier- but there are trade- offs. I will not be able to eat. I will never be thin enough no matter how much I starve myself and no matter how much I exercise. I will be sick. I will be thin, but I will walk through life as an empty soul and an empty shell.
I will be that judgmental person that I can’t stand. I will never stop comparing myself to every woman I see. I will look and compare body types and avoid mirrors and pictures and my life will be a selfish living hell. I will live in a prison of striving for artificial thinness until there is nothing left.
I will lose everything if I am swallowed up in this way of life. It can happen to me. No matter my stubbornness and strong sense of denial, eating disorders do not discriminate. I think, “I won’t be that girl,” but the truth is, I am not invincible. I will lose everything and everyone I love. ED can and will take me down and even take my life if I am not proactive against it.
I will lose myself before I really know who I am. So much of my life has been spent with my eating disorder, that I’m often not sure where LINDSEY is. I will never know who I can be, because my identity will become my eating disorder.
Yes, all I want is silence, a break, relief- something, anything- that will quiet my mind from this. My mind becomes the worst enemy I have ever known. But there are no timeouts and no pauses and no breaks. Recovery is something I have to choose every day. Sometimes every hour.
How did I get here? What happened to the girl I was before ED? How do I not remember that girl? It’s like she never existed. It’s like she never got to grow up to have hopes and dreams; but instead grew up with rules, pursuit of perfection, and rigidity. It’s like that life was over before it had the chance to begin.
Never mind the past. It is something I cannot change. I have the future, should I fight for it. I have so much in my life I can look forward to, and so many things I can want. Right now I have to look ahead and see all these things, and live for those. This “snowballs chance in hell” life needs to stop. Has to. I have an illness that I did not choose. It is not fair. But, I can have recovery. I can choose to really, truly believe recovery is REAL, and POSSIBLE. That someday I CAN and WILL live a life outside of the prison of ED. I can choose to see a light in the darkness, and keep moving forward.