Knock, knock…

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” – Matthew 7:7

I asked, sought, and knocked for 20 years. There’s no way God’s plan for me included being defeated by an eating disorder.

I liken myself to the Israelites wandering the wilderness for 40 years. I wandered blind for most of my 20 year ordeal – flailing, searching, falling – but never did I think that recovery was an impossibility.

Finally, the door opened.

Love, and other drugs…

Love is a drug, but it’s not mine.

Mine is Zoloft. The decision to start taking it was not easy, it was like accepting defeat. Ultimately though, it was the very thing that propelled me forward into true recovery. Sometimes I think about stopping taking it but I’m not sure if the major depression and severe anxiety pre-dates the eating disorder or if the eating disorder was the cause of it. For now though I keep taking it because I don’t ever want to go back there. And, despite any long term ramifications there might be from taking this pharmaceutical drug, it cannot be any worse than the life time effects of starving and binging and purging, day in and day out.

Let’s be clear though. Taking drugs didn’t fix the eating disorder. My life didn’t magically fall into place once I popped a few pills.

There’s actually something called “treatment-resistant depression” and though no one on my health care team ever used those exact words, I was certainly experiencing something that was treatment-resistant. I was going through the motions but I wasn’t getting anywhere. There was this invisible bridge between effort and actuality that I just couldn’t cross and what soon became apparent was my hugely, colossal ability to be a complete and utter failure.

What I eventually came to accept was that there was in fact something missing that I, in all my human power, couldn’t connect. I needed a jolt, I needed something to bridge the connection for me.

So, here’s my not so profound analogy which I hope will paint a picture of what my drug did for me and why some people don’t need the drug.

My friend and I are getting ready for a night out. We’re primping in front of the mirror doing our make up and our hair and my friend decides she wants to curl her hair. She plugs in the curling iron and turns the heat setting to 10, does her thing with the magic wand, and walks out of the room with these big, beautiful, bouncy curls. She looks lovely and now I want to curl my hair too. The curling iron is still on so I step up to the mirror and take my turn. But, after a few passes through my hair, the curls aren’t holding. I get these pathetic, limp little twists that look nothing like her luscious curls. I try again but the same thing happens. I try again and again and I’m getting more and more agitated. “What am I doing wrong?”, I ask myself. My friend hears me huffing and puffing (and maybe swearing a little too) so she comes in and asks what the problem is. Without saying a word I point to the barely-visible bends in my hair, looking at her wide-eyed as if to say, “Can’t you see what the problem is?” She automatically understands my frustration, walks over to the curling iron, increases the temperature to the max and says, “Just try a hotter setting.” I try it…and, it works.

So, the moral of the story – we both had to follow the same process to curl our hair, I just needed a little more heat for my curls to hold. And it was the same with the drug. I still had to go through all the work and fear and tears and angst while recovering from the eating disorder – all the drug did was make the work hold. As hair has different characteristics and properties, so too does the human brain.

There are a million ways to accomplish the same goal. I accepted my unique and different brain and chose a way that worked for me.

What I was most afraid of…

The recovery process in group started with food in an attempt to normalize eating. This was fine to begin with, but only for like the first week or two, because at first, for me, I didn’t feel anything. I increased my food intake a little, I felt the same, and my weight didn’t change. But then it did and the minute I started to feel change, which meant I was actually feeling something, I was lost. I crashed and burned. Feeling had no place in my controlled little world.

In hindsight only can I say that my eating disorder had very little to do with food and everything to do with how I self-identified. Before the eating disorder started, I did not have any sense of self. I lived my life from the outside in. I observed life and made inferences about how things should be and, in order to find where I fit, made comparisons between what I observed and what I was. The problem was, I didn’t fit anywhere. Everything was one way but I was another.

When my eating disorder began, when I dropped a ton of weight at the end of high school, it was this almost instantaneous feeling of euphoria. Not only was I being noticed for the first time in my life but I had managed to obtain something that people seemed to covet. It made me special and I couldn’t let it go. Doing so would be a failure, a backward step, and I couldn’t return to being mediocre.

So when the very thing that identified me and made me special started feeling like it was slipping away, I was distraught. The whole process of physically gaining, growing and changing was so shameful for me. It was a disgusting and distressing revelation of me, of who I was. The horrible truths about me were being exposed and I had nothing to hide behind and I wouldn’t be special anymore.

That was what I was most afraid of – changing, gaining, giving up control, being myself – but I did it. I let myself become naturally me and it was the very thing that set me free.

Stillness

“Do you have the patience to wait until your mud settles and the water is clear?”
Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

I was doing some yin yoga tonight and the teacher made reference to this proverb. It sent me back into thought about my journey through eating disorder recovery and how it truly is a feat of patience and stillness.

Life with an eating disorder was a cloudy and murky place to be which was only made muddier by my futile attempts to make myself into someone I thought I should be. Over time though, I learned the power of  being present and allowing feeling to re-enter my world. I let the waters still in order to see what lay beneath – me.

For 20 years I had disengaged from myself but now I am reconnecting in very powerful ways by letting discomfort and sadness and peace and happiness, and any other feeling that presents itself to me, just linger. It lingers as long as it needs to and the stillness settles once again.

This too shall pass.

Just Imagine…

Entertain – to admit into the mind; consider.
“entertain.” Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 24 Apr. 2015. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/entertain>.

You have to fight like hell to be well. But hanging on to an eating disorder is also a constant battle. The only difference is that one of the fights will eventually end with victory; the other will never be won.

You have to at least entertain the idea that winning is possible. You don’t have to know how or when, just don’t ever cross off winning as an option.