Okay… I guess I have to write this post. It’s time I come clean about the fact that I’ve been struggling a lot lately. As I always say here, I wish I could be sunshine and smiles and recovery all the time, but that’s just not what the middle ground is. The middle ground is a labyrinth full of potholes, dead ends and roads that lead you in circles. But if there’s one path that’s guaranteed to take you to relapse, it’s the path of secrecy.
I won’t say exactly what’s going on, because I try to avoid mention of specific behaviors, numbers, etc… on this blog. Generally speaking, though, it’s restriction which has been my eating disorder’s M.O. for as long as it’s been around.
As anyone in recovery could tell you, this is a frightening place to be. Unquestionably, slips and lapses are part of the process. But how many lapses does it take to make a relapse? At what point do the normal struggles become pathological and you stop to love yourself ? Is it when you choose to keep them secrets? Just like when the eating disorder began, it’s hard to tell where the line is until it’s already a mile behind you.
You’re as sick as your secrets, but you deserve to love yourself, even more during relapse!
There are all sorts of reasons I haven’t wanted to admit when I struggle. There are the two most obvious culprits: 1) the eating disorder voice argues with me that if I open my mouth everything will be ruined and the teams of supporters won’t leave me alone for a minute (ED lives by a twisted rationale) and 2) I feel ashamed, I feel like a failure and so on and so forth.
Recently, though, there has been a new unexpected dynamic that deters me from speaking up. It’s that I want recovery. So. Damn. Much.
My eating disorder thrived on being my identity. It had been around for so long that I had never really thought about who I was and who I wanted to be without it. Since then, I’ve learned that disentangling myself from the disorder doesn’t automatically solve that identity problem, because we all need some sort of identity — a firm (though dynamic) self-concept against which we can check our actions and goals to see if they measure up with who we believe we are.
Knowing that my eating disorder would very happily come back to fill in that void, I channeled my need for an identity into healthy habits. I rigorously carved out an identity here in cyberspace as an advocate for recovery. That new identity then permeated my “real world” life. I’ve lobbied in Washington with the Eating Disorders Coalition and in Albany with NEDA to help eating disorder patients get better care. I write for any website or outlet that wants my thoughts. I volunteer at events that promote mental health, positive body image and to love yourself. I’ve applied for positions at eating disorder organizations to help others struggling with these illnesses in a more official context.
But as a result, I worry that if I admit to struggling, then all of that will be dashed. Because many of recovery organizations have rules about being at a certain point of recovery, I fear I would not be allowed to serve in these capacities because I will not be trusted to be able to keep myself healthy. (When in fact, my involvement in these causes is what, I sincerely believe, has gotten me as far into recovery as I currently am.)
In reality, of course, admitting to struggling isn’t what would cost me these passions. Saying nothing and letting the eating disorder consume me again most certainly would.
Bottom line — dishonesty never took me anywhere I wanted to be. Your secrets keep you sick and from the important state to love yourself.
Shine a light on all the secrets or else they’re here to stay
As a graduate student in counseling, I can’t help but view my own situation with a sobering curiosity. I love the life I’ve gained in recovery — I would never want to jeopardize what I’ve built so far. And yet, the eating disorder — whatever it “is” — is still able to snake its way into my mind and make me believe it has some secret knowledge to offer me.
It scares me and fascinates me. What IS it? What is it that makes it so strong, such as I can’t seem to eradicate it from my brain? How can I have a new “recovered” identity, a new life, new goals, an arsenal of coping skills and near-expert knowledge of this illness, yet still not be able to shake it?
It’s a weed, I suppose. And until I find the roots and wrest it from its source, it’s not going anywhere.
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If you digged this article, then you will dig these — How Yoga Helped Me Heal From My Eating Disorders, How To Create The Impossible Standard Of Beauty, Win Some, Lose Some: Recovery Means Gaining Weight!
Thanks for the support and love 🙂 Your REglam Team xx
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