When did I start perceiving my body as the enemy?
When did I objectify it and decide that it was something to be brought in line, tamed, punished, manipulated to look like something different than it was designed to look?
When did I decide that it was better to simply not eat anymore? How did that thought come about?
How do I start, or rather where do I even begin to assert that I am not, in fact, defective? How can I not be a broken thing when that is how I’ve felt all my life? How can something so broken be repaired and even if it is repaired, isn’t it still marred beyond recognition?
How can I completely disbelieve that I can be repaired, and yet reach out desperately to people who do that very thing, who assert that one can be repaired, even repaired to the point of moving forward in life?
If my many broken parts don’t define who I am then what does? What defines me? How can there be anything beyond those broken pieces? Who I am if not a pile of brokenness?
How can I give up the very thing that protected me year after year after year? How can I protect myself? If there are ways that I can, how can I be protected between letting go of the eating disorder and learning the new protective mechanisms? How can I be safe in the interim?
Section from “Revisioning The Self” chapter in the book Eating in the Light of the Moon.
“Imagine yourself standing in the rain on the bank of a raging river. Suddenly the water-swollen bank gives way. You fall in and find yourself being tossed around in the rapids. Your efforts to keep afloat are futile and you are drowning. By chance along comes a huge log and you grab it and hold on tight. The log keeps your head above water and saves your life. Clinging to the log you are swept downstream and eventually come to a place where the water is calm. There, in the distance, you see the riverbank and attempt to swim to shore. You are unable to do so, however, because you are still clinging to the huge log with one arm as you stroke with the other. How ironic. The very thing that saved your life is getting in the way of where you want to go. There are people on the shore who see you struggle and yell, “Let go of the log!” But you are unable to do so because you have no confidence in your ability to make it to the shore.
(New skills are needed, ones to replace the function of the log. Once the discovery that they are more effective and efficient than the log, you can begin to let go.)
“And so, very slowly and carefully, you let go of the log and practice floating. When you start to sink, you grab back on. Then you let go of the log and practice threading water, and when you get tired, you hold on once again. After awhile, you practice swimming around the log once, twice, ten times, twenty times, a hundred times, until you gain the strength and confidence you need to swim to shore. Only then do you completely let go of the log.”
I’m clinging desperately to the log right now. I’ve learned some skills, they do help. I have distractions like puzzles, crochet, coloring; I have the guitar that is ever so hard yet so rewarding. But I’m still clinging like crazy. It’s like going to the ED program helped me to learn to tread water but never gave me swimming lessons. I let go, tread water, grab back on, back and forth, back and forth… a never ending cycle that is frankly quite exhausting. So what do I do? Traditionally I stop treading water, climb on to the log to stay, over and over.
I need to learn to swim. I need to allow myself to do one lap, two laps, then ten laps and so forth, as the story describes. The trick to doing it is knowing I’m building competency rather than what I actually do which is condemn myself every time I stop. Sitting here now, I can easily see that making an effort, any effort is good. Going back to the log in between swim “lessons” could be thought of as a rest, as a needed break to push forward even more. But that is me, sitting here now, “thinking” that. When I’m doing the swimming I feel I ought to be able to move forward without ever looking back. Looking back is failure, it’s pathetic, it’s shameful. I know it isn’t but that is how I feel, that is how I react, that is what I believe in my core regardless of what my head tells me. The anxiety builds and the relapse grows closer.
Right now the draw to go back to anorexia is still strong, stronger possibly than moving forward in recovery. I am, however, going to continue to recovery. Recovery is what I want but this blog is about honesty with my thoughts and feelings. I’m just exhausted from treading water. Other people see my forward movement but I don’t “feel” it. When you swim, you feel the water flowing around you, you inexplicably have the sense of going forward, going somewhere.
During this journey the only time I felt even a tiny bit of that, fleeting as it was, was when I talked with my nutritionist and decided to make myself an active part of my recovery, my ever so slight change in attitude. Is that enough? Does it give me enough motivation to try and swim? Will it be enough to face the overwhelming odds against me?
My weekend was ruined because of body image issues. I sit here in the Cafe feeling larger than literally every person here. I’m dressed like a slob because I don’t have clothes that fit comfortably. I considered not coming (to the cafe), just heading to a park, sitting in my car until time for iOP. Seriously, I am so embarrassed. Of course I know not one single person is even aware of me. All but four people have their heads buried in computers, with ear buds, just like me… far away in their own worlds. I blend in perfectly. These days people look almost out of place if they are visiting or reading, aghast, an actual book. Nope, it’s all ear buds and computers these days. I like it, that is my world! I’m a part of the social introverts; at least that is what I’m calling us.
So now what?
Tonight I’ll go to iOP (swimming a lap). Tomorrow I’ll go to my guitar lesson and a Dark Moon event tomorrow night, Weds I’ll go to iOP (two more laps around the log), etc…. I’ll just keep on keeping on. That’s what recovery is: putting one step in front of the other regardless of what my head says. I know how to swim… it’s time to dive in and go to it.