Recovery, community and relating to others.
When it comes to my recovery from anorexia, I’d say that I didn’t follow what seems to be the standard course of treatment. Or perhaps, I did. Despite what we know as official, clinical approaches to treating eating disorders, who is to say that the majority of sufferers didn’t also create their pseudo version of recovery. Alongside the determination to turn our lives around, chances are we’re all somewhat relying on personal intuition, implementing changes at our own individual pace. After all, it seams that successful treatment calls for such an individualistic approach, that a non-standard route may very well encompass the majority of successful recovery experiences.
My healing journey started about three years after the onset, on a random day, when my sudden spiral into feelings of weakness and emotional detachment powerfully stroke me. At that time, anorexia didn’t even cross my mind; I simply worked out that I was too thin. I contacted a treatment center, but it seemed that my BMI was too low to receive care anywhere but in a hospital. At this moment, a glimpse of epiphany accompanied the daily degrading of my physical condition. I realized my disorder is a lot more “severe” than I ever cared to admit.
To combat my disorientation, I decided to increase my food. I soon realized this comes at a cost. Your body gives up most of its functioning in efforts of survival and so, all available energy goes into metabolizing the nutrients provided. It’s called hyper metabolism and it gets sweaty. I felt beyond drained and my cognitive abilities died out, to the point where I was no longer able to perform at work. I saw no other alternative than to take a leave so as to focus on my health, essentially directing all efforts to re-feeding myself. While physically challenging, the first week at least, wasn’t as hard mentally. I felt better and the combative thoughts were dormant at this point. But that part of recovery isn’t the point of this story.
With a couple more pounds on, I reached out to another treatment center and was appalled by the cost of an intensive program. Assessing me too ill, still (on a BMI scale, seriously?), I couldn’t join the step down setting (which carried a discounted price). I wasn’t eager to pay what is the equivalent of another College degree, so I decided to simply continue the weekly appointments with my therapist.
The 45 minutes spent in session were essential to my recovery, but what about the other 123 hours of the week that I had with my anorexia? The World Wide Web was my support. A community of “wounded healers” was a place where I found guidance and relief.
I felt an incredible pull towards other sufferers and their stories, reading about their journey, following them in their recovery, and keeping up with blogs of eating disorder advocacy. Having gone through experiences alike, with one another, we are able to relate. But I also stayed skeptical, seeing tendencies of almost a cult. Many were promoting feminism, “nourishment”, self-care, self-love, body acceptance, compassion, self-growth and a whole lot of other lingo that created a community of its own. Feeling somewhat attracted by these concepts that I only wished to dismiss, as well as inspired by former sufferers and their stories, I secretly admired the eating disorder community and their philosophy. Still, I kept my distances. After all, I considered myself a “logical” rather than “sensible” person, surrounding myself with people alike, for most of my life.
Our practices were much more straightforward. A way of life that lacks soft and abstract values, one that is factual, uncomplicated and focused on social bonds, enjoying each other’s company, all while having fun. Superficial, is a way to explain it. I understand the pejorative connotation this term carries, and that is not how I intend to make it sound. What I mean to convey is simplicity. My relationships are very real and incredibly strong. My friends are, no exaggeration, my family. But engaging with them in conversations of feelings, of emotions, discussing the idea of agency in ones life, of a life’s purpose and of finding meaning will never be embraced with the same passion that true warriors carry; a passion which, in the depth of my suffering, I have come to develop. And so, I felt quite alone in the process.
I was no longer relating to my entourage the way I used to and quite frankly, at times, I was turned off by their ways. I judged their carelessness when it comes to the greater values in life. But that doesn’t make them any less loving. The recollection of our memories together, our genuine relationship, and the care we nurture for each other were major pillars in my recovery. Still, I needed distance.
There is an all too common phrase viewed as the utter bullshit excuse, but I came to realize that there are instances when it can carry honesty: it wasn’t them, it was me.
Going through recovery, I didn’t feel the same. I have come to a better understanding of who I am, and no longer cared to fit with my old ways. It’s not that I was a certain way and that recovery changed me. It’s that I was a certain way and recovery placed me in a better light, allowing me to see what that way really is. I became more aware of instances where I censored my opinions, of times when I belittled relationships that weren’t welcomed by the “majority”, of circumstances where I knew how to please, and acted accordingly, of inner states that I ignored. And with more awareness comes a need for change.
I am still figuring out how I fit in my pre-eating disorder world, whilst allowing myself to grow in this post recovery era. But one thing certain is that the intensified self-awareness is something that I yet need to learn how to use. Hopefully I come to recognize how it was all part of the process.