One of the questions I get most concerning recovery is, “what took you so long?!”
Yes. What did take me so long to actually decide I wanted a life free from restrictive eating, incessant hunger, exhaustion and emotional instability?
There is no easy answer to explain why I remained so stuck in destructive patterns, but one of the main components has to do with the fact that I didn’t believe my lifestyle was bad.
I thought that exercise and watching my calories was admirable. After all, if you turn on the television for even five seconds you will see an ad for some new diet product or exercise machine, or a commercial for a show geared around weight loss.
If the rest of America was striving to be thin, then my habits were near perfect!
Obviously this is wrong because my weight plummeted, my health deteriorated, and my social life fell apart, but in my mind, everything was going just fine.
When my family and doctors first told me I had to go to a day program I reluctantly agreed because I was honestly sick of hearing about it. I didn’t actually follow my prescribed meal plan. I still ran on a daily basis. And I was a champ at fudging my way through therapy so I could get in and out of the office as quickly as possible without creating a fuss. I actually liked my partial hospitalization because for the first time in a while I had friends! There were 20 other girls surrounding me who totally got it! They understood me, had similar interests (albeit unhealthy interests) were relatively close to my age, and we had fun at meal times! The scenario wasn’t half bad.
And then the day came when I was called into the doctor’s examination room, to see a stern-faced physicians assistant, my individual counselor, and the nutritionist.
I was being sent to inpatient; leaving the very next day.
I still liked the social aspect. I have made some really great friends throughout my stints in programs, but I was the patient who totally complied with everything on the surface, and behind closed doors disobeyed every rule in the book. I exercised in the bathroom, I smooshed around my peanut butter to make it look like I ate the whole thing but really probably had half. I accidentally spilled my drink, negotiated other food choices…you name it, I tried it.
So although it may appear that I have spent three years in recovery, my estimation is that I have only actually productively worked the process for a few months; from the time I decided to actually take it seriously.
So what changed?
Well to start, I admitted I needed help for my bad decisions, and out of control lifestyle.
I would have to say it took me until I went to the Healthy Living Summit in August to make this decision.
I was partially on board before that, increasing my meal plan in very small increments and understanding that walking was an appropriate form of exercise for my current state, but HLS, and a few incidents that followed, gave me the kick in the rear I needed to move forward.
My motivation was solidified when I received a brutally honest comment from a reader.
I have mentioned this a few times on my blog, and I am so thankful to say the person who made the remark and I have had some really great correspondence since, but her powerful words and truth about my physical appearance were eye-opening.
I wasn’t aware that people viewed me in such poor health, or that I was being a total hypocrite writing about working toward becoming healthy, happy and whole, when all the while I was almost faking my recovery. (Please note I never intended to be a phony or a liar by any means, I was simply in denial….very deep denial)
But when I really analyzed what this person wrote to me, I was seriously bothered by the fact that I was deceiving others.
You see to me, the best part of blogging comes when I receive comments, e-mails and feedback from readers, saying that me writing about my experiences helped them through their own tough times. What I neglected to consider was that although my words were heartfelt, my actions in my own recovery were not necessarily congruent.
I was still very much living within my disorder.
So after some serious re-evaluation I took a good look at myself, my life, and what I wanted for my future.
What were the things I valued? And how do I live keeping all these things in mind?
Then I looked back at the last three years spent in and out of treatment facilities, or just merely existing, physically, visiting awesome places, working, and trying to be a good member of society, but I was never actually functioning to my potential.
How did I go from an over-achieving student, athlete and whole-person, to being a walking skeleton, merely going through the motions on a day-to-day basis?! And why the heck hadn’t I thought of this stuff earlier?
Like I said, there is no real answer to this question. The bottom line is, I had to come to my own realization, and acceptance of recovery.
The three times I was “sent away,” none of them were really my choice. I went either to appease my family, or because I no longer had the legal right to refuse. I enjoyed partial programs and outpatient centers because it was easy to cheat, I made friends and I didn’t really gain any weight, but I never took any of my treatment seriously, or followed through with the plans teams set out for me.
It took ME, making a conscious decision that I wanted a life consisting of more than hours in a gym, a tiny waist, and numb feelings, to make healthy, recovery based choices.
No one could tell me I had to. No one could tell me I should. I needed to tell myself. I needed to do it for myself. I needed to realize for myself that I was worth more than a number, and deserved to feel, cry, and be supported too.
If you haven’t reached that point, I understand. It took me a very long time, a lot of ups and downs, to come to any sort of positive conclusions. I urge you to take a hard look at who you want to be, what you want to accomplish, and determine what you need to do to get there.
I can pretty much guarantee, a life with ED, or one filled with negativity, is not the way.
Good luck, and have patience, because like I said, it may have taken me more years than I would have liked, but even being part way through my journey, life gets better every day.