So last week I shared with you the absolute best part of recovery; making friends and getting your life back (obviously), but from a few e-mails and comments I have gotten, I think it might be a good idea to talk about the very WORST parts of recovery, and maybe a little of what you could expect if you are just starting the process.
Sometimes I feel like getting the terrifying portions out in the open makes people feel like they aren’t alone.
I, for one, sat in my first hospital, silent and angry in my introductory group, and was amazed that the others around me had the exact same thoughts I did.
Oh my goodness, maybe I was not as crazy as I thought!!!
Of course I wasn’t. In the ED world I was totally “normal,” which just goes to prove, there is no such thing as normal, right?
Anyway, back to the road bumps you may hit along the way.
I don’t care if you are one day into recovery, or years, these little snafus will occur, but you MUST remember that it can/will pass and it is how you react to the thoughts/feelings/urges, etc. that really counts.
*Please note, these are MY experiences, and they are the only ones I can really speak to, so if you disagree, or your process did not mirror mine, that is FINE. Everyone is different and the most important thing is that in the end, we are all healthy, happy and whole. (ß Yes, I am a cheese ball)
1. The first time you experience REAL hunger.
There are people who say they were never hungry when they restricted.
Me, I wasn’t one of them.
There were nights I would go to bed and be so famished I could barely sleep. I drank so much hot tea, diet soda, seltzer and water, to try to make my stomach at least a little bit full but nothing could ever ward off that gnawing feeling my stomach would have pretty much all damn day.
And then I started following a meal plan in program, eating some-what normally, and the hunger really began.
I was amazed at how much food I could consume and still my stomach wouldn’t be in pain from being overly stuffed.
For the first few days, as my little tummy expanded it was uncomfortable (more mentally than anything) but then after a week or so my body could actually keep up with the increasing amount of food, and it WANTED it.
(Side Note: the frustrating part for me now, is even if I wanted to restrict I couldn’t because my body is used to a healthy amount of food and can’t concentrate properly if I am not nourished…which then leads to a lot of negative self-talk and feelings of weakness…so be prepared for this, as well)
And then panic set in because I had my first weigh check and I was up more than I felt was necessary.
(ANOTHER Side Note: You may gain a bunch of water weight in the beginning, which can sometimes skew the accurate measure.)
WHAT WERE THESE PEOPLE TRYING TO DO?!
Then I got mad and felt like the entire world was against me, because my negative voice would tell me so.
“See, you are the exception to the rule. Your body is going to blow up overnight and they are going to keep you here forever. Everyone wants to see you fat and miserable. My gosh you are ugly. Look at those arms and how the bones in your chest are disappearing right this very second. FAT FAT FAT!!!”
I wish I could share some of the ridiculously hateful journal entries I wrote last winter at Brandywine. I think I used the F word more in a few pages than I have in my whole life…
Which brings me to point two…
2. Feelings WILL be a bit overwhelming.
Who am I kidding? That is an absolute understatement.
Feelings and emotions will smack you like a ton of bricks.
Just like the weight gain, I feared the tears, the anger, and the meanness would never stop.
No wonder I wanted to numb out before because this was HORRIBLE.
After a few weeks the excessive emotional outbursts calmed, and I was very apologetic to the poor nurses, who I said some very out of character things to, but I was completely unprepared for the emotions that came up.
When you bury things deep inside for so long, and finally they come to the surface, it is as if a volcano is erupting, but it does feel better once things come out in the open, just know, it will eventually turn into a healthy expression, it just might take some time.
3. The new body.
Body image is typically my arch nemesis anyway, but when you refeed your biological-self does not trust you.
You are putting foreign substances into your system (appropriate amounts of food) and it is saying “omg hold on to the nutrients and protect us from dying because she may starve us again!!!” which physically translates into the “food baby,” or “Buddha Belly.”
I am a pretty average size person, nearly 5’7 and pre-ed was relatively, athletically built, so I thought perhaps my weight gain would be tolerable and re-build a bit of muscle and make me look proportionate.
I was oh so very wrong. My stomach got the bulk of the weight and I felt bloated all the time, which lead to incessant self-criticism and internal hatred.
I felt like I was being punished for being such a selfish, horrible person.
This is definitely not true at all, my body was just trying to do what it does best, keep me alive.
4. The guilt.
First your mind makes you feel guilty for eating anything, not exercising, and being “lazy…”
Internally I heard what a blob I was every hour of every day, especially when programs added the dreaded fear foods a week or so into the meal plan.
And of course they add them to ALL meals so the guilt just never went away.
Then you are considered medically stable and feel so fat and disgusting you can barely stand it, so you start to feel guilty for even attempting to recover.
“I am the biggest person here, I don’t deserve or NEED recovery anymore. I am just like every other person on the street except I have no job, sit around all day, eating all this food I don’t deserve.”
Again, I must to EMPHASIZE that this is completely distorted and wrong. No matter what kind of eating disorder you have, your body needs to repair all the damage you have done, which requires proper nutrition.
(Visit this site if you need more clarification, because Gwyneth does a fabulous job explaining…)
I was not being a bump on a log or gluttonous with my meals, I was nourishing myself and trying to heal.
5. The non-linear progression…
They don’t tell you when you first commit to getting healthy, that even though the professionals may give you a nice little roadmap for success, i.e. a meal plan, treatment plan, etc. there is not sure fire way of predicting how your journey will go.
Since I am a planner jumping into the unknown was absolutely petrifying to begin with, so then when my body started doing all sorts of weird things, and one day I would feel absolutely fabulous and high on life, and the next feel like I was ready to jump off a bridge, I decided the best thing for me to do was quit.
Forget recovery. Who needs it anyway?!
Well, if I wanted to live, I DID.
But I am a control freak and for those of us who like control, living without exact science, proof and a schedule, did not sound appealing at all.
It still doesn’t; but that’s where acceptance comes in.
My dietician cannot tell me the exact gain I will make on a weekly basis, because my body might respond differently each week.
My doctor cant tell me when the swelling in my legs will stop even though I am doing the “right” things.
Ryan can’t assume that today I will be happy, cheery and totally on board with our process…
Because not every day, week, minute, or second is the same.
You are gaining your health back.
Nothing in life worth doing, is ever easy.