Hey all! Happy Sunday (eve)!
I hope your weekend went well! Overall it’s been rather uneventful here… we were in the line of storm Harper but received only about 5″ of snow and then it sleeted for hours but the power stayed on and everything is cleaned up – grateful for this.
*I’m going to throw a disclaimer on this post because it does contain potentially triggering content for those in recovery/dealing with/recovered from an eating disorder/other mental illness. This post is a positive focused view of my personal experience, but could be difficult for some, so please read with your own well-being in mind ♥ *
I came across a quote the other day that got me to thinking, and I couldn’t help but write a post on all of these feels.
“I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.” ― Carl Gustav Jung
I have been having a lot of internal dialogue lately, about my remission and recovery process, my current life, and the goals I have for myself both in the present and moving forward.
For anybody that is new to my blog, welcome! Thank you for stopping by. I very much appreciate your “click” to my neck of the
I’m going to be blunt and factually oriented for a hot second:
I began to develop anorexia nervosa at age 11. I stopped competing nationally in jump-rope at age 12. These two were most definitely intertwined. Middle school and high school were a series of ups and downs – I was “stable”, “unstable”, and a mix of the two in an almost cyclical pattern. I graduated high school, took a year off to explore the realm of adventure racing – something that made me feel alive and stoked about life rather than stoked about my destruction. I started community college in May 2012, relapsed in October 2012 following three simultaneous stress fractures, entered another form of treatment which I finished in May 2013, transferred from community college to the university I’m at now in January 2015, began hiking in July 2016, experienced the first injury I didn’t subsequently relapse after in April 2017, changed my major, finished some major hiking “list” in September 2018 (huge deal as I have an uber fear of commitment), and am currently about to wrap up my degree and am pursing a career in which I help people 1. overcome the fear/shame/guilt, 2. realize their own potential to be their best self, and 3. support them on this journey.
So, HEY, I’m Sarah (insert waving emoji here)
I experienced shame, guilt, fear, uncertainty, and discomfort in who I was as a person starting around age 9/10. These are common feelings for the pre-teen/teen years. For me, these feelings led to a habitual path of self destruction. I felt like I had power when I destroyed myself. After all, I controlled this. The degree to which I annihilated my own being was entirely up to myself. This lasted through, well, today. And it will continue to last because we are all in control of how much we a. destroy ourselves, or b. take care of ourselves.
I used to feel a sense of power by taking myself out.
I thought I was winning. Doing it right. All the balls were in my court.
Today – that neurological connection is still there, but it’s deep down (or far back) in my brain. It rarely comes to the surface in my day to day life. And, when it does, it often goes away as quick as it came because it no longer serves me.
What made a difference? How did I flip-flop from option a to option b? I recognized that destroying myself was not helpful and SLOWLY began the process of less maladaptive behaviors and more healing practices. I accepted and acknowledged fully that I wanted to do everything in my power to not resort to these coping mechanisms which fueled my life, actions, behaviors, thoughts for a decade. Most importantly, I gave myself permission to mess up. Unconditional permission and acceptance.
I’ll never be a 100% person. Maybe you are, and that’s okay. Maybe you’re like me, that’s okay too. I don’t “do” cold turkey. It F’s me up. I feel even more shame and greater senses of failure. I always end up thinking about the thing that I’m trying to not think about which then makes me think about it more and I end up finding myself waist deep in a relapse, on an 38 day stretch of exercise with no day off, or bobbing in the middle of whatever other maladaptive coping mechanism I’m trying to avoid at all costs. Cold turkey takes me out hard.
I’m a 5 step forward, 1 back, 2, forward, 3 back, 4 forward type of person. This works for me. It’s not only how I approach my mental health, it’s how I’ve learned to approach life.
It has taken me approximately 5 years to understand/acknowledge/accept this. And for what it’s worth – I needed it to take 5 years, or at least not just a year… because it now feels natural. Practice makes “perfect” my friends.
I remember I constantly either felt like a failure in treatment or that I was absolutely killing it. The latter was when I was using my ED behaviors, but being oh so incredibly manipulative that nobody actually knew. Or, at least I felt like this, I’m sure they knew or had inklings at a minimum. The failure part was harder to swallow. For the bulk of my existence, even when my life was a “shit sandwich”, I was high functioning. So, going into treatment, somehow magically on my own terms, and then feeling like I sucked royally at at – well this was a new form of torture.
In hindsight, I didn’t suck at it. I also hate that I felt it normal to assign adjectives associated with my ability to be “good” or “bad” in treatment and recovery for so long. If I was a 100% person, then yes, by definition, I “sucked” (please note all possible sarcasm here folks). But for me, for my personality type, for what has historically worked for my being – I kept on keeping on. I had my bad days, my slips, my moments of being ready to throw up the peace sign and say “I’m done, never coming back, and going to live my life with a raging ED”. But, despite all this, I went back. I cried (a lot). I yelled (even more). I got angry (very often).
I remember feeling guilty for my actions and shameful for my anger, almost that something was wrong with me. I told myself daily to just keep going, keep pushing, keep challenging myself, and to focus on recovery and living the “recovering life”. What I never realized that the story I was telling myself on repeat was harmful to both my recovery process and also my overall well-being. What we resist persists. I’m sure you’ve heard this one before, and for this scenario it couldn’t hold more truth. I resisted the changes that were necessary. I felt like if I lived in a way which matched what people who are in recovery looks like, that I would eventually find myself recovered. Because apparently my mind had this pre-determined “image” of what I would/should be like as the former anorexic/exercise addicted now recovered Sarah?
BULL FUCKING SHIT.
My intention entering treatment was to get to a place where I could feel happy, myself, and live the life I always dreamed of. I began with the belief that if I simply did what I was told, then I would get better. It’s so much more than this. And, I didn’t realize this until about three years ago.
It’s the process. It’s the story we tell ourselves. It’s our choices – both on a macro and micro level. It’s how we think and feel about how we think and feel. It’s whether or not we can forgive and accept our own being. It’s whether or not your trust yourself, and I mean REALLY TRUST YOURSELF (aka your soul).
Maybe you can’t go a day without the internal dialogue or picking on yourself to your peers. But, do you recognize this? Maybe you still weigh your food in recovery. How does this affect you? Is it negative or is it beneficial (not for secretly maintaining your ED but for your health/eating enough because your hunger cues are screwed up in the short term)? Maybe you workout. Is it to burn calories or to be the strongest version and physically support yourself ? Maybe you have to wiggle your way our of certain obligations. Is it because you “can’t” do it or because you are protecting yourself?
You see, the scenarios are there. The stories are endless. The intention is what matters.
Most things in life can be faked, at least to a degree.
I did it.
I faked the “recovered” thing for a while. From about fall of 2013 through summer 2016 I pulled off the “I’m good, have my slips, but I’m good”.
YES, I was good by the books. My BMI (don’t get me started) was “healthy”. I got my period back during this time frame. I didn’t work out excessively. I was doing well in school and maintaining a job, social life, and seeing a therapist. I was good right?
In my now 25 years of life I can firmly say my mental health was the worst it’s ever been from Fall 2013 to Summer 2016.
So, this is part one. To be continued. Sorry not sorry kiddos but this post is long and I want you lovely humans out there reading it to think on it, take it in, absorb and ponder. Be with your thoughts. Perhaps this resonates with you, makes you think of a friend/family member, or you totally don’t connect with me on this stuff – whatever the case – be a sponge to whatever in here you can take away.
I’ll post part 2 next by weekend, it’s in the the works but I want to “give it my all”, aka I want to be as real and as present as I can.
“Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story.” — Cheryl Strayed