Being Alone

They found this guy in Maine who had been living completely alone in the woods for 30 years. They called him the last true hermit. 30 years without the warmth of human touch, without conversation. The hermit felt more lonely when he was out in the world, than he ever felt in the woods by himself. Surrounded by people, but drowning in solitude. That kind of loneliness can swallow you whole. ~ Grey’s Anatomy, Season 11, Episode 10

I am very lucky that I have a great support system. I have a great treatment team, a great family, great coworkers, and great friends. However, there are times when the eating disorder makes me feel completely isolated. I’ll be out to eat with someone or a group of people, and everyone else is laughing and talking, and I’m sitting there calculating how many calories are in what I’m eating/drinking. I’m sitting there drowning in thoughts of self-doubt, poor body image, and racing thoughts about calories consumed.

When I think of recovery, I think of being able to be fully engaged in these situations. I think of the eating disorder not making me lonely and isolated, even when surrounded by people. That would be true freedom.

Keep Fighting

From Grey’s Anatomy Season 11, Episode 14 – “The Distance”:

Dr. Amelia Shepard: “The key, though, win or lose, is not to fail. And the only way to fail is not to fight. So you fight until you can’t fight anymore. Hold up you head and enter the arena and face the enemy. Fight until you can’t fight anymore. Never let go. Never give up. Never run. Never surrender. Fight the good fight. You fight even when it seems inevitable that you’re about to go down swinging.”

I actually don’t have a lot to say about this quote – I think it pretty much speaks for itself. The process of recovery from an eating disorder is grueling, and it’s easy to feel like a failure. I often actually feel caught in this vicious cycle of failure – if I make pro-recovery decisions, I feel like I am failing the eating disorder, and if I choose to listen to the eating disorder, I feel like I am failing at recovery. It sets up this impossible scenario where I just feel bad 24/7.

Every time I have to go back into more intensive treatment I feel like a failure too. I don’t feel that way when friends tell me they are stepping up treatment though. I think this quote is a good reminder that continuing to fight, even if that means having to go back to more intensive treatment, is not failing.

It also gets exhausting fighting so hard, day after day. Some days it feels like I just can’t fight anymore. But as the quote says, I need to “Never let go. Never give up.” Just keep fighting.

What If?

From Season 1, Episode 6 “If Tomorrow Never Comes”:

Meredith: I don’t know why we put things off, but if I had to guess, I’d say it has a lot to do with fear. Fear of failure. Fear of pain. Fear of rejection. Sometimes the fear is just of making a decision, because what if you’re wrong? What if you make a mistake you can’t undo? Whatever it is we’re afraid of, one thing holds true: that by the time the pain of not doing the thing gets worse than the fear of doing it, it can feel like we’re carrying around a giant tumor…Still sometimes we have to see for ourselves. We have to make our own mistakes. We have to learn our own lessons. We have to sweep today’s possibility under tomorrow’s rug until we can’t anymore, until we finally understand for ourselves…that knowing is better than wondering, that waking is better than sleeping. And that even the biggest failure, even the worst most intractable mistake beats the hell out of never trying.”

I am absolutely horrible at making decisions, and I think a lot of that has to do with fear. I am always worried that I am making the wrong decision, even if it’s something minor. As a result, I often put off making decisions until, by default, sometimes the decision gets made for me.

Even when I do make a decision, I often spend hours, days, or even weeks second guessing whether I made the right decision or not. As Meredith says, this can lead to feeling like you are carrying around a huge weight.Even after a decision is made, I still carry around the “what if?” and wonder if I truly made the right decision or not. I wish I could get to a point where I could make a decision and just leave it be. That is definitely something I am working on, but am not quite there yet.

I think it is helpful though to keep in mind what Meredith says about having to make our own mistakes, and that idea that a mistake is not the worst thing in the world. I will make the wrong decision sometimes, but that is ok. I can learn lessons from those mistakes so that I don’t make them in the future.

They key is I have to let go of this constant “what if?”. There are always going to be unanswered questions, and there is always going to be fear of not doing the right thing. While it may seem like constantly analyzing and second guessing my decisions will lead to making the right choice, often all it does is keep me spinning. Being able to let go and just try to roll with what seems to be the best, as opposed to over analyzing and asking all the “what if” questions in the quote, might just lead to the sort of mental freedom and peace that I crave so badly.

Dreams

From Grey’s Anatomy Season 3, Episode 23 – The Other Side of Life, Part 2:

Meredith: At some point maybe we accept the dream has become a nightmare. We tell ourselves that reality is better. We convince ourselves it’s better that we never dream at all. But, the strongest of us, the most determined of us, we hold on to the dream or we find ourselves faced with a fresh dream we never considered. We wake to find ourselves, against all odds, feeling hopeful. And, if we’re lucky, we realize in the face of everything, in the face of life, the true dream is being able to dream at all.

I think there is a huge tendency, both in the press and among individuals, to glamorize eating disorders. I know I am definitely guilty of falling prey to the “dream” that the eating disorder promises. The eating disorder promises that I will be thin, that I will be happy, that it will solve my problems. As the quote says, however, at some point there has to be an acceptance that this is not a dream after all – it is a nightmare. The eating disorder does nothing but wreck things. It wrecks real dreams, life goals, and relationships.

When that realization happens, it’s easy to just give up all together. The eating disorder is not the answer, but in the face of years of destruction, life doesn’t look all that great either. The original path I set out on after graduating from college doesn’t exist anymore, and it’s really tempting to just give up.

I know logically, however, that it’s not time to give up. As Meredith says, it’s time to find a fresh dream. While several doors have been closed due to past decisions and past struggles, that doesn’t mean that all doors are closed. It is so easy to lose hope when things do not seem to be improving at the pace that I want, or when reminders of the dreams lost keep popping up. But I do hope that if I keep going, that hope will come. That I will continue to be able to dream, and realize that if I can just keep fighting through recovery, the dreams can be far bigger than I ever imagined.

Depression

From Private Practice, Season 3 Episode 14 “Love Bites”:

Violet: Depression isn’t not understanding that you have something you should live for; it’s knowing that you should feel differently, but it’s so bad that all you want to do is curl up and die.

I feel like I don’t even need to elaborate on or explain this quote. To me, this so eloquently captures how I feel right now.

I know logically that I have plenty of things to live for – I have a family, I have friends, I have a job, I have cats etc. As someone who usually relies on logic and reason, it is beyond frustrating for me that I cannot reason my way out of this depressive funk. Like the quote says, I KNOW that I should feel different, but I don’t. This disconnect between how I feel and how I think I should feel only serves to worse my depression.

I hope this quote helps others recognize what depression feels like, and serves as a reminder that depression is not something that it is possible to reason your way out of.

Getting Back to Normal

From Code Black Season 2, Episode 8 – “1.0 Bodies”:

Mike: I tried to come back too soon. I’ve been trying to get back to normal. But the truth is, that doesn’t exist for me, right now. I’m not the same, and I don’t know when I will be.

Mike says this after he experiences great difficult while working his first shift since being in a coma due to an accident and traumatic brain injury. While I have thankfully never experienced anything like that medically, this quote really hit home when it comes to recovery.

I have a tendency to jump right back into things when I get out of inpatient or partial. For example, I got out of inpatient last Tuesday, and went to work on Wednesday as if nothing had happened. Sometimes I think that can be helpful – I like my job and my coworkers, so being at work is a helpful distraction and also provides me with a sense of purpose.

However, I think something I need to keep in mind is what Mike says about normal not existing for right now. If I want to be successful in my recovery, I can’t really be normal right now when it comes to food. Normal people don’t go out of their way to eat even when they are not hungry, or plan things so that they don’t interfere with meals/snacks. But, if I’m going to follow my meal plan, I am going to have to eat when I’m not hungry, and I’m going to have to make eating the number one priority. Although I want to just be normal, I might have to do things like leave work early to make sure I get dinner in before gymnastics, or force myself to eat a snack even when I’m still full from lunch. Normal doesn’t exist right now.

The part about “right now” is key too. I tend to get really depressed because I think that my life is always going to be like this – I’m always going to be constantly stuffed, I’m always going to have to plan out meals and snacks. But, I like how Mike doesn’t say that he will never be normal again – he just says that he doesn’t know when he will be the same again. I’m going to try to remember this when I feel really down – that just because there doesn’t seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel right now, that doesn’t mean I won’t ever get back to normal.

Slips

From Private Practice Season 5, Episode 21 – Drifting Back:

Jake: Are you planning a slip? My wife used to play with one of those [sobriety chip] when she was planning a slip.

Amelia: You don’t plan a slip. That’s that’s why they call it a slip. It’s just..you fall. Sometimes. Sometimes you fall.

On the one hand, I can understand where Jake is coming from. I know that when I used to struggle more with binging and purging, there would be times when I would plan those events. However, I don’t think in those events that I was planning a slip – I think I was already in the midst of a relapse, and thus just planning on keeping it going.

For me, I can very much relate to what Amelia says when she says “it’s just…you fall.” I recently had a discussion with my treatment providers where they basically gave me the choice between continuing to strive for recovery, or just trying a harm reduction approach. They asked me this because I have had a number of hospitalizations this year, which might indicate that I am just not ready to accept the weight restoration and meal plan that recovery requires. I thought quite hard about it, and ultimately told them, for a variety of reasons, that I do want to keep trying for recovery.

Despite making this commitment, I have had a number of slips over the last couple of weeks. After each one, I find myself looking back and thinking “how did I get here? If I really do want recovery, how come I can’t keep making the right choices?” My therapist response to that was “um, you have an eating disorder.” While I still feel guilty for not being perfect (I could do another post on perfectionism and recovery), she does have a point. Just like Amelia said, sometimes you just fall.

Slips are going to happen, and the important thing is to get back up despite the fall, and keep on going. Keep on walking towards that ultimate goal, knowing that sometimes you are going to fall, and that’s ok. No one is perfect.