Monday, October 19, 2009
Question # 10: Are the Thoughts Really Gone?
Question # 10 from when LESS is MORE requires me to be very honest, but I always am with all of you and I don't mind being so.
She asks: "This is similar to other questions, but also a little different. I know you are now in recovery, but do you ever have days or even moments when you want to slip back into the behavior? It is hard for me to imagine not having the thoughts, even if I'm not acting them out."
I'll be perfectly honest with you: I can think of only one time in the last few years of being healthy mentally and physically that I've actually had moments of wanting to slip back into behavior. It wasn't due to body image or hating myself or perfectionism or any of the things my eating disorder was about in the past. It was because of huge amounts of stress and sadness, though I quickly turned things around.
To make a long story short, my husband and I were having financial issues that forced us to re-mortgage our home and pray, pray, pray. It was, essentially, the same sort of situation so many families dealt with when this economy began to turn sour. My husband and I both work for the same non-profit agency, so if there were lay-offs or pay cuts (which were a possibility for a while) it would have affected both of us, and greatly. Couple that with both of us making very little money to begin with, simply because of where we work. Then add huge amounts of fear. Fear of losing our house. Fear of not being able to make ends meet. Fear of not knowing what to even do. At this same time, I was also very upset because I had what I call "baby fever." I wanted to have a child and badly. There were many details surrounding why this couldn't happen at that point, one of them being finances. And I was really sad. It seemed like woman after woman that I knew was getting pregnant. And while I loved it, it drove home even harder the fact that I was still waiting for it to be able to happen for me.
It wasn't that I wanted to go back to my eating disorder. Far from it, in fact. It was that I became rather listless about a lot of things, eating included. So I just had a "shrugging" kind of attitude for a bit. Not hungry, because I was too worried. Not hungry, because I was too stressed. Not hungry, because I was so desirous of a baby. Not caring enough. Don't get me wrong, I was all about recovery and never had thoughts as in years past like, "I'm fat" or "I'm stupid" or "I need to eat x amount of calories" or "I need to be a certain weight." It had NOTHING to do with that, but because I had no control over some big things in my life (job, money, pregnancy, etc.) I was dangerously close to wanting to control something else. Really, I lost some of my usual hope and happiness.
It passed. I realized I couldn't very well have a child if I wasn't taking care of myself. I told my husband all my pain. I even went back to a therapist for a short period of time, not for eating disorder issues, but for help dealing with the baby stuff and my money worries. Part of being recovered is recognizing when you need a little extra help and understanding that going back to therapy (or some other similar thing) isn't a step back, but a step forward. The therapist didn't think I was in danger of losing ground, she just wanted to help me feel better, get rid of stress, CARE about stuff again, instead of remembering what I would have done in the "old days." Half the time, she'd tell me to go to grad school and become a therapist myself, because what I was feeling wasn't about the eating disorder and I already gave myself better therapy than she did.
But, to answer your question truthfully, that was the only time in my "recovered" status that I had thoughts of an eating disordered nature.
I think if you read my response, you'll see that being "recovered" isn't about always being happy 100% of the time—it's about knowing what to do when you're not. When I went briefly to the therapist (not the same one from my eating disorder days), she told me that anyone with the number of things I was dealing with all at once would be stressed and upset, even if they didn't have an eating disorder history. Clearly there are things I'm not relaying here, details of a personal nature and such, that were heavy on my mind (non-eating disorder things) that I'm not posting here.
Things are good now, people. :) And to complete my response to this delicate question, 99% of the time, I'm good to go. Except for that one short period of time, I don't have the thoughts. I don't struggle to get eating disorder things out of my head. They're just not a part of me anymore.
I live my every day, a woman who is transformed from the girl she used to be. I wake up, eat whatever I want, never count calories (even in my head), never obsess over food or weight. I don't dislike me. I don't go back to eating disordered thoughts if I have a rough day, hear someone tell me something about my appearance I'd rather not hear, flip through a magazine and see stick thin models or actresses. I don't go back to the thoughts if I hear co-workers talking about weight and food intake. I don't go back to the thoughts if I have a fight with my husband and start to cry. I don't go back to the thoughts if I gain a few pounds. The thoughts aren't a part of me.
I think things start to disappear one by one as we recover. I think the more obvious pieces go first. We get to a healthy weight (whatever that is for us and our respective disorders). We let go of behaviors. We stop berating ourselves. We stop looking for perfection. We stop seeing perfection where it doesn't exist. We let go of pain. We let go of the past. We slowly let go of the thoughts, a day at a time, until we realize one day (like I did) that they're not there. They don't accompany me. They don't hide out in my mind waiting to come out if the opportunity presents itself. Call me "fat," call me "ugly," tell me I "shouldn't be eating all the food" that's on my plate... and I'll still be serene and confident in myself, in my recovery, in my body and my way of life. The change has taken place. I'm okay now. It's a beautiful reality.
I can't promise you that if something TERRIBLE happens, like my husband or my mother or my best friend dies, that I won't tell you I don't feel like eating. And I can't promise you I won't for a second remember how I used to cope. But I can promise you this: I'm done with my eating disorder and I'm done with the thoughts, and if one ever re-appears in my head, it'll be gone and I'll be on my feet no matter what life throws at me, because I've found the secret. I've learned to stand.