A week and a half ago, my counselor challenged me to consider what it would mean to stop trying, throw in the towel, and just be unhealthy for the rest of my life. And by challenged I really mean threatened to terminate counseling if I don’t start acting like I want this.
“This” is healthy. Healthy is unknown. I spent eight years of my life barely surviving, head just above water – simultaneously fighting and embracing an eating disorder, self-injury, alcohol abuse and crippling depression. But the thing is, I survived. And, despite all odds, I have thrived the last two years – thrived despite career changes, moving home, calling off my engagement, and embarking on the journey to become a full-time missionary.
And so, really, can it be all that bad? Is the way I’ve been living my life for the past ten years really that detrimental that I should do lots of really hard work to completely relearn how to live and think and feel? The mission seemed to think so when I met with their psychologist last summer.
And now I have spent the past 6 months in counseling, watching my tentative grip on sanity slip further and further away. Then a little closer, then down the chute again. I am just tired. I told my counselor that, told my friends that when I found myself slipping further and further back into obsession and destructive patterns. After months of trying to be healthy for no other reason than getting to Africa, I had run out of steam. I was – and am – frustrated that I’m not able to just wake up in the morning and be normal. I am tired of fighting every day for something I’m not entirely sure I want.
So comes the ultimatum from my counselor – take a week, consider the path you’re going down, come back next week and we’ll decide if we need to do anything beyond that.
The following is what I came up with:
So if I give up, decide to turn my back on health, what does that look like? How does it feel? Why?
It is miserable and sad and lonely. It is always lying, living in secrecy, or accepting the fact that people will leave because hanging around someone who is bent on killing herself is a waste of time. It is death. It is depression so encompassing, hopelessness so pervasive, that I finally kill myself one way or another. It is obsession. It is constant sickness from the mix of chemicals in my system. It is long sleeves, blood, secrets and lies, self-loathing, shame, hatred fear.
It is conflict. It is everyday telling God I don’t need Him. It is sin and guilt and the divide between what I know it means to be a Christ-follower and how I choose to live. It is soul death, life outside the will of God.
It is superficial relationships, the inability to let myself be loved, much less to love anyone else. It is lonely. It is imprisonment to shame. It is lies, lies, lies. It is exhausting.
But it is comfortable. Predictable. Tangible. Control. It is ensuring that I’m not just average – because even “crazy” is better than “just average.” It is independence, the self-made life. It is freedom to skip meals, lose 10 pounds, run for hours. It is avoiding the negative, shutting off that I don’t want to feel, protecting myself from pain. It is dramatic and urgent and fuel for the part of me that wants to be creative and write.
But it is desperate. So desperate. The feeling that I’m losing everything and everyone I care for, constantly and anxiously anticipating loss.
It is suicide. It is selfish. And it is so hard in the place where I am to see death as a negative. Death is almost welcome – a respite from the conflict, the fight, the constant feelings of worthlessness. If only I were to view death as a horrible option, the choice for health would be so much easier.
But it is hard to give up the bizarre comfort and security of illness for the utter unpredictability of “health.” Especially when it means throwing myself into the unknown – re-evaluating who I know myself to be, letting others and God help and comfort and affect me. –February 1, 2010
That was almost two weeks ago. A crazy couple of weeks where I went full-tilt into unhealthy habits and let myself go crazy if that’s what I really wanted to do. And then, I found this blog. I read it and saw a woman who is years ahead of me in the recovery game, but seems to very much understand what it means to be a child of God, broken and flawed but also beloved. And it made me think, hey, if she can do it….maybe I can too?
So we’re giving this recovery thing a shot for real. Thanks for the inspiration, S.