When I saw my dietician on Wednesday, I tried to tell her that I am trying hard, really I am!, it’s just that I’ve got a touch of a sinus infection and so I’m just not hungry so I’m sort of…you know…restricting.
After telling me that she couldn’t imagine WHY my immune system might be compromised after weeks of active restricting and excessive exercising, she reminded me of what I’d told her only ten minutes before.
As ludicrous as it probably seems, I am dreaming of a missions trip next summer – one that would be 11 months in length and require me to eat, essentially, whatever is put in front of me. I know people who have gone on the trip before and they’ve had to eat everything from rice (daily) to peanut butter and jelly (daily) to goat (which the local villagers slaughtered especially for their Christmas dinner). I told her that even if it’s insane to think I could be in a place to do that sort of trip next summer, I’d like to work towards it. So that one day, I can go on a missions trip and worry more about sharing the Gospel than the fact that I have to eat carbohydrates.
She was encouraging – not in the “yes, you’re totally prepared to go into the missions field!” way – but in a way that acknowledges that someday this will be a reality and in a way that acknowledges that I need a GOAL in order to work hard at recovery. However, she also pointed out that while I was saying I wanted to work on this – and yes, my eating looked a little less like rabbit food and little more like actual human meals – I was still restricting. I was still coming up with excuses – like being sick – to not eat.
You’re always going to find a reason that you “can’t” eat today and can wait until tomorrow to start recovering, she said. Followed with, Unless you’re vomiting, there is no reason not to eat.
Simple rules, but needed. I thought about them for the last two days. Thought about what it would mean to really get back into the swing of recovery and fight this thing to the end. Thought about what it would mean to eat when it was the last thing I wanted to do. Thought about what it would mean to sit in anxiety and pain and shame instead of running to the gym.
Sometime last night, I thought about this passage of an article written by Marya Hornbacher on recovery*:
There are a couple of things I had to keep in mind in early recovery. One was that I was going to recover, even though I didn’t feel “ready.” I realized I was never going to feel ready—I was just going to jump in and do it, ready or not, and I am deeply glad that I did. Another was that symptoms were not an option. Symptoms, as critically necessary and automatic as they feel, are ultimately a choice. You can choose to let the fallacy that you must use symptoms kill you, or you can choose not to use symptoms. Easier said than done? Of course. But it can be done.
So I decided, like I decided to be in recovery – symptoms (ED behaviours) are NOT AN OPTION. Somehow I’ve managed to continue along in a tentative sort of recovery for the last month and a half while thinking I can still act out every once in a while. Except “once in a while” becomes “more often than not” becomes “full-blown relapse.”
I got up this morning and put on my running clothes and headed out to meet a friend. As I drove to the trailhead, I prayed. I thanked God for another day to give this recovery thing a shot, and asked for strength to eat even when I didn’t want to. I committed again to trusting Him and trusting the body He gave me.
On the drive down, my check engine light came on. I hoped that maybe it was a fluke.
My friend and I ran 4 miles – some of the most enjoyable, easy miles I’ve run lately.
I start the car. The check engine light is still on. My phone blinks – a new e-mail. From my bank. Letting me know that my bank account has dropped below the amount that I think of as “really broke” – the amount that I can easily blow in a week between counseling, dietician, and student loans.
And I can’t help but to think that it would be SO MUCH BETTER if I could just skip breakfast. And lunch. And avoid the fact that I’m really, really broke.
I said a half-hearted prayer.
I came home and made breakfast.
I ate it.
I asked the friend I am going to a festival with to come pick me up so I don’t ride my bike miles to get to her.
Symptoms are not an option. Not today – and if I can do it for one day, why not tomorrow, too?
*I’ll post the entire article on a separate page. As someone who read “Wasted” no fewer than 20 times, hearing Marya’s perspective on recovery and how she managed it after being SO far down the rabbit hole is powerful for me.