My outpatient therapist asks me this from time to time. The answers range from “Hell No!” to “Maybe? I guess? If I have to?” depending on how I am feeling that day. She has been asking this of me almost every session since I returned from Florida – sessions that have covered good weeks and bad, weeks where I’m a little more hopeful and weeks where I’d prefer to just quit.
The past week has been a milestone in my recovery, I think. In a lot of ways, I’ve had the opportunity to bail out of hard things, avoid the hard work of recovery and keep things on a surface level. Instead, I’ve consistently pushed myself, asked myself hard questions, encouraged myself to take risks in individual and group therapy.
Case in point: Yesterday, one of the interns asked us to listen to a song (“Streets of Philadelphia“) and reflect on it. After we listened to it a couple of times, we went around the circle getting feedback from the other group members. Most of the girls before me kept it pretty shallow, talking about how they didn’t really think much of it, or how they were thinking of the movie while listening to it. When it came to me, I read this:
I wonder if J knew this could be triggering. I know the story behind “Philadelphia” so you would think it would be less triggering, knowing that it’s a song about a man dying of AIDS. But it’s still triggering — phrases like “wasting away” making me not want to eat. Remind me of those days when people did say I was wasting away — those days when I was thin, not fat. I feel like of the entire group, I am this pariah — the thing, not even human, that no one else wants to become. I am the recovery these tiny anorexic girls fear. They look at me and can’t imagine that I ever met the full diagnostic criteria that they do — but I did and now I don’t. I’m a failed anorexic and a moderately successful recovery. And I miss it. I want to go back and I know I can’t.
The interesting thing was the responses; which is to say, the lack of responses. I had confirmed what they were all thinking for weeks and they had the good grace not to lie about it. I cried as I read it (the first tears in months), but by the end of the discussion, felt strangely empowered. The fact is that I AM different from a lot of the girls in my group – not only in the fact that I’m in this weird ED-NOS classification now, but in the fact that I am IN RECOVERY. These girls are still hanging onto their eating disorders with everything they’ve got, fighting to hang on to the iron bars that keep them trapped. I am learning — ever so slowly — to release my grip on those bars and accept and hope for the possibility of life beyond the jail.
So yesterday, when my therapist asked me “Do you want to get better?” I gave her a new answer:
Not “Yes, but only if I can lose 15 pounds” or “Yes, but I don’t want to gain any weight,” just YES.
Whatever that means and however that looks.