“It does not hit you until later. The fact that you were essentially dead does not register until you begin to come alive. Frostbite does not hurt until it starts to thaw. First it is numb. Then a shock of pain rips through the body. And then, every winter after, it aches.” — Marya Hornbacher, Wasted
Wasted is one of those books that hurts to read. I love it and I find it one of the most powerful books on the subject of eating disorders because it is so raw. Marya holds back nothing. It also makes it a tremendously triggering book for those who are suffering. I have yet to be able to read the book all the way through from a standpoint of recovery. I have read a chapter or two, sure, but then things become too intense and my own eating disorder begins to flare up and compete.
But if you can read it from a perspective of recovery, it is surprising the new passages that jump out at you, that have new meaning, that can actually aid you on your journey to recovery. This quotation, which showed up on my Tumblr dashboard this morning, is one of those. For me, it helps remind me that those times when the eating disorder aches, when you feel the pain of it all over again, when you want it back so badly it hurts — are actually part of the healing process. It hurts not because you need the eating disorder again, but because it was there at one time and killed parts of you that are now hurting as they come back to life, and hurt more when they are brushed once again with the cold that nearly killed them.
Almost everyone I have talked to on my journey into and out of the eating disorder hell has said that they have periods each year which are more difficult than others. Anniversaries, if you will. A lot of people, myself included, struggle a lot during the holidays. (I also have another “anniversary” near my birthday, when I was first officially diagnosed with anorexia.) Highly charged emotions about families and holidays meet highly charged emotions about food and it creates something of the perfect storm.
As a result, I can tell you exactly what I’ve eaten, how many pills I took, what I weighed, and how much I exercised (and how and where) for every Thanksgiving for the past four years. I long for the days that my Thanksgiving memories include trips to see family and friends and games played and jokes told. This is (both literally and figuratively), the winter after that near-death, when the limbs that have been damaged ache with the knowledge of what was.
This doesn’t mean I’m relapsing, this pain and ache where the eating disorder once was. It doesn’t mean you are either. We certainly have the choice to do so, of course, as we always do.
But if we can begin to befriend this ache, we can see it for what it is: a sign that we are healing.