I left Center for Change in the middle of July this time — a shorter stay for 3 or 4 weeks. And a stay that absolutely changed me. It feels like this change is going to stick. I’m positive of it. When things get rough, I’m reaching out. I’m asking for help. I’m re-reading truths that I know to be true.
Here is the letter I shared with “my girls” upon my departure this year.
Let it be known: I love every freaking one of you, whether you like it or not. You inspire me every day with your courage, your honesty, and your strength. Your stories give me hope — for you and for me.
In that way, it seems silly of me to write you a letter of hope, when in large part, you all have been the ones who taught me to hope. You have taught me about second and third and twentieth chances. You have taught me about grace under fire. You have taught me to keep pushing, even when it seems that there is no end in sight.
That’s the tough thing about recovery: we don’t really know what it looks like, and we don’t really know about the road to get there. The road is filled with tons of unknowns and we never really know what the next step is until we’re taking it. We just have to trust the folks who are leading us and trust they have our best interests in mind. And sometimes it sucks and it feels like we’re crawling over broken glass. But at the end of it, we’re stronger and smarter and more insightful than we’ve ever been in our lives.
There is a poem I have always loved titled “Ithaca” – it alludes to the Odyssey and Odysseus’s search for Ithaca. I think it applies here, too; especially the last two stanzas.
Always keep Ithaca fixed in your mind.
To arrive there is your ultimate goal.
But do not hurry the voyage at all.
It is better to let it last for long years;
and even to anchor at the island when you are old,
rich with all that you have gained on the way,
not expecting that Ithaca will offer you riches.
And if you find her poor, Ithaca has not deceived you.
With the great wisdom you have gained, with so much experience,
you must surely have understood by then what Ithacas mean.
Do I think that we will find, at the end of the voyage, that recovery has deceived us? Absolutely not. But I think there is wisdom in the advice not to rush the journey. Let it last as long as it needs. Anchor yourself to something steady when you feel like you are too tired to move forward in that moment. Don’t push yourself to do things you’re not ready for. There is no shame in taking your time to challenge this fear food or that, no shame in slowly learning who and how to trust. As long as you keep recovery fixed in your mind, as long as you are moving there, you are making progress.
Ithaca has given us the beautiful voyage. Without our eating disorders, without our journeys to recovery, we would never have discovered so many different things about ourselves. I never would have known that I love art. Or that I really like being around horses. Or that even the most seemingly mundane moment can lead to a major step forward. An overwhelming body portrait can be cut down into pieces, and those pieces can lead to a “so what?” moment that forever changed me.
Would I have liked to learn these things without spending years of my life in and out of treatment? Sure – and some people do. But if my options were to have never had an eating disorder and not know myself deeper and have more intimate relationships in my life or to never have struggled with my weight and body and know nothing of these more hidden parts of me — I would take the eating disorder every time.
Do not mistake this to mean that I think our eating disorders are good things. Our eating disorders can and will kill us if we so much as give them the chance. They will destroy relationships, destroy our health, destroy our self-worth. Our eating disorders give us nothing unless we choose to journey to Ithaca. But when we make that choice, we will find that the journey is more valuable than “recovered” itself.
It is my hope for all of you that you would choose to set out for Ithaca and take a risk at the beautiful voyage.