So here’s an unedited piece of writing from today, the first per in a new series of weekly pieces of unedited writing about the side of eating disorder recovery you don’t see on Instagram. The “oh sweet Jesus I don’t even know what I’m doing” side.
Oh man, but this does not get easier.
Well, that’s not strictly true. A lot of things are a lot easier. But I come across new difficult stuff all. The. Time. I haven’t burst into tears in the supermarket for a good long while for example. But I’m kind of feeling generally disillusioned and, frankly, bored out of my goddamned mind with eating disorder recovery. The only thing that keeps me going most days is the sure and certain knowledge that relapse would definitely be worse.
But I’ve been doing this whole recovery thing day in, day out for eighteen months now, and not every day can be instagram-levels of inspiring. Some days are just kind of mediocre. I do what other people do, I just make a bit more fuss about it. And most of the other days I try desperately just to be a “normal” person and completely balls it up.
Take today, for instance.
It’s one of my days off, which is a problem straight away, because recovery lives in routine while relapse thrives in chaos. I have no plans except “sort out the huge pile of laundry so you feel slightly more like a functioning adult”. My boyfriend is convinced I need to relax more, and I mean, he’s probably right, because on any given day I’m about as relaxed as a coiled python. So I try it. I lounge around. I sit. I start wondering if I’m doing this right. Maybe I should have a hoodie on for peak relaxation. I wonder if anyone has ever made a graph about that. I think if I wasn’t such a lazy piece of shit sitting down on a Monday morning I could make a graph about something like that but I never will because I’m bad at adulting and also at life and motivation. This is how quickly my brain works – I get from “hmm, maybe a hoodie?” to “you are a waste of oxygen” in about 0.7 seconds.
Aha! I think to myself. Breakfast will surely help. But I’m a binge eater thinking about how much of a disappointment I am trying to prepare a meal, and that simply doesn’t end well man. So I make a strong coffee with four sugars and congratulate myself on what a balanced diet I am following. Half an hour later, when I can hear colours, I think, wow, that coffee was great. How about another? Now I get fancy. I use the espresso machine instead of the kettle and create something similar to vanilla flavoured kerosene.
Have you ever drank way too much coffee in way too short a period of time? After the elation wears off, when your eyeballs are starting to do interpretive dance to La Bamba without any input from the rest of your body, do you know what happens?
You guessed it guys. I got the shits!
They do not post this on Instagram, I’m tellin’ ya. You don’t see this on “14 recovery warriors you need to follow RIGHT NOW”. I can almost guarantee that – IN RECOVERY – they have made dumb ass choices about what to eat and caused fucking mayhem with their digestive system.
And how do I know I’m still in recovery? When I’m sat on the toilet thinking “maybe some Greek yoghurt would have been a better shout”, how do I know if is that different to when I used to kneel in front of the toilet wondering when I was ever going to get my act together? I absolutely know I have not relapsed.
Because I sat down for a bit longer after that. Then I made lunch. Solid food lunch. Ate it. That’s it. That’s the difference. I learn from these dumb ass mistakes. I try my hardest to make different and original mistakes every week.
I ate dinner too, and I congratulated myself on it. If some huge part of your brain is saying “how pathetic, to congratulate yourself on eating dinner”, firstly, don’t worry, that’s what I was thinking too. Secondly, welcome, you must be new here. Eating disorders take what is normal and easy and make it a task with a similar level of difficulty and trauma to brushing my cat’s teeth. And really, what would be normal and easy about supporting my body to live when it has housed everything I hated for so long? Why would that be a simple everyday task? It’s so difficult to do things that sustain life when you are hellbent on death.
(Just try to imagine disliking someone so much that you would be happy for them to die a slow and painful death. They’ve hurt you and let you down and to top it off, they’re fat. Now imagine you live with them and it’s your job to cook for them and force them to enjoy a delicious meal. That is what my recovery is like)
There’s this point that recovery will always loop back to eventually: grow or die. Every type of recovery, every type of getting better from any addiction/mental health/vague neurosis type thing, it all comes down to that choice. Grow, change, adapt. Or die. The thing with the coffee happened today because I knew I didn’t want to die, but I wasn’t totally sure I wanted to grow. And so I sat in the middle, suffering. But the telling, the writing, the sharing – that’s the growth. That’s the change. Christ, today I took myself to a place where making myself a disappointing ham sandwich at 3pm was a choice I made to live.
And THAT is what they don’t tell you on Instagram. There wasn’t a single thing I could take an aesthetically pleasing picture of today, and yet I still had a day in recovery. I made the choices I had to make in order to live one more day.