And I want so badly to tell you that I’m free.
I want so badly to tell you I have left it all behind. That I never even think about eating five chocolate bars instead of one. That I love salads, and I exercise all the time, and the weight loss makes me love my body. That my eating is totally, one hundred percent, never ever disordered, and that this is recovery.
I’m so sorry, but that’s all bullshit.
I still think about food more often than not. I miss my eating disorder the way you miss a friend who as passed away: I know they’re still there somewhere, but I’d have to have a death wish to get to see them again.
I still hate the taste of food I make for myself. Other people have to tell me if my body has changed because I can’t see it. My body hasn’t looked the same to me for a very long time now. Sugar still soothes me. I didn’t use my food diary over Christmas. I feel just as ugly in size 20 clothes that are too big as I did in size 26 clothes that were too small. I feel like a fraud. I miss being too full to feel anything. I get bored of saying “no, thanks”. I want to weigh myself every day. I never ever want to weigh myself again. Some days the very taste of food is a miracle. Other days I miss the shovel and swallow reflex.
I’m supposed to talk to people, but mostly they don’t get it. “Look how much weight you’ve lost! You’re doing so well!” They think this is about my body. This has never been about my body. This is about control. Exerting total control over my emotions. It’s nearly impossible to cry with your mouth full. Try it if you don’t believe me. I’m supposed to talk to people, but they think I want to be thin. They think it matters. Because my eating disorder made me fat, nobody really cares much where my head is at in my recovery. As long as they think I want to be thin, I could be living on apples and fresh air and I don’t know if they’d mind.
But being thin doesn’t mean to me what it means to them. To me thin has always meant visible – vulnerable. My body has been an insulation between my inner self and the rest of the world. Nobody wolf-whistles or catcalls, because there’s no challenge in prey that can’t run. My eating disorder gave me a body that was sexless. Just a mass. A lump. Seeing my waist return initially filled me with fear, because what if someone could grab me by it? If you can reach your hand all the way around my neck, you might choke me. Fat was protection. I know that not everyone understands that, and I’m jealous of them.
I’m angry at myself, or I’m angry at everyone else. On the bad days, both.
And all this – incredibly, unbelievably, ridiculously – is recovery. It really is.
Because however often I think (fantasise) about relapsing, I haven’t yet. However often I revert back to calling myself a fat bastard, I always correct myself. Eventually. I can run for a bus and still breathe afterwards. I still cook for myself and eat what I’ve made even when it isn’t as comforting or familiar as a takeaway. Even when chewing one mouthful of vegetables feels like it takes a year. Asking myself if this chocolate bar would really serve me. Getting out of this competitive weight loss bullshit. Knowing that I can have a McDonalds if I really want to and it isn’t even a relapse because I am allowed anything and everything – in moderation.
I can buy matching underwear for the first time in my life, and occasionally I permit myself to think I look good. I get genuine joy out of Primark pyjamas I never would have fitted into a year ago. I can sort of see the changes in my body out of the corner of my eye every now and then, like they’re approaching over the horizon. I can almost imagine loving this body. I see muscles appearing and strength forming under my skin, holding me up when I feel wobbly. I’m starting to feel like I was made for more than just standing still. One day in work I thought I had developed two huge hernias and someone else had to tell me they were actually my hip bones. Necklaces hang between my collar bones in a way I could never pull off four dress sizes ago.
I know the danger signs now. I know the feelings and behaviours that would pull me back into my eating disorder. I know that it’s like a phantom limb. Even though I’m not supposed to, I will still feel the itch. And even if I tried to scratch it, I would never get relief.
And I know what recovery isn’t too. It’s not yoga mats, or avocados, or fucking herbal tea. It’s not your perfect plate of food that you Instagrammed to feel good about yourself or your sodding third eye. Recovery is sitting at the hard edge of feelings you have tried to escape your entire life and knowing there is nowhere to go with them. That you just have to sit in it and try not to die. Some nights that’s the best recovery gets. And your therapist won’t have ever bloody mentioned that to you. She won’t mention that things in life will happen and they will hurt. Sometimes they hurt a lot. And so you sit with that hurt and wait it out. But being able to feel? That’s recovery. Feeling angry and frightened and wanting to hide away but still eating a good breakfast and going to work. To have an emotion and still function like a goddamn normal person. That’s a level of recovery I have never even dreamed of, and it makes me feel like a fuckin’ warrior.
I’m nearly a year in recovery now. It’s amazing.
(Welcome back to my blog. It’s been a while! To see where I was at before recovery came and grabbed hold of me, check out <a href=”https://mizalisonclare.wordpress.com/2014/11/13/everybody-worships-the-only-choice-we-get-is-what-to-worship/” target=”_blank”>this post</a> )