I had today’s topic all set, outlined and formatted in my head. That is, until I spoke with a very dear friend. This is a young woman who lives across the country from me, whom I regard as one of the strongest (and most opinionated) people I know. A young woman who until very recently will tell you that she has spent three years “recovered”. So it blew me away when she told me she was entering therapy again.
Part of her game plan is to be more pro-active this time, not let the ED run away with her life. But she is seeing herself going back to a place she doesn’t want to, being led hand in hand with the eating disorder she thought she had left behind. She is, of course, better prepared this time. She sees the warning signs, but she has also lead a happy and fulfilling life for sometime, or so I thought. At the very least, she knows what she doesn’t want in her life, and that is an eating disorder.
I’m proud of her, and incredibly happy that she has chosen to make this choice now when I am confident that she can absolutely control and kill her eating disorder. But something she said made me think. She is going into therapy because she has “fallen out of the practice of liking” herself and is “desperately trying not to hate” herself. Those are two very different statements, though one is a continuum of the other. When she left treatment, I honestly believe, she loved herself. It was a long and bumpy road, but I do believe she got there. But her life has been eroding that self love to the point where she slowly forgot how to like herself. Which has lead to self hatred.
This is what we do. This is what we did when we first developed an illness. This is what we do when we leave treatment. This is what I do. But there is one difference between my dear friend now and what she was like many years ago (and what I was like until very recently). While she was long aware that she hated herself, she was not able to articulate it until she was able to form trusting bonds with professionals in treatment. She needed to dedicate the time and energy to getting well in order to see what she was truly doing to herself.
And then she had to learn how to articulate it to others. I think that’s the hardest part. You go through this awful self realisation, that hurts and that you feel like you will never get an answer to, and then one day, bam, you know what seems to be too much about yourself. And you know that to truly get better, you need to talk about it. So my darling friend found the strength (that very strength that I am just finding) to talk to people and tell them what she is going through and what she needs. That is scary. But that is what she knows she needs to do to finally get well.
I am beginning to think that is what recovery truly is about. I used to think it was entering treatment with an eating disorder, and leaving better. Then I thought it was entering treatment with an eating disorder, and leaving a little better. Now, I think it is recognizing when you are hurting and when you need help, and seeking it, so that each time you do, you get your help a little sooner and learn a little more about how to make yourself better.
She left me with an accurate and raw statement: “I know I deserve better from myself.” That, I believe, takes incredible strength. And one day I would like to be able to say it about myself.
On a final and unrelated note, I think it is safe to say that Spring is here! This is the tree right next to my second story balcony, and after a handful of rainy days, it is green! What a wonderful time, when plants begin to grow again after a long winter