Sunday, May 29, 2011

I've always loved life. Now I finally love living. Can I just share this with you?

I've been having a lot of trouble deciding what to write about, because there are so many things that have helped me build my recovery so far, things I've learned myself, and from other people who have recovered from eating disorders, and from people whose lives have brought them wisdom through other challenges. I flit from crucial point to pivotal epiphany: I want to urge people to do concrete things; to honour their emotions; to accept help; to be committed to learning, in the direction of recovery, always; to be unequivocal in their efforts to change behaviour. To be patient, to be persistent. So many things!
But especially today I kept coming back to just wanting to share.... how amazing life and recovery really are. How amazing joy is, and how worth it every damn step towards recovery really is.

So I'm going to talk about the way is is to live without being owned by an eating disorder, self-hatred, and terror.

Meanwhile, can you do me a favour?
Can you comment on this post, and tell me what it would be helpful for me to write about? What are your questions about recovery? I may not be "there" yet, and by that I mean, I plan to keep going in this amazing direction. But, I want to share as much of this as I can. My experience has changed, and I have learned so much over all this time; from being stuck under a heavy and thick veil completely, to slowly being more and more really alive.

I want to talk about how my experience has changed.
In late 2007 I left a therapist in Montreal, where I was at school. It was my second time trying to go to school, because I'd already had to leave once as a result of my self-destruction. Now, I was leaving again, because it was becoming painfully clear that I needed, needed, to get help, more than she could provide.
My eating disorder and self-hatred and terror were destroying me. When I left, this person - the first therapist I had ever sought on my own, an important first step in itself - looked at me and shook her head. She was worried for me, but she had hope for me. I remember her saying to me, from her heart, "You're gonna be so free."

As I guess you can imagine, I really didn't know what to make of that then. Actually I thought it was a really weird thing for her to say. I was in hell. I'd only just started to grasp that I really did have an eating disorder and I really was going to have to get rid of it if I wanted to be alive, and I came and went on that one, to be honest. Wanting to be alive.
Which makes sense to me, really. Life was so miserable. Life was about putting myself physically, psychologically and emotionally through hell, to a greater or lesser extent, every single day. I used to say my body hated me. Because I was horrible to it and I felt like hell, all the time. Even when I was happy I was miserable. I was brutally emotionally abusive to myself, all the time. I mitigated it with marijuana and low-grade dissociation. And I was terrified of life. Of course I wanted to die.
Also, I'd gotten so used to being terrified and wanting out. It was all life had been about, for so long - with the active delusion that getting thin or being "empty" would give me relief coming and going.
I still get scared about pain. But I don't want to die anymore. And it is not a passing relief. It's what's all the time. Less than 4 years' time later,
now, I am free.

It is still amazing me. It is new. In my whole life, it is totally new, having these experiences. I was right..? It was possible for me to not want to die. And she was right. I am so free...

I will try to illustrate further...

I love my body. That one is relatively recent, and it still blows my mind. I did NOT see that one coming.

I have operated mostly on hope and imagination this whole time.
I thought "It's got to be possible that my experience could change, that I can change my experience." I thought,
"I can imagine that it's possible one day I'll be glad that I'm alive, so I'll do what people say and take the help and advice and try to change." Er, not to say that I wasn't ambivalent. I was very fucking ambivalent. After all, I also wanted to die. Change was threatening in a lot of ways, not least because it threatened that old, simple understanding of myself: that my devoted goal was to diminish, punish, avoid and escape.

About a year and a half ago, I was struggling a lot. I'd learned a lot so far - I draw a lot, now, on things I learned at points long before significant things changed, I think that's important... that's why it's important to always be trying to learn towards recovery - but I was still very full of hate, fear, and disorder.
I think there's some worthwhile things to be extracted from looking at this excerpt from my journal then. I wrote:

i feel like a raw wound, and i don't want to feel better.
Oh, that's not true of course. I do know, to connect with people, to achieve something, to LEARN again, to write again, to read again. To be a musician. I desperately want all these things and I know that I have to feel better to do that but that doesn't change how it is in here: i don't want to feel better. i am afraid to feel better. it feels wrong to even want to feel better. i could be talking body image - can i bear to try to not find myself to be disgusting?
I am so happy that I am, now, learning again. I do connect with people - I have really built and enjoyed friendships since I wrote that, and I am still getting better at having relationships and participating in a community. I was so alone and full of hate then, still. Even though things had begun to change. I am writing this blog, occasional poetry - I am reading my poetry in public! I'm going to school. I read. I am playing music. I celebrate with friends. I am sincere. I am present. I am alive.
At the time that I wrote this, I was about to start a body image group.
And I thought, I am disgusting. I have taught myself that I am disgusting. I reassure myself with the fact that I am not losing sight of the fact that I am disgusting. How can it be okay for me to participate in changing my awareness of the fact that I am disgusting??

Today I say, it's worth it. It's safe. It wasn't voodoo. And it wasn't done in that group. In that year +, I have exposed myself to fears. And I've beaten them. And I'm not ruled by them anymore. I was afraid to feed my body properly. I was afraid to truly give up purging. I was afraid to eat in public. I was afraid to show my legs. I was afraid to share my emotions. I was afraid to feel my emotions. I was afraid to ask for help. I was afraid to enjoy food. I was afraid to be full. I was afraid to say I wanted to get better. I was afraid to eat potatoes. I was afraid to show cracks in my fa├žade.
I exposed myself to every one of these fears and others. And they don't rule me any more, like a set of fundamental truths that could out-truth any passing joy or hope that I had. I exposed myself to them and now I'm free.
There's a difference between having fears and being owned by them.
I still have fears, and upsetting thoughts. But I'm alive now.

No, I really didn't imagine I would love my body. And I still have work to do on body image- I still find myself checking, and I am still a little bit vulnerable to old thoughts about my tummy or my arms or my thighs. But I can't overstate how precious, even still, this change has been. Here's what loving my body means, for me:

My body is amazing. It is a lovely shape. It is COOL. It not only handles but uses what I put into it. It even tells me what it wants, now that I'm learning how to listen and hear it. It is STRONG. It is flexible! It even has pretty good balance. It can learn - I'm doing yoga now, and slowly, I am noticibly improving. It is impressive!
Truthfully, I love my body most, hands down, when I am on my bicycle. My body is FUN! My legs and abdomen and arms can steer and carry me up hills, around corners, down hills, up hills again, no god damn problem, my body sweats and the sweat evaporates off my skin to cool me down, my body fires me across a bridge and down a road, passing cars and pedestrians and other people on bikes, my body carries me through the woods on the trails, to my favourite places, my body carries me on bumpy terrain, maintaining my balance and negotiating obstacles with quick reflexes and strength in my core, my body is quenched by oxygen and water. My body delights in being used, my body tempts me with "keep going, it's fun!" My body loves the reward of sitting back and almost singing as it pedals and pauses and pedals and pauses, no hands, strong inside, aware. And my body can feel exhausted and rest and rebuild itself when I'm done. And I LOVE this. All of this.

And I still find it so amazing. I so remember short bike rides where I would feel so miserable and I would just hate myself for it, thinking, what the hell is my problem - days where I'd eaten and not purged and I thought, there is no excuse for this - why am I so weak? I was full of hate for my nonfunctioning body when it was just suffering because its ordinary daily experience was of being treated with hate - neglect, at best. I'm amazed to find "I love my body" in my mind but there it was one day. Those very words. I think I laughed out loud when I recognised it. So that's what this is. Fucking wow.

Loving my body, for me, didn't end up being about suddenly finding myself beautiful or sexy, or about pampering or pedicures or being naked all the time, although I am enjoying unexpected comfort these days wandering around the house in my underwear. It was about slowly being unafraid, at the same time as allowing myself to notice the results of treating myself properly. Physical, psychological, and emotional results.

And I had loathed myself. I loathed my body. I was disgusting, constantly disgusted. I didn't hate my body like oh shit I look chubby in this or I'm having a fat day. I loathed my body. And it's changed.
Now I am joyful in it.

I loathed myself. And I feared all emotions, including joy. Maybe especially joy. And it's changing.

I just want you to know that it's possible. Every god damn step is worth it. Every god damn step.

With apologies to Kat and the Monday poster for my lateness. I am trying. And this post accidentally took me a few hours to write.

No music this week. Except insofar as this post has been an ode to being the fuck alive.
On reflection though, an important quote, as a parting meditation, that fits very much with what I have hoped to express here. By eating disorder activist Kathleen Macdonald:

"It is a given that you are beautiful, because you are alive."

1 comment:

  1. this is amazing. YOU are amazing. what a simply wonderful picture of transformation from ED to YOU and how beautiful life is without ED :)


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