Written By: Ryan
Originally Posted: April 15, 2017
It wasn't supposed to be like this.
Seriously? Bitch disappears for almost two months then comes back with this emo shit? OK fine, dear snowflake child—do enlighten us! What, pray tell, was not supposed to be like this?
Uh, hello! This wasn't supposed to be like this! THIS! Right here! It's happening all wrong!
There's a whole lot that could fall under stuff-that-didn't-turn-out-as-expected (the universe has a great sense of humor) but don't worry--this won't be one of those this isn't where I thought I'd be self-pitying tales of woe because 1. I totally missed the memo on how all young girls are supposed to start fantasizing about what their weddings lives should be like at this age so I don't waste time feeling inadequate according to arbitrary societal rules and 2. After fighting overcoming my fair share of shitstorms unexpected challenges, radical acceptance is a good friend.
What I mean is this post wasn't supposed to end up this way.
For one, I was supposed to write this over a month ago but my, how things have changed. End of February/beginning of March was Eating Disorders Awareness Week and as someone who's become really open about ED recovery after many years of hiding, it would make sense for me to write something about it. I mean, I did last year. A few people even asked what I had planned for this glorious week of awareness and the thing is, I did have something planned, and I was going to call it ... BEFORE AND AFTER. (The more things change the more they stay the same?) I got the idea from the ED forum (contact me if interested) when several people said they actually dread this week because of all the "before and after" photos. Many sites don't understand the implications of posting survivors' stories with photos from "before" (when very sick) and "after" recovery, when much happier and healthier. The general takeaway is people with eating disorders are emaciated white girls who find happiness and fulfillment after weight restoration. There are many problems with this skewed portrayal of the deadliest mental-yet-very-physical disorder, some being that both men and women of all ages and ethnic backgrounds can have eating disorders, and the way someone looks is no indication of neither presence nor absence of illness.
Kind of silly, don't you think? Going on about how you're not supposed to say, "But you don't look like you have an eating disorder?" because that invalidates the condition and often fools people into thinking, "Well maybe it's not thatbad if my doctor says I look fine ... " (yes, real medical professionals say this kind of shit smdh) and thus perpetuates the illness. We need early earlier intervention because most of the time a person has to get so fucking sick--often on the verge of dying--before considering professional help. Like, say, I dunno, someone's body begins shutting down and ends up in the ER with a mini stroke and finally agrees to residential treatment. How long would you wait around to get help for a broken leg? Though EDs are the "mental" illness with indisputably most physical ramifications, they're still amental illness which means you can't tell by looking at someone from the outside. Not all sufferers are textbook skeletal just like not all who are weight restored are officially "all set" with ED, falling on the "after" side of the recovery spectrum.
That said, it makes absolutely zero sense to portray recovery via before-and-after photos. I mean, doesn't that actually sound really counterproductive? It's not about how you look, but look at these! No. And on a much darker side of the whole thing (as if this could get any trickier) looking at certain images could actually be very triggering, whether it's your own "before" pictures or someone else's. It's possible to wholeheartedly want recovery more than anything else in the world but still struggle with what that has to mean physically, though that anxiety does not mean secretly wanting to stay sick.
So yeah, it was supposed to read something like that. But I couldn't bring myself to write it ... I dunno, just didn't feelright. Of course I think it's an extremely important message to share but honestly, I wasn't sure I was in any mindset to be sharing any ED recovery messages and it took me another week or two to come to grips with the underlying reason. Turns out when your whole modus operandi is complete authenticity in every facet of life, preaching about recovery when questioning (but of course avoiding actually thinking about) your own proves extremely uncomfortable. And so you go and distract yourself with other stuff because that's way easier than trying to process difficult topics, yay! Even stopped journaling for a while because I have to study for the GRE I have an event work is very busy I'm too tired I'm really into this book I didn't want to think about it. I didn't want to deal with unpleasant emotions even though I can now accept they're part of being.
I've been pretty hypocritical, but not all is lost. Let's travel though the labyrinth of the past two months and steer our way to redemption! (This is mostly to make me feel better. But you'll do that for me, won't you?)
If you don't experience anything like this yourself (and I hope you don't) you might not understand the "claims" that something wicked could be happening to a person without their knowledge. Wait, what? It's happening to you, right? Like, you're the one doing it? So it's like, your decision? How could you possibly not know, then?
Can the mind really be that deceitful and manipulative?
Yes. Yes it can.
And this doesn't just go for those officially diagnosed with a mental afflication, either (1 in 5 people currently struggle with mental illness) ... This goes for EVERYONE. Our brains are largely set up to function on autopilot and the darn buggers (don't know where that came from) automatically process most of the world by themselves, only letting a few tidbits fall into our conscious awareness. Like you probably didn't know you got takeout for dinner instead of cooking because of that Chili's billboard you didn't even consciously realize you saw that morning, did you? DID YOU?
So yeah, I guess you could say the mind is pretty damn powerful.
Back to me.
For several weeks from February into March, I wasn't doing awesome. At first the behaviors resurfaced without my conscious knowledge even though deep down I knew something was up. Sometime in the middle of March, I forced myself to face the truth of what's happening so I can start making moves to get back on track.
I was not pleased. In the least.
First of all, what the fuck? How are distorted thoughts and actions from before creeping into now? You hear me? This is NOW, as in, after treatment! I talk about recovery! I want full recovery! I was doing it! But this isn't recovery? Why am I failing??
You know what, though? This is recovery. This is what it looks like because there really is no "before and after" ... to anything. Nothing is permanent; shit happens all the time and all we can do is our best to navigate the waves. Opinions change, technology advances, kings fall, amendments amended, planets added, marriages end, humans evolve (#ScienceIsReal). And sometimes things go the opposite way from what we had planned. Isn't there a joke about it? Know how to make God laugh? Tell Him your plans.
Of all things, eating disorder recovery does not follow a straight "before and after" path. Of all people, I should know this. But I do know this, and you can bet your pretty little bottom if it had been someone else coming at me with this predicament I would've said all sorts of encouraging stuff, like "Don't be so hard on yourself! You are not a failure!Remember how there's no direct shot to recovery and it goes in zigzags and to the left then forward then circles around and to the right and all that stuff? This is supposed to be happen! You silently struggled with this thing for 12 YEARSbefore acknowledging illness, how can you expect to be completely better in this short time? You have to give yourself a break, plus you're not alone. Mental fitness as a whole isn't doing so hot this year, with the American Psychological Association reporting the first statistically significant increase of stress in the last 10 years (thanks, Trump). Between the uncertainty and anxiety from current events plus a ridiculously overwhelming workload, it's really not that surprising this shit's crept back in a little bit. This is how you've conditioned yourself to cope with hardship for a very long time. What's important is your self awareness! So what if it took you some weeks to be real with yourself? What matters is you've acknowledged it to yourself and started asking for support and that's a huge part of the battle! I mean, you can't really fight the battle if you don't think there even is a battle happening, am I right? Plus one month is way shorter than 12 years, AM I RIGHT?"
Damn, I'm a pretty good friend to people who aren't me.
And that's where I was being hypocritical. Maybe "hypocritical" isn't the right word but I think we can agree I could work on being nicer to myself. You know, practice some of that self love, care and compassion I believe so strongly for everyone else. Why is it so easy to tell others to put themselves first, to prioritize declining health over nearly impossible work demands, because without our health we're no good to anyone?
Why has this been so hard to accept even though I've already been told all of these things before and have since repeatedly announced it to others? Aren't all of these questions from before?
Well buddy, it's because things change, both internally and externally. You can get a Donald Trump after a Barack Obama. You can struggle a bit with previous challenges. But the cool part is once you get woke, you can fix it. Instead of being down on myself I should be proud that I was the one to shake myself out of what I know is a very slippery slope. At this point I know too much about this illness to let it get me for too long.
Didn't the Greek philosopher Heraclitus say the only constant is change? And how you can't step into the same river twice, or something like that? Shit happens and minds waver and that's when you take pause, focus on now, get some perspective and reroute yourself. At least you know every fight brings progress.
I know what I need to do.
I'm doing it.