Survival Skills

I have a new perspective today. We’re allowed to have those, right?

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I’m not close to being fully recovered. This may sound silly to you, as in silly-obvious, but it’s a swift kick in the gut, to me.

I feel like I’ve been gazing beseechingly at everyone I see. I don’t even know these people, and still I look at them, silently begging: Tell me I’m almost done. Tell me I’m nearly there. Tell me it’s all downhill from here.

It would be like telling someone at the six-mile mark in a marathon that they didn’t have too much farther to go. It would be cruel.

Part of me feels like I need immediate Intel about what’s up ahead. I just need to know — I need to know what to expect, in order to continue.

And to be clear: I want to know everything, not just what’s going to happen to my body. (And my brain, and how long it’s going to take.) It would be great if you could answer ALL of my questions. From where I should live to what I should do. And could you tell me if I’ll ever fall in love again? Could you tell me if I’ll marry, if I’ll be able to have children? Could you tell me if I’ll have a good life? Could you tell me if I’ll be able to touch somebody else’s? Could you tell me if I should write, or if I should get a new dream? Could you tell me that it’s all going to work out, absolutely and for sure and don’t you worry for a minute?

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And those aren’t the only things I worry about. I worry about little things, too. Like whether I will always recoil half an inch when someone slips a hand around my waist. Whether I will ever be able to stop for a spontaneous cup of soft serve. Whether I will ever feel normal, in my whole life. Whether I will ever feel pretty.

HOWEVER — deep breath in — there’s also a growing part of me says that I don’t need to know. That actually: not knowing would be best.

This next part of getting better? I’m beginning to think it has something to do with letting go. Just really and truly, letting go.

We’ve been over this, but my body knows what to do. It really does. It’s doing it now, with or without my incessant anxiety hustling it along. Too much interference from my brain is what got me in trouble in the first place. And it will probably be a lot less painful for me if I just stop agonizing, and let it do its thing. At its own pace.

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If I really think about it, my body is nothing less than a champ at continuing to put one foot in front of the other. This is too much information, probably, but it has serious survival skills. When I was starving, my body doubled the time it took to process food, in order to try to compensate for the scary-small amount coming in.

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I’ve thrown my entire digestive system out of whack. And while I’ve been doing a great job of begging for forgiveness, it’s going to take some more time to undo the damage I did. It’s going to take longer for my body to recalibrate. And for this self-imposed exile to end. And longer still, for all of my anxieties around food/weight/shape to come down.

I know what my body is up to now. All of its focus is on protecting my vital organs; all of its energy is going into thickening my mid-section. I can’t say I blame it. It believes I will starve it again soon enough. This is where so, so, so many people relapse — when they’re so close, genuinely almost there, but that extra layer of insulation becomes just too much to take.

I will be patient. The new weight will redistribute, once my body decided it has reason to trust me again. And it will be my body — not my brain — that will determine when we’re officially on speaking terms again.

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I have to remember this, too: that it’s a process. Meaning no matter how hard I try, it actually physically cannot happen overnight. It’s not like I went out and ran a marathon without training for months beforehand. Although perhaps we should drop the running analogies, now that I don’t run anymore.

It’s funny, though — many of my initial worries have fallen away. I don’t worry about gaining weight forever or never being able to feel full, these days. And when I start to worry about the things that want to trip me up now, I read this:

“I hope you can take some comfort in what I’ve been telling you again and again — which is that it isn’t easy, but that’s a good sign. If this were an easy thing, lots of people with eating disorders would wake up and say ‘hm, I think I’ll enjoy food again and I’ll just love feeling athletic and healthy and FULL, instead of wanting jutting hipbones and loving how people look at me with concern.’ 

The fact that it is a struggle means you’re really doing this. And that means you won’t have to do it again. If it felt super the whole time, you wouldn’t be doing something right — or you wouldn’t be being honest with yourself. That’s not to say that all parts of recovery will and should feel terrible. Some parts really are so great! It does feel lovely to just eat what you want to eat, and some days you’ll feel totally okay with your body and life. I felt like I started having these huge swings — I’d be crazy upbeat and almost giddy-happy about changing, and then just plummet. But think of how much your body is changing: It makes sense that your brain is going through a pretty big transformation before it too can level out.

I would really give you the advice to think about the future as little as you can. All I can tell you is that if you take care of yourself and get healthy, things will absolutely be okay. They will be. If you’re agonizing over whether you should be eating this much still, or whether it’s bad that you have a hard time with your mom or don’t like to be touched — you’re just worrying about things that are going to change so rapidly anyway. Everything I panicked about when I was getting better — it all goes away. You need to trust me on that, because there is no way for you to know or believe it. And I didn’t believe it at all — your present reality feels so intense and pressing. But think about how much has changed for you in the past few weeks. The next few weeks will be the same, and the next, and the next. Hang in there — it will get easier. Bad days are inevitably followed by good ones.”

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2 thoughts on “Survival Skills

  1. Hannah, you are doing so well, I wish you patience and acceptance on your journey to health.
    Be proud of how far you have come!
    Love and peace to you.

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