Of course, plenty of people acknowledge that recovery isn’t perfect. But if you look at the way the eating disorder community tries to construct recovery, it tends to be built as this idealized form of what Life is Going to be Like from Now On, Forever and Ever, Amen. This isn’t what recovery is like. Getting hit in the face with the rude reality of the day in, day out, utter slog of recovery (didn’t I just eat yesterday?) was enough to make me seriously consider quitting.
There’s a saying floating around in the world of Pinterest or Tumblr that “The worst day in recovery is still better than the best day in relapse.” To be really honest (am I even allowed to say this?), sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes, when life is really painful, the ED is numb and that feels a whole hell of a lot better than recovery. I know it’s not in my best long-term interests to return to the ED, but there you have it. I didn’t fall into the trap of an ED because I wanted to be thin. I fell in the trap because I finally found something that would make the anxiety and depression just a little bit better."
A couple of days ago, I stumbled across Carrie Arnold's blog post, entitled "Letting go of the idealized recovery." And it hit really close to home; I mean, aren't you supposed to go through treatment just once and then you're cured forever? Good girls don't relapse. Especially if you are a psych major--you know better.
But here I am.
Last night, I was talking to a friend of mine and I told her that I thought that maybe I needed IOP. And I have been thinking more and more lately about maybe talking to my mom and my team at home and possibly taking the rest of the semester off in order to get back on my feet.
But eating disorders are hard. Mine doesn't want me to move forward. It really, really does not want me to get any sort of help. Because like Carrie Arnold said, "When life is really painful, the ED is numb and that feels a whole hell of a lot better than recovery... I didn't fall into the trap of an ED because I wanted to be thin. I fell in the trap because I finally found something that would make the anxiety and depression just a little bit better." Then it just consumes you and prevents you from seeking help, from moving forward.
Since I first brought up the fact that I was relapsing to my professor and Dean Cole, things have gotten worse both behaviorally, emotionally, and cognitively. I know that (I just don't care a majority of the time), but now they're both starting to know that as well. And people I saw at home over the weekend were worrying and well... Dean Cole decided that it was time to involve my parents, especially since I was thinking about maybe taking some time off of school.
And the two of us talked over a few options that I had as far as when would be a good time, how that would work on the college's end, and so on... But I still don't know what I need. I know what I want, which is very eating disorder minded. But I don't rationally know what I need because I don't have an objective sense of how bad things are right now. Which is hard. I just know things have gotten worse (to put numbers on it, I would say that when I first noticed I was relapsing, my brain was about 25ish% eating disordered, but now it's definitely closer to 90% eating disordered).
So I came up with the idea that I go home and see my team for some sort of assessment and then figure out what sort of treatment it is that I need. And Dean Cole agreed that was a good idea. I still was very adamant about not talking to my mom, though. So I sent her a text, which I finally received a reply to a little while ago.
I don't know why the response that I received angered me so much. It did, but the second response that I received made me more angry. She asked me if I was going to be safe tonight, like just because I'm relapsing, I'm going to kill myself or harm myself in some other permanent way. Right. That makes me really want to actually talk to her and go home now...
But that isn't my point.
See, over the course of tonight, I have talked with two very wise women and both of them have used medical examples as ways to explain to me why relapse is, for lack of a better word, okay and why there is no shame in it.
My aunt said this: "You know enough about it to know there are relapses and remissions-- almost like a cancer patient. You need to do what it takes to put it in a very long remission."
Just keeping it all in perspective, that eating disorders are, in fact, an illness. That we classify them solely as mental disorders is misleading for many and that we treat them as things that can be cured by one round of antibiotics is also incorrect; they are sicknesses that require treatment--medical appointments with a physician, chemo, radiation, nutrition, support. They're not something that you can just get over or something that will be cured easily. It takes a lot of time, hard work, and pain in order to heal. It's a lot of doing things that scare you and make you uncomfortable.
One of my biggest fears at this point is that my team will tell me they don't want me to come back to school once they talk to me. I'm trying to convince myself that it's more important for me to take care of my health and well-being than it is to finish this semester properly, but it's going to take some convincing, especially since my mindset is so eating disordered (as evidenced by me asking my friend last night why I needed to eat again if I had already eaten once yesterday).
But if I think about the illness part of it, if this was cancer, I wouldn't myself to suck it up and wait for the right time to get treatment. I shouldn't be telling myself that with my eating disorder either. And I definitely still shouldn't be feeling shame about struggling again. This is just a relapse. Going home and following my team's instructions, even if I do not like them, will hopefully help to put this illness into remission.
My other big fear is that people will see me differently because I am struggling again. I found this quote by Daniell Koepke the other night that makes me feel a lot better about that:
“The fact that you’re struggling doesn't make you a burden. It doesn't make you unlovable or undesirable or undeserving of care. It doesn't make you too much or too sensitive or too needy. It makes you human. Everyone struggles. Everyone has a difficult time coping, and at times, we all fall apart. During these times, we aren't always easy to be around — and that’s okay. No one is easy to be around one hundred percent of the time. Yes, you may sometimes be unpleasant or difficult. And yes, you may sometimes do or say things that make the people around you feel helpless or sad. But those things aren't all of who you are and they certainly don’t discount your worth as a human being. The truth is that you can be struggling and still be loved. You can be difficult and still be cared for. You can be less than perfect, and still be deserving of compassion and kindness.”
Regardless of how shitty and shameful I feel about relapsing and needing to go home, I am still worthy of love; I am still worthy of being cared for; I am still worthy of kindness and compassion, from other people, but especially from myself.
And that includes getting the treatment that I need.