Thursday, November 14, 2013

Today, I thought about making a grocery list

I have discovered exactly what people-who-don't-know-what-else-to-say say to you when you take the rest of the semester off in order to recover from your eating disorder: 
"So what did you do today?"

It seems to be the only thing that anyone, anywhere wants to know.  And I've struggled to come up with a good answer to that question.  Here's what I've got so far: 

1. I slept. 
2. I became re-addicted to Bejeweled Blitz
3. I did some blogging. 
4. I read some blogs. 
5. I caught up on my emails.
6. I got out of bed and washed my face/brushed my teeth/etc. 
7. I put on clothes that I had not previously slept in! 
8. I watched Kevin Costner in For the Love of the Game
9. I technologically interacted with friends. 
10. I thought about going to the grocery store. 
11. I got angry about having to take a semester off of college, live at home, and go to treatment, which by the way, might not start for the next two weeks or so because the program is full. 
12. I thought about maybe making a grocery list and that maybe then I would actually go to the grocery store. 

Given, the majority of these are things that 'normal' people do every day.  The word normal has been thrown around all over Facebook and blogs quite a lot recently in reference to mental illness and recovery--from this post by Kelsi to this post here, and honestly, it's been something that's been on my mind quite a bit, as well.  I kind of touched on it earlier today when thinking about failure and re-framing my perspective to make it relevant to me and what my normal is.  

See what's normal for me right now, was written about very eloquently in this post here, which was about a completely different topic, but is on my mind right as I write this: 

"You see, people without an understanding of eating disorders don’t realize that they can have a devastating impact upon every facet of an individual’s life. That their life is dictated by rules, their day can revolve completely around exercise or eating or not eating. That their nights can be completely sleepless or spent in the bathroom or spent in the kitchen. They don’t see the urges that arise when the individual is experiencing guilt for 'only exercising three hours that day' or for 'eating extra sultanas out of the Sultana Bran' at brekky time. People don’t see the exhaustion, or the fears, or the thoughts that harangue the individual every single moment of every single day. They don’t understand the outbursts or the tears at mealtimes. They don’t get the rules or the rigidity; the desperate need to feel safe, and if that need can be fulfilled by eating out of the same bowl every day, then so be it. They don’t see the 4am walks; the exercise in the pouring rain for hours on end which leads to extreme hypothermia. They can’t understand the inability to work or study because of a malnourished brain – caused by deprivation of carbohydrates, leading to incapacity to function adequately. They don’t think about the dry skin, the falling out of hair, the bruises that appear the hell out of nowhere, the endless injuries caused by overexercise, and the excruciating leg cramps that awake the individual in the middle of the night. The low blood pressure. The low blood sugar. The osteoporosis. People don’t see the guilt and grief that is felt when the individual 'can’t' go to their friend’s birthday parties or be social ever, due to having to be exercising instead or out of fear of the food that may be present at said event. And they don’t see that they eventually lose their friends, because those friends will only put up with so much shit before they crack. I could go on for ages, but we’d be here all day."

You see what I mean?  Life is vastly different for an individual with any form of an eating disorder.  Vastly different.  And when you are just beginning an initial period of recovery, the seemingly little things are huge victories.  Little things like putting any form of nourishment into your body.  Little things like admitting that life is not always rainbows and sunshine and that yeah, sometimes it can be really, really crappy.  Life is also vastly different for any individual suffering from depression or anxiety, both of which are linked to all types of eating disorders.  The little victories there are getting out of bed in the morning, getting dressed, any form of communication with anyone.  

The little victories when facing mental illness in the beginning stages of recovery are all about survival.  

Today I found out that, best case scenario, I can start the DTP program at CCED the week over November 25th.  That's in 11 days.  11 days of being at home and being miserable and struggling to win the smallest of battles.  I was frustrated and angry and feeling really, really defeated because look at what I've done over the course of 24 hours--things most normal people do in a couple hours in morning or that they do without even having to think about them at all!  All of those things took me an entire day! 

One of my recovery buddies and a good friend put it this way when I was freaking out about making it to the point where I am actually in the DTP program and getting through the next 11 (or more!) days: 

"Recovery is going to be a lot of hanging around and surviving."

She did not say that recovery is going to be a lot of progress and accomplishment.  She did not say it's going to be a lot of jumping out of bed in the morning being excited about life and the future, or that it's going to be a lot of instantaneous progress.  She said that it's going to be a lot of surviving.

Surviving to me means winning the tiny battles and racking up the small victories.  Things like, getting out of bed at some point during the day. Brushing my teeth. Putting on clothes that had not previously been slept in. Responding to emails. Things that seem 'normal' to everyone else. 

Even things like thinking about going to the grocery store, or even thinking about making a grocery list.  

That right there is a small victory.  Because on most days, I would not even consider making a grocery list, much less, a trip to the grocery store to buy 'normal' food.  But let's think about what my normal is right now--I'm in the survival stages of recovery.  I am waiting to get into a program, where they will give me a meal plan and I will learn, at 19, how to eat.  I have been living with a very restrictive diet for quite some time and am still getting used to the idea of doing the hard work that recovery entails.  In my normal, a trip to the grocery store causes a lot of anxiety.  Thinking about buying 'normal,' not 'ED food' (it's a thing...), causes a lot of anxiety because it is outside my routine.  Thinking about what I need to have in order to nourish my body, even if it is 'ED food,' causes a lot of anxiety because I do not know how to eat.  Even the simplest task of making a grocery list, fills me with cognitive dissonance that is not present in the world of 'normal' people.

So yes, even though I only thought about making a grocery list and did not actually succeed in making one, that in and of itself is a huge victory.  Yes, when most people have asked me what I have done today, I list all of the other things that I've done, because in the 'normal' world, those seem more productive.  

But in my normal world, where people understand the understand the unique challenges that come with living with anorexia, I am able to respond to 'What did you do today?' with 'I thought about making a grocery list,' and feel like I actually accomplished something worthwhile. What I see as my accomplishments are just going to seem less 'normal' and more trivial because I do not live in the 'normal' world.

And my world is all about survival.