A Good Enough Recovery

Posted by on May 25, 2015

I say often that I hesitate to admit here when I’m struggling. I say that I don’t want to be anything dimmer than a beacon of a recovery. The thing is, I’m fairly certain that no one expects me to be that. As is usually the case, the only expectations of which I’m falling short are my own.

Still, I worry about disappointing people. I worry about not being able to achieve my goals as a recovery advocate and maybe even a clinician. I worry that admitting my struggles will make them more real, or bigger and badder, as if the eating disorder will take on a life of its own again. I worry about doing too little, or not doing enough.

All of this is self-imposed. But it’s an honest mistake. This warrior-like stance I’ve taken toward recovery is born out of a genuine desire to be recovered. And since black-and-white thinking is my prevailing cognitive distortion, I decided very suddenly that because I no longer wanted to have an eating disorder, this meant I was recovered.

It seemed quite logical to me, actually. My eating disorder was my identity for 12 years. Losing my eating disorder would mean losing my identity. Therefore, I need to find a new identity to smoke out the old one. And if I’m going to be thinking about eating disorders all the time anyway, then why not launch myself into this new recovered identity? Problem solved.

Doesn’t work that way, folks. I wish it did. My god I wish it did.

But it doesn’t. I’m still squarely here in the middle ground. Walking in circles, nonetheless.

Good enough recovery

It scares me to think that yet again I’ve pushed myself too far, too soon. That I’ve rushed into graduate training, into advocacy, into insisting to everyone around me that I’m fine. It is frustrating and profoundly disappointing that I may not be able to achieve everything that I want to achieve RIGHT NOW. It burns me with rage. It makes me want to get a solid handful of my disordered neurons and chuck them into the East River.

Acceptance. Radical acceptance.

Good enough recoveryI’m not recovered yet. I am in recovery, but I’m not there yet. I need to slow down. I need to let this process happen at its own pace. Rushing it will only cause massive disappointment — for me, and for everyone around me.

I am not recovered. That’s okay. It’s going to take time. I have that time. This is a good enough recovery.

In a way, there’s a certain relief that comes with saying these things. I don’t feel such pressure to have the “perfect recovery.” (Intellectually, I would’ve acknowledged all along that there’s no such thing as a perfect recovery. But, steadfast perfectionist that I am, I was of course aiming for it all along.) I’m not “screwing this up” or “failing.” I’m just recovering.

Talking back to Voldemort

Recently, I told a friend of mine this very thing. I told her that I firmly believe it is possible to experience symptoms AND to still be in recovery. I think that as long as you are being honest and not hiding eating disorder thoughts and behaviors, then you are still on the right side of recovery, no matter what the behaviors seem to be saying.

But to stay on that side of recovery, you have to keep talking. You have to trust that talking back is going to work eventually, no matter how bad things start to seem. No matter how many symptoms have resurfaced, or how loud the eating disorder voice is, or how depressed or anxious or hopeless you feel, you have to keep telling yourself and telling others that you want recovery despite it all. Talking keeps you in power. Falling silent gives the eating disorder the power.

Good enough recoveryI told my friend that it’s like the moment in Harry Potter 5 when Voldemort possesses Harry in the Ministry of Magic (she and I are both Harry Potter fans). Harry was very clearly on the losing side, and even Dumbledore knew that there was nothing he could do but sit there and hope Harry could wrest himself free. And Harry DOES wrest himself free. How? He talks back to Voldemort and tells him, essentially, that there is nothing Voldemort has that Harry wants.

Saying that — BELIEVING that — is enough to keep Harry from losing himself completely. He keeps his grip on the good. And in the end, he survives that battle.

Enough

If you keep talking back to Voldemort, he’ll realize that he has no power over you and he’ll give up. Keep talking back to the eating disorder, and gradually it will become less of a screaming match and more of a debate — perhaps one day a conversation. And then maybe a memory.

To wrap this up, I guess I’ll just say this you all of you who are struggling alongside me with this illness: I feel this way, too. I feel frustrated, and angry, and tired, and even defeated. I feel like I’m running out of options, that I’ve tried every tool in my arsenal and haven’t found one (or any combination of them) that works without fail. I feel bored with this illness, utterly fatigued from thinking about it day in and day out. I feel confused, unsure of what it is I have to do to FINALLY be free of it.

For now, though, that’s good enough.


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6 Comments

  1. Everything you said here is so… true. Thank you for opening up and sharing your thoughts and feelings. I have never been able to express myself in this way. So, now I can share your blog with family and friends and it opens up a new way for me to communicate what I am going through in recovery. I am so glad this blog helps you in your recovery because you have really brought me out of a rut with mine.

    God Bless,
    Robin

    • I forgot to mention that I completely understand how you felt about thinking reinventing yourself would be the final step in recovery. Reading this made me cry. Recovery is such a rollercoaster ride of emotions ranging being hopeful, and actively fighting as best we can to becoming tired, angry and so exhausted that slips and relapses happen. All any of us can do is keep getting up when we fall and try again. We all need to be patient and gentle to ourselves.

    • Dear Robin have read your story I am in middle of it at 60 Dr has be getting off bezo worse then the ED I eat gained 16 pounds doign well diets all y life took it down for sons wedding to 98 I have therapy and Dr but 2 thearpists in town wold not take me i groups getting off the drug DR placed me on SE from drug horrible but I eat! grown kids live in Seattle I am 2 hours away I wish I could talk to one woman who had recovered,, I take it day by day my drug cuts done by summer have to do very very slow and I hate it,, just need a real person a buddy ,, my husband is wonderful two friends on east coast write me daily,, but I am alone a lot have to rebuild alife thanks for listening ,, nobody talks in books that they were made to take anxiety meds I now have tools other then that meditation tapes breathing , therapy I must get off the med,, terrible stuff,, and I eat even with nasuea from it , I have hope but I waver long hard road never knew meds for year been at this since July sons wedding went to 4 drs said nothing wrong with you ,, lost faith in all cant go to seattle for help too much money too far but am doing it eat well weight is maintaining,, warmly sally

  2. You have to understand that all that you are going through, from your feelings to talks with Voldemort IS the process of recovery. You won’t recover without the setbacks. If you can try, in all of the madness, to stay present in your life while going through all of this, you will learn SO much that will help you grow. It will also allow you to help others 100x more in the future who are struggling with this. It has been 20 years since I sought help and 15 weight restored–well, more than restored–and I STILL hear the old voice coming in and out. Mostly when I’m stressed and my life feels out of “control”. The difference is I can just say “No, you’re not welcome here.” or I just stop and think about what is really wrong (hint; it’s NEVER about your body or how you look). Overextending yourself and not being kind can really get that Voldemort going–promising to “take care of you” and it’s always tempting to run back to what you know. But in reality, it obviously never took care of you. Does the pimp ever take care of those who work for him? No, it takes takes takes and holds you further back from who you are meant to be. I had to work this out whilst raising three girls-and I was DEAD SET on them not getting this. Was I perfect? No. My body loathing came out here and there but I made sure to let them know how wrong I was and was honest about my problem. I’d definitely hold out on kids until you’re further along-lol-that’s even harder than recovery;)) Most of all I forgave myself, for not being there for me all my life. Its ok though, cause not even my own parents were, so there was no way I could’ve known better. One of the best books I ever read–but only understood recently-is “Transforming Body Image-Love the Body you Have” by Marcia Hutchinson. It is healing through visualization exercises, and I still use it’s advice as I continue. Recovery is hell but getting to know who I really am has been more than worth it. I love the real me. She’s the best person I know. I am more than positive that the beautiful soul within you is also there. She’s probably buried deep, but is SO WORTH all the digging-even when it feels like an endless black hole of crap that won’t stop. I am living proof that life after anorexia is worth it, so on those challenging times, feel free to reach out to me. I”m here to help. You can, and have to get here. It’s a freedom I never though possible–but don’t discount the importance of the process:)))

  3. I feel much the same way. I feel stuck and lost. I want to move forward but still have fears and behaviors I must deal with. I don’t trust myself, I don’t trust others, I’m trying to trust my Higher Power, and yet I still want to control. I need to focus on the present and not where I want or think I should be. Maybe this is the way of acceptance.

  4. Hi, It’s so good to read this. I like hearing you describe recovery and where you are in it. I am just stepping into the blogosphere, to try and get a grasp on what recovery is and how to do it. People often sound so confident, and I feel the opposite. Recovery for me so far, is a nebulous blob of chaos, and I’m not even sure whether to call it recovery. It’s just good to hear another person talk about it. Hope you are doing okay.

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