I cannot count the number of times I heard “I don’t have a magic wand”, “there is no quick fix”, or something along those lines from my therapist’s mouth over the three years I worked with her. I do not know how many times I have come across a quote on Pinterest or Instagram about life being a journey or about recovery not being linear.
It’s something that I’ve known for a long time.
But lately I’ve realised that KNOWING is not the same as UNDERSTANDING. I was talking to my friend Ellen about this recently, and our conversation really clarified this for me. She also mentioned that recovery is a process, rather than something static and final.
This is a concept I’ve struggled to internalise for a long time.
Over the past year and a half, I’ve been cycling between restriction and binge eating pretty much constantly.
At the beginning of 2016, I said “I’ve had enough”, and tried to end the cycle.
I said the same a couple of months later, after I dropped out of university.
I said the same when I joined my local gym, then again when summer started, and again when I turned 20. And countless times since then.
I’ve told myself so many times that I’m not going to engage in my eating disordered behaviours anymore.
So why do I keep falling back into it all?
Because every single time I’ve told myself that I had to do it ‘right’. Every time I’ve been determined to be ‘perfect’, determined that my recovery had to be ‘perfect’.
I’ve not allowed myself the space to have setbacks, to have moments of doubt, to be overwhelmed and overpowered by my illness sometimes.
And so, when I’ve binged, I’ve beaten myself up for failing at getting better. I’ve convinced myself that trying is hopeless, that I can’t beat this. I’ve followed up with self-punishment – restarting the cycle until I had another ‘enough’ point.
Similarly, every time I’ve had a rough day and struggled to eat well, I’ve flipped the fuck out. My mind has screamed that “I’VE RUINED MY METABOLISM FOREVER I CANNOT EAT I WILL ONLY GAIN WEIGHT ENDLESSLY”. And I’ve not been able to rationalise, nor remind myself that weight gain is not bad, being bigger is not bad.
It’s only in the past couple of weeks that I’ve noticed myself pushing against this kind of spiralling.
Every binge has still been followed with “there is no point, I give up, I must restrict”. But I’ve started fighting back. I’ve started realising that I’m keeping myself in this state by insisting upon getting out of it ‘perfectly’.
This is not me saying that suddenly, everything is fine, that I’ve got it.
In fact, that is exactly the OPPOSITE of what I’m saying.
It’s a battle in my brain, and it’s a challenging one.
But it IS a battle. I’m not lying down and taking it anymore.
It doesn’t feel like I’m winning in every moment. I’m still getting wounded out on the field, and it’s scary. It’s painful. It’s dangerous.
But my battle cry is getting fiercer and my fighting technique is improving – it’s a slow process, and it sometimes feels like I’m not making any progress. But I am.