Saturday, 12 September 2015

Recovery is not the word of the day

Whatever recovery is, I don't feel like I'm in it. People use the term to describe the space between 'very ill' and 'recovered from illness'. With eating disorders, its meaning is wide open to interpretation. It isn't bound by time, can't be measured, and is constantly on the move. And yes, I am adrift somewhere in there. But to me, it carries a tone of positivity that I don't feel - not today or any day of late. If being 'in recovery' is the road leading to 'recovered', then I feel like I've taken a wrong turn and got lost.

Labels have their uses. They provide a quick snapshot of complex situations and help illuminate. 'In recovery' has a nice, clean ring to it - it sounds like things are under some sort of clinical control and there's no need to worry. But it doesn't reflect the unholy mess that I am in, and feels false. So where am I, exactly? How can I describe it?

Sometimes I say that I am 'healing'. It's less clinical, more nurturing and a little more visceral in its connection to hurt. But both my body and mind a taking a hammering right now - I'm pretty sure there is not much healing going on. It's just damage of a slightly different nature than before.

Yesterday, for instance, was a vomiting extravaganza. Just revolting. While my body is probably grateful for the extra calories I consume and inadvertently absorb on days like these, it's not doing my health any good. It's dangerous. On top of that, I restrict harder on all the other days so that I don't gain weight. I'm eating less than I was before any treatment. My behaviour is becoming more extreme at both ends. I am amazed at the amount of abuse my body has tolerated, but it will be taking a toll I can't yet see.

Needless to say, my current eating habits play havoc with my mental health. Add that to whatever I've already got going on with my brain chemistry, and it's not a pretty picture. Several nights in a row, I've been woken in the night with the beginnings of a panic attack. A gust of wind or pelting rain will set it off. It's like the buzz of a thousand bees rising up in my chest, down my arms to my fingertips. My mind is definitely not in healing mode.

So I'm not 'in recovery' or 'healing' as I see it, but if I attach the word 'soul' to either - to become 'soul recovery' or 'soul healing', I feel better. I think of soul as the essence of a person - it's not the body or a set of activities or chosen vocation. Because it's separate from the external stuff, this recovery work can happen regardless of all my shitty behaviours and obvious failures. And I can say that I have made some progress.

'Soul healing' is not an institution-friendly concept, and I'm sure it sounds like a bunch a hippy, dippy, self-indulgent nonsense to some. But the thing about eating disorders is they are the physical manifestation of a diminished, injured self. I'm engaged in a battle, fighting for the right for 'me' to exist. So to recover, an awful lot of navel gazing needs to happen. It's uncomfortable because it goes against ideals I learnt growing up - that self involvement was bad and individual needs are best put to the side. The trouble is, I'm no good to anyone if I don't focus on this stuff. I would disappear completely. It needs to be okay to have a 'self' that takes up a bit of space. Once I have done that repair work and my soul is strengthened, I'll have something I can wrap my flesh around. That's where the sandwiches come in.

So this is where I am: I'm trying very hard to heal, reconstructing the core of myself, and getting somewhere. And while I'm doing that I am actively putting a stop to healing with outrageously disordered behaviours. Make sense?


Now look. I know this is weird. I'm 42, and
this is a teddy. But you see I had to keep my mind
off the bad shit somehow, so this is what I drew.


xx

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