As I sit and write this, I am curled up on my new bed, in my room, in my new house. Next to me sits my new plush chilli, and a copy of Margaret Atwood’s ‘The Blind Assassin’ that I bought recently for one single dollar at an op-shop. Across from me, in my new room, is a spare bed. And above that bed are two windows which look over the small courtyard we have out the back. There is an old, beautiful looking tree out there, and it is clear that it has suffered through its fair share of winters, too.
Three months ago, I discharged from a hospital where I had been receiving treatment for my eating disorder for 6 weeks. Three months ago, I moved out of the unit where I had been residing for two and a half years, and back into my parents house. They very graciously allowed me to stay there until I was able to find accommodation in Sydney. Last week I started back at my college, a bible college where I began studying theology in 2012. After completing 9 subjects there in 2012, I relapsed and then spent the following 4 years in and out of hospital. In that time, I have completed only one subject.
Three months ago I walked out of hospital with a meal plan stowed carefully away in the suitcase I had lived out of for two months. It was a meal plan I knew well then, and one I know even better now. It is a meal plan I have stuck to each and every day in the last 12 weeks. It is a meal plan I have argued and bargained with my dietitian over, a meal plan I have cried over, and a meal plan I have wanted to shred and forget about. It is a meal plan my dietitian has told me must increase, but I have struggled to do so.
Three months ago I walked out of hospital healthier than the 6 months leading up to the admission, but I did not walk out at my healthiest. There is a distinct difference. And here I sit, curled up on my new bed, in my new room, at my new house still not quite there.
Yes, there has been progress – but for the most part, things have been pretty much stagnant. I don’t just say this in reference to my weight restoration, or to my eating disordered behaviours and compulsions – I also say it about the ways and patterns of which I think – the ways in which I think about myself and my body, the things I find myself believing I must or must not to regarding food and exercise. These thoughts, and these beliefs – they are the things that keep me – and perhaps even keep you – stuck. These are the things that cause us to fear moving forward, to throw ourselves wholly and completely into recovery. The one good thing in this is that I have enough insight to acknowledge it – and enough control over my illness to refrain from going backward, despite the urges to do so.
Yesterday I moved house to a new suburb; a good few hours from where I’ve previously lived. I decided I need a change of scenery, so to speak. I need a fresh environment, a place in which I could start fresh and begin recovery for real. I have decided that to be well, I need to move. I need to begin to throw myself back into life again, into study and friendships and new churches, and new experiences. I need to visit new places and take myself on solo breakfast dates in the city. I need to learn to sit and read and sit and study and sit and rest without fear and without guilt and without shame. I need to learn that it is OK to be and to exist and to be productive but to also be UNPRODUCTIVE. I need to learn that I don’t need to walk everywhere and exercise every day, that catching public transport is acceptable and normal and that for me, it currently is a MUST. Not necessarily for my physical health, but for my mental health.I need to learn to move my body in ways that nourish my mind and my spirit, not just my body itself. I need to learn that eating cake in cafes with my coffee is normal, that I don’t need to rush back home from my grocery shopping just to eat lunch by a particular time. I need to learn that eating disorder rules are made to be broken – that they MUST be broken if I want to move forward and get on with a life worth living.
Recovery is uncomfortable. I know this truth. I live this truth. I live this truth every day. But what I do know is that as I begin to live my life more and more, the more I take on new experiences, the more I step outside of my comfort zone – then the more well I will become. In hospital, we were told to take each day at a time, each meal and snack at a time, and to trust the process. I scoffed at this. I had began to believe that I may never be well. But I am realising that this is a lie my head is feeding me in order to remain unwell. It is an excuse. There is no excuse that will ever trump how worthwhile recovery is, and how worthwhile it will be.
As scary as blindly trusting the process is , living each day of my life with this illness is even scarier. And so there is no other option for me – or for you – to continue fighting. And so fight on we will.