Yesterday I went for a long walk on the beach. I brought my ipod and plugged in my headphones, but even with that distraction I couldn’t keep the thoughts from running. Sometimes I really enjoy walks. Sometimes, when I’m comfortable with where I am and how things are, I can completely lose myself to world and be absorbed by the music. Yesterday, that was not the case. I couldn’t stop thinking about where I am in my life and how things have changed. It occurred to me that I am no longer a patient. I have been out of the hospital for almost two years now. I’ve been symptom free for seven straight months. That is, until yesterday.
I returned home from my walk exhausted but I couldn’t sleep — again, the washing machine, not to mention the four or five bodies walking in and out of my room, opening the door, drawers and the like. I figured that when everyone left maybe I could sleep, but when I laid down for a few minutes after they left I wasn’t tired anymore. So I got up. Got something to eat. And it hit me, that urge that I haven’t really experienced in months. The most efficient way for me to waste time. The most caustic way for me to destroy my body. I tried to be rational. Seven months. How could I throw that down the drain? What would it be like to tell my doctor? Didn’t I care?
In that moment, I decided that I didn’t. And with the first bite, I knew what I would do. I didn’t try to stop myself. It’s scary how easily the routine came back to me. Chew, swallow, purge, clean. It had a very numbing effect on me and maybe that’s what I was going for. But that’s not what I want. Not today.
After I binged and purged last night, I showered. I always shower. It’s my way of cleaning myself, of trying to erase the bad, the ugly side of me. I didn’t feel good after purging. Empty, yes. But also exhausted and weak. I called Jay and we talked for a while. He reminded me that one incident does not erase seven whole months. It’s still hard to believe. It’s still hard for me to accept. It makes me question my recovery. How is it possible for me to have so many days of feeling 100% recovered and then one fine day, just slip up? How is that fair? Where is my rationale? Where is my will?
I have grown to love food. I have enjoyed experimenting and challenging myself. I haven’t expected the criticism, largely from my sister and also from myself. She makes me feel bad for enjoying food. She makes me feel like a freak because I like to cook and try new things. Why can’t you just be normal? She always asks. I have no response. But I enjoy what I do. It’s my method of coping, really. And wouldn’t she rather have a sister who enjoys food than a sister who abhors food?
During my walk yesterday, I thought about a lot of things. How silly I feel for trying out for my school’s dance program. How embarrassing it was to have to take “remedial” classes. How I don’t want to start over, even if I feel unwelcome within the program. I don’t want to give up. I don’t want to doubt myself.
During my walk, I contemplated my identity in terms of my eating disorder. I know so many people who still struggle, so many wonderful people. I still struggle, clearly, but how is it fair to say that I struggle when it is so little in comparison? I know what it is like to pull the covers over your head and hope to never have to come out. I know. But that’s now where I am anymore. I know that I can move on from that hell, but I need to give myself the permission to.
As much as I hate my eating disorder, it did give me one thing; an identity. I belonged within the sphere of those who cycle in and out of treatment centers. I was sick, eternally sick. But I’m not anymore. And I don’t belong there anymore. That’s hard to swallow. But that loss of self is necessary. It’s necessary to lose that self if I want to thrive, to really live.
Sometimes I don’t feel like I have much. Last night, I had no one within my immediate vicinity to keep me company. But I did have a phone. A boyfriend willing to talk. The distraction of my computer. A great book. I had and I do have so much. I need to remember that.
I want to take today to rest and restore my body. I want to rebuild my body as best I can by consuming nourishing foods. I know that I can. I will. I am. I will not let my self doubts override me today. I will not give in to the hatred. Today, I will forgive myself. I will treat myself with the care that I deserve. I will let myself let go of the patient. I am not her anymore.