Happy Sunday, all.
I’m still not quite back in the swing of things with my weekend roundup posts. But I’m getting there, so you can expect to see them appearing more regularly soon.
In the meantime, I’ve wanted to pop in here today and say a few words in honor of NEDA week. I planned to do this at the start of the week, but like many people, I’ve been processing current events with a heavy heart. My prayers go to those who have been directly impacted by the invasion of Ukraine.
As I was thinking about what to share this week, I went back over some of my old posts about recovery. As is often the case when I read old posts, I had to smile at the self-assurance. I was only a few years away from anorexia when I wrote some of them, but my voice was brave and determined, even authoritative.
I’m now 10 years older, and honestly, it’s funny to think of myself as being an authority on anything. I don’t have to tell you (at least not if you read these posts regularly) how lost I’ve felt these last couple years, how unsure of myself and what I’m doing.
In spite of this, I know what I’m not doing. I’m not starving myself. I have no clue what I’m doing otherwise, but I’m not doing that.
At some point recently, I read this Joan Rivers quote:
OK, maybe some things do get better. But I agree with what I think is the gist, which is that there’s no point when life becomes suddenly easier. It remains challenging, with no shortage of grief or loss or complexity.
The thing that changes, if we’re lucky, is us. We get stronger. We heal.
That’s how it’s been for me. While I was in the early stages of recovery, when it was really hard, I told myself that life would be easier when I was on the other side.
This was sort of true in the sense that eating disorders are profoundly wearying. Life is a lot easier without the constant rumination and obsessive thoughts, the long list of things you can’t do (or do without anxiety and fear) because of your disorder.
But while my life has become freer, richer, and more open for sure, it hasn’t become easier without anorexia. Some things are harder. Without the disorder to preoccupy me all the time, I contend with my depression a lot more. When I’m suffering, I feel the absence of my old comforts, self-denial and self-harm. Sometimes I miss them so much.
The big difference between life before recovery and life after is me. I might be a mess—I’m pretty sure that I am—but I’m not trying to destroy myself. I’m not trying to die. And that’s everything.
As for feeling lost, well. I think that’s actually what recovery is all about. It’s about holding on to self-compassion at the moment when you feel the least likable, least OK, least like the person you thought you were.
Recovery has nothing to do with self-improvement and everything to do with accepting that we’re all messes. Lovable, human messes, sometimes a little more messy than others.
Thanks to recovery, I’ve developed the capacity to tolerate my foibles and vulnerabilities, to make mistakes, to fall apart and patch myself back together. I’ve become willing to learn from regret, rather than punishing myself for it.
This is how I’ve gotten better. I’m still hard on myself, would still choose to be anyone but me a lot of the time. But I know how to be gentle with myself, and I know a lot about being kind to my body. Call it a miracle, call it healing, call it growth—whatever you call it, it’s really something.
This year marks 12 years in recovery, for me, and about a decade of writing about EDs. In light of that, I thought I’d link to some of those old posts that I was revisiting this week.
A lot of them don’t really sound like me anymore, or they describe a phase of recovery that feels distant now. But who knows—maybe one or a few of them will speak to one of you. If you’re having a hard time with food, please know that you’re not alone. And there’s a lot to be hopeful about. Everything is possible.
Take care of your beautiful bodies and spirits, friends. I’ll be back soon.
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I heard a saying the other day: “worrying is like praying for bad things to happen.” I can’t figure out how I feel about it. My immediate reaction was to think that the saying ascribes too much intention to worrying. If nothing else, to frame worrying as a manifestation of negative outcomes is exactly the sort of formulation that would make a worrier worry more. Many worriers can’t control their “bad thoughts,” no matter how hard they try. The thoughts feel nothing at all like prayers; they…
I’m writing this post as I make my way home from a faraway place. I’ll be sharing more about the trip next weekend. For now, I’ll say that this experience has made me grateful on two fronts: grateful for the opportunity to leave home and explore a different part of the world, and grateful to be coming back. It’s the gratitude for home I want to focus on today. Last week, I wrote about my exercise in journaling about things that make me…
Happy Sunday! By the time this post goes live, I’ll be headed out of town to spend some time with one of my closest friends from college. I have the treat of seeing him a few times a year, since his folks are in New York, but it’s rare for us to have a five uninterrupted days together. I can’t wait. My hope was of course to have all of my ducks in a row before I left: school projects wrapped up neatly…
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Thankyou Gena, your vulnerability allows others to assess and maybe be little more forgiving with themselves. You are definitely stronger than you feel you are. Hope you week flows as you intend.
Thank you for this thoughtful post, which I know must have been painful for you to write <3.
I find myself in the same position as you on this. I left starving and other disordered eating behind many years ago. I don't even have eating disordered thoughts anymore, let alone behaviours. But in life itself I feel vulnerable, messy and fragile – perhaps increasingly so as I get older. (I'll be fifty-two this year.)
Thank you for reminding me (and others) to hold onto and practise self-compassion. It is all we can do. It is the hardest practice. But in the end it is all that matters.
Sending you love and compassion from the other side of the world here in Australia,