I can stand for ages in the ‘greeting cards’ section of supermarkets or gimmicky gift shops reading the captions under funny cartoon pictures of penguins, small pen sketched characters, or black and white photos of men and women from a bygone era. More often than not, there will be something that makes me laugh loudly enough that I have to throw a couple of sidelong glances to check that nobody within the immediate vicinity is looking at me as though I am obviously mad.
A lot of the cards will adapt a formulaic linguistic structure; “X knew that she / he was _________ when he / she ___________” . For example, ” You know you’re getting older when…” followed by the punchline, …” ‘happy hour’ is a nap”.
Have a few more…
You know you’re getting old when…
the candles cost more than the cake
you and your teeth don’t sleep together
you have to scroll to your date of birth
your friends start having kids on purpose
an ‘all nighter’ means not having to get up to pee
You get the picture?
I was trying to tell a friend a little bit about the treatment I receive at the unit I attend daily in order to restore my weight and, hopefully, recover a little bit of my mind… (I hardly dare type those last seven words). My friend couldn’t really grasp the fact that I wasn’t feeling proud of myself for managing to stick it out for the last nine weeks. She felt that I should be happy to be gaining weight and ‘getting my life back’.
Careful not to sigh, I resigned myself to the fact that there are many people who will never comprehend the fact that recovery from an eating disorder is a long and torturous process. It is one of the few illnesses where, the ‘better’ you are doing, the worse it feels. I can only liken the dichotomy between wanting to be well again and wanting to starve as having my left and right limbs tied to two opposing poles which are subsequently pulled in opposite directions. It is torture.
Just like the greetings cards, I had a flash of this image with the caption, ‘You know you are in recovery when…”
And there are so many ways I could finish this sentence that I could be here all night… But I guess the truth of it is, you know your’re in recovery when:
- your actions are a direct contradiction to the voices in your head.
- you want to use a wood plane to shave the flesh from your bones
- the treasured silence of your starvation turns to desperate, strangled sobs
- just being in your body feels so horrific, you writhe and twist and rail
- you meet ‘weigh days’ with a dread that simply cannot be put into words, and then a weary resignation.
You’re gonna have to forgive the starkness of the description. I don’t think there’s a way I can ‘soften’ the truth about what recovery from an eating disorder must entail in order for it to be real. Recovery can be
half-hearted. You know you’re not doing it right when, for example, you are compensating at home for the food you eat when you’re there. Or, you’re getting out and sticking your fingers down your throat. Or you’re going running or over exercising.
You know when you’re doing recovery right when you’re living in hell.