Accepting the crappiness of recovery

Sometimes, recovery sucks.

It sucks much less than anorexia does, but it still sucks.

I've found the only way to get through these tough times is to accept that this will suck. And that it's okay. The suckiness will eventually pass.

Giving myself permission to utterly hate this part has actually been somewhat liberating. It's what, in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, is known as radical acceptance. It's very Buddhist and Zen- that there are things we will have to accept in our lives that we may not want to. But we can save ourselves a lot of suffering by doing so. I have radically accepted that recovery can suck and that's okay. I am not obligated to like it.

This is the drudgery, the facing meal after meal, snack after snack, fear food after fear food, in an unrelenting chain. Kind of like a cafeteria conveyor belt. Except none of the items look appetizing, but I can't get out of line until you make a choice. So I wait and wait and all that passes by is mystery meat with nasty congealed gravy.

The only option, in the end, is to suck it up, pick a plate, and start eating. Because there's life out there.

I don't have to like the entrees. I do have to eat it.

My good friend from college calls this the growing-flowers-from-shit phenomenon. This actually encapsulates the concept quite well, when you get right down to it.

The only difference is that I have to eat the shit. I don't think she realized this part.

I get discouraged a lot. Wondering, pondering the question: will this ever get any easier? When? Will my sanity hold out until then?

I think, though, my turning point was when I was at the day patient program this past December and January. Insurance had kicked me out, told me that I was no longer in need of health services. It was this horrific feeling, that I had been living in this bizarre limbo between deathly ill and truly healthy for years, and no one was going to pull me out. Ultimately, it was up to me. I would receive treatment for just long enough to pull me back from death's door, and then be turned loose. I would do okay for a while, slide back down, and the whole process would begin again. And I realized there was no end in sight.

So I made a U-Turn. Said whatever happens can't be worse than this half-life.

Recovery hasn't been, really. It's been hard in a different way. The general public associates anorexia with willpower and strength. For me, anorexia wasn't willpower. Recovery- that was willpower. Willpower is facing down your greatest fears day after day after day, with the knowledge that tomorrow wouldn't be any different.

I cling to the idea that one day, it will get easier. There are moments when I think it might have started, and compared to the beginning of this mess, it has.

I want it to be better NOW. This makes sense. Who wouldn't it want to be better now? I could do another Zen thing and say there's something to be learned in the meantime. Again, that's probably true. I'm just not like that.

At the end of the day, I am where I am, and I'm moving forward. I can't ask any more of myself.

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mary said...

hmmmmmm....I'd prefer to delude myself with the illusion that I can enjoy the different tastes of foods and that it is pure and essential fuel in which to nourish myself.
If it becomes shit at some point...after I take what I need and basically compost the rest then even that has to be admired.How efficient! It means we are working right!
I hope that the day comes when eating becomes a pleasure. Flavors are like colors in your beads. Try them all and don't apologize.

samsi77 said...

Well you nicely exemplified the concept of Radical Acceptance, the eating shit piece was very visual and a bit judgemental however point well taken. It sounds like you were skillful today and I assure you that it will get easier maybe not immediately but it gets better you wait and see. I find it helps at times like these when you are naturally seeking instant gratification to keep in mind the addiction equation which is:
pain following by instant gratification results in short term relief and then more pain and then use of what brought the short term relief and there you have full blown addiction. Therefore, although I know you want relief right now however if you were not suffering then that would concern me more knowing that it would be much worse and that the relief short lived. Anyhow, you got the point, using your words, the only way out is through, keep mucking (sp ?) you are working your way through!

carrie said...


Nice delusion there. And I guess I could expand upon my metaphor and say that after each meal of mystery meat, I go back to the cafeteria and find the choices have improved a teeny bit.

Sometimes eating can be a pleasure. Sometimes it's a chore.


A lot of what keeps me going is knowing that if I go back now, that's even more ground I have to cover before I reach recovery. I know all too well that the gratification will be short-lived. I guess the only difference now is that I want recovery to happen NOW, rather than weight loss or some other experience related to the ED.

I wasn't trying to say I was eating shit. I guess it's that some of the shit I'm going through involves eating. My mom's cooking is better than that. Ditto for my own. I've made some horrific disasters in the kitchen, but they've been edible in the end. I think. The only thing I haven't mastered is toast. Burn the damn bread every time.

mary said...

Well, it's not really deluding myself if it's true for me, now is it? LOL
Yes, sometimes food choices suck!

You will get there.

Msempower (aka Em) said...

"Sometimes, recovery sucks."

"It sucks much less than anorexia does."

'tis true.

With recovery there is hope. Without recovery you can't see it.

carrie said...


I have a feeling when I get to school in the fall that it will be less that even my food choices suck, it's my ability to do anything decent with them. "Gee I have a box of cake mix and some Spaghetti-Os"



You're right. With anorexia, hope was fictional, hope was going to bed with everything pinned on the fact that the number on the scale would be lower in the morning. That was literally what kept me going. I think my breakdown in December was because the AN wasn't keeping me going, but nothing else was, either. I found that creativity keeps my internal light lit. I don't see the light- I *am* the light.

If only I could be one of those scented candle thingys. I can do "sweaty gym socks" pretty well.

mary said...

I happen to know that you have more food choices than you mentioned. Guess you will need to get creative with your selections and maybe plan now by seeing what works. I know it's scary but if you'll start now it will help you to be prepared for to stay the course. Meals can't be optional for you! They can be better though
Think variety but have some old standbys.
Yep, you are the light! Knowing this will keep ED out! Let creativity flow. I once had a teacher who really challenged me for life...she said anything that was copied was not original and that we needed to find our own style. This is how she taught art but it's also how she taught us to accept ourselves as valid creators in our own right. We may create a similar piece to another but it's our own. Out of the yarn, out of the beads, and even out of the words you will find Carrie. We're all creators in this way!

Msempower (aka Em) said...

Breakdown in December? Was it creeping up in June/August? If so, I render we have another thing in common beyond a fondness for recovery metaphors:)

And, I wonder if that was the precise time when Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers and US Weekly bought stock in ED-Phones?

Hmmm...makes me wonder;)

And, (because I simply can't resist responding to your comment) let's join hands, burn some scented candles and dance in a circle singing, "This little light of mine. I'm gonna let it shine."

You can wear your kilt and I'll indie rock jeans;)

carrie said...


No I actually do have a wide variety of easy to prepare foods on hand. Me + can opener + chili=dinner + gas. I am actually quite inventive in the kitchen- I once sauteed chicken breasts in my dorm room using a hot pot. They were actually edible. Not good, but edible. If nothing else, they were tasty from the sheer amount of creativity.


I've had so many freaking breakdowns that it's hard to keep track of them all. No, this past December was by far the worst, culminating in an overdose (intentional) and 2 weeks in the psych ward under suicide watch. Nice. Mid-July of last year was also a bit of a breakdown after I returned from residential and promptly freaked.

I have multi-colored striped socks that say "Irish Girl" on them I can loan you. And I do have a wool tartan wrap around skirt.

wading through recovery said...

ahh...DBT and radical acceptance. fond memories. : )

reminds me of the 'half smile'!

: )

Thomas said...

Speaking of cooking and food choices, I wish I knew this one simple lesson back when I was in college: "Noodles are the ultimate versatility food."

Inexpensive, versatile, a huge amount of variety. Just add some veggies and a little protein, a tasty sauce, and you've got a meal.

Sauteeing a chicken breast in a hotpot though? Thats impressive improvisation!

Willow said...

I feel you Carrie, pretty much exactly where I am myself right now. Well, today I'm in a "fuck this recovery shit" mindset, but until today I've pretty much been sucking it up and reminding myself that recovery is hard, I don't have to like it, I just have to do it. I'm hoping it gets better, but then days like today come along and I question when exactly that will be. All I can do is hope that tomorrow is slightly less crappy than today, and so on.

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I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

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