Master of my fate

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
It matters not how straight the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

--William Ernest Henley

I stumbled across this poem while I was reading this afternoon, and it made me think more about the ever-thorny issues of nature and nurture, biology and environment, and chemistry and culture. At first, the idea that eating disorders are fundamentally rooted in biology can seem depressing. You're stuck with your genes for life. Your fate was written in the stars before you were even born. So you're stuck and you're screwed because basically you have no control.

I don't have any control about the fact that I was born with a genetic predisposition to AN. I can't control that. Even I, control-freak Carrie, am well aware of this. I also don't have any control over when (late 20th century) and where (United States suburbia) I was born. I can't change the fact that I developed depression and OCD and anorexia.

What I can control is my future. Despite my current ED illness, I can start to take control of my future. I can engineer accountability so that I don't start restricting and over-exercising again. I can learn better ways to deal with anxiety and depression. I can make sure I'm not in a situation where I would have to skip a meal. I can ensure that I eat enough to keep up with my metabolism. I can stay in therapy and I can go back to therapy if I start struggling again.

I don't believe I'm omnipotent and can totally prevent the possibility of another relapse. It will always be within the realm of the possible, and that will help keep me on my toes. But I can start to take steps to make that possibility as small as possible.

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sad mom said...

Yes, you can!

Rock it, Woman!!

ambivalence said...

I think you've brought up some good points. I get tired of people complaining that they had no control over developing their eating disorders and then use that to say they can't control recovery. And I really do believe that recovery really is a choice we make. Or, rather, a series of choices. We control our futures.

Carrie Arnold said...

I don't think of recovery as a "choice." I think sufferers need people around them who will refuse to let them stay ill in order to get better. It wasn't until my treatment team got rid of the "choice" to eat or not, to recover or not, for me that I started doing better.

There does come a time when a person can and should step in and take control of their own recoveries, but when EDs are characterized by anosognosia, it's not practical to expect insight and a choice about recovery during acute illness.

Special K said...

I also don't think recovery is a "choice" just as addiction isn't a "choice" recovery is a lifestyle...and yet...we AREn't "master's of our fate!" if only it were that linear. Life is really grey. The black and white of "if I just do this" then this will hapeen, doesn't add up...the "I should eat" doesn't always equate health.
I don't think we CONTROL our futures, because CHAOS will always be a factor, as well as trusting others and our paths...but we can trust in the goodness of our "recovered compass" to steer us in the right direction...

Harriet said...

Hear, hear.

Carrie Arnold said...

Just as biology doesn't completely determine our fates, neither, really, do we. The point I was trying to make was that biology doesn't leave us helpless; it's not an excuse to throw our hands in the air and say "screw it!" The strength of biology's influence will vary from person to person and gene to gene. Some inborn metabolic diseases, such as phenylketoneuria, are pretty much guaranteed to cause problems. But I could have been predisposed to 10 different diseases and the interaction of biology and environment only triggered three (OCD, depression, and anorexia).

I don't think free will is quite as free as we would like to think. Biology has a strong influence. But there is still much of our life we can control, including how we deal with the biology we were given.

Anonymous said...

Hi Carrie,

I am new to this recovery blogging thing and I've been reading your blog for a while - just thanks so much for all that hope and inspiration you recovery bloggers are giving to recovery lurkers!
I've never commented before, because my English- well my attempts at it - are usually catastrophic, but I decided to give it a try.

I' m aware of my genes very much, because- 1)Anorexia's been running strongly in our family 2)Epigenetics is my field of research

I hope we are more than the information we carry as well! I like your comparison with phenylketonuria. On one hand it would be nice if "control" you are writing about was as controlable as diet without phenylalanine. On the other hand - we can´t blame our genes and let them took control over us, let them determine us fully. It is this genetic overlap what makes us being unique! Well I am writing what you already had:)
I wish you best luck in every step!

samsi77 said...

I've always been a fan of this poem. I concur with the application towards recovery. What I hear you describing is what I view as "choice amongst lack of alternatives" and how TEAM took away the option of ED taking more from you therefore making recovery the priority and now you gradually seeking to empower yourself to push forward!

IrishUp said...

Love this post!

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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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nour·ish: (v); to sustain with food or nutriment; supply with what is necessary for life, health, and growth; to cherish, foster, keep alive; to strengthen, build up, or promote


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