Push and pull

I'm at a very odd point in my recovery, one where I've never been before. Well, I take that back. I've been to this point before, it's where I'm going that I need to sort out. I've been living at home and working on recovery full-time for almost seven months now. I have gained back all the weight I lost during my last relapse and have been holding steady for several months now. At this point, I'm starting to wonder what now? What's next for me?

Before, I would approach the "what's next" either as an opportunity to go off and lose weight again or just stick my head in the sand and forget about this whole eating disorder thing anyway. Needless to say, neither of these two options really worked out too well.

I know I'm not fully recovered, and I know I still have work to do. I also know I'm in this for the long haul, and I don't want to shorten the journey because I get impatient, which will only leave me vulnerable to relapse later. I don't want to jump the gun, but I also want to get on with my life. I've slowly started looking for part-time jobs, and I have several writing projects I'm working on (which I hope I will be able to share with you soon, once everything is official and I get the go-ahead from The Powers That Be), but much of the rest of my life seems stalled somehow. I know I still have plenty of recovery work left to do, yet there's a part of me that wants to get one with things.

I love my parents, don't get me wrong, and I'm willing to stay living with them as long as I need to in order to really begin putting this eating disorder in the past tense, but I'm also starting to desire a place of my own.

I'm not sure of my motivations in wanting to get on with my independent life. Every other time, it seems the eating disorder has been perverting my own desires for independence into a chance to go back to anorexia. I don't think that's the case this time. I also don't want to rush into moving out simply because turning 30 while still living with my parents isn't exactly what I had in mind. One of my friends from college is having twins in a month, another is finishing up her pediatric residency. They're not living with parents and floundering with their life plans. Granted, my friends aren't struggling with an eating disorder, either.

And yet a part of me is okay with the status quo. It's nice not having to stress over meals, to worry about grocery shopping and buying cereal and being left to my own devices to manage my exercise. The accountability of living with my parents is really helpful, and I'm not always sure I want to leave.

So there is this almost continual push and pull between running forward and staying right where I am. I don't have the all-consuming thoughts of trying to figure out how I'm going to lose weight once I bust this joint, which is a nice change, but I also know that I will remain vulnerable to relapse for quite some time. I am determined not to screw this up this time--there are too many things I want to do in life to remain tethered to the eating disorder. And I think I've finally grasped that "life" and "eating disorder" can't really co-exist.

I suppose the move-or-stay decision doesn't need to be made now, as much as I would love to get the decision out of the way right now. There isn't one "perfect place" for me, and I'm sure I'll be able to find something whenever the time is right. And as much as I would love to be totally on my own and doing well in recovery by the time I turn 30 this next summer, I might have to accept that living with my parents at 30 beats being back in treatment at 31.

My goal in the next week or so is to determine what behaviors my treatment team thinks I still need to work on in order to start thinking about moving out.

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Cathy (UK) said...

Carrie, I have recently read so many blogs and watched so many videos that address the issue of gaining independence during/after recovery from anorexia nervosa (AN) - and yours reads more-or-less the same as others. The dilemma seems to relate to differentiating between what we feel we 'should' be doing vs. what we actually want to do. There's also the issue of what is best for our health.

AN holds us back in some aspects of our lives, and perhaps in part we actually become anorexic because we find the developmental process of separation and individuation difficult. That was certainly the case with me.

I decided to get my own place when I was 24 yrs old. Prior to that I had been studying away from home for 3 yrs at university (post-grad and PhD). I was actively anorexic and unable to join in with the student social life. This was in part my ASD; I was frightened of the social scene and couldn't make sense of it. My AN was a useful 'excuse' in my mind to avoid social integration. When I got my own house I relapsed even more because I had no-one 'breathing down my neck'.

I have my own place now, but I constantly have people 'on hand'. My parents live close by, I have three very close friends and I see my therapist regularly. Without this support I'm not sure that I would make such effort to stay on track. If my anxiety and depression got the better of me I could easily 'default' into AN again.

That's just my personal experience. It doesn't necessarily apply to others.

Jessi said...

carrie, this recovery business is certainly a tricky one isn't it? so many roads untravelled, so many crossroads and so many choices....

sometimes i wish i could just live in the moment and let it all just "be"....

good luck this week and well done on all the goals you have achieved to date!

thanks also for the tip re: writing for the new textbook by june alexander, some months ago.

Katie said...

I'm in the same position at the moment. I'm 25, living with my parents, been maintaining my weight for months and I really want to move out. Problem being, both times I've moved out in the past I've relapsed. This was partly because once I got to a healthy weight I would start thinking that it didn't really matter if I used ED behaviours to keep a handle on my anxiety, because if I wasn't at my lowest then it wasn't a problem, I was on top of things. Obviously it didn't work like that, ED behaviours have a habit of escalating! I'm aware of how vigilent I need to be now, how seriously I need to take the eating disorder and how long it will take before I am less vulnerable to relapse. But despite the more sensible attitude, being physically recovered and trying to become a functioning member of society again is incredibly frustrating and I have to work really hard to stop myself from becoming depressed about how slowly I'm taking things. Thank you for writing this, it helps to know that this is a normal thing that people in recovery go though :)

Tiptoe said...

The push and pull effect is hard. I think there are many of us that never thought we'd be where we are now, still dealing with the eating disorder many years later.

The difference is, or at least a trend I'm maybe seeing, is that we understand ourselves better. We begin to figure out what works and what doesn't and get to a point where we seem to be more proactive.

I think when you feel fully steady on your feet, knowing that you feel completely ready--there won't be any questions for you on moving out. There will always be an aspect of fear, but gaining the confidence you can stay in recovery while independent will be the deciding factor I think. Talking to your tx team is a good step in finding this out.

Amy said...

I have no wise words, but I do have [hugs]. I do maintain that we all get to where we need to be when we need to be there. 30...31? Big difference? Not really. Sick...healthy? Very big difference. More [hugs].

Anonymous said...

I'm at a similar place in my recovery, weight restored and trying to figure out what to do next. I am living with my mom and I too find myself really wanting to move out and get a place of my own. And I too have trouble separating what I think I "should" be doing (i.e. not living with my mother at age 26) and what I want to do (get a place of my own, start a life that doesn't involve ED). Thanks for sharing. It's good to know I'm not the only one trying to work through this.

Abby said...

I'm 28 and lived with my mom until last year when I bought a house. For me, she was often a part of the stress/trigger as much as she was part of the solution, so it was kind of a catch-22 in that case. However, things didn't just "get better" once I moved out (four miles away, mind you), as now I DON'T have that accountability and can do whatever I want when I want.

For so long I did the "shoulds" because of my situation at home, but really, Amy's comment hit it right on the head. It's what you need right now and it's working for you, so screw it. Who cares? There are certainly times I wish I was back at home, wish I had that accountability and yet lack of total responsibility, etc.

The thing to remember though, is that wherever you go, there you are. We can pretend to move on, but until we're truly ready to let go of everything and take care of ourselves, it doesn't matter if we're living at home, on our own or in a hospital. Do what works for you and screw the "shoulds."

Harriet said...

Having just sent my daughter off to college, not really where she needs to be, I find this post very moving, Carrie. After many difficult months we've agreed to give her a chance to take the next step in her recovery while at college. It goes against all my instincts, and I am preparing myself for failure as well as success. Either way, I think it's a necessary step along the way.

I wish I could point her toward your blog. But she's not in a place where she would want to read it.

I'm proud of you and the wisdom you've acquired so hard over these years. Your thoughtfulness, perceptiveness, and articulateness give hope to lots of other people.

Kate said...


Sort of an unrelated question - how did you get on WellSphere? Do you have to re-post your posts on there? Or is there a way to somehow link them up?

In other news - I have been following your blog for some time now, and now have my own. You can find it at www.thighsandofferings.blogspot.com. It's a work in progress, but I'm trying to get some readers/commenters on board to help me with the beginning days!

Carrie Arnold said...

Kate, I think you can sign up to be on Wellsphere. You'll have to join, and I think there's a part where you can link to your blog. I'm not sure- I did this about two years ago now. I got an email invite when the website was ramping up its blogs, but I know you don't need an official invite to participate. I don't post my blog posts to Wellsphere separately- they have everything syndicated from my Blogger feed here, so it's super easy. I'd never remember to post everything twice!

I will definitely check out your blog- thanks for sharing.


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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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