Driving in the Light

The past two days (Sunday and Monday), I've worked an earlier shift than usual, such that I'm coming home from the bakery when it's still light out. Other than my initial interview, this was probably the first time I haven't driven home in the pitch black. Although my new town is getting distinctly less new--I can take a wrong turn and sort myself out without having to use the GPS on my phone--I don't have every little facet memorized like I did in my hometown in Michigan. The route is familiar, and I don't have to think very hard about where I'm going and when to turn.

But when I was driving home on Sunday, I started to feel lost. I approached one of my normal turns, and for a split second, I couldn't remember if I was turning the right road or not. It looked so different. There was grass and a wildflower or two. I could see a few signs in the distance. Clearly, this wasn't the right place to turn.

Then I realized: I was so used to seeing the intersection in the dark that I barely recognized it in the daytime.

The more I thought about this split second confusion-turned-realization, the more I realized just how much it seemed to encompass recovery for me. I have been so used to living my life in the dark--i.e., with the eating disorder--that I don't recognize my life now that it's brighter out. Often, I take a look around me and have this brief moment of panic, thinking Wait, this isn't me, this isn't my life, what the HELL is going on?!? Much of my life isn't all that different from during the eating disorder- I go to work, I chat with friends, I write, I feed the cat. But it's a totally different experience doing these tasks without the haze of starvation and depression hanging over me. Everything seems so unfamiliar because I'm used to the darkness.

I have to remember that the strangeness will pass, and soon I will get used to the light.

What's interesting is that I never had that whoa... moment when I first drove home from work in the dark. I knew where I was. I knew where I was headed. I've driven in the dark many times before, and so I never gave it much thought. And so went the eating disorder. Maybe the darkness descended so slowly that I adapted and didn't notice the change. Or maybe the darkness seemed somehow natural and I never did that double-take that I did when I started driving home during the daytime.

I don't mind driving at night, but I much prefer driving during the day. Aside from the safety issues, I enjoy being able to enjoy the scenery (what little there is around here). Regardless of when I'm driving, I always like to have the windows down and the volume up. Life without an eating disorder is much more interesting- I can see and experience so much more, even if the scenery isn't all that great.

It's not that the drive home--or even my life itself--changed for me. It's my ability to see and recognize what's going on that has changed. And this shift in perception has made more of a difference than I ever thought possible.


James Clayton said...

That's a really good analogy that sums up the whole 'comfort with discomofort and misery'/fear of change/identity confusion of eating disorders.

Excellent post that expresses it all so clearly!

Anonymous said...

Lovely, Carrie. Reminded me of one of my favorite Emily Dickinson poems:

We grow accustomed to the Dark—
When light is put away—
As when the Neighbor holds the Lamp
To witness her Goodbye—

A Moment—We uncertain step
For newness of the night—
Then—fit our Vision to the Dark—
And meet the Road—erect—

And so of larger—Darkness—
Those Evenings of the Brain—
When not a Moon disclose a sign—
Or Star—come out—within—

The Bravest—grope a little—
And sometimes hit a Tree
Directly in the Forehead—
But as they learn to see—

Either the Darkness alters—
Or something in the sight
Adjusts itself to Midnight—
And Life steps almost straight.

Finding Melissa said...

This is brilliant. It totally captures how I've been feeling lately. Like I can't quite recognise the world - it is sharper and brighter, which I mistake for fear, but is actually a sign of recovery. I suppose there is a strange transition period moving from day to night - existing to living - and I'm finding that the brightness is gradually becoming more beautiful through the sharp comparison.

Thanks for helping me to remember this!

Cathy (UK) said...

A really interesting post Carrie... I remember that feeling so well - i.e. everything around me suddenly seeming so vivid, bright, alive (etc.).

Rather than appreciate this sensation, I initially found everything TOO vivid, bright and alive. I had been so depressed and so engrossed in my anorexic behaviours that I was quite oblivious to the world around me.

Now I'm getting used to the details and business of life and embracing it :)

Cammy said...

Fantastic analogy, Carrie. It really is amazing how different the world looks/feels depending on what lenses we wear.

Maddi said...

thanks!! :) That sounds JUST like me! And when I see my life I freak out and cower back in my little "safety net" of ED. :( But your posts, even tho they dont neccisarily bring me out of my ED, help me to see more what is going on-a big key in recovering. Your writing is very insightful and I appreciate it!!
I'm glad you found your way home too! ;)

Erica said...

Beautiful post!

Mamie said...

So inspiring! And a lovely reminder of how eating disorders just prevent us from truly experiencing life in beautiful daylight and colours. Thanks, that really cheered me up:)

Anonymous said...

"I have to remember that the strangeness will pass, and soon I will get used to the light."

I really like this. I am definitely going to remember that line. Sometimes adjusting to new things in life is so scary and it feels like I'll never get used to it. But you're right, it will pass!

Anonymous said...

Interesting post with wonderful insight. You've explained things perfectly, and I totally relate. Getting used to my new body, new surroundings, new goals, and "living in the light" is definitely different... weird, uncomfortable, and quite scary sometimes... but ultimately a good thing. Thanks for sharing this.

Amy Girl said...

Congratulations on your epiphany! I can see my sister's recovery and reading your blog gives me insight into how she might be feeling. Thank you for your rawness!

Kate said...

I love this post, Carrie. Love it. This morning I, also, had a shift in perspective due to the sun. As I drove to my yoga class, there was an absolutely gorgeous sun rising in the east. It made my otherwise groggy self actually happy to be awake, to be alive and to be starting, at least, to be well. It's terrifying, isn't it? But it's also so amazing, so inspiring. Good for you.

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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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