"I WILL get better"

I found a post on Therese Borchard's blog Beyond Blue that really resonated with me. In her post, Therese discussed how Shania Twain pulled herself out of a "deep, dark slump" after her marriage collapsed. Therese, who has suffered from depression for years, had this to say:

I remember feeling that way as I came out of my most severe depression in early 2006, and I'm experiencing shades of it today as I wrestle with my brain to move toward recovery, away from the Black Hole of sadness.

Like Shania, I have had to do what's counterintuitive: say yes to every invitation I get, literally forcing myself back into the world. She's right in that, as you're climbing to the surface of the Black Hole, you want nothing more than to isolate and disappear. But there is great healing in connecting with friends and neighbors, fellow moms and family.

The other thing I do when I'm crawling back to life is to repeat this mantra to myself as many times as I need to: "I will get better." My great aunt, Gigi, who also experienced a nervous breakdown at the age of 35, told me to keep on repeating that until I began to believe it.

It is some great advice for those of us who are struggling with an eating disorder, too. It would seem pretty obvious, wouldn't it: you've been starving yourself so start eating again. Not that this isn't an important aspect of recovery, it's just that it's not very intuitive when you have an eating disorder. My natural impulse was to keep restricting and exercising, keep hiding away from the world, keep avoiding, keep an iron grip on exactly what I would do and say.

It is, of course, worth remembering that my natural impulses were what got me into this mess, anyway. So it's really not all that surprising that I would have to (temporarily) ignore my natural impulses in recovery.

At my new job in the bakery, I actually eat lunch on my lunch break. I can't fully explain how odd this feels to me. Lunch was an opportunity to exercise, or work, or at least refill my coffee mug and take a dumb online quiz or two. Now, I pull my lunchbox out of the fridge, sit down, and eat. It still feels odd and wrong.

Or being honest with TNT about my struggles. I have to force myself to go over the gory details about what went on each week. Usually, I have glossed over the difficulties because I didn't want my team to know I was struggling. This wasn't just a protect-the-ED habit; it was a deep, abiding fear of appearing imperfect and out-of-control. Now, I'm trying to bring up the difficulties and not just as I'm walking out the door.

When I see an ice cream place and it's time for my snack (and I feel like ice cream, which is, like, always), I make myself say "Ooooh- let's stop." I force myself to have days where I don't eat every last one of my five fruits and veggies and instead have some Pop-Tarts. I force myself to say yes. I force myself to voice my opinion, to risk looking like a dumbass, to hold my breath and leap.

These things still feel unnatural. Many of them weren't natural even before the eating disorder (asking for help, voicing my opinion, leaping), and I've been sick for so long that the ED feels natural. It's my gut instinct, not just in terms of food and weight, but also in terms of living my life. The idea is to develop a new and improved (!) gut instinct, one that works in my favor rather than driving me into the depths of despair.

For now, this instinct will remain raw though not unused. It's just not instinct yet. And in the meantime, I am trying to take Borchard's advise and tell myself "I WILL get better. I WILL get better. I will. I will."

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James Clayton said...

I'm really glad you posted this today. Right now I'm really having to try and fight the natural instincts and it resonates a lot.

Saying to yourself "I willd get better" and doing what you need to do, not the eating disorder feels you need to do is crucial. Thanks as ever Carrie.

I will get better! (power pumping fist and a big smile) :)

Angela E. Gambrel Lackey said...

Thanks, Carrie. I needed to hear this. (Even if maybe you didn't know that.)

I will get better.

Anonymous said...

Thanks! this post was a great reminder of what I need to be thinking.
It's so easy to slip back into the instinctive thoughts that are now habit but really aren't any use to me anymore!
I am trying to keep the "I will get better", "I will face my fears and CONQUER THEM!!!" thoughts in the forefront of my mind!

We CAN do this! bye bye E.d. mwahahahaha! :p

jessa said...

So much of the time I think, "How am I going to do this recovery thing?" How am I going to eat? Really, it is nothing more than putting the food in my mouth, chewing it, and swallowing it. I just have to EAT. But recovery also means dredging up all the emotional muck. So that means I have to EAT at the same time that I need my best coping skill (starving) the most. Who's idea was this? One or the other is hard enough, but both at once is even worse.

Anonymous said...

I was just thinking about the subject of this post...it is just so damn hard to fight an eating disorder when you are also struggling with depression. Those two just love eachother as they feed into (pun not intended, but it fits!) eachother so much. Sometimes it may take a long, long time of "Act As If", repeating what you want and need to be true. I look it as the rope you are hanging on to for dear life, towing you toward safety. You may still be in the water, you may not be able to see the shore yet, but you've heard it's there, you may even have caught glimpses of it, and DANG! you are still hanging onto that rope for dear life. Sometimes, when you're exhausted from swimming against the tide, it's all you've got. It will take you there! Keep believing! Draw strength from eachother. Thanks for this post, Carrie!

Kim said...

I know what you mean about that unnatural feeling in recovery. I just eat lunch on my lunch break now too. After I eat, I don't go for a walk or do anything "productive"; I put my head back and nap if I can. ha. It really is about saying "yes" and doing the counterintuitive things until they feel more "right." that's the hardest part of recovery, in my opinion. What's right feels very wrong, for quite a while.

Maddi said...

i wish I could believe that. but i tried. i "got better" and now all i want is to get sick again, which is what i am doing. is that a natural instinct? to protect myself? i just dont know....

Sarah said...

This is exactly what the mindful nutritionist was talking about on Tuesday -- not staying in the instinctive thoughts, but saying "yes" to recovery instead. It's my choice -- I'm the grownup here -- and my decision each day whether or not to dive into my eating disorder.

Great post as always.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this, Carrie. It has given me (depressive) and my daughter (anorexic) a new goal and a new mantra.

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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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