New recovery game

I think everyone has little things they do to motivate themselves in recovery. For me, I like to look at travel websites and plan hypothetical trips (Galapagos Islands, anyone?). I also like looking at crafty websites (for when I have more money because it's not going to The Therapy Fund). My newest recovery "game" has been looking at condos and townhomes in my new area. It began as a way to keep myself amused and procrastinate on writing projects. I was curious to see what was out there, and I started looking.

What was different was that I kept looking.

My two favorite "go-to" sites are Trulia and Realtor. Yes, these are places for some serious granite countertop envy, but I'm also realistic enough to know that I can't afford most place with granite. I want a place that has 2 bedrooms (so I can set up an office and guest room), and at least 1.5 baths, and although I like the idea of a yard, my shifts at the bakery leave me far too tired to even comprehend yardwork. So condo/townhouse it is.

I've only ever rented, and so moving into my own place is a pretty big step. I've bailed on more apartments than I care to recount--upwards of four different places--due to the eating disorder, and I'm not keen on those freneting stuffing of crap into boxes while being so weak I can barely stand. Between moving out of my DC area apartment and back to Michigan last June, and then moving from Michigan to Virginia last December, I'm damn tired of moving. And I can't bail on a condo the way I can an apartment.

Before, I might have foolishly gone ahead with getting my own place with the idea that a mortgage would "encourage" me to only dabble in the eating disorder a little bit. I was still living under the delusion that I could control the anorexia, and that I could both live the life I wanted and stay anorexic. It took almost a decade to rid myself of that little delusion. Certainly, having this responsibility will be a motivator for recovery, but I'm not going to go depending on it. My recovery needs to stand on its own two feet (supported by two rather massive thighs). If a mortgage helps, all the better.

I'm still many, many steps away from getting a place of my own. For one, I have to step up to the plate and get better at feeding myself. For another, I have to try and figure out how to get a mortgage. I have a modest down payment saved up (part of it was money my grandparents left me), so that's not the problem. The problem is that at least half of my income is from freelance writing, and banks aren't very keen on loaning money to self-employed people. One saving grace is my bakery job- it's full time with benefits, so although the pay otherwise sucks, it provides a level of stability that will make me a more appealing candidate. I'm starting to get my questions about mortgages together so that I can make an appointment with the lady at the bank in the next few weeks and start getting my finances in order. Outside of recovery stuff, that's the first step.

Then there comes the process of looking for and finding a place. I know I need to be ready to make the leap when I first start looking because a) I've watched enough HGTV and b) that's just how my life works. My parents' real estate agent will hopefully work with me, and she's awesome, though I do have to formally ask.

I keep coming back to this question: am I ready for this next step? Of course, you never know until the rubber hits the road, but I want to have a decent idea of what I'm getting into. The obvious place to start is taking more responsibility for my eating, rather than passing it (and the accompanying anxiety) to my mom. I need to know I will be able to maintain a strong enough recovery that I won't go screwing up this aspect of my life the way I've botched everything else in these past 10 years. I don't want to have to go to another boss and say, "Um, I don't know if you've noticed, but I've, um, kinda, um, lost a lot of weight lately." And I can expect a bank would be even less understanding than some of my nightmare scenarios. My patented Puppy Dog Eyes may work wonders with Pam from the apartment complex, but I doubt Fannie and Freddie will be so easily swayed. I need to know I'm ready, no doubts, no questions, no hesitation.

So looking at houses has been an interesting motivation for me to keep moving forward in recovery. I want to pick out paint colors. I want to think about decorating beyond posters and tape. I want my own place, where I can get some much-prized alone time. I want to be a grown-up. And I know that to do all these things, I can't have anorexia following me around. When I am actively in my eating disorder, none of these things matter, and I eventually lose all capacity to do them anyway. I want a future without my eating disorder. I want to be "Carrie the Writer" and "Carrie the Home Owner" and (heaven help me!) "Carrie the Bakery Chick." Not "Carrie the Once and Future Anorexic." A house isn't going to magically make my eating disorder go away, and I know my struggles are far from over. All of this is true. But the fact that I'm starting to seriously contemplate this next step and leaving my eating disorder further behind.

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James Clayton said...

Great post with some really good ideas. Having a motivation and a vision ahead of you is a great help in recovery and definitely strikes me of a good way of keeping at progress. Looking at what you want - and realising how you can't have it if you're dragged down by the eating disorder - is what you've got to keep holding onto.

Responsibility is a huge aspect of recovery. Right now I'm trying to take responsibility for myself not just to prove to others that I can by (after years of ups and downs) but also to myself. If you get a sense that you are making your own destiny, grabbing the anorexia by the throat and starting to define yourself away from its influence then excellent.

Keep on heading up those steps. Thanks as ever Carrie for another inspiring post.

Kim said...

I am a huge fan of and HGTV. I bought my condo in 2006 and felt very "grown up" about it. It has helped me in recovery to know I'm responsible to this place. Still, I'm hesitant to move on to a bigger home. The small condo is manageable; house with yard seems scary. So we'll stay here for a while. I think it's great that you're looking. Just considering the idea is the big first step. And I do think it's a step in recovery to want to take on something like home ownership. It does anchor you, for better or worse. I know I can't jeopardize my health because I have a home, a husband, cats who depend on me. I love the idea of looking for recovery inspirations. Traveling is a big one for me too!

Crimson Wife said...

My DH and I bought our first home at the end of December. Even though we knew on an intellectual level from all our relatives & friends how much of a money pit homeownership is, on an emotional level we were unprepared.

Just yesterday we found out that we had a leaky toilet that drove our water bill from ~$103/mo to $1018. ~$700 of that was a surcharge for excess water use that we're disputing but still we're going to shell out quite a bit to replace the stupid toilet.

Given the ups and downs of the freelance writing market, I would recommend being very conservative about the financial cushion you build up before purchasing your own place. The last thing someone in recovery from an ED needs is stressing out over how to pay for an unexpected repair bill.

Tiptoe said...

I think this is a great motivational goal for you. Looking at real estate is both a lot of fun and daunting at the same time. I do think you are doing it wise with thinking about financial stuff, what you want, etc.

A lot of buying a house for me had to do with having 4 large dogs and not wanting to deal with stipulations in home owners associations, etc. There is certainly something special about having this type of of ownership which eventually pays off in the end. There is definitely a grounding aspect to it and realization that you need to keep your head in recovery, not just above water or below it.

FYI, I still find myself looking at how houses are laid and such and whether it is a nice landscape, plot, etc. I think looking at real estate does that to you. LOL Also, you learn quite a bit about how the real estate industry works. There's so much involved-- a bit stressful at times but such a wonderful feeling at the end.

Abby said...

This is a very interesting post to me, as I struggle with the same thing before buying my own house. Do I wait until I'm "recovered" or is it a case of "wherever you go, there you are?" Well, I sucked it up and bought my own house over a year ago, despite the fact that I still haven't recovered. My living situation wasn't ideal, in that although my mom is my biggest supporter, she is also one of my biggest triggers at times.

Part of my apprehension is that I hate ANY debt and spend my money quite frugally (which is why spending $13,000 on treatment should have kicked my ass into gear). Part of it is that living alone allows me to live alone in my head, which is not good.

Long story short, I love my house. The mortgage scares the crap out of me and I am constantly in fear that I will have to use the money for treatment again, but then there are days I use that to my advantage. I tell myself that I HAVE to pay the mortgage and need to recover on my own. It's cheaper to buy bags and bags of groceries and sit on my butt instead of literally running myself into the ground and going into debt for treatment that I've had before.

I'm rambling, but my point is that both take a huge amount of responsibility in their own way. Although I'm getting by, taking responsibility of your health is more important that having a place of your own at this point. I struggle every day with balancing both and wonder why I don't place as much importance on an extra snack or day of rest as I do the next monthly payment.

But for me, I struggled at home, as well, so having my own place (with no drama or whatever) is really a great thing. I need that peace, but need to take more responsibility for my eating, exercise and recovery. Good luck and thanks for the insight!

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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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