Challenging myself

"Do something every day that scares you."
--Eleanor Roosevelt

If recovery had a quote, this would definitely be it.  Recovery is about pushing yourself and challenging yourself every single day.  An eating disorder traps you in a world of fear and anxiety.  Yet to break free, you need to experience even more fear and anxiety, and learn how to live in tandem with that fear and anxiety.  I've been an anxious person all my life--I was before AN, and I am after.  I worry and get fearful rather frequently, usually about pretty minor things.  Much of the AN helped me avoid these fears and anxieties.  I didn't have to worry about social rejection because I never went to parties because there would be food.  I didn't have to worry about not doing well in school because all that mattered was sticking to my eating/exercise routine.

Recovering meant not just embracing food anxieties (it wasn't easy, but it was relatively straightforward) and learning how to live with the more existential anxieties.  Things like: who am I? What do I want to do with my life? What do I want to do with my free time? What do I want to wear?

Recovery means that I am risking being wrong.

That scares the snot out of me.

The safe protected life that my anxieties would like me to live (the one where I eat the same thing, wash my hands in Clorox, and check and re-check everything) isn't always the life that I want to live.  It's not the life that I know would be fulfilling and make me truly happy.  That means I have to push myself.  Every day, I have to do something that scares me.

Sometimes those scary things can seem silly.  Things like just relaxing.  Or saying hi to someone.  It can mean leaving the house when I feel disgusting.   Answering the phone when I want to isolate.  Or not answering the phone when I don't feel like talking right then.

Life is fraught with uncertainties.  I can say that and say that, and it still doesn't get any easier.  Nor do I like it any more.  But there's also that radical acceptance that uncertainties are the price I have to pay for a life well-lived.

So I keep pushing.  And being scared.  And pushing again and again.  These things don't get less scary, but the thought of pushing myself does.  Part of the mental "game" of the eating disorder was seeing how long I could go without eating, how much I could exercise, how little I could weigh.  So I try to remind myself that meeting challenges is something I thrive on, and it's something I do well.

Lest I drift into the category of unbelievably sappy, I'm going to stop here. :)

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Cathy (UK) said...

Wow, I love this post Carrie and I think it's one of your best ever... At least, I can identify A LOT with most of the things you write in this post.

I had non-fat-phobic AN, was skinny pre-AN and grossly emaciated while anorexic. I looked horrendous and so I welcomed weight gain, yet I had almost all the fears you describe in this post.

For me AN was like a 'cop-out' from life; a means of trying to feel shielded from a scary, disorganised world with scary, unpredictable people. Rituals make things feel soooooo safe and predictable. The problem is that restrictive diet and over-exercise rituals eventually kill us...

Katie said...

I relate too, as I think most people in recovery from an eating disorder or addiction would. When it comes down to it, gaining weight isn't the hardest part of recovery. Not to say that it's easy, but far harder is learning to live in the world without all the functions the ED had for me - distraction, numbing emotions, a handy little self sabotage so I never had to fail at anything (I was sick so it wasn't my fault!), a replacement for relationships, a way of shutting out everything that scared me, and so on. It's no wonder relapse rates are so high, because trying to deal with all of those is overwhelming and terrifying when you're always had a one-solution-fits-all approach before. But as you say, it gets easier the longer you stick at it :) and I think you gain confidence from realising that you CAN live without the ED as well. Also, as anxiety-provoking as life can be, at least you have a little band of recovery cheerleaders in your blog comments! Go Carrie, go Carrie!

Anonymous said...

I screwed up royally on the weekend challenging myself - complete failure with the added bonus of a nice public meltdown (yay)...and am desperate to now retreat back into my safety. Can't decide now whether all this recovery business is for certainly scares me - but is this a good thing? Well I do like a challenge...

Lily said...

Wow! You put in to words exactly how I feel sometimes...

A couple months ago I sent an e~mail to my nutritionist saying I was done..Tired of fighting, tired of feeling "defeated" and sick of this all - I wanted to just die and get this all over with...

Now though, I "enjoy" fighting..

We're to stubborn and spunky to give up and let ED win! Stay strong!!

hm said...

How do you deal with the slip-ups- I guess you get to make your own rules when practicing the disorder, and succeed, succeed, succeed as the pounds drift away and you diminish- but recovery? Other people are making the rules and you fail, and fail, and fail- b/c you just can't stick with it- b/c it's too hard and you feel bloated and sick from it- b/c life throws you a loop and you dive away from recovery without even meaning to, to snuggle back into the depths of disorder and safety- and on top of failing at "recovery" you're also failing at your disorder- b/c you're not sticking with that either- for a person who struggles with perfectionism, recovery is a living hell full of mistakes, failure, uncertainty, and frustration- I've slipped back AGAIN; now do I have to acknowledge that, admit that I've failed, and get up and try yet again, knowing that I will fail again- or can I just let it go- just slip back away- back into the depths of what I know so well and can succeed at? Every day there are fears to face- SO DAMN MANY of them- that's a million opportunities to fail, and probability states that with so many opportunities I'm sure to fall to at least one of them- Carrie, does life get less scary as recovery gets stronger or does it stay every bit as hard as it was at the beginning? B/c if so, I don't see how it is even possible. At least for me. Life is just too big. I am happy for you- you sound like you feel strong and successful. I see that and want to find that place too- but life feels so big and so full of failing- like trying to crawl out from under a trash pile a mile high and wide. Every piece you shove away, another settles into its place. Feels easier to snuggle up in a ball and just stay there.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Carrie Arnold said...

I've been doing a lot of ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) work with TNT lately, and I find it really helpful. I find CBT helps me get through specific situations (being anxious about parts of the home buying process, say), while ACT helps me deal better with core personality traits (being an anxious person).

I've met Steven Hayes- he's an interesting guy, and I love his work, but he doesn't have a good concept of personal space. LOL

Anonymous said...

This post is exactly what I have been trying to say. Thank 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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