Retreat or reload

My mom was telling me about a clip she saw of Sarah Palin's new reality TV show (please don't judge me based on my relative's appalling TV-viewing habits) wherein she's trying to teach her daughter how to shoot some sort of large animal.  A bear, maybe?  Anyway, her daughter (don't know which one, but I'm hoping its her oldest) took a shot and the animal either didn't die or she missed.  The daughter put the gun down and my mom said that Sarah Palin said, "Don't retreat; just reload!"

{{She probably didn't use a semi-colon, but I'm a professional writer; semi-colons and I are Very Good Friends.}}

I've been to Alaska.  It's a lovely place, but that's not what this post is about.  Nor is this post about shooting animals, which I don't condone unless Mr. Grizzly is going to eat you.  This post is about the quote: don't retreat; just reload.

I don't give up easily, but my basic MO towards life is to retreat.  To pull back, pull my head inside my shell like a turtle.  It's not a bad strategy--after all, turtles have been around for hundreds of millions of years.  Natural selection wouldn't stick with a crappy strategy for that long.  And yet turtles aren't major predators.  When someone is a go-getter, when someone overcomes something in their life, it usually isn't because they've hid inside their shell the whole time.

During recovery (see, I told you this was relevant), I might try something new, but the eating disorder didn't just give up and die.  It takes an awfully well-placed bullet to kill a grizzly in one shot.  It takes an even better one to fell an eating disorder.  So I acted my usual turtle-y self and retreated.  I left the ED around because if I couldn't kill it even with a shotgun, then I may as well hide.

When you're in the moment and scared out of your wits, it's hard to understand that maybe you just need to reload.  Okay, it's hard for me to grasp that I might need to reload.  I'm looking for the nearest tree or highest cliff.  I want to know where I can hide, not where my spare bullets are.

My insinct wasn't to keep fighting the eating disorder. It was to run away and hide.

I needed someone to keep yelling in my ear that I should reload, not retreat.  It went against every instinct I had.  But when I couldn't run--when I couldn't stop eating again--I would reload.  And fight.  Again and again and again.

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Cathy (UK) said...

I agree Carrie... Recovery comprises continuous 'reloading'. In many ways it's just practising new behaviours until they become the norm - and so replace the dangerous behaviours.

Ugh, Sarah Palin...
Ugh, Reality TV...

Abby said...

This post kind of reminds me of a quote someone once said that I'll never forget: Ed yells the loudest when he knows he's going to die.

It's when that voice becomes so loud and strong that it's easy to retreat and hide. But that's the point where we need to fight harder, keep going, reload.

Tiptoe said...

Totally agree here and relate. It's often hard to keep "reloading" when there are so many worries of fear.

Not that this post is about this show, but I thought I'd just add my two cents here. I saw part of this episode out of sheer curiosity more than anything else. It really wasn't as horrible as I had thought it would be but still doesn't rank on my list of must watch tv. I did find the previous episode about the woman who lives in a very remote part of Alaska interesting. She lives like 9 months of the year completely alone, neighbors are at least 120 miles away, you can only fly there, in temps that have gone to like 40 below zero or something outrageous like that, and once had to shoot a bear who attacked her-claw marks/scars in her head. She sutured herself up and waited 10 days for someone to come and help her. Wow, that's some wilderness woman!

hm said...

The thing is, the ED is like a zombie- even if you do get a bullet in it, it still follows you around moaning, groaning, and clawing. Who WOULDN'T want to hide from that? It's ugly and scary- but inside your shell you can pretend it's safe and beautiful and quiet. Inside your shell you can deceive yourself. I don't think it's wrong to keep the shell for the sake of sanity- even soldiers duck down in a ditch during a battle- sometimes we need to feel safe for a moment, catch our breath, build up strength to get back out there and fight. It's only a problem when you start to live in there completely. For me, the thing that keeps making me poke my head out and take another stab at the zombie is the people around me, cheering me on (or strong-arming, in the case of my therapist). I know people have conquered this on their own, but I know I wouldn't be able to. Thank God for people who don't get tired of saying, "Try again- you can do this-"[Don't retreat; just reload!]

Jen said...

You said,
"I needed someone to keep yelling in my ear that I should reload, not retreat. It went against every instinct I had. But when I couldn't run--when I couldn't stop eating again--I would reload. And fight. Again and again and again."

Yes! a thousand times yes!


hm said...

Can I just say too, that "recovery" is a HUGE exercise against perfectionism- the constant falling flat on your face, eating crow, picking yourself up and trying again- I have to wonder if, after this is all said and done, if I will learn things about handling my perfectionism and rigidity that I can transfer over to other areas of my life and the ways that I deal with myself.

Hannah said...

Yes, yes, yes. This was a small reminder with a huge impact that I very much needed to hear right this minute. Thank you for writing this.

Laura (Collins) Lyster-Mensh said...

Oh, dear. Now I'm thinking of your mother as Sarah Palin!

Anonymous said...

Just discovered your blog this evening. Love the message of this post, even if it included Sarah Palin :) Just added you to my Google Reader - I'm looking forward to reading more in the future. Thanks for the words of inspiration to move forward.

A in OH

UMAlum said... truly have a gift. Who else could relate something that Sarah Palin said to recovery? But I love it. I have tried so many times to retreat...but with the help of an amazing T and RD (and a very wise blogger), I have managed to reload. I agree with hm that recovery goes against my perfectionist instincts. I can be perfect at ED, but recovery? Not so much. The ED has numbed me for over half of my life. I don't know - probably a crazy thought but just something that I worry about...not knowing who I am without ED.

hm said...

UMAlum- NOT CRAZY- I am obsessively terrified that I will disappear with every pound I gain and someone "new" will show up and take my place!!! Aware that it's irrational but terrified of it just the same-

DeepSeaMuse said...

Courageous post. It is difficult to admit when we can't face our ED, and just let it lead us. Sometimes our ammunition is too far away. You know what, that's okay. As long as you can stay around to reload next time...


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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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