Needing GPS

Although I did see Dr. H this afternoon--Keurig time!!--and she did share a wonderful metaphor with me, I can't remember exactly what she said.  One of my friends I chatted with online the other night did, however, have a great analogy.

We were talking about how recovery could be so painfully obvious at times.  I know I need to eat.  This isn't a mystery.  I know I need to eat regularly, too.  But the interesting thing is that recovery isn't as straightforward as "just" eating.  I wish I could sit down to my daily three meals and two snacks each day with no chatter in my head and with no internal resistance.  It has gotten easier, yes.  Recovery remains a fight.

Emily said that her therapist told her that the difficulties are a lot like the difference between knowing how to drive and still needing GPS.  Knowing how to eat properly, knowing how to follow a meal plan (if that's what you do), knowing you need to eat is one thing.  Actually figuring out how to live a healthy life without an eating disorder is something else entirely.

I can drive a car.  Maybe not with any sort of special talent, but I know how to drive.  But if you told me I needed to drive to San Francisco, I would need to use my GPS--or at least a map.  The problem isn't that I don't know how to drive there (make sure the car has gas, push firmly on the long skinny pedal, ta da!), the problem is figuring out how to get there.  Knowing how to drive doesn't mean you don't need GPS.

So it goes with recovery.  Knowing what I need to do in order to get better doesn't mean that I don't need directions in how to get there.  Telling someone with an eating disorder to eat is like telling someone who is lost to drive.  Obviously eating and driving are part of the solution.  But there also needs to be more of a how-to involved.  Everyone takes their own path, just like some people avoid highways and others avoid bridges and tunnels.

Needing a recovery GPS--getting lost, realizing where you want to be but not having a damn clue how to get there--is pretty normal.  Most people have a GPS in their car or on their phone.  It doesn't replace learning how to drive, but many have found that little bit of extra guidance crucial.


Aja said...

That makes so much sense. A recovery GPS would be amazing to have, as long as the electronic voice didn't sound so annoying. "Turn right, turn left. Drive 3.4 miles."

Dawn said...

Oh how true! I am stealing this analogy to share with a friend of mine who is struggling to understand my recovery process. So wonderfully and beautifully said.

hm said...

Amen to this. Booooo to all the people who say "Just eat." I "know" how to eat. That is, I know how to lift a piece of food on a utensil, put it into my mouth, chew and swallow. And yet, I don't know... how to eat. I literally don't. I need my dietitian to lay it out in black and white, detail by detail, ounce by ounce. Here's what to do each day. Otherwise, I'm just lost. I battle shame over this constantly. I feel like a child. Who, by this age, gets told what to eat??? But the GPS thing makes sense. I wouldn't be ashamed of using a GPS. We shouldn't be ashamed to get direction where we need it.

I wonder how far the analogy goes... That is, if you drove to San Fransisco repeatedly, eventually you probably wouldn't NEED the GPS anymore. You'd know the route by heart. I wonder if eating will be like that someday too. I cringe, as I think to myself, probably not. I'll probably always be this stupid. :(

But that's that damn shame talking again.

Cathy (UK) said...

I like hm's extended analogy above, which basically translates to - 'the more you do it, the less instruction you need, because it becomes normal behaviour'.

When I was gaining weight (and I had A LOT of weight to gain..) I would have appreciated a mandometer (i.e. a computer-based device that advises/instructs a person recovering from AN what to eat). I can appreciate why the mandometer research has identified significant success with re-feeding in AN. I would have been far less stressed having a computer instruct me than a person instruct me. It avoids all the human emotional interaction stuff that tends to cause me anxiety.

Katie said...

Carrie, I think I was ill for around about the same amount of time as you - around 12-13 years. I've been in recovery for two years now and in the last year I have been eating - gasp!!! - intuitively. I don't use a meal plan anymore and I don't eat the exact same amounts at the exact same times. I have no idea how many calories I eat on any given day. Throughout this my weight has stayed within the same 5lbs (I'm only weighing myself around once a month now) and whenever I have bothered to tally up my calories to make sure I'm on the right track, unless I'm ill or something it's always around about the same number. My body takes care of itself, and I declare this a miracle :P

On a day to day basis I don't live with my eating disorder anymore. I have trouble with behavioural urges sometimes if I am under a lot of stress, but 90% of the time there is no eating disorder in my life. I know from talking to other people that it takes different amounts of time for everyone to get to where the majority of their life is ED free, and I hope with time my ability to cope with stress improves so those urges get out of the other 10% of my life. But this'll do me for now :P

Funnily enough I don't use the GPS on my phone when I'm out for a walk anymore. I like going solo because I've discovered that I'm a lot better than I thought I was at finding my way around even unfamiliar places. It turned out to be mostly a matter of confidence and trusting myself to make the right decisions.

Charlotte UK said...

Recently, they have built a new road round here. This means that one side of the old A14 trunk road, dual carriageway has become a local two way road. My GPS doesn't recognise this and, when I drive up it "the wrong way", starts getting increasingly agitated, telling me to pull over and stop and flashes "Drive on the left".

Wouldn't it be brilliant to get a mandometer that did that?

Sarah at Journeying With Him said...

This was an excellent post! To extend your metaphor longer, I sometimes put the GPS on even though I'm pretty sure I know where I'm going, just for the comfort and support that I know I'm getting it right. Plus, sometimes I learn new ways to get somewhere that I wouldn't have ever found out about otherwise. I think therapy can be a lot like this--comfort that you're not going alone, additional insight, and company for the journey.

By the way, I was wondering, does your therapist know about your blog? Does she read it? And more importantly, does she know how much you love her Keurig? :)

Emily said...

I think everyone has an area of their life that they could use a GPS for, and, for me, it just happens to be ED recovery and healthy eating. My friend is having a great deal of trouble with dating and relationships, and she said that she is jealous of me because of my stable marriage. Still, I can't help but envy her healthy relationship with food. I just think that everyone has an area where they are troubled and could use some guidance...a GPS for life.

Susu Paris Chic said...

So true. Your words always end up lifting me up. I like your honesty. And straight-forwardness.

I have gained, but need to gain more. I would just like to stay here now. But can't. It is not healthy. I am not in San Francisco yet. But how to get there... I'll start by trying again, and harder than yesterday.

Anonymous said...

My problem with my ED "GPS team" is still in choosing to consult for directions; resisting the urge to turn them off/tune them out; and a persistent inability to trust even evidence-based information from people I like, respect and trust (and whom I pay!) ... to follow the plan vs. veering off in my own direction, even when it's one that is proven to get me "lost" again and again. The guidance I most need is an internalizer regulator of some sort that could be set to my best, most believing, reasonable, optimistic, motivated and diligent self ... to really take to heart the need to follow.

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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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