The New Normal

In the book I was reading the other day (that I blogged about here), there was another quote from a cancer patient about how she coped with all of her treatments.

She said that cancer had become "her new normal."

I related a lot to that.  Recovery has to become my new normal.  For so long, the eating disorder was "normal."  Even if I could see that my behaviors were bizarre (eating cottage cheese, curd by curd, with a fork), they were normal to me.  The hours of exercise? They were just what I did. And it's hard to know exactly how crappy you feel when you don't have anything to compare it to--at least, not that you remember.  The eating disorder is crazy-making, it's bizarre, but it was also completely and utterly normal.

Much of the work I'm doing now is making recovery my new normal.  Breaking those old ED habits and making recovery stuff seem the normal, natural thing to do.

It's hard, when you look at recovery every from a practical standpoint.  The endless appointments: signing in, sitting in offices, reading ancient issues of Time Magazine.  Then there are the other food issues, like eating five or six times a day, grocery shopping, meal planning, cooking.  There's also finding ways to fill your time that you used to spend exercising (or binge eating and purging).

You start to look normal, and maybe even start to act somewhat normal.  Not that this is bad, but it doesn't mean that your ED is gone.  It doesn't mean that the ED is gone or even feels like a piece of history.  The ED feels normal and "standard" for a long time, even after the behaviors are long gone. It's much easier for the brain to "learn" ED behaviors than unlearn them. Fear is a strong learning mechanism, and it helps the ED stuff become engrained in our brains. Recovery behaviors don't have that strong fear driving them, and so it takes much, much longer for them to become as solid as the ED was.

Over time, recovery is starting to become my new normal. Not that I don't reserve the right to piss and moan about cooking and food prep, or about the anxiety about not having my food rituals. Part of what makes recovery get easier is that you simply get used to it.  The hard part is getting used to it, but the good thing about the brain is that it can get used to anything.  It adjusted to ED and it will adjust to recovery.

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8 comments:

hm said...

"Fear is a strong learning mechanism, and it helps the ED stuff become engrained in our brains. Recovery behaviors don't have that strong fear driving them, and so it takes much, much longer for them to become as solid as the ED was." Agreed- acting normal truly feels abnormal and wrong- and the fear driving learning of behaviors thing makes a huge amount of sense. I feel like I'm walking around in someone else's skin, and down the wrong path. I want to jump off the road and dash back home and put my own skin on.

Jess said...

I love the last lines...."The hard part is getting used to it, but the good thing about the brain is that it can get used to anything. It adjusted to ED and it will adjust to recovery."

I never thought of it like that. I will keep this in mind for sure! Thanks!

HungryMac said...

This is totally where I'm at these days: "You start to look normal, and maybe even start to act somewhat normal. Not that this is bad, but it doesn't mean that your ED is gone." It's a funny place - knowing you're still not "normal" on the inside but to have your support system sort of feeling like you are...that confusion between "better than before" and recovery. So, I'm just going to keep practicing this "new normal" until it's just "normal" and see where that takes me.

Jessie said...

So true. It was normal for me to tell my parents I had to have a shower right after a tiny dinner 'because my hair takes a long time to dry.' It was normal to tell my friends I was giving away the lunch my mom packed for me 'because I just wasn't hungry.' It was normal for me to tell myself 'You're still fat, I don't care what the doctors say about malnourishment.' Things like this should never become normal, but for us, they did. And now, just as you said, we must readjust to recovery and true normality.
I know recovery sucks, but one day you'll be free Carrie. Jusst keep doing your best. I believe in you.

Deanna Regina said...

I love this post and can definitely relate. That sounds like a great idea! Thank you. :)

Jennifer said...

Totally relate to this post.
The fear of who we will be when we are being "normal", ie.without our previously normal routines,behaviours,rituals...is also part of why it takes longer to grow accustomed to our "new normal", I have found.
Thanks Carrie x

Incredible Eating Anorexics said...

I loved the last line too :-)

Anonymous said...

I think its important to remember that people can be sick and not "look normal"....You said "you start to look normal" and it really rubbed me the wrong way!

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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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