Recovery as a gift

Some days, I think recovery can go shove it. The process sucks. It's expensive, time-consuming, and it makes me really, really cranky. Like, you know, it's doing right now.

On other days--days when I feel more positive, well-rested, and can take the long view--I can see that recovery, naturally, doesn't totally suck.  Especially on days like today when I'm crotchety and short-tempered, I need to read things like what my friend says about how recovery is a gift:

  1. When we stop letting our eating disorders determine our self worth and begin to focus on health, it’s easier to make time for ourselves – no longer over-committing to others or trying to find meaning simply in what we mean to others.
  2. Recovery allows us to re-set our priorities. Rather than believing that the only thing that matters is losing x pounds, or running some arbitrary distance, or. . . recovery allows us to see that there are friends who love us, healthy goals to achieve, and life that needs to be lived.
  3. Recovery gives us the opportunity to talk out long-buried issues and to grow from our past rather than always living in it.
  4. Recovery can teach us life skills. Whether it’s saying no to that one last thing, speaking up when we need support, using yoga/meditation/journaling to gain perspective, or something else altogether, identifying the simple steps needed to get through an anxiety attack, an evening with a large group of people, a moment, an hour, a week, or a year, the process of recovery enables us to draw on a variety of techniques and skills that – sometimes, at least – it seems like others don’t draw on.
  5. Recovery allows us the opportunity to construct life on our terms, and to see that there are times when we’re not going to have control – and that those things are okay.
  6. Recovery lets us learn more about the parts of ourselves that we’ve buried – and often, while this can be related to pain, it’s the strengths that we’ve given over that we’re able to reclaim.
I don't think my eating disorder is a gift, mind you, but I also think that recovery can force us to reconsider some fundamentals about who we thought we were. I'm still a workaholic and overachiever (I'm writing this after a 12+ hour day, and I'd have kept working except I'm working on that sleep thing), but I'm also much more willing to take a break.  I also have an identity outside of my occupation.  Before the ED struck, all I cared about was schoolwork. I wrecked friendships and had a bloody miserable time in high school and college because of it.

Also before recovery, I never would have had the guts to quit my previous path and apply to writing school. I was going to be a researcher. End of story. That had been my path since I was 12 (the subject had changed slightly, from genetics, to biochemistry, to virology, to public health), and it never occurred me to question that.  I did enjoy the work and the field, but I never would have asked myself if there was something out there I might enjoy more.  Then again, I never would have had so little to lose by making the decision unless the ED had sucked all of that away.

An ED is a nasty thing, and no matter how many people I help, I'm never going to say that I'm glad I developed anorexia all those years ago.  But I can also be grateful for the lessons of recovery, however horribly and awkwardly I might have had to learn them.  That, I think, is the moral of the story. Use the crap of the eating disorder to fertilize something better in your life.

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7 comments:

rachel said...

thanks, carrie. i really needed to read that tonight.

hm said...

I haven't gotten to the place where I can see emotional/mental rewards yet. But I can see some physical ones- more feeling in fingers and toes (although they are a bit overly sensitive now and that's distressing), less dizziness, my heartbeat has regulated, I don't get head rushes and about pass out regularly... those things are gift. Ok... I guess maybe learning how to express when I need support from my friends and family is also maybe a benefit/gift. Recovery is just not possible if you don't reach out for support. Still feels like the crap outweighs the gift at this point. But it is a good thing to try to look at the "gift" part instead of wallowing in self-pitying misery over the "crap"!

Jessie said...

You really do know how to look at things from every perspective, don't you?
You're completely right, and I'm sorry if I offended you last time by suggesting it was a good thing you were anorexic so you could help myself and others. That is NOT what I meant. Far from it.
I'm writing a novel right now, and I was looking up names, and I came across Carrie. Do you know what it means? It means a free person. YOU are a free person, Carrie. You are better then your ED. You deserve a better life, a life where you are free. You can do it.

HikerRD said...

It's no picnic having any disease. But identifying what you're close to losing certainly allows you to cherish what you've got; perhaps the one silver lining to dealing with the crap that eating disorders and all diseases, bring. I say that living with MS.
I'm not a religious person, but I love that my religion has a morning prayer acknowledging that all physical, biological, systems work and appreciating that they do. It's nice to not take this for granted.

Cathy (UK) said...

Recovery for me has meant giving up many of my goals - and, in fact, losing some things that were closely linked to my self-perception/identity. I recognised a few years ago that I simply couldn't be what I wanted to be (or perhaps, more accurately, felt I 'should' be) without jeopardising my health.

Sometimes I mourn for my previous life - as a prolific researcher and successful academic; but I am acutely aware that my previous life coincided with me using restriction and over-exercise to try to cope with intolerable anxiety. Looking after myself has meant giving up things that were precious to me.

facingallmyfears said...

I know recovery is going to leave me with many many gifts but its just hard going THROUGH it...You know?

Healthy, Happy, Whole said...

I always love your insights. They can make me feel much more calm after a particularly stressful day. 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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