These shoes are made for walking...

Last week, I finished reading the book Wild by Cheryl Strayed. After the death of her mother and trying to overcome a heroin addiction, the author walked the Pacific Crest Trail. At one point, soon after she started hiking, she was nearly run down by a Texas longhorn bull. Whereupon she wrote this:

The thing about hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, the thing that was so profound to me that summer--and yet also, like most things, so very simple--was how few choices I had and how often I had to do the thing I least wanted to do. How there was no escape or denial. No numbing it down with a martini or covering it up with a roll in the hay. As I clung to the chaparral that day, attempting to patch up my bleeding finger, terrified by every sound that the bull was coming back, I considered my options. There were only two and they were essentially the same. I could go back in the direction I had come from, or I could go forward in the direction I intended to go. The bull, I acknowledged grimly, could be in either direction, since I hadn't seen where he'd run once I closed my eyes. I could only choose between the bull that would take me back and the bull that would take me forward.


And so I walked on.

It reminded me a lot about recovery and relapse. Pain and suffering is in both directions. It's unavoidable. The question I had to learn to ask myself is did I want the pain and suffering that would take me back towards the ED or the pain and suffering that would move me forwards in recovery. I didn't always feel I had a choice. Or I thought that I really wanted to go back, that the pain and suffering was fun or at least what I wanted.

What I can see now is that an eating disorder was never the direction in which I wanted to steer my life. I want to write, to make things with yarn, to ride my bike, to be a friend and kitty mom. I need to let those things guide my decisions rather than the lure of an eating disorder. It sounds cheesy, but working on my values in life (you can download a values card here...I also really enjoyed the book) has helped me make better decisions and change from figuring out what would make me feel better in the moment to what I really wanted out of life.

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9 comments:

rachel said...

thank you so much for this post. it was exactly what i needed to read tonight. i really like the quote, "I considered my options. There were only two and they were essentially the same. I could go back in the direction I had come from, or I could go forward in the direction I intended to go." - definitely writing that down where i'll see it every day.

Amanda said...

This is such a profoundly beautiful post that I most certainly needed to read right. this. minute. I have been...less than motivated in my recovery process because I am only thinking about the immediate moment. That I am feeling so anxious RIGHT NOW that I give into the ED instead of taking the time to think, "Is this going to take me in the direction I want to be going?" I am a professional aerialist, so my livelihood depends on the health of my body. It is something I love to do and would be so lost without it. I like to pretend that the ED will have no effect on my future as an aerialist, but I know I could not be more wrong. I really needed this today. Thank you very much.

ohgina said...

I love when things that aren't necessarily related to anorexia/recovery so perfectly apply. Anyway what I really wanted to comment on was the values bit. We did a group once this last time in treatment on values and the exact set up is a bit long to explain, but basically we started with a lot of values and had to choose the 5 that we most wanted to embody in our lives. It was harder than it sounds to pick just 5! But I have the ones I picked written on my white board (yeah, I have a white board...) and I look at them daily. It's been really helpful, I think.

Laura said...

Not cheesy at all. I really think my recovery was due to two main things: nutrition and values. I valued the woman I wanted to put into the world. I valued all these things that the ED did not act in line with... I wanted to behave in a way that reflected my values, and striving to do that was a constant focus for me.

hm said...

Great goals. Incredible that your desire for them and connection to them is so strong within you that it's helping to pull you forward in your recovery. What helped you to get over the anxiety hump? Was it a shift in mindset (I'm CHOOSING to let go of the right now to focus instead on the long-term)? Did you choose it or did it just... happen?

Carrie Arnold said...

hm, honestly a lot of it was hard-won wisdom. I'd give in to the ED, and things would seem to get better, but then I'd have to clean up the shitstorm it created in my life. I did this again and again and again and I finally realized that the momentary anxiety was a hella lot less painful than cleaning up another shitstorm. {I'm a slow learner... ;)}

Sarah said...

I love this part...
"Pain and suffering is in both directions. It's unavoidable. The question I had to learn to ask myself is did I want the pain and suffering that would take me back towards the ED or the pain and suffering that would move me forwards in recovery." Your post is a good reminder that recovery might be hard, but it doesn't mean it won't be worth it.

Anonymous said...

Great Post! I dont have ED but know a close friend that does so have been reading your blog in an effort to provide support and help for my friend. What i have realized is that some of these behaviors are not just ED specific but can be transcended to any compulsive behavior that can become harmful. We get comfortable in our ways and stuck in what feels most "habitual"/emotionally reassuring for the moment that we forget about long term.

Penny Hill said...

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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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