Going through the motions

Recovery needs to continue whether we want it to or not.  And I'm not just talking about those moments when it seems like losing a few pounds is, quite possibly, the best idea you've had all year.  The moments I'm talking about are when it all seems to suck, when you wonder why in the hell you even bother, when you know that giving into the ED will make you feel at least a little bit better.

Those moments.

Sometimes, when I have these days or weeks, I get at least a small amount of pride when I can look back on the day and realize I did not indulge my ED obsessions and compulsions.  At least, I think, at least that went well. Everything else might be in the toilet, but I held strong to my recovery.

Yesterday was not one of those moments.  I was compliant with my treatment plan.  I ate every last exchange I had to (though not a crumb more).  It wasn't going to go down as a Hall of Fame Good Day, and I was okay with that.  Yet despite doing everything I could in recovery, I didn't get that small surge of pride when I realized I had held tight to recovery and life and HOPE.

Nope.  I realized:


I knew a run or a marathon exercise session would take the edge off the stress.  Or that going to the drugstore to buy some pills might alleviate some of the negativity and anxiety.  I knew that, and I also knew that what little relief they brought would be temporary at best.  That all too soon, I would be back to the stress and funky moods, only now I would have to contemplate telling TNT when I saw her next Monday.  There was nothing more to do than stay with those crappy feelings and hope that they would pass.

It took most of today for them to pass, but they did.  I'm still not gung-ho about life and ready to skip off into the sunset with my unicorns and glitter.  But for almost 48 hours, my recovery simply boiled down to going through the motions.  There was no joy at overcoming my illness or enjoying a nice meal out.  There was no pride in knowing that at least I clung to health.  There was just the daily slog of three meals, two snacks.  Almost as soon as I had finished one meal, it seemed like it was time to start thinking about the next.  Food was the last thing on my mind.

I realized: it doesn't seem fair for recovery to suck this much.

Much of my bad mood was steadied by the realization that it really isn't fair.  That good recovery means you feel like shit and you go through the motions and you don't give a crap about health or any of that.  But it means you don't stop trying, and you don't let the negativity win.

(Thanks to Z for the post that helped inspire this.)


Libby said...

It does suck, and it's totally not fair. But at least there's always chocolate.

Hang in there, my friend!

A:) said...

Thank you.

This post almost brought me to tears. I had a day like this.

Recovery sucks. It doesn't get easier -- not one week in, not three months in, not two years in, not 10 years in. In the moment giving in always seems easier than moving on and NOTHING seems worth it.

The sad part is that in this state, the person cannot even appreciate the tenacity and endurance it takes to hang on -- if fact this might inspire self-loathing and shame (as it does for me).

I have said this before, but recovery seems to be a battle of endurance between the natural tendency to restrict/avoid and the application of a healthier lifestyle.

Sometimes we don't "win" by a lot. Sometimes the difference between relapse and staying in recovery is just hanging on and being more stubborn than our own stubborness.

Hang in there. You're not alone


Anonymous said...

Um. hello, totally read my mind (as usual)! I feel like complete poop today- ugly, stressed at work, the complete opposite of relaxed, and angry at myself that I don't feel like working out or doing crunching or whatever else ED thinks I need to CALM down...

ugh, I hate days like today where I just want to hide under a blanket and block out everything.

e.m.b. said...

" That good recovery means you feel like shit and you go through the motions "

I needed to hear this today. It was shitty.


Sarah Owens said...

I love your blog, so much! It helps me on rough days when I am so discouraged. So even though you have crappy awful days, know that you are a big help in my (and I am sure others) recovery process. So thank you. And from one woman to the next who knows how difficult this process can be, hang in there. It'll pass.


Rebecca said...

I believe that is EXACTLY what recovery is! Feeling like shit, and doing it anyway.

Thank you for your blog. I have found it very inspiring, as well as just well written and fun, as I've been working through my own recovery from bulimia the past 3 months.

Anonymous said...

I can totally relate to going thru the motions. I've been in recovery on & off for 2yrs and it doesn't get any easier. Everyday is a struggle for me to eat enough and then when I do eat, its another battle to keep it down.
I've been going thru this for 20yrs and I didn't even look for help until 2yrs ago. I really admire those of you who look for help early on because this is defitely not the way to live!

hm said...

One week into "recovery"- food goals met for the week- and I am collapsing under the exhaustion of knowing this was ONLY... THE... FIRST... FUCKING... STEP...

How on earth can I do this. "There was just the daily slog of three meals, two snacks." OMG- right now I'm only required to eat ONE snack- are they going to move me up to two???

"Much of my bad mood was steadied by the realization that it really isn't fair. That good recovery means you feel like shit and you go through the motions and you don't give a crap about health or any of that. But it means you don't stop trying, and you don't let the negativity win." I GET this. And I've just started.

I shake my head in awe at my sister, who has cancer, and pops chemo pills every day even though the side effects are almost unbearable. But she chooses to go through the motions, to let the pills make her feel like crap, so she can live. So she can be w/her family. So the cancer won't win. I guess for the ED person, following a treatment plan w/food is like chemo- we eat it, but it makes us feel bloated, sick, exhausted, depressed, out of control. But it's giving us life. So we go through the motions.

Thanks again for a post that expresses just how I feel- it makes me feel less alone. To know I'm not the only one out there fighting for life.

Danielle said...

Thanks so much for posting this. I've been feeling like this lately too. I've haven't been enjoying meals and i've been thinking- recovery sucks, it isn't worth it. Which is not true at all! It's so worth it.

Susy said...

Thanks again for being so honest...and for being such an example that recovery CAN suck but one can still stick with it. You are very inspirational.

Butterfly said...

Thank you ... I am off the wagon and your blog (as ever) by your candidness has persuaded me to try again tomorrow. Thank you ... Cos it does suck!

Susu Paris Chic said...

Thank you for inspiring me this morning! Your words do touch deeply. They help to go on.

Anonymous said...

Thanks from me too! It's ironic that self denial applies to recovery as it did in the illness. Please don't take yesterday's criticisms to heart - as someone with nearly a lifetime's fight with ED, I think your metaphors are great.

HikerRD said...

The good news is that it doesn't suck all the time! And isn't it liberating to state, to acknowledge that it sucks? I love radical acceptance! Another awesome post, Carrie!
Lori Lieberman, RD, CDE, MPH, LDN

Unknown said...

Life sucks sometimes, it really does. Had a few days of that this week myself. Not a unicorn or a flake of glitter to be found.

I guess that's what makes the unicorns we do dream of and the glitter we do keep finding in fascinating new places as delightful as they are.

I often think of that prince who became the Buddha... finding out life sucked put him through the changes. Though that whole stuck between nirvana and the world thing seems a bit much and he could probably have used a little DBT, I think. Or, as Libby reminds us: chocolate!

Alicia B. Designs said...

this is LITERALLY exactly what I've been going through the last week. Thanks so much for this post--I always feel like I'm the ONLY ONE that feels this way! I guess its "normal" right?!?

Emily said...

Maybe that's why I always fail at my attempts at recovery. I thought that recovery was supposed to feel great and rewarding, but, since it clearly doesn't, I thought that I was doing it wrong. Whenever I attempt to disobey ED, I end up feeling worse. Still alone. Still anxious. Still feeling like a burden to the Earth.

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to say Hi and THANK YOU!
I'm new to recovery and everyday is hard right now but that said, I'm doing alright, like you I have the days where I want to restrict or exercise but I've also been enjoying pastimes that were just that - pastimes. For the first time in years I'm painting and volunteering and I'm loving it!
Your candor is appreciated. You blog is the only one that makes me fell I'm not alone. It's also inspiring that your blog not what I call a "how too".
Thank you again, so much,

hm said...

Hey, Carrie, I just thought of something- those 48 hours of recovery drudgery DID produce glitter and unicorns- for all of US who read your posts and felt encouraged by your honesty, commitment, and courage- sometimes what we do rewards those around us instead of us, ourselves- YOU ROCK for practicing recovery and showering all of us w/the glitter from it by being honest and steadfast- I'll pray that the wind will turn back towards you and blow some of the glitter from your process YOUR way. But it's definitely there. You're making sparkles. :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Carrie,
I was wondering if you've watched the new show called What's Eating You on the E channel? It's a documentary-type show about eating disorders, ranging from anorexia and bulimia to people who eat things that aren't food. It's really fascinating and I think you would be interested by it. However, I think it might be triggering for some people. Just wanted to give you a heads up if you want to check it out :) Have a great day!

Anonymous said...

I find these comments completely disheartening and depressing. I have been working up to working on recovery and this was one of the blogs I have been reading to motivate myself. But these comments - it's never gonna get easier? Ever? Seriously then... what is the point? Just utterly depressing. How about, "so you had a bad day/week. Things WILL get better. This is just a phase." I think I will have to avoid reading comments in the future. I would hope your fans would boost you up. I read your blog because you seem so strong and full of hope. And so real. You can get through this phase. You have to! If you can't, how can I even contemplate beginning?!?!?!?!

Sarah at Journeying With Him said...

Hey Carrie, I'm really glad you had a day like this (even though it's not fair) because it gave you a chance to keep going anyway. You are doing such a great job!

I promise that if you keep going like this, these days will slowly become less and less frequent. I used to have these days EVERY day, then it became a few days a week, then slowly once every two weeks, and soon I realized I was only having one a month.

One month, I complained so badly about that one day, and D said "are you KIDDING? This is how you used to feel every day! One day is NOTHING!"

I thought this was applicable to you--it doesn't take away the pain of this one day and the general suckiness of an eating disorder, but reframe a little--how awesome is it that you had one day that was so bad, bordered by some days that were better where you were able to travel and live life?!! You're doing an awesome job!!!

elizabeth marley said...

I'm right here with you. I find myself just eating enough to be enough, but not enough to nourish. I had found that taking an active role in meal preparation made me feel better about eating (and cooking and tinkering around in the kitchen was making me feel productive), but this week I've just been slapping together sandwiches or white rice and not making Meals.

And then I hit a wall a few days ago where I felt this huge question mark hovering over recovery. Why am I doing this again? Suddenly "wellness" doesn't feel like a priority, but more of an inconvenience.

Right now I'm just trying to stick to good choices and wait for it to pass.

Carrie Arnold said...


For me, it helps to see that even people who are doing well in recovery can have crap days, and still hold onto their recovery. I thought recovery was going to be great, and then when it wasn't, I got really discouraged.

There are plenty of days when I think that recovery is so freaking awesome I can't stand it. There are also days when I get down and grumpy and everything pretty much sucks.

I guess the take-home message is this: recovery is a good thing even if it doesn't always feel good.

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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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