Title: What is recovery?
Author: Jenny Higgs
Note: This post originally appeared on Dream The Impossible and has been cross-posted with permission.
So what is recovery? It certainly sounds nice, like the sun shining through black clouds after a prolonged period of thunderstorms. Of flowers on lush, green grass, tinkling streams and big warm smiles. It sounds like happy ever afters, of lives spent in delirious happiness forever more.
For me, recovery is nothing like that.
It’s darkness, fear and an overwhelming bitterness of what I’ve had to give up and what I’ve had to accept as “normal”.
It’s continual body-checking, with the terrifying knowledge that nothing will get smaller again.
It’s eating, not out of choice or desire but because it’s the “right thing to do”.
It’s avoiding mirrors, and when I do catch sight of my reflection feeling a horrendous sense of loss for my bones, and a repulsion for the new fleshier areas.
When I meet people I haven’t seen for ages, I see them look me up and down, seeing how fat I’ve become, feeling the sense of shame because I wasn’t strong enough to keep up the starvation regime.
It’s betrayals by friends, because I’m no longer ill enough, no longer providing them with drama from my hospitalisations, no longer fun or exciting or worthy of friendship.
And it’s anger, that feels unbridled, and terrifies me that it will consume me and rage out of all control.
It is the fear that I will never again be able to starve.
But recovery is not all black and foreboding.
It’s smelling the freshly-cut grass, seeing the cherry blossom on the trees, listening to music, and being aware of my senses again and not just the feeling of hunger.
It’s time spent with my remaining close friends, with the gratitude that they love me for me, and they won’t abandon me to fulfil their own shallow desires.
It’s date nights with my husband, who has somehow not lost sight of me throughout my illness, who never gave up on me for dead, and who continues to be by my side for better and for worse.
It’s having the energy to play with my children, jumping on the trampoline, running around the park, being ever present in mind and body.
Recovery is accepting my growing body is not fat but strong, and it takes me miles as I run, walk, swim or cycle for the pleasure of it and not just for burning calories.
Every day I can hear anorexia calling me back into the cold darkness once more. Every day I long for the numbing effects of starvation, of the familiarity of diminishing, of the security of the known. But every night I tell myself I only need to keep going with recovery for one more day. Just one more day. And slowly but surely the days are turning into weeks, and now a few months have gone by, and while I’m never really happy, I am having occasional moments of joy. Feelings of accomplishment, of a life that is being lived and not merely existed.
I don’t know if this is it and I will stay recovered forever now. I suspect not; anorexia has been in my life for over 25 years. But recovery isn’t just about sunshine and rainbows for the rest of your life, it’s about living in the moment, always fighting, not letting stresses that go on around you from affecting your focus.
Recovery is like the thawing of the longest winter, and the unfurling of a tender, new spring flower.