During my very first assessment with my doctor at the eating disorder clinic, she asked me if I thought full recovery is possible. This is a thought I have always pondered and questioned. I could never put into words the thoughts that were in my head. I said something like, “Yes, I do believe it is possible, but you will still get those destructive thoughts, you just won’t act on them. So full recovery is maybe… 90% possible”. My response to this made me uncomfortable. I meant to say something that I couldn’t put into words, and this was frustrating for me.
Then one day back in February, I went to a play during eating disorder awareness week that put into words what I couldn’t. It brought up so much emotion that I cried and laughed and cried some more. The play was called “MESS” and it was the most brilliant play I have ever seen. It depicted the realities of eating disorders in a way that was educational, but humorous (so it didn’t scare people away). I saw the play twice because I couldn’t stand the thought of never seeing it again.
During the play I kept thinking, “how are they going to end this? They can’t say that she never recovers because people will lose hope, but they can’t say that she does fully recover because that is not realistic”. In the end, they put into words what I never could. Based on my interpretation of it, they talked about how full recovery does not mean having perfect days 100% of the time. Most of the time, we do just have average days.
To me, saying that in order to consider yourself fully recovered you have to never get an eating disorder thought again, is like saying that in order to consider yourself a happy person you have to be happy 100% of the time. Everyone has off days, everyone has days where they mess up or things go wrong, but that doesn’t mean that they are not happy and content with their life, or that they are not recovered. Recovery looks different for everyone. Sometimes you will mess up and that’s okay. It’s about how you pick yourself up and hold yourself accountable after the fact. You will know if you are recovered. You will feel it. It isn’t something that can be compared to someone else’s recovery journey, because their beautiful moments and messy moments will look different.
In the play they made a statement, “the beauty is the mess”. The beauty of recovery and of life does not occur in those 100% perfect moments, but the joy and beauty can be found in those little messy moments. Those days when you’re able to go out for ice-cream with a friend and not feel guilty, those long car rides just talking and laughing with someone you care about, those deep meaningful conversations, those days when you spent hours crying over a bagel and you’re able to pick yourself back up afterwards, reading a good book, listening to music, getting in a fight with someone and being able to apologize, feeling like you need a break from recovery but continuing to fight anyways, eating that donut you’ve been craving, even though it makes you feel guilty.
The list goes on. These moments might not feel beautiful to you, but when you can find joy and gratitude in those little victories and moments in your life, you can begin experience the beauty in the mess.