Monday, May 6, 2013

Don't Hold Back

I knew when I started this recovery journey that it would be full of contradictions. But I guess reading about the mental dualities isn’t enough to prepare you for actually experiencing them.

Half of me wonders what the hell I’m doing. It’s the half that gets anxious just thinking about only spending an hour on the bike, to half that screams at me for eating Ben & Jerry’s without working off all the calories and then some, the one that pokes me and whispers, That’s 500+ more calories than you burned! It’s the part of me that dominated my mind for so long, only feeling “safe” with a thousand-plus calorie deficit at the end of the day. It’s the half I try to ignore.

The other half realizes that I’m healthier. There are obvious signs already. I don’t fall asleep when I shouldn’t anymore. I had a cut on my knee from when I crashed my bike five weeks ago that still hadn’t healed; it’s been ten days since I cut back my exercise, and it’s already gone. Same with sores on my back that have been there for months because of friction from the back of the recumbent bike. My legs don’t burn after two minutes of trotting when I ride anymore, and I don’t plop down in the saddle (as often...just ask Sydney :) ). And my butt still hurts, but it’s not nearly as painful to sit as it used to be. My logical mind recognizes these things and marvels at the healing powers of the human body. But the other part of my mind still can’t justify eating so many calories, despite the evidence!

I can also feel my general mood changing. I’m more social, and happier. I have a lot of free time now that I’m not glued to my bike, and yes, there are times when I’m literally bored to tears (I’ve found that this is often the best time for a forced nap...). Entering recovery is like opening a floodgate of emotions that you forgot you had. When you’re deep in the throes of an eating disorder, you’re dead. You don’t feel. Anything. Except worry about what you will eat and when, when you will work out and how much, how many calories you have left. In my case, I’d agonize about what flavor of ice cream to eat that night. There are some things, like the death of my grandfather and my dog, that I’m not sure have really hit me, even now--six months later. Because I didn’t feel like a normal human being.

And now I’m rediscovering those emotions. I’ve laughed more over the past few days than I have in probably the last half a year--and, more than that, I meant it. When I smile these days, it’s not just a fake expression that’s expected of me in certain social situations. It’s not that smile you put on for the camera after the 20th graduation photo...just kidding, even my smiles in those graduation photos are more real than mine have been recently.

I’m just now beginning to see how much this disorder has been holding me back...probably to some extent for over a year now, but especially in the last nine or so months. I’ve said some tough goodbyes as the semester ended and close friends left for home, and now I wonder what could have been...what could I have done had I not spent all my free time exercising and adhering to strict food rituals? I could have gone to movies, out to dinner, parties, even just hung out with friends. Instead I continually made excuses not to. And now that the sane part of my mind has a chance to show itself, I’m starting to regret that.

There’s a lesson here, though. Don’t hold back. Don’t let anything hold you back. Especially not ED. No amount of rich, gooey ice cream is worth your life--physical and social. Killing yourself in isolation with long hours of exercise or premeditated starvation is not the way to go. I don’t want to die young, a passive victim in ED’s clutching hands. I will fight, and I will go out fighting.

A really good friend told me, “The right thing isn’t always the easy thing.” I know it’s been said before, maybe to the point of cliche, but he was absolutely right. This isn’t the easy road, but I know it’s the right one. I just have to keep telling myself that, and ignore the other voices when they tell me it’s not.
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