A sure sign of my mood is whether or not I start singing in the shower. Today it was a show tune that I only knew the first four words of, and the rest continued with some hums and a “da, da, da” or two. Sometimes they’re those songs we used to sing in middle school choir, which are terrible, but I can’t deny that they’re pretty damn catchy. The past couple of days have certainly been shower-singing days, and though I have had these before both in and out of recovery, every time they come about I can’t help feeling a bit uneasy and tense.
Don’t get me wrong, I have come to appreciate the days when my steps feel a little lighter and I don’t scowl when someone cuts me off exiting the subway station. Today I didn’t think twice when someone did my least favorite thing on the street: shoved me with a huge shopping bag and didn’t think to say a word. But as I continued walking, underneath my slight grin I felt a tightness in my stomach, and by now I know where that feeling comes from. Quite frankly, I was wondering when everything was going to fall apart.
People often say recovery is not a linear process, and it has taken me a while to understand exactly what that means. When I got out of my first round of treatment for my eating disorder, I thought I was better because I looked different, healthier. Many people around me agreed, and they can’t be faulted for seeing a physical change as a sign of health. In many cases of illness, this is true. However, I still had many mental blocks and challenges that had yet to be faced. The past three years I have found myself weaving in and out of various types of struggles, each one a little new and unfamiliar, which can at times be terrifying.
A new struggle brings about a scary question: is this ever going to end? When I am in a dark place, sometimes it feels easier to think I’ll be stuck forever. It wasn’t that long ago that I told a therapist quite simply that things were never going to change. But today, when I am more balanced and able to think with a rational mind, I know there is a different truth. Every day I am moving forward. Nothing is perfect. I cannot stress enough that recovery to me is not the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow—sometimes it is the muddy puddle leftover after the storm. However, though there are dips, turns, and even spirals along the way, I am learning countless lessons and, dare I say it, becoming more hopeful.
I no longer question why I am consistently wondering when all will go to hell. I spent a long time on a downward path, watching the things that I care about rapidly fall away from me. But I also know this negative thinking can lead me down a dangerous path. Many people in recovery, and many people in life, have a tendency to go ahead and sabotage themselves. We fear that the worst is going to happen, so we go ahead and bring it about so at least we can control when it occurs. Or we don’t have high opinions of ourselves, and therefore we assume don’t deserve the good things when they come. This is a very difficult mindset to escape, at least for me.
There are a few ways I am working on shifting my views. For one, I am trying to take responsibility for my own journey in recovery. In many times of struggle, I would look to other people to explain what was happening in my own brain and body. I would even blame my therapist and doctor, telling them they weren’t helping me enough. It took a lot of time and self-reflection to realize that though professional and familial help is comforting and even necessary, the only person that is with me all the time is…me. That means it is my job to catch myself spiraling and pick myself back up, even when I feel sucked in beyond return.
I also am focusing on living in the here and now. I have had a tattoo that says “Be Here” on my arm since 2012, which often makes me laugh, because I never really followed that crucial advice. When things are going well, that is a time to be cherished. Appreciating how wonderful it is to go for a walk with a friend, share a laugh with my sister, or enjoy a deep conversation over a warm meal, is so important to my recovery. Remembering how good those moments feel, rather than distracting myself with thoughts of when things will go wrong, makes me want to repeat them more and more. And lately, I have found myself doing just that.
Finally, I try to take moments each day to recognize my progress, both in my recovery and in life. Yes, there are still days when I struggle in my eating disorder or let my depression get the best of me. There are times when I am not the best friend, sister or daughter that I could be. However, I am sure that I am not where I used to be. I do not struggle everyday. I am able to have honest and fruitful conversations with others. I am slowly surrounding myself with healthy people who care about me, and not allowing the opinions of those who don’t lead me down a dark road. These are all ways in which I’ve fundamentally changed, and I would never go back.
I’m hoping tomorrow that I will sing in the shower. But, maybe I won’t. Either way, I can be sure I am constantly changing, and for once I am looking forward to seeing where that takes me.
Peace and Love,